Heroes and Humans

Heroes and Humans

Jun 18, 2021 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Hukkat

One of the things I love most about the Bible is that it presents humans, not heroes. Even the Bible’s greatest figures have virtues and vices.

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Taking the Long View: Lessons of Leadership

Taking the Long View: Lessons of Leadership

Jul 3, 2020 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Balak | Hukkat

The iconic story in our parashah of Moses striking the rock to bring forth water for the People of Israel is often framed as a morality tale, the consequence of a toxic—and disastrous—combination of unchecked rage and faltering faith. Indeed, God doles out the harshest possible punishment to Moses for flouting God’s directive to speak to the rock, in full display of the congregation: “Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them” (Num. 20: 12).

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Handling Our Anger

Handling Our Anger

Jul 12, 2019 By Abigail Uhrman | Commentary | Hukkat

Among the many stories in Parashat Hukkat, perhaps the most discussed is when Moses, in response the Israelites’ grievances, is instructed by God to “order the rock to yield its water.” Moses, instead, strikes the rock twice with his rod. Water comes forth, but God rebukes Moses for disobeying his instructions: “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm my sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, there you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them” (Num. 20:2–13).

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Israel’s Heroic and Traumatic Journey

Israel’s Heroic and Traumatic Journey

Jun 22, 2018 By David G. Roskies | Commentary | Hukkat

For 39 years the children of Israel had been making their perilous way through the desert. At long last, on the first new moon of their 40th year, they set out on the last leg of the journey, as it is written, “The Israelites, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin” (Num. 20:1). The road ahead was by no means assured, however, for no sooner did they arrive there than Miriam died, followed shortly thereafter by her brother Aaron, with Moses, the third member of this incomparable first family, mere days away from losing favor with God. The people were still reeling from Korah’s revolt, which had just claimed the lives of 15,000 rebels. Who would stand between the living and the dead were another plague to descend upon them?

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Striking Out or Stepping Up: A Leadership Model for Our Times

Striking Out or Stepping Up: A Leadership Model for Our Times

Jun 30, 2017 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Hukkat

“Moses entered the stage of Jewish history by striking (the Egyptian) and exited from the stage of Jewish history by striking (the rock).” This startling observation by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his commentary on the Book of Numbers (Torah Lights: Bemidbar, 169) causes us to reflect deeply on the subject of Jewish leadership.

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My Brother’s [and Sister’s] Keeper

My Brother’s [and Sister’s] Keeper

Jun 30, 2017 By Sarah Tauber (<em>z”l</em>) | Commentary | Hukkat

The literature on sibling relationships shows that during middle age and old age, indicators of well-being—mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction—are tied to how you feel about your brothers and sisters. In one Swedish study, satisfaction with sibling contact in one’s 80s was closely correlated with health and positive mood—more so than was satisfaction with friendships or relationships with adult children. And loneliness was eased for older people in a supportive relationship with their siblings, no matter whether they gave or got support.

—Robin Marantz Henig, “Your Adult Siblings May Be The Secret To A Long, Happy Life,” NPR (website), November 2014

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Courses of Grief

Courses of Grief

Jul 15, 2016 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Hukkat

Bereft, I combed through the grass in Central Park at dusk when I realized I had lost my late husband’s house keys. Yes, on some level, I knew it wasn’t about the keys. His sudden death two months earlier had devastated me in much more profound ways. And yet, I felt desperate to find those keys!

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Come and Knock on a Rock

Come and Knock on a Rock

Jul 15, 2016 By Jonathan Lerner | Commentary | Hukkat

John Ritter was ready for a change. “At the beginning of the seventh season [of Three’s Company], the stuff about the three of us scrambling around for rent money was starting to get repetitive. . . . They had an episode about hiding a dog from Mr. Roper in the beginning [during season one] and then they had one about hiding a cat from Mr. Furley near the end [during season eight]. . . . That’s when I knew it was time to move on.”

Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three’s Company, by Chris Mann 

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The Butchers

The Butchers

Jun 26, 2015 By Alan Mintz (<em>z”l</em>) | Commentary | Hukkat

The ritual of the red heifer (Num. 19) has always fascinated readers. Not only is it elaborate and mysterious, it is also based on a rarity: a red cow. The paradoxes and power of this passage attracted the attention of modern Hebrew writers. Set in Eastern Europe, “The Red Heifer” tells the story of butchers who steal a beautiful and vigorous cow, butcher it without a shoḥet (a ritual slaughterer), and sell the meat as kosher. The centerpiece of the story is a gruesome, blow-by-blow description of the slaughter, the great animal quivering and gushing blood.

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Modeling Ritual

Modeling Ritual

Jun 26, 2015 By Mitchell Cohen | Commentary | Hukkat

Recently I visited a group of Ramah teens on their one-week Poland experience, just prior to their summer trip to Israel. While visiting Jewish cemeteries in Krakow, I stood to the side and did not enter the area of the graves. Two of our teen participants, also both kohanim, asked me why I wouldn’t enter the cemetery, and I told them about the traditional prohibition of kohanim coming within six feet of a grave. Both decided to adopt this custom—at least for the days we were together—and both told me that even though they couldn’t explain why, it just felt right.

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Moses’s Misstep: Words Not Deeds

Moses’s Misstep: Words Not Deeds

Jun 27, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hukkat

With the loss of both Miriam and Aaron, Parashat Hukkat marks a liminal and tragic point in the Israelite wanderings toward the Land of Israel.

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The Blessing of a Sister

The Blessing of a Sister

Jun 27, 2014 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Hukkat

Among the many momentous events that occur in this week’s short but action-packed parashah, we read of the deaths of both of Moses’s siblings, Miriam and Aaron.

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Miriam’s Legacy of Leadership

Miriam’s Legacy of Leadership

Jun 12, 2013 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Hukkat

If you were asked to rapidly rattle off the top three iconic biblical leaders, which would you name? There is a high probability that Moses would appear on the list or, possibly, Aaron or Abraham. Even if valued, Miriam most likely would not make the cut.

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No Single Solution

No Single Solution

Jun 12, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Hukkat

At its essence, Parashat Hukkat brims with questions and mystery.

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In Memory of Sylvia Ettenberg

In Memory of Sylvia Ettenberg

Jun 30, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hukkat

The week we read of the passing of Miriam is the week that our community mourns—among others—Sylvia Ettenberg, dean emerita at JTS for more than half a century.

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The Humanity of Moses

The Humanity of Moses

Jun 30, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Hukkat

Readers of the Torah suspect that, by this point in his long life, Moses does not much care for the work he does so selflessly. He seems worn down by the incessant kvetching of his people, and has long since grown used to the inscrutability of the God he loves and serves. We are drawn to this man. We want to know him and learn from him. In this way as in so many others, he accomplishes the Torah’s wishes, if not God’s. He draws us into the story, and makes us proud to be its heirs.

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The Perils of Leadership

The Perils of Leadership

Jul 2, 2011 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Hukkat

Great leadership is about successfully orchestrating change. Whether within organizations, communities, or other social systems, leadership involves developing a vision of the future and implementing strategies to achieve this vision. Exercising leadership means motivating and inspiring people to change habits, attitudes, and values that hold them back from reaching their goals. 

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Both Sides of Forgiveness

Both Sides of Forgiveness

Jul 2, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Hukkat

This far into Numbers, we are inured to the Israelites’ complaints. The complaint of Numbers 21 takes place in five quick verses and stands out more for the unusual bit about the snakes than it does for the fact or content of the Israelites’ gripe.

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The Mystery of the Red Heifer

The Mystery of the Red Heifer

Jun 19, 2010 By Barry Holtz | Commentary | Hukkat

This week’s Torah reading opens with one of the most mysterious and incomprehensible rituals in the entire Bible. Numbers 19:1–22 describes the ritual of the red heifer—the complex practice that allows a person who has come in contact with a dead body to become “purified” of the contamination (tu’mah) that accompanies connection to those who have died. A red heifer is slaughtered, its body and blood are burned in a fire with certain woods and plants, and the ashes that remain after that burning are used in a mixture with water to create a kind of paste that is sprinkled on those who have come in contact with a corpse.

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The Sin of Moses

The Sin of Moses

Jul 4, 2009 By Deborah Miller | Commentary | Balak | Hukkat

Everyone knows how Romeo and Juliet ends, and yet we still cry when they die. The same is true of the first of the two Torah portions we read this week, Parashat Hukkat/Balak. In this portion, we learn that Moses will not enter the Promised Land. We have heard or read this story every year, and yet we are still upset, still angry that, on the threshold, Moses is denied admission to the Land to which he has been leading the Israelites for forty years.

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