November 21, 2018

Rosner’s Torah-Talk: Parashat Massei with Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

Our guest this week is Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf of San Francisco’s historic Sherith Israel congregation, where she serves as the director of the Megalim program. A graduate of Columbia University, Rabbi Graf was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York in 2003. She has worked in congregations from New York to Juneau, Alaska, and is active in several major Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Community Federation, New Israel Fund, American Jewish World Service and the American Jewish Committee.

This week’s Torah portion – Parashat Massei (Numbers 33:1-36:13) – is the last portion taken from the book of Numbers. In it, Moses lists Israel’s forty two journeys and encampments, the boundaries of the Promised Land are stated, and cities of refuge are designated as havens for people who commit inadvertent murder. The portion ends with the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad marrying men of their own tribe (Menashe) in order to keep the estate which they inherited from their father within their own tribe. Our discussion focuses on the symbolic meaning of the act of listing Israel’s journeys in the desert.