Sunday, June 22, 2014

B'midbar- Changing Our Nature


S’u et-rosh kol-adat b’nei-Yisrael l’mish’p’chotam l’veit avotam b’mispar sheimot kol-zakhar l’gul’g’lotam.
Count the head of all the community of the children of Israel according to their families, to their father’s house, by the number of names, all males by their polls. (B’midbar 1:2)
B’midbar is the transition of the Israelites from a family to a nation and from slaves to free people. With the exodus, our national identity is sealed. Now we must develop it to become something beyond what we were. Numbers make up a community, but a community is not made solely of numbers. It is made of families, of parents and children, and of homes.
Parashat B’midbar begins with this counting, but it ends with descriptions of service in the Tabernacle. Avodah, loving service, is necessary. We must be more than residents. We must be active citizens. Throughout the Torah, we have many opportunities to participate, each according to his/her abilities and inclinations. The same is true today. Our communities provide many opportunities for involvement. The synagogue has committees and a board. There is the food bank. We have many events that require both support and participants. Read Torah or lead a part of the service at our lay led Shabbatot. Come make the minyan on a weekday. Sponsor a kiddush or a class. Be part of a discussion. It’s not enough just to be a number.
There is an apocrypha that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” In reality, Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” In order to bring about change, and to make the world a better place, we must be aware that we cannot act alone, but we must always be willing to act. When we work for change, others will follow. Only by working as a group, in great numbers, can we enact change. As parashat B’midbar combines numbers and action, so too must we.