A key community building lesson I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel, is the importance of Belonging – a sense that “this is mine,” a feeling of ownership and full inclusion in a group that allows “a community to become part of the definition of one’s personal identity.”
This sense of true belonging is something the Children of Israel yearn for during their ongoing journey, and the twelve tribes attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms and in their own particular manner.
Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms. The offerings that each of us make to bolster community will always be unique.
This week’s parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert. Parashat Nasotallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. It is this organization that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.
- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer
Artwork note: The sotah ritual requires a wife suspected of infidelity to drink a potion which will determine her guilt or innocence. This week’s illustration depicts the profile of a woman accused and awaiting the verdict. In our more feminist era, the ritual is controversial, rightly condemned for its severe patriarchal framing. It is worth noting, though, that the outcome would almost certainly render an accused woman innocent. That’s a far sight better than public execution, which was the usual punishment for suspected adultery in ancient times. What today appears inhumane and sexist may have been a “progressive” invention in its own day. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.