Monday, Monday – somehow my mind is wandering back to songs of the ‘70’s!
Again, mazal tov to Willem Hanevelt, Tyler, Katrina Greenfield and Jay Hanevelt from all of us at Kolot Mayim. What a wonderful simcha we witnessed on Shabbat morning this past week. I heard from several of you about how moving you found his ceremony – even on Zoom!
July 4th, Shabbat Balak, Ethan Nozick will be called to Torah for his Bar Mitzvah. These young men have worked hard under less than ideal conditions, so we are most grateful that their families welcome our connection with Zoom into their hearts.
After Ethan’s Bar Mitzvah, I will be taking the month of July off. We will not be having services or classes during this time, but will pick up again in August. Thank you all for your forbearance; this has been a very difficult few months. I look forward to returning to your company after a break.
This week we read Parashat Korach, a challenging and difficult text. Korach (also a Levite) challenges the leadership of Moses and of Aaron with these words, “It is too much for you! For the entire assembly – all of them – are holy and God is among them; why do you exalt yourselves over the congregation of God?” Moses then fell on his face.
The more generalized complaints of the people Israel become very personal in this section of Torah. Korach is in the family of Aaron and Moses and is challenging their authority over him. Korach is insulted and demanding; Moses falls in humiliation and humility.I don’t know about you, but I have had a few “fall on my face” moments. The task is to get up again, and face into whatever caused us to plotz. Moses and Aaron do so, but questions about “what is fair” linger in the air..
Even as Korach rightly called the entire assembly “holy,” our tradition understands that Korach may have a limited understanding of what constitutes holiness. The Sefat Emet teaches that for Korach, receiving Torah was the pinnacle of holiness, a pinnacle of Israel’s relationship with God.
However, Midrash teaches a different possibility – with a twist. Midrash (a modality of reading Bible that brings together different verses to create a distinctly new narrative. Thus new stories emerge out of fragments of older texts, and in doing so become their own new story). Midrash suggests the following: Israel exists in three categories of relationship to God – as daughter, sister and mother. These relationships are also tied to our three Festivals – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, and to three aspects of our souls. The Festivals recall our time of Liberation, our time in the wilderness, Bamidbar, and a time of receiving Torah.
Liberation, the story of the Exodus is exemplified by our nefesh, our daughter-spirit. Receiving Torah at Sinai obligates us at another soul level, our ruach, as we become God’s intimates, bride to God. But our neshamah, that upper level of our soul, is only enacted with we become mother-spirit, when we give “birth” to holiness through our actions, when we act within the framework of the mitzvoth.
While Aaron understood this higher level, the SefatE met suggests that Korach’s understanding of the span of our souls stopped at ruach, at Sinai. But we know that receiving Torah without acting in Torah keeps us limited. Our neshamah requires us to “mother” ourselves through our mitzvot to sustain not only ourselves but our community, if we are to indeed by a holy people.
During these coming days let’s open all levels of our souls from liberation to receiving words of wisdom and bringing our full selves into action and redemption.