Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Bamidbar 5760
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Bamidbar(Numbers 1:1-4:20)

Bamidbar 5760

GOOD MORNING!  I don't think people realize how much their talking in synagogue upsets others. A man told me that he has a recurring fantasy -- he stands up in synagogue, turns around to face the talkers behind him, pulls out a .45 calibre gun, shoots the perpetrators, blows away the smoke from the barrel, then turns to his fellow congregants ... and asks in his best Clint Eastwood voice, "Anyone else want to talk?" I imagine that this would stop talking in synagogue -- if there was anyone left inside.

Recently, I came across the following pamphlet. Imagine the rabbi cleverly enjoining the worst offenders to be his allies in the campaign for a synagogue of holiness and quietude. Meeting with each man individually, he asks for their help to distribute the following pamphlet to individuals talking in synagogue. Who could refuse to help the rabbi? Perhaps your rabbi might like to use it!


"GOOD MORNING, MR. PHELPS"

The story is told that the President of the United States asked the head of the CIA to find out how it is that the Jews know everything that is going on. After investigation, the director of the CIA explains to Mr. Clinton that the Jews get together each day for something called "davening" (praying) and at a certain time one man leans over to his neighbor and says, "Nu?" and then they pass on the information.

President Clinton is fascinated and insists that he's got to see this for himself. He learns Hebrew, learns how to daven and then has the best makeup artist in the CIA fit him with a beard and appropriate clothing. During a pause in the Torah reading, the President leans over to his neighbor and says, "Nu?" The neighbor replies, "There's nothing much new, but I understand that the President is coming to synagogue."

There may be many joys in talking in synagogue. However, talking with the President is an unlikely one.

For many people, perhaps even for most people, davening is boring. Talking, however, gives an opportunity to catch up with friends, keep from falling asleep, keep from going out of one's mind.

Maybe the real question is why doesn't everyone talk in synagogue?

Or perhaps the real question is "Why go to synagogue at all?"

How's this for an answer? Ideally, going to synagogue is an opportunity to talk with God, to pour out your heart, to be spiritually uplifted, to be part and feel part of the community, to learn and to understand, to come closer to God and to grow personally and spiritually.

There are so many Jews who don't go to synagogue, that by definition any Jew who goes to synagogue is doing something right! This means you! So, if you're doing the right thing by going to synagogue, do you really want to spend your time talking to your neighbor? Is that what you want to be your greatest enjoyment and benefit? Would you really rather talk with your neighbor -- or to talk with God?

Being honest with ourselves, we know that if we put in the effort we could learn the meaning of the davening, we could focus on the words, we could find something to learn. We could even just refrain from talking to stop from disturbing and distracting those around us. It's only the matter of making a decision.

So, if you would like to grow through coming to synagogue rather than talk, what can you do?

  • If you have to talk with your neighbor, ask him to step out of the sanctuary to speak.

  • If someone wants to talk with you, ask them if you could speak outside the sanctuary.

  • If you don't want to talk with someone, you can just explain, "Sorry, we're sitting in the non-talking section" (it's true ... really, the whole synagogue is a non-talking section, so you're telling the truth!)

  • Bring a book on davening or on the Torah to read or study if bored (or look at the Artscroll Commentary).

  • If you have to communicate something, do it in as few words as possible ... and whisper.

  • Feel good about every time you refrain from talking or minimize talking.

  • Know that the neshamas (souls) of your parents or grandparents or great-grandparents are watching over you and looking at what you're doing -- give them nachas (pleasure), give those around you nachas, give the Almighty nachas -- don't talk in synagogue!

One last story:

A teenage boy decides that he is going to discredit a "wonder rebbe" who is renowned for his perception and miracles. The boy decides on a plan. He will come before the rebbe with a bird in his hands behind his back and he will ask the rebbe, "What do I have in my hands? If the rebbe says, "A bird" then he will ask, "Is it alive or is it dead?" If the rebbe says, "Alive" the boy will quickly wring its neck, hold out the dead bird and let it drop to the ground to the derision of the rebbe. If the rebbe says, "Dead" then the boy will hold out his hands and let the bird fly away.

The boy comes before the rebbe and asks, "What do I have in my hands?" The rebbe replies, "A bird." And the boy asks, "Is it dead or is it alive?" The rebbe looks at the boy with a piercing look and then softly answers, "That depends upon you; the answer is in your hands."

The front of this message reads, "GOOD MORNING, MR. PHELPS." In reality, it is not a mission impossible for you or me or those around us to stop talking. The power, the decision is, in truth, in our hands!

Warmly,
Rabbi (Name withheld)

P.S. -- Please, a personal favor, do not turn to your neighbor to talk about this pamphlet.


Torah Portion of the Week
Bamidbar

In the second year of travel in the desert, Moshe and Aharon were commanded by the Almighty to count all male Israelites between 20 and 60. There were 603,550 available for military service. The tribe of Levi was exempt because of their special duties as religious leaders. (It is probably from here that countries give divinity deferments to clergy and divinity students.)

The twelve tribes were directed regarding the formation (three tribes were on each side of the Portable Sanctuary) in which they were to camp and travel.

The 22,300 Levites were commanded in the Sanctuary service. The family of Gershon was to transport the coverings of the Sanctuary. The family of Kehos carried the Ark, Table, Menorah and Altars. The family of Merari transported the boards, pillars, bolts and sockets.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "These are the generations of Aharon and Moshe on the day that God spoke with Moshe on Mount Sinai. And these are the names of the sons of Aharon: Nadov and, the firstborn, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar" (Numbers 3:1,2). If the first verse tells us that "these are the generations of Aharon and Moshe," then why are only the sons of Aharon mentioned in the next verse?

Rashi, the great commentator, quotes the Talmud (Sanhedrin 19b) that this teaches us that whoever teaches his neighbor's son Torah, as did Moshe, is considered as if he has given birth to him. Our lesson: Whatever we can do to help educate Jewish children is building and strengthening our own extended family.



CANDLE LIGHTING - June 2:

Jerusalem 7:01   Miami 7:51  New York 8:04
L.A. 7:41  Hong Kong 6:44  Singapore 6:50
Guatemala  6:10  Honolulu   6:51  J'Burg 5:05
Melbourne 4:52  Moscow 8:45  London 8:51
Atlanta 8:26  Toronto 8:36



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Talk is cheap ...
because supply exceeds demand.



Dedicated by...

In Loving Memory of
My Husband & Our Father
R' Abraham Yehoshua ben Moshe Yaakov, k"z
In gratitude to the Almighty for his many years
Ish Chesed V'Emes
Helena Bibliowicz & Zahava,
Musia, Michael & Families

Published: May 27, 2000

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