Parshas Bamidbar / Shevous      

Sarah Spaans Carlson is from Muskegon, MI, and her birthday is in in the fall.  Her present was finally meeting her friend Terry Zwerlein from New York. They saw each other for the first time this past October.  “We gave each other a big hug,” Terry said.  Sarah and Terry have been friends since 1967.  “It started with us being on a pen pal list,” Terry said.  When they were in seventh grade, they found each other through a teen magazine. Sarah said, “There was a bunch of names in there and addresses and I said, ‘OK. I will pick Terry.'”  Over the following decades, the now 62-year-old women wrote about falling in love, children and exchanged photographs.

With their recent meeting, the two women have finally met face-to-face after 48 years of being strictly pen pals.  “I was excited,” Terry said.  “I gave her a big hug. It took a long time for it to happen so it was fun. I think we are very close.  Over the years I think we became much closer.  The distance didn’t mean anything.  We talked about everything.”  In lieu of long letters, the two friends now send holiday and birthday cards and chat via Facebook.  Let’s hope they don’t wait another 48 years to meet again!  (See a brief video of the two friends:

All over the world people are fighting. Religious fighting, national fighting, family fighting.  Some are even ready to die because they think they’re right.  How are we ever going to put this world back together?  Judaism speaks of dikduk chaverim, which literally means fine-tuning with friends. See others not as adversaries, but as a welcome counterbalance to your own perspective.  In choosing a friend, choose one who will challenge you to become better in life.  Someone once said, “Friends should be like books, few, but hand-selected.”  Friends are good, but lifelong friends are a treasure.

Parshas Bamidbar 1:1 — 4:20
This week we begin reading Sefer Bamidbar — known in English as ‘The Book of Numbers’. Bamidbar (‘in the wilderness’) begins with G-d telling Moses to take a census of all men over the age of 20.  If you like names and numbers, you’ll love this week’s portion. The count reveals just over 600,000, excluding the Levites who weren’t included in the census.  We also find described the manner in which the Jewish People camped around the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and the order in which they traveled during the 40 years in the desert. The Jewish People were arranged in four sections around the Mishkan; east, south, west and north. The Levites are singled out for special responsibilities. A formal transfer is made between the first-born and the Levites, whereby the Levites take over the role the first-born would have served.  The sons of Levi are divided into three main families; Gershon, Kehas and Merari.  Each is given a special task in transporting the Mishkan.

The major festival of Shavous begins on Saturday evening, June 11 and concludes Monday evening, June 13.   You may remember Cecil B. DeMille’s film ‘The Ten Commandments’, starring Charlton Heston.  Good film; however, the book was better than the movie!  On Sunday morning the Torah reading (Exodus 19:1 – 20:23) contains the narrative of giving of the Torah and the Aseres HaDibros — inaccurately translated as ‘The Ten Commandments.’  On the second day of Shavous, Monday, the Torah reading (Deut. 15:19 – 16:17) contains a brief description of the Shalosh Regalim – Passover, Shavous and Succos.   An argument can be made that Shavous is THE most important holiday of the Jewish year.  After all, without the Torah, what is Judaism?

Rabbinic Ruminations
Walking barefoot through the warm summer grass. Who doesn’t feel a bit nostalgic remembering the childhood pleasure of going around barefoot?  While walking short distances in grass feels good, according to a new study running barefoot has a surprising benefit.  Researchers at the University of North Florida (UNF) found that running barefoot leads to better cognitive performance than running with shoes.  Who runs barefoot, you ask?  Barefoot running is becoming increasing popular and has been featured in best-selling books, on national television, in running magazines, as well as in teacher resource materials.  There has also been a growing scientific interest in barefoot running, with research comparing physiological differences between barefoot versus shod running.

The UNF researchers enlisted 72 participants between the ages of 18 and 44, who ran both barefoot and wore shoes at a comfortable, self-selected pace for approximately 16 minutes.  Working memory was measured before and after running.  The results of this research found a significant increase — approximately 16 percent– in working memory performance in the barefoot-running condition. There was no significant increase in working memory when running with shoes.  “The little things often have the greatest impact. This research shows us that we can realize our cognitive potential and enjoy ourselves at the same time,” said Dr. Ross Alloway, lead researcher. “If we take off our shoes and go for a walk or run, we may finish smarter than when we started.”

When Moses turns aside to look at the burning bush, G-d tells him, “Take your shoes off your feet, the place you are standing on is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)  Why did G-d command Moshe to take off his shoes, and not to cover his head or prepare his heart?  With shoes one can walk over stones and even glass, and not feel a thing.  Without shoes, even in the comfort of one’s own home, one can feel everything.  G-d told Moses ‘if you want to lead My people, you must take off your shoes. Feel your surroundings, and feel the suffering of your people.’

Quote of the Week
Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind. — Leonardo da Vinci

Joke of the Week
From the files of “Newspaper Errors”

IMPORTANT NOTICE: If you are one of the hundreds of parachuting enthusiasts who bought our Easy Sky Diving book, please make the following correction: on page 8, line 7, the words “state zip code” should have read “pull rip cord.”

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