Since we’re embarking on the longest Torah reading of the year, this is a good week to have another installment of “Breakout Shabbat.” We’ll give you the option to participate in the traditional Torah service in Menchel Hall; or, you can join Ben Solomowitz in the White Chapel to discuss the Torah portions Mattot and Masei. Of course, this only works if one reads the Torah portions at least once in advance, and ideally with a commentary. You can find translations of the portions by clicking here for Mattot and here for Masei.
Since there’s a lot of ground to cover, let me ask you to consider three questions to help you focus your reading and study:
1. Looking at the commandment to take vengeance on Midian (31:1:54), how do we make sense of the concept of “holy war” in Judaism?
2. The tribes of Reuven and Gad make an appeal to become the first voluntary Diaspora Jewish community (32:1-41). How does the Torah judge them, and by extension, us, as another voluntary Diaspora Jewish community?
3. The cities of refuge (35:9-29) are meant to curb the role of the avenger in cases of involuntary homicide. What success have we had in curbing the instinct for revenge in our era?
The breakout group can decide which theme to pursue; or, if everyone prefers, they can hold up to three different conversations. I’ll provide commentary for each theme to supplement the discussion. After the Torah service, we’ll come together for a brief dvar-Torah, and the conversation can continue at kiddush at beyond!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise