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Audio: TTA for Parshat Bamidbar and Yom Yerushalayim

The Bamidbar/Shavuot/Naso Sandwich (Chalavi)
5/23/2014, 2:55 PM

A7 Radio's "Torah Tidbits Audio" with Phil Chernofsky
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Confusing Confluence Challenge

Titles for the Lead Tidbit are often a gamble. Will they catch the TTreader's interest or trigger a quick page-turning. If you are reading these words, the former must be the case. The Sun is about 400 times more distant to us than the Moon. The Sun's diameter is about 400 times greater than that of the Moon, which translates to the Sun being about 64,000,000 times bigger than the Moon. But from our perspective on Earth, the Sun and the Moon are just about the same size. And it is the way we look at things that has a greater impact upon us than the reality of the things. So why are we telling you this? Because this is what happens when we read Parshat HaShavua, look at the calendar, and get ready to celebrate its special dates. The events in the sedra occurred a year after Matan Torah. Yom Yerushayalim occurred 47 years ago. Shavuot - the first - was almost a year before the census in the sedra. Even the 20th of Iyar - which has just recently past - marked a date that joins the other events to ponder - in their confluence. And so, not looking at the following in the real order and times that they occurred, but rather as seeing them from our perspective of NOW, here's what we have. Around the time these words are being written and shortly thereafter when they are being read, a few different things call for our attention. We have recently been taken out of Egypt and are eagerly anticipating Revelation at Har Sinai. As our Omer count continues to grow, Shavuot looms before us. Shavuot represents the receiving of the Torah and as the day of the Two Loaves offering in the Beit HaMikdash and the beginning of the Bikurim season - we can sense the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Exodus, becoming G-d's Nation, and entering Eretz Yisrael. But we also know that things have not gone smoothly in these departments throughout Jewish History. We had the Torah, we followed it, then we turned our backs on it, then we turned back to it... We entered the Land, thrived in it and then were exiled from it. And then we came back and are still coming back. It is taking a very long time. We are just beginning the Book of Bamidbar. There should not have been such a Book because the Midbar should have been a brief passageway from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Instead, it took on a life of its own. And we know that many bad things happened to the People of Israel in the Midbar. But we also know how it shaped us into a Nation. The 20th of Iyar was the date of the first travels of the people. Assuming that we could travel only when instructed to do so, then it seems that G-d had us stay at Har Sinai to learn how to live day-by-day as Torah Jews. Prior to our arrival at Har Sinai, we had experienced and lived a life of supernatural miracles - including the Plagues, the events of the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, and Matan Torah. Great, great things, but not the best preparation for a 'normal' life. So even before the Meraglim fiasco, we were delayed on our journey towards Eretz Yisrael. Yom Yerushalayim adds some other feelings and yearnings into the mix. However much time has passed G-d appeared to Moshe Rabeinu at the Burning Bush, the Plan has been the same. Only the timetable of its implementation keeps getting messed up and extended.

The Plan: Out of Egypt, serve G-d at the mountain (i.e. receive and commit to the Torah). Live the Life of Torah in the Land of Israel. The Plan hasn't changed. We got out of Egypt and became a Nation. We are still trying to 'get our act together' concerning Torah and Eretz Yisrael. We've had periods in our history when we've done well on one side or the other of the Challenge. Sometimes, on both sides. And then there have been times when our scorecard on each goal has not been so good at all. What's coming up? More Midbar? More Exile? Or - we hope and pray AND work towards - More Torah and more Eretz Yisrael. Midbar. Reunified Jerusalem. Matan Torah. Beit HaMikdash. Bikurim. G-d is our Partner and our Encourager. But we need to undertake the challenge. We ask Him for it all, but He asks us to work hard towards it.

Phil Chernofsky is the educational director of the Orthodox Union's OU Israel Center in Jerusalem and editor of the Torah Tidbits parsha pamphlet. Since 1998, he has hosted Torah Tidbits Audio, a shiur on the weekly parsha with witty insights. It airs every Thursday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Israel time and is downloadable as a podcast on Israel National Radio. Phil made Aliyah to Israel over 30 years ago. He is the author of the newly released book And Every Single One Was Someone, a tribute to victims of the Holocaust.
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