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It’s that time of year… The Ramaz Parents Council Spring Auction!
The Parents Council, auction chairs, and committee members have been very busy planning a great event to benefit our students. There will be fabulous food and prizes, so please join us in the Upper School Auditorium next Wednesday, March 12, at 7:00 pm.
The Online Auction opened this morning!
- Visit www.ramaz.org/onlineauction and click “Register to Bid”.
- Use a fun alias or “USERNAME” rather than your own name, since it goes public as you bid.
- Shop often and enjoy!
- You will receive bid alerts throughout the auction letting you know your bid status.
- Your credit card will be charged ONLY if you are the highest bidder and winner.
- If you win an item, you will receive instructions post-auction regarding receipt of your prize.
View the gorgeous online catalog of fabulous prize packages that will be “auctioned off” in our Chinese Auction the evening of March 12! The “Chinese Auction” is an “event-only” raffle-based auction format. Coupons are purchased and dropped into a box of the prize the bidder hopes to win. Winners will be drawn from each box at the end of the evening. Chinese Auction prizes will only be available to win during the March 12th event.
Advance event registration packages get bonus Chinese Auction tickets — please visit www.ramaz.org/auction to RSVP by March 11. Ramaz faculty and staff receive complimentary admission!
THANK YOU for supporting the RAMAZ PARENTS COUNCIL!
By Noah A. (Grade 8)
Overall, in this week’s parashah, we learn about the different types of korbanot or sacrifices and their specific corresponding rules. The topic is very complex and the descriptions below offer some general information:
- The korban olah or burnt offering was brought twice daily. Its flesh was totally consumed in fire but the skins were given to the kohanim.
- A portion of the korban shelamim or peace offering, was eaten by the person who brought the sacrifice and some parts were given to kohanim.
- The korban chatat or sin offering was brought to atone for sins committed by the high priest, the king, the entire Jewish community, or a regular Jew.
- The korban asham or guilt offering was brought by a person for specific categories of sins, including a case of doubt as to whether he had broken the rules.
Why is it so complicated to have a relationship with God? What is the need for all of the rules for korbanot? I think that all of these rules cause the Jewish people to learn more Torah, and the study of Torah brings us closer to God.
Even when one commits a sin, there is a way to make up for it. Later in the Talmud (in Berachot) we learn that the prayer times are related to the korbanot, so we connect with God in the morning, afternoon, and at night. Even though we don’t see God, we can still bond and communicate with Him.
Communication with God, whether it is through prayer, Torah, or sacrifices, is the foundation for Judaism, and is the reason why the Jewish people have stayed together even through the Diaspora.
by Esther Malka Issever ’14
בֶּקַע, לַגֻּלְגֹּלֶת, מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל, בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ–לְכֹל הָעֹבֵר עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים,
מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה, לְשֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים, וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁים.
“A beka a head, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary,
for every one that passed over to them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward,
for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.”
Exodus: 38: 26
Parashat Pekudei begins with an account of all fifteen different materials donated by B’nei Yisrael for the building of the Mishkan. The donations included gold, silver, copper, and various other textiles.
For fourteen of fifteen materials, each individual gave according to his ability. Yet for the half shekel, every single person was required to give the same amount. Rashi (Exodus:30:16) states that the half shekel was used to make the sockets which provided the Mishkan’s foundation.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe sees Rashi’s midrash as a parallel to the Jewish community. While every person is unique physically, emotionally, and intellectually, the community could not function if everyone gave the same “donations.” Our community is a mosaic of poskim, teachers, students, philanthropists, mothers, fathers, and so much more. Yet we are all created in the image of God and are inherently bonded to Him in the same way. The foundation is all the same.
The foundation is the lowest, least noticeable part of a building. Sometimes it is buried out of sight in the ground, but this does not minimize its importance to the structure. Because of this, it is so important to receive a Jewish education. The education, which begins at home, provides the foundation for our commitment to Judaism, the root of which is the inherent bond which exists equally in everyone. The education continues in school where we then build upon the foundation and learn to perfect our individual abilities. We learn to focus on both our strengths and our weaknesses so that we grow to become unique people who can share our own personal talents with the world.
by Elizabeth A. (gr. 7)
This week’s parashah describes the manufacturing of the priestly garments, which were already described in the portion of Tetzaveh, where God instructed Moshe how these garments were to be made. In Pekudei, the amounts of silver, copper, and gold that are needed for the construction of the Tabernacle and materials to construct some of its artifacts are given. In addition, the choshen, the breastplate with gemstones representing the twelve tribes, is described. Moshe inspected the work to make sure it was correct according to God’s specifications. Afterwards, Moshe blessed all the craftsmen.
God instructed Moshe that the Tabernacle should be dedicated on the first of Nissan. Subsequently, the cloud of God descended upon the Tabernacle and filled it. We learn that the cloud by day and a fire by night were the Jewish people’s guide throughout their desert sojourn, signaling when they were to travel and when they were to set up camp.
Another feature of this week’s parashah is mention of the half-shekel coins that were collected according to the method outlined in Parashat Ki Tissa, in which God ordered Moshe to organize a census of the Jewish people. Every man over the age of twenty had to give exactly the same amount of money regardless of his wealth or poverty. God decreed that the money that was collected would be used in building the Tabernacle.
What might we learn from these three elements?
- Many people have special talents in the arts, and Judaism appreciates these special gifts from God. People who have them should be encouraged to use them for religious expression.
- Uniting and equalizing the whole community was one goal of the census. The people did not give a full shekel as a symbol that the Jews are only whole when they come together in a community. Treating everyone equally regardless of wealth is important if one wants to include everyone. This also limits the selfish response that to contribute more makes one more valuable, so those who are able should give more, but in a very quiet way. According to Rabbi Hirsch, “Everyone, whatever his social or economic status, had to be an equal partner in the Tabernacle that existed to bring together God and His people and in the offerings that represented the nation in achieving that paramount goal.”
- God cares about the Jewish people. In the desert in ancient times His signs were very visible. Today we must look for God through our prayers and mitzvot, in the Torah and in our leaders, and in our own hearts.
By Esther K. (Gr. 7)
In this week’s parashah, the Torah’s main theme is the building of the Mishkan. In verses two and three at the very beginning, however, Moshe reiterates the mitzvah of Shabbat. One might ask why the mitzvah of Shabbat and the building of the Mishkan are juxtaposed.
One answer could be that the Rabbis of the Talmud learned the 39 melachot—the 39 categories of “work” that are forbidden on Shabbat—from this juxtaposition. These 39 melachot were the activities or “workmanship” needed for the construction of and service in the Mishkan, so that would make sense.
But maybe there is a different answer. In Parashat Terumah God says: “Veasu li mikdash, veshachanti betocham ” (Shemot 25:8)—that the Jewish people should make God a Mishkan, and He will dwell among them. Thus, building the Mishkan and conducting its service was a way for the Jews to become closer to God.
Rashi explains that when God told Moshe the mitzvot of Shabbat and the Mishkan, He said them in the reverse order. Moshe, however, said Shabbat first, so as to emphasize that although the Mishkan was extremely important, Shabbat was not to be overridden by the commandment to build the Mishkan.
This applied to Bnei Yisrael in ancient times, but what about us now, in modern life, without the Mishkan or Beit HaMikdash? We can learn that the Mishkan was just a way for Bnei Yisrael to feel close to God. Today, because we do not have a Mishkan or Beit HaMikdash of our own, we can focus on Shabbat to feel connected to God
I think this juxtaposition helps the Jewish people keep Shabbat because it shows how important Shabbat is to us and to God. If God did not want the Jews to work on His holy place on Shabbat, then it is obviously very important. Even in tough times in our lives, we should always try to keep Shabbat in order to be spiritually connected to God and in order to follow the Torah. Shabbat is also a time for us to rest and think about what we are doing wrong and right in our lives and how to improve ourselves. Shabbat is a time for us to feel truly connected to God, but it is also a time during which we can take a break from all the craziness in our lives and realize what matters most.
By Elan A. (Grade 5)
In reviewing this week’s parashah, three questions came to my mind:
First: We read this week about the incident of the golden calf and that Aharon participated in it. Why did Aharon get involved if he knew that something bad would probably come of it?
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin of Chabad.org writes that the commentator Daas Zekainim explains that Aharon had proper intentions in his actions – he was trying to buy time. Had Aaron appointed some other leaders while Moshe was up on Har Sinai, there might have been a fight with Moshe when he returned. On the other hand, had Aharon done nothing, the people might have tried to choose a different leader to replace Moshe. Therefore, Aharon was just trying to wait until Moshe got back, and he thought the people would not willingly want to volunteer their gold and jewelry for such a task.
Further, many commentators (including Rashi on Shemot 32:2) explain how Aharon may have been trying in other ways to buy time for Moshe to return, for example, by saying“let us celebrate a festival to God tomorrow,” hoping that the calf would never come into being.
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks expands on this concept and says that Moshe was a man of laws while Aharon was a man of peace, mediation and conflict resolution. Rabbi Sacks says that both are really important virtues in a leader.
So, I feel that Aharon should not be blamed for what happened, when he was trying to mediate and buy time for Moshe to return.
Second: Why does Moshe ask God not to annihilate the nation but God, apparently acceding to Moshe, kills 3,000 Jews?
According to Chizkuni, those 3,000 Jews who were killed were the ones who actually committed the sin of idol worshiping. We can speculate that there were about 3,000,000 Jews at the time, and this represented less than .1% of the overall population.
Third: God says that whoever works on the seventh day should die. Why is there such a strict punishment?
Ahad Haam is quoted as saying, “More than the Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” In other words, Jews have sometimes kept Shabbat, but Shabbat keeps the Jews united. Rabbi David Milston of Midreshet Harova writes in his The Three Pillars: Am Yisrael, Torat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael that keeping Shabbat is “one of the most essential ingredients in a successful Jewish life.” (He also talks about how the Shabbat ritual involves more than just keeping Shabbat; rather, it is about making Shabbat in terms of preparing for it.)
I feel the punishment for not keeping Shabbat is so strict because if the Jews did not keep Shabbat back then, there would be few signs of being Jewish as Shabbat was their weekly reminder that they were Jewish. Today, Shabbat is still a very important time of the week, but we are lucky that there are also Torah classes on the Web, Jewish schools all over the country, and many kosher restaurants. These and many other reminders should make it easy for us to always remember that we are part of the Jewish nation.
by Meira W. (Gr. 7)
Chapter 28 in this week’s parashah begins with a command from God to Moshe:
Now you bring near to yourself Aaron your brother and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel to serve me as priests: Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Itamar, the sons of Aaron.
The Ramban discusses why the verse first refers to Aaron’s sons and then specifies his sons by name. The Ramban answers that God did not want Moshe to believe that by making Aaron a kohen, He would immediately turn Aaron’s sons into kohanim. Rather, each of Aaron’s sons would have to go through the same process he did to become a Kohen.
Towards the end of Parashat Tetzaveh, the Torah discusses the korban tamid, after already describing in detail the building and dedication of the Mishkan. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:
It is not the establishment and consecration of the Sanctuary and priests that by itself brings about the promised goal of God’s presence in the nation. This goal is only achieved by the priests expressing ever afresh on behalf of the nation the daily devotion of the lives of the people to the ideals of Judaism as represented by the Sanctuary.
In other words, all of the intricate design details that went into the building of the Mishkan did not automatically bring about God’s presence in the nation. They were all in preparation for the Jews to utilize the Mishkan to express their ongoing devotion to God. One example is the korban tamid, which was offered twice daily every day, consistently. Another example was the lechem ha-panim, the bread which was on the shulchan in the Mishkan every day all day long and replaced each week.
Just as in the beginning of the parashah, Aaron’s sons did not automatically become kohanim simply because Aaron became a kohen – they each underwent their own separate process – so too God’s presence did not automatically enter the Mishkan simply by building it; the Jewish people had to utilize it on a daily basis to achieve this goal.
We can learn an important lesson from this. Jewish life does not come automatically to us. We must work on a daily basis to bring religion into our lives, and there are many ways we can do that. Our goal should be to learn Torah consistently, just like the korban tamid was brought every day consistently, and we should allow Torah values to permeate our lives constantly.
Meira’s Devar Torah was inspired by her uncle Rabbi Yosef W.’s “Three Minute Shiur” series.