Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Shavuos 5784




Erev Shavuos  

5 Sivan 5784/ June 11, 2024

49th day of the Omer


As I get older it seems to only be getting worse. I’m really bad at recognizing names and faces. In this regard my wife and I are opposites. She doesn’t forget a face, or a name and I don’t remember them. We’ll go shopping together and she’ll say hi to someone who looks at her confusedly. My wife will then tell her that they were in preschool together. Meanwhile I have embarrassing encounters with people I know that I don’t recognize or have totally forgotten their name.

My generation also takes longer to come to terms with new technology than my children’s generation. It took me a while to get the hang of using Siri in my car and Alexa on our device at home.

One afternoon I came home and was annoyed that our new voice command device wasn’t working. My wife and children found it hysterically funny as they watched me shout “Hey Siri” to our Alexa device and then become frustrated that I wasn’t getting any response. My children explained to me that if I didn’t address the device by her correct name she won’t reply. Silly Abba!

We state in davening each morning, “He counts a number for the stars. For each He calls by name.”

From our perspective on earth, the greatness of the stars lies in their multitudes. One star in the sky isn’t too impressive. But when we look up at night and see endless stars in every direction we are awed.

To Hashem however, each individual star is precious. He calls each by name to demonstrate their significance and uniqueness.

Dovid Hamelech tells us about the stars because they serve as a metaphor for ourselves. Hashem told Avrohom Avinu that his children would be like the stars in the heavens. That refers not only to our collective light that shines even in the darkest of times, but also to the light and value of each individual.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks related that he once asked Paul Johnson, the catholic author of A History of the Jews, what had impressed him the most about Judaism?

Johnson replied that historically there have been societies that emphasized the individual, such as the contemporary Western world. There have also been societies that overemphasized and prioritized the collective, such as communist Russia or China.

Judaism, however, was successful at maintaining the delicate balance between giving equal weight to individual and collective value and responsibility. Judaism was a religion of both strong individuals and strong communities. That balance is rare and difficult. Johnson suggested that it is one of our greatest achievements.

In Parshas Bamidbar, Klal Yisroel is counted and Rashi notes that the count was an expression of Hashem’s everlasting love for His nation. At first glance it may seem that the purpose of the count was only to ascertain the final tally. However, Ramban writes that each individual felt personally valued by the count. When donating towards the census, each individual Jew appeared before Moshe and Aharon and introduced themselves to the venerable leaders. “One who came before the father of the prophets and his brother, the holy one of Hashem, and introduced himself (to them) by name, it would be for him a merit and boost of vitality” (Ramban 1:45). As each individual was counted, he also was made to feel special and valued.

This week we witnessed the incredibly daring raid that brought home 4 of the hostages from Gaza. We are fighting a nation that glorifies and celebrates murder and hate, while we glorify and prioritize life.

The IDF invests incredible energy, manpower, resources and the ultimate sacrifice of heroic soldiers killed in battle to save every individual of our people.

It’s a reminder to us of how invaluable every Jew is and how vital we are all in Kabbolas HaTorah.

Each Jew has a name, a purpose, and a mission. We need to remember that about our fellow Jew and we need to remember it about ourselves.

May we all merit to reaccept upon ourselves the Torah with awe, love and joy.


Freilichen Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum