Parsha: Bamidbar (2023)

The power of a blessing.

This week is Shabbat Mevorchim Sivan, where we bless the entire month of Sivan, including the upcoming Holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot is the day G-d gave us the greatest gift, the Torah.

On this Shabbat we reflect on the Torah’s contribution to us a nation, and to the world as well.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, recounts the  story of Chinese scientists who were tasked with unravelling the mystery of how China and the Far East had once led the civilized world for centuries, only to be overtaken by the West in the last 500 years. These researchers were puzzled as to how a nation that had invented so many ground-breaking innovations like the compass, paper, printing, porcelain, gunpowder, and more, could have regressed so dramatically. Their inquiry led them to ponder how the West managed to emerge as the world’s superpower.

Initially, the researchers thought that the West’s superiority was due to their possession of superior weapons, namely more advanced guns. However, they later changed their focus to the possibility that the Western model of governance was more effective. Lastly, they considered the notion that the West’s economic policy was more successful than that of China and the Far East.

But upon further investigation, the Chinese scientists concluded that the Western civilization’s success is not simply due to their advanced weaponry, superior government or economic policies, but rather rooted in their culture, specifically the Tanach, or the Bible. The philosophy of democracy, human dignity, freedom, and above all, the responsibility for the poor, that are integral to the Western civilization’s success, all have their basis in the teachings of the Bible. It is this foundation that fosters a successful and healthy society.

For instance, the Tanach teaches that poverty should not be considered a natural occurrence, but rather, it is our duty to do everything possible to assist those who are less fortunate, whether by helping them find employment or providing other forms of aid. This compassion and sense of obligation towards the poor, stranger, orphan, and widow is what creates a healthy and prosperous society.

The Torah is indeed our gift and blessing to the world.

I encourage you all to join us this Shabbat, and next week for Shavuot. We will celebrate the 3335th(!) anniversary of the Ten commandants, the giving of the Torah, and find its relevant and personal message for us as individuals as well.

Shabbat Shalom.