Parashat B’midbar is the first Torah portion in the book of “Numbers” and is referred to as “Numbers”, based on the census that takes place among the Israelites. However, the word literally means “In the desert” (or wilderness). In the end, we see how both of those translations are important and very telling about where the Israelites were at this point in their existence.
One of the basic tenets of Judaism, Torah study, is particularly significant to WRJ. Over the years, WRJ has also advocated for equal rights for women in Jewish learning and participation in and leading worship. WRJ brings a unique, feminist perspective to Reform Jewish study and provides a bounty of resources from which to learn and pray. Many people participate in Torah study for Shavuot, and WRJ has these resources for you.
In 2014, I founded Tkiya to create participatory music experiences that meet families where they are - physically, psychologically, and spiritually – and find their unique connection to Jewish culture and community. One thing I’ve always been proud of is Tkiya’s reputation for making Judaism welcoming, accessible, and inclusive. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that we started to learn how to articulate and incorporate JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) in a more intentional way. This year, we received a grant from WRJ to deepen this work through our Wee Jam for Justice program. The learnings that we’ve had through this experience have had an incredible impact on Tkiya and the communities that we serve in such a short time.
Though ‘curses and blessings’ are presented in this parashah, our bigger takeaway is that it is up to us to make good choices and take action. I am proud that Women of Reform Judaism has always done the right thing and more than 100 years of our resolutions continue to address the needs of the hungry, the poor, our environment, along with the rights of all peoples and so many relevant and important issues. The smiles we have on our faces and in our hearts come from the joy we share with others.
"On April 9th, WRJ's Southeast District held its first in-person event in over two years, and it was GLORIOUS! It was so wonderful to be in the same room with 24 of my WRJ sisters and on Zoom with another nine, sharing a meal and conversation, catching up on two years of events, and learning together from amazing speakers. This was also the first hybrid event in any of the eight WRJ districts, and we pulled it off without a hitch!
Because of what I now lovingly refer to as “the lasagna sermon,” I’ve felt empowered to be open about my mental illness. Physical and mental illness are equally deserving of healing, and we need to make it safer for people dealing with mental illness to come out from behind the shadows, the silence, and the shame and find the support and care they need. Every time I share my story, countless people reach out to me with a desire to share their own. I believe that if we can all strive to be open about our human vulnerabilities, then maybe one day, we will reach a point where no one will feel like they have to hide their lived experiences from their respective communities.
Parashah B’har outlines the laws for yovel, or jubilee, in the land of Israel. Every seventh year, the land is to be laid fallow for a shemitah, or sabbatical year.
On Tuesday evening, we launched the Reform Movement's Every Voice, Every Vote campaign, our nonpartisan initiative to strengthen democracy by encouraging and protecting voter participation. As if this effort was not urgent enough already, the leaked draft Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization made clear that every issue of importance to our Movement is on the ballot this year, including abortion rights.
A reflection in this Torah portion that I find interesting is the idea of purity or perfection. One who has a broken limb, is blind, has a scar, or is otherwise disfigured, or a woman who is divorced or raped, is no longer pure or holy. It contradicts what we believe today that you are fine just as you are. After all, aren’t we all conceived in the image of G-d? We must look past someone’s “imperfection” to really see who they are on the inside.
For some of us, going anyplace together is the driving force – the camaraderie, the joy of being and experiencing together has been missing in our lives. Others are most looking forward to a chance to dive more deeply into the civil rights history of the United States. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously likened marching in Selma, Alabama, to praying with his feet. We all want to learn with our feet, our hearts, and our prayers by taking this journey together.