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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Count Me In

By Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb




The sanctity of numbers --- taught in antiquity, refined in 18th Century Europe and realized on a wintry afternoon in the Midwest



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It was a cold and wintry day, about this time of year, when I paid a visit to a small Jewish community in the Midwest. The rabbi of the local synagogue invited me to join him for the afternoon prayer service, Mincha.

Because of the time of year, the day was short, and sunset was shortly after 4:00 PM. I told them that even in the larger Jewish community in which I lived then, it was difficult to put together a minyan (quorum) of ten at that time of day. He assured me that there would be a minyan, and said, "Just come and see."

We both arrived in shul where there were six or seven elderly men, all retired so that they had the leisure to gather in shul so early in the afternoon. I told the rabbi that I still feared that we would not reach the required quorum of ten. He motioned to the rear door of the synagogue, and said, "Just watch."

With about thirty seconds to go until the announced time for Mincha, I could see two bicycles pull up to the rear of the shul with two young boys dashing into the small chapel. It seems that the rabbi had an arrangement with the local day school that they would send several students of bar mitzvah age each day to guarantee the minyan.

I will never forget the enthusiastic welcome those two boys received. I will especially never forget the look on their faces when they realized how much they were appreciated, how much they really counted.

One of the benefits of being a member of a small Jewish community is that each person counts. And on that winter day, those two boys literally counted. Throughout the year as well, each of their parents counted; one was responsible for the local Chevra Kadisha (burial society), and the other gave a daily class for those who knew no Hebrew.

This is a common experience of Jews who live in small towns. No one is taken for granted, and everyone has a significant role to play. In short, everyone counts.


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In this week's Torah portion, Pikudei, we learn many lessons about counting and accounting. The very word "Pikudei" means "accounts of", and the entire reading is one long accounting of every single gift to the Tabernacle. One way of looking at this week's Torah portion is as a lesson in the importance of accountability.

But as each Tabernacle item is carefully counted, we learn a deeper lesson as well. We learn that each item which is counted is blessed.

That each counted item is blessed may seem obvious, but it contradicts an interesting dictum in the Talmud (Taanis 8b): "Blessing is not bestowed upon things which are weighed, nor upon things which are measured, nor upon things which are counted. Blessing is only bestowed upon things which are hidden from the eye."

This Talmudic adage reflects the negative attitude of our tradition toward the procedure of counting. King David, for example, was sorely punished for undertaking a census of the Jewish people. Indeed, as we read just two weeks ago, when a census of the people was necessary, each person was asked to contribute a half shekel so that the coins could be counted, but not the people themselves.

I have often thought that this aversion to counting reflects a reluctance to reduce a person to a number. It is dehumanizing to be a statistic. The ultimate reduction of a person to a number was the tattooed number which we have all seen on the arms of Holocaust survivors. The Nazis knew how thoroughly demeaning it is to count a person as if he or she were an object.

Aware of this negative attitude toward counting, the great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740-1809), finds the counting that pervades this week's reading very troubling. He finds the description of the public counting of each and every Tabernacle item to be inconsistent with the statement that blessings are not bestowed upon things that are counted.

His answer, found in his Hebrew-language commentary, Kedushas Levi, is based upon a verse in Song of Songs (7:8): "Your eyes are as the pools of Heshbon". Creatively, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok points out that the Hebrew word for "pools" can also mean "blessings" and that the place name "Heshbon" can mean "counting". Thus, the verse then reads, "Your eyes bring blessings even upon that which is counted."

The lesson here is that whether counting is negative or positive depends very much upon one's perspective, upon one's "eyes". If you are counting people as numbers, or even physical things in a materialistic manner, then counting is negative.

However, if the things you count are seen from a spiritual perspective, then counting is undeniably a positive process. The items of the Tabernacle are counted in this week's Torah portion from a spiritual perspective. They are consecrated objects, only used to express religious devotion. Therefore, counting them designates them as special and unique.

On that winter day in the small synagogue in the American Midwest, two young boys were counted. But they were counted from the perspective of their importance to a group of men who wanted to pray. They were counted in recognition of the role each and every individual plays in the broader community. They were counted because they mattered very much.

When I extract the experience I had that day from the recesses of my memory, I recall what the boys exclaimed as they enthusiastically bounced into that small chapel.

They each shouted, "Count me in, count me in!"

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Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, PhD is currently the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

© 2010, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb