D’var Torah for May 28, 2021

This week we will be reading from parashat B’haalot’cha. In this Torah portion we find instructions regarding the use of silver trumpets (chatzotzrot kesef) for secular and religious occasions. These trumpets, which are depicted in the Arch of Titus, were about three to four feet long, straight, with flaring ends.1 These trumpets were to be sounded for among other things, assembling the Israelite community and in celebration of Israel’s festivals. 

In reference to these trumpets we also find the phrase “when you are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets that you may be remembered before Adonai your God and be delivered from your enemies.”2

I’ve been thinking of this phrase quite a bit given what all has transpired these past couple of weeks. The pashat or simple reading is that, according to Rabbi ibn Ezra, these short blasts will remind the Israelites to cry out to God in prayer especially during times of crises. A deeper reading is that these short blasts will somehow remind God that the Israelites have been faithful and are deserving of salvation from their enemies.

However, another possibility is that these short blasts represent not only a call to God and the people, but are also a call to humanity in general that people are suffering.

It is hard to ignore the sounding of the trumpets, just as it should be hard to ignore all those who are suffering, especially from acts of violence. The violence in Israel may have subsided for the time being, but we can still hear the echoes of the trumpet’s call. Even in silence, may we continue to be inspired to act. For the trumpets not only were used to announce attacks by Israel’s enemies, but were also used to announce to the whole community when it was time to move forward. For peace in the land could use all of our efforts not just the efforts of those in harm’s way. May we all be inspired, on this Shabbat, to sound our metaphorical trumpets or to hear their call as a reminder to walk in God’s ways and to continue to forge pathways of holiness.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Benjamin A. Sharff


1 New Plaut Torah Commentary pg. 957 in the notes

2 Numbers 10:9