The Long and The Short of It
June 5, 2020
Dear Holy Friends,
We hope and pray that this correspondence finds you in good health and managing our difficult circumstances. I want to remind you to feel free to call or email me at any time to share your experiences and even, to ask, how we, as your community, can support you! If you know anyone experiencing health issues, please allow us to pray for them. If you know someone who needs our support, please contact me or the dedicated officers of our shul. Fortunately, the pandemic situation seems to be slowly improving and we hope to keep you abreast of our congregation’s thoughts moving forward.
For those of you who do not necessarily love hearing the Torah read at length, this is a good week to not be in shul. Naso, this week’s portion, is the single longest parasha in the weekly reading, composed of a total of 176 verses! Ironically, the longest text in the Book of Psalms, Psalm 119, is also 176 verses. At the beginning of the selection we read of the princes of the tribes bringing special offerings for the dedication of the Mishkan. Aaron, the High Priest is said to feel disappointed because the Priests are not part of the rotation of bringing the gifts for this ritual. In fact, Rashi explains that when Aaron saw the dedication of the princes, he was filled with anguish, since both he and his tribe, the Levites, had been excluded from bringing offerings. Hashem, however, reminded Aaron of his own special role, "By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you shall kindle the menorah."
The Midrash notes God’s further reaction to the disappointment of Aaron. "You are chosen for greater tasks. Sacrifices are offered only as long as the Sanctuary stands, but the lights of the menorah are forever." The light of the menorah represents the light of Torah. The lesson here is that often what we may perceive as superior and more desirable concerning others, may, in reality, be quite inferior in comparison to ourselves. This brings to mind two well-known sayings (one Jewish and one not); " Who is rich? The one who is content with his/her portion" and "The grass is [not] always greener on the other side of the fence."
In fact, it is fair to say that while not always equal, each of us has his/her own tasks in the world, in business and even in our family structures. As Aaron learns, the leaders do not always have to be front and center; there are important roles for each member of the community.
In many ways, this is like the functioning of any well-organized synagogue. While serving my first pulpit in Chicago, an older gentleman from morning minyan was known to say that, “there are two groups in any shul; The payers and the prayers!” While he was in part jesting, it is important to always acknowledge both the small and greater things that each person contributes to our community. Each of us have a role to play and during this Shabbat I pray that we continue to feel grateful for our responsibilities and tasks, so as to continue to bring the light of Torah (all 176 verses!) to our neighborhood. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD