Life After Moses

Life After Moses

Jul 7, 2023 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Pinehas

In chapter 27, God announces Moses’s impending death and Joshua is appointed successor. Like his brother Aaron before him, Moses is instructed to ascend a mountain and view the Promised Land. Moses too will not enter the land because of a transgression (in his case the striking of the rock). But there is one key difference in God’s announcements to the brothers of their impending deaths. To Aaron, God explicitly commands the passing of the priesthood to his son Eleazar, a process marked by the stripping of Aaron’s priestly garments and their transfer to his son. But Moses must initiate the appointment of his successor. Why would God announce a successor to Aaron and not Moses? Did God not have a plan for Moses to hand over the reins?

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Dreaming of Being Balaam

Dreaming of Being Balaam

Jun 30, 2023 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Balak | Hukkat

The story of the heathen prophet Balaam—hired by Moabite king Balak ben Tzippor to curse the people Israel—is altogether strange. It concerns events happening outside the Israelite camp and seemingly unknown to them, characters we’ve not yet met, and a talking donkey. Its tone ranges from burlesquely funny to surreal.

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Did Korah Get a Bum Rap?

Did Korah Get a Bum Rap?

Jun 23, 2023 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Korah

The memory of Huey Long, and the continued concern over the role of demagoguery in American politics, comes to mind this week because we see a prime example of it in Parashat Korah—the figure of Korah himself. (The character of Dathan, played by Edgar G. Robinson, in The Ten Commandments, was essentially based on Korah). Korah was long vilified by the Rabbinic Sages, and of course the Torah itself condemns him as the paradigmatic rebel against the divinely sanctioned leadership of Moses and Aaron.

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Always Something There to Remind Me

Always Something There to Remind Me

Jun 16, 2023 By Abigail Uhrman | Commentary | Shelah Lekha

In the same way that the Yashar projects are physical reminders of camps’ inclusive values and powerfully shape camp culture, tzitzit function to remind B’nei Yisrael of their covenantal relationship with God and encourage them to fulfill the mitzvot that God has commanded. Like camps’ newly accessible spaces, tzitzit are ever-present symbols that, at their best, help B’nei Yisrael recall their most precious values and activate their capacity to realize these ideals. 

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At the Threshold

At the Threshold

Jun 9, 2023 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Beha'alotekha

The ninth chapter of Numbers tells a tale that results in a rule and an institution. The first anniversary of the Exodus (on the 14th of the first month of Nisan) was approaching for the recently freed Israelites, and they were reminded that the Paschal sacrificial rites were meant to be annual observances. They were instructed by Moses to make the necessary preparations. But there were people who had recently contracted ritual impurity [tumah] by contact with the dead, perhaps because they had buried deceased relatives. And they knew that this impurity, which was beyond their control, precluded them from participating in a rite that was, in effect, an annual renewal of membership in the community of Israel. Their plaint was brought to Moses, who understood the predicament of these well-meaning Israelites, but did not know how to resolve it, and thus brought the case to God.

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The Power of a Blessing

The Power of a Blessing

Jun 2, 2023 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Naso

Anyone I know who grew up in a synagogue where the kohanim dukhened on the Yamim Tovim remembers this as one of the peak moments of their
synagogue experience. There are many reasons for this: the strange sight of men (and now women) standing with their hands extended and with their heads and upper faces covered by tallitot, the fact that we were in fact not to gaze upon this startling spectacle, and the sense of protection afforded to those of us whose parents covered them with their own tallitot during the rendering of the blessing in order to protect them from the potentially harmful effects of looking upon the kohanim.

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Reliving Revelation

Reliving Revelation

May 19, 2023 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Bemidbar

The fourth book of the Torah (“Bemidbar Sinai”) begins with a census of the (male) heads of clans among the Israelites in the second year of their freedom. And then, it lays out the pattern according to which the 12 tribes and the religious functionaries (levi’im and kohanim) are to set up camp in the wilderness. When you read it, you are struck by the attention to detail and good order, something which is rather typical in documents with a priestly source. 

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Growing Into Torah

Growing Into Torah

May 12, 2023 By Megan GoldMarche | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

For this week’s parashiyot, Behar-Behukkotai, I might ask: What is something that you took or borrowed from someone that you know it is time to return, perhaps because it is the right thing to do or because it will make you feel lighter? This can be a physical thing like a book or shirt, or something intangible like the hope or support you received from someone. If you are hosting shabbat dinner this week I encourage you to try it out, with a brief explanation of the ideas of Jubilee and returning land to its original owners that appears in this week’s parashah.

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