Shabbat Beha’alotekha 5775

For the first time since last summer, I received two tzeva adommessages on my phone this week. Those are the red alerts that I wanted to get in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel during the Gaza War. The message indicated a “state-wide” alarm, but I didn’t hear of any attacks, so maybe it was just a system test. Still, seeing the icon at the top of my phone was disconcerting.

Of course, the air raid siren is not the only one Israelis hear regularly, nor is it always meant to frighten. Every Friday, a few minutes before candle lighting time, a sound punctuates the air throughout the land. It, too, is meant to stir us to action, but for a far different reason.

Both of these sirens are extensions of the hatzotzrot, the golden trumpets that Moshe is instructed to make this week in Parshat Beha’alotekha.  “They shall serve you to summon the community and to set the divisions in motion” (Numbers 10:2). In some fashion, the sounding of the trumpets is a call to action, but the rabbis apply vastly differing meanings to these calls to action. The Rambam thinks more in terms of tzeva adom alerts; the sages of the Talmud connected the trumpets to Shabbat candles.

On Shabbat morning, we’ll explore these two interpretations and consider how sirens stir our Jewish souls.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Wise