Numbers 4:21 – 7:8
Days after the worst mass murder in American history, this week’s parasha provides some much needed perspective. In Naso we read, “Speak to the Israelites: When a man or woman commits any wrong toward a fellow man, thus breaking faith with the Lord …” (Num. 5:6) Maimonides, in his Laws of Repentence, taught the meaning of this verse: if we sin against one another we sin against God.
Murder is an abomination, it is a profound breaking of faith with God. The murder of forty-nine human beings, and the attempted murder of more than fifty more is 100 times an abomination. This act, committed by a man who claimed to be a devout Muslim was not religious act, but purely evil. All religions, ultimately, are about love. The murderer was motivated not by love, but by violent hatred: homophobic hatred, racial hatred, extremist hatred. He killed during the month of Ramadan – holy to the religion he claimed as his own; and he killed during our Jewish observance of Shavuot, our celebration of God’s Revelation, the giving of Torah at Sinai. His massacre defiled both observances.
Torah stands as repudiation against such acts: when we sin against each other, we sin against God. Jews, Christians and Muslims have joined together to condemn the massacre in vigils and rallies all over the country. These are acts of love, of real religion. However, if they are not followed by action, they will ultimately be no more than symbolic gestures. If we truly love God, then we must learn to truly love each other. We must learn to overcome our suspicion and distrust and begin to see our common humanity. We must learn to recognize the image of God in every person, and to nurture the divine spark within us all.
This is the torah Maimonides teaches, a true lesson of Naso
Hi there! I am the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Maryland, where I have served since 2016.
(c) copyright 2018 by Rabbi Gary Pokras