Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Healing Takes Time
Rabbi Jay M. SteinFriday, June 9, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
There was Miriam stricken with snow white scales! (Numbers 12:10) Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, "O God, pray heal her.: (12:13)
As some may realize, I have been under the weather for the past two weeks. I have been struggling with a virus that simply will not let go. It is nothing serious, though it has impacted my daily activities in a significant way. Two thoughts have replayed as I lay in bed, thoughts I am confident come to the mind of anyone who has ever been sick.
First, will I ever get better? The doctors told me that it would take 7-10 days to run its course. However, at day two that seemed like an eternity and at day 13 was clearly incorrect. Though I get better every day, there is the fear of relapse.
Second, I wanted to be left alone and I hated the isolation. I am person who thrives on interaction with others. I draw my energy from others and being stuck in bed was at times lonely.
These are great lessons to carry with us when those we love are sidelined by illness. It is with those sensitivities we need to approach those who suffer, while we listen carefully to what they articulate as their needs.
Names and Numbers
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, May 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
The Levites, however, were not recorded among them by their ancestral tribe. (Leviticus 1:47)
The desire to be famous is something that has taken our society by force in ways other generations never dreamed possible. Because of the explosion of social media, people, in the hopes of gaining noticed, share aspects of their lives that were previously considered private. The genre of reality television puts people in the spotlight; social media expands the definition of 15 minutes of fame to 15 gigabytes of greatness.
In this week's portion, we have a list of the heads of tribes followed by the number of people in each tribe. The message is clear. There must be leaders and there must be followers. Each tribe has its purpose and members of each tribe have their roles. The goal of this accounting is to assemble a lethal fighting force. As John Smith wrote in The History of Israel, Moses formed a tribal league with unprecedented military prowess. It was this structure that successfully sustained our people as they wandered through the desert. We survived because each person understood their role irrespective of the notoriety they achieved. Some were leaders and some were followers. All contributed to our survival.
The Sound of a Driven Leaf
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, May 18, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
The sound of a driven leaf will send them to flight. (Leviticus 26:36)
In 1939 Milton Steinberg wrote what was has become a classic of Jewish literature, As a Driven Leaf. It is a historical fiction about Elisha Ben Abuya. Elisha was considered a great scholar and head of the Sanhedrin. As Chaim Potok wrote in his introduction to the book, "the novel was more than a mere story, that is a central drama - a conflict between religious and pagan ideas, between faith and reason, between postulates of creed and science..." Essentially, it is a novel about how fragile faith is.
In this week's reading the phrase, "a driven leaf" comes to explain how easily we are frightened. When we feel vulnerable, we latch on to anything that will promise us safety and security. To which, I can't help but hear the words of FDR when he said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." President Roosevelt was telling the American people their fear was making things worse. Instead of fear mongering, he was trying to set the mind of his people at ease. He goes on to say, “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
We live in dangerous times. With military attacks threatening, cyber attacks being executed we have reason to fear. Yet, we have survived in the past. We will survive again. The solution lies not in giving up hope but in reaffirming it.