Chukat: the Waters of the Lord…

This Torah reading tells the story of the people’s reemergence into the world – and the place they are meant to occupy in that world.

This has been a crazy week. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating reading and I had to try to do it justice. There are many things that happen in it, and there is a theme. I hope I managed to capture it.

Introduction

Before we get started. In the last two weeks, different bits of core symbolism have run throughout the parshiot to really define (at least for me) what is happening. We’ve had grasshoppers, trees and almonds.

This week, it is water. Water is everywhere.

Biologically, water is key to life because it can supply nutrients to cells and remove impurities from them. It is a source of renewal. Water is also a stand-in for spirituality. In Bereshit (Genesis) there are four rivers in the Garden. Two are physical rivers, but two are spiritual. There are spiritual waters that can refresh us or even bring us down.

Keep this in mind as we work our way through this fascinating reading.

The other core thread of this parsha is that it is a mirror of Parshat Beshalach, when the people crossed the sea and the challenges they faced immediately afterwards. In that case, they go through a process of growth. They do that here too, but from a very different starting point.

Parah Aduma (Red Heifer)

The Parsha opens with Parah Aduma – the famous Red Heifer. Before we get into why, let’s discuss the symbolism of the Parah itself. Every time I hear people talk about this they seem to reference Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) saying it couldn’t be understood. It drives me nuts. Not only because my family considers Shlomo the perfect warning against wisdom in government but because it’s like the entire Jewish world has simply put down their pencils ‘cause the smartest kid in the room said he couldn’t figure the problem out. Because of this one Chok – or ‘statute’ – they’ve then decided no chok can be understood.

Not so humbly, I disagree. I think we can understand this chok and I think a chok is more than just a mysterious commandment without reason.

Let’s not start with Shlomo’s question – how a purifying animal can make those who handle it impure? It is actually a side issue. Let’s tackle the main one: how does this whole heifer thing remove impurity?

Okay, for the stern of heart – let’s start with the recipe for the purifying waters.

There’s no eye of newt, nonetheless – for the sake of a little fun – I’ll call it the Kohen’s Brew.

The Ingredients:

Cow (Red, Perfect, Never Worked)

Cedar

Something called Ayzov

Something called To’laat Shani

The Process:

Burn up the cow

Take ashes in water, mix ‘em up with the ingredients.

Sprinkle them on the impure on the third and seventh day

Serves many.

It actually isn’t that complex but to understand it, we’ve got to start from the very beginning to do so. We have to start with a question: what is Tamei – or impurity?

I used to think it was exposure to death. But it isn’t.

You see, an offering isn’t impure – but it dies.

And, on the flip side, nobody dies when a woman has her period or a man a ‘nocturnal emission’ – but they’re impure nonetheless.

The definition is just a little different: impurity is an association with a loss of potential.

G-d is a perfect Creator. We can’t be perfect Creators – creating without destruction. Nonetheless, we are incompatible with G-d when we are associated with the imperfection associated with lost opportunities or destruction. When an animal is offered, it realizes its greatest potential – so it isn’t impure. And the woman and man have no exposure to death – but they have lost an opportunity for creation.

Put another way, we are potential. If we fail to realize some part of that – especially the creation of life – then we are impure. If we are exposed to loss – say death – then we are impure.

What gives us potential? Well, it is pretty simple. Our blood. It flows to our cells, bringing them oxygen and in a very practical way – uniting them. Blood animates us. The Torah says so. Dam – or blood in Hebrew – represents potential.

Blood gives us the power for potential. But we aren’t our own canvas. In the second creation story, we have creation with purpose. And that is where the aDAMa – or Earth – plays a big role.

The earth is a big ‘ol bunch of potential. We can grow crops. That’s why the earth denies Cain the ability to grow things – he’s wasted potential by murdering his brother and so the ground cannot work with him. The land in Israel is special that way. Too much association with wasted potential and it kicks you out. It’d rather be dormant than associated with destruction.

Why does this matter? Because the Parah Aduma has the very same word in it as Dam and Adama.

It’s pure red color reflects pure, unadulterated, potential.

Why is it unblemished? Well, that should be obvious. A blemish reflects impurity – or loss.

And why is it never worked?

Well, working it would be the realization of its potential. And that’s not what it is supposed to represent.

It represents pure potential.

As we’ve discussed before, cows represent nations. And the cow is girly for a few reasons. A female cow can represent kindness (for the word for womb, which is Rechem) or distinction (it isn’t always obvious who the papa cow is) or opportunity (only a woman has the capability to produce a child just as only the feminine Earth has the potential to produce crops). Opportunity is almost just another way of saying potential.

So, we have the nation’s distinct and kind potential as our first ingredient.

I know, that took a while. But the rest will be faster, I promise.

What about the cedar and the Ayzov and the To’laat Shani.

The To’laat Shani is simple. It’s connected to the Manna and to trust in G-d. So, we’ve mixed in a bit of divine trust.

The cedar and Ayzov are actually opposites of a sort.

The cedar can be one of the oldest trees in the world – certainly the oldest near Israel. They can be thousands of years old. It represents the past and solid roots. There are all sorts of poetical associations with righteousness here and there. Check out a few Psalms for that.

The אֵזוֹב Ayzov is less clear. People argue about what it actually was. In a way, this is appropriate. Just as aDam seems to capture another aspect of Dam – ayZov seems to capture another aspect of Zov.

All the Zov – or Zob, the ‘v’ and ‘b’ are the same letter in Hebrew – imply the same thing. A process of change.

Israel is a land of Zavat Chalv u’Dvash. Flowing milk and honey. To leave something or someplace is to Azov (with the letter eyin). The thing that converts the physical into the spiritual is a Mizbeach. Although it isn’t entirely clear, I think the ‘M’ at the beginning nounifies it. It has that same ‘zob’ thing going on in the middle. And when the Jewish people are about to leave Egypt, they dab their doorposts with blood, using bunches of Ayzov.

They are marking their houses as belonging to G-d – it is a marking of change.

In this context, the ayZov is something like grasses. It doesn’t matter which one. If you’ve lived in Israel, you can see how they slowly march across a hillside with the rain. They kind of flow through the winter months, relying on the rain to do so.

aZov represents change and gradual growth – in the context of rains from heaven.

I said the ceder and AyZov were kind of opposites, and they are. The cedar represents a solid past while the ayZov captures a changing future.

Our ingredients are thus pure national potential, a solid footing in the path, an opportunity for change and trust in G-d.

We can begin to make sense of things. Let’s say you’re exposed to death. You encounter a human body. This is the worst kind of Tumah or impurity.

You need to repair the damage by renewing your potential.

The red heifer enables this on a massive spiritual scale – and in a national context.

Just exposure to national potential isn’t enough though. You’ll need to realize you are a continuation of a long past. You don’t stand alone and neither did the person who died. The cedar symbolizes this.

You’ll also need to realize you can matter and impact the future. You can cause change when you are watered by the Lord. This is provided by the Ayzov.

Finally, you’ll need trust in G-d. And that is where the To’laat Shani comes in.

These are our raw ingredients. We burn them, converting them from the physical to the spiritual. And then we mix them with water. As covered before, on a very basic biological level, water can remove toxins from cells and bring in nutrients. It is a not only a physical refresher, it represents a chance for spiritual refreshment. That’s what the Mikvah does.

Finally, we sprinkle the impure with this water on the third and seventh day?

The third day was the first day life was created.

The seventh day gave purpose to that life.

With the ayZov as a sprinkling tool, the water affects a change – refreshing both the physical and spiritual aspects of a person and bringing them back to a state of purity.

The whole process is a reset.

Perhaps this is why the waters of the parah aduma are called the Water of Niddah. Just as Niddah, or a woman’s period, resets her body’s potential for reproduction – this process resets a person’s potential, but in a much broader sense.

What about Shlomo’s Paradox? Why is the preparer of this recipe made unclean?

The answer is simple: The preparer has killed and handled the corpse of an animal of pure potential. It is being used to correct for a loss of potential in others – but its own potential is not maximized. It is not an offering to Hashem. The preparer has been exposed to loss and is thus impure.

Placement

All of that was fun, but the key question is: why here?

Many commentators think of it as a commandment brought to the people when the 40 years in the desert were almost up. I think it was given to them right after the sign of Aaron’s almond tree. I think we’re seeing a process of change for a people newly aware that they are not as Holy as they thought they were.

They draw away from G-d when they realize their impurity. The Parah, provided for them early on, gives them a road to overcome that impurity. It gives them a way to repair and extend the spiritual bridge that connects them with G-d – no matter what has happened before. It tells them that even the impurity of death can be repaired – and so everything else can be as well.

The people aren’t left lost and frightened. Instead, they are given a road back to G-d.

As the entire people is replaced – and dies on the road – they are given a way to maintain their connection to Hashem.

No Waters I

It all seems to work. Let’s go back to the reflection of Parshat Beshalach. In that Parsha, right before Moshe famously strikes the rock, the people camp in in Rephidim (Lowness). In this reading, right before Moshe famously strikes the rock, the people settle in Kadesh (Holiness). They are in a different places. Rather than being agitated and set upon, they are at peace and in a place of holiness.

But then Miriam dies and they have no water. They complain, but their complaint is a little different. You can understand being mad if you don’t have water.

In Beshalach, they simply accuse Moshe of trying to kill them and they ask why he took them out of Egypt.

But in this case, they ask why he has brought them to this evil place. What’s evil about it? They say it lacks seeds, figs, vines or pomegranates. And there is no water.

See the difference? In Beshalach, the people were looking back. Here they are looking forward. They are looking forward to the fruits of the land of Israel.

Why does Hashem take away their water? Because, just as before, there is a lesson to be learned. But the lesson is also very different. In Parshat Beshalach, the rock is called a צּוּר.צּוּר shares a shoresh (root) with צואר, or neck. The Jewish people, of course, are a stiff-necked people. But the neck is also one way of controlling people – like a yoke on an animal.

When Moshe strikes this rock, I can’t help but imagine it represents us. There’s a message: the tzur has to be driven, has to be struck, in order to express waters and spirituality. That’s who the people were.

But now? Now, the rock is called a סֶּלַע (selah). But not the Selah famously used to praise Hashem.

In Parshat Shemini, סֶּלַע refers to a kosher locust. We talked about grasshoppers; the people saw themselves as grasshoppers. But this word has a secondary meaning. It also refers to a rocky outcropping on which a fortress is set. The travelling aspect of the grasshopper is negated, but the leaping upwards is reinforced. The people maintain a their essence, but they use it to reach for heaven – jumping like a grasshopper. At the same time, they seem to pull the land up with them. Instead of being servants of the land, consumed by it (as worried them in the story of the spies), they lift it up and use it to reach for heaven.

This rock is a סֶּלַע. You don’t hit a סֶּלַע. You speak to it. It wants to learn.

I think of a spiritual continuum. Spiritual waters can be brought out through death and punishment. On the next level, as with Parah Aduma or even the blood on the doorpost, they can be brought out through symbolism. But on the highest level, as with the Mezuzah, they can be brought out with words.

The people are ready, after 38 years of repair and the symbolism of the Parah Aduma, to relate to G-d through words alone.

But Moshe strikes the rock.

As we covered last week, misunderstanding the people’s relationship to Hashem was what led Dotan and Aviram down a dead end road. Here, the same happens to Moshe and Aaron. Datan and Aviram thought the people were holier than they actual were. Here Moshe and Aaron didn’t recognize the people were holier than they had thought they were.

Edom

Hashem needs to repair this damage. And He appears to decide to bring the people into the land. Borrowing from the telling in Devarim 2, he tells Moshe it is time to travel north. He tells Moshe to go through the lands of Esav. They’ll be afraid, but you’ll pay them for anything you need to eat or drink. They’ll be afraid, but you’ll push through nonetheless, without violence.

The road that will be taken, which seems to travel through three nations in this Parsha, is the King’s Highway. I’d suggest this is no ordinary King, but G-d Himself. The people are to travel G-d’s road on their way into Israel.

But this doesn’t come off perfectly. The people announce they are in the new city of Kadesh – of Holiness. And rather than saying they’ll buy food and water from the outset, they say they will eat and drink nothing along the way. They are saying that they don’t need the waters of ordinary men. They are perhaps even saying that they do not want them.

Edom – Esav – is physical and practical. Either they can’t trust what the people of Israel are saying, or the people’s miraculous water source is a source of fear. On some level, the people’s desire not to drink of Esav’s waters also insults Esav. Their waters aren’t good enough for this miracle people.

It is a lose-lose-lose. The Jewish people either can’t be trusted, or are frightening because of the miracles that seem to accompany them or are holier-than-though and thus disliked.

The people try to walk back the miracles, but the stage has been set. Esav’s understanding of the people is locked in place.

I wonder if this lose-lose-lose situation might seem a bit familiar to us now…

So what should the people have done?

The later reading seems to make it clear. They should have offered to buy food and water from the outset. And after being rejected they should have proceeded nonetheless, peacefully.

They do neither. This betrays two weaknesses.

First, they lack the ability to deal with people as people. If we are a Kingdom of Priests, we have the role of interfacing between the human and the divine. We have the Hashem side pretty much down, but we’re weak on the human side.

Second, they lack the backbone to push through nonetheless. The Kohanim are supposed to do the word of Hashem – even if it isn’t popular. In a way, their own intentions are replaced with divine intent. But the people haven’t mastered divine backbone either.

Going back to Beshalach, Hashem leads the people away from the Pilishtim because they won’t be brave enough for war. Here, the people lead themselves away from Edom because they aren’t brave enough for peace.

They have risen, but they aren’t quite there.

Death of Aaron

After this, the people went to Har haHor, which seems to mean mountain mountain. It is where Aaron dies – a high place. The transition to his son אֶלְעָזָר Elazar is seamless. When Aaron’s clothes are transferred, Elazar becomes the Kohen Gadol (or High Priest). The clothes define the man, not the man the clothes.

But why does Aaron die here? If he and Moshe were being punished for Moshe striking the rock, why not die then – or together at the end of the Torah?

Why die after the episode of Edom? And why Aaron? After all, he didn’t strike the rock.

I think this goes back to the weaknesses shown with Edom.

A kingdom of Priests is not only supposed to understand G-d, but Man. The people failed to understand Edom just as Aaron and Moshe failed to understand the people. As the Kohen Gadol, Aaron failed two times. Once by not informing his brother that the people needed to see speech and a second time by not providing a role-model for the people in understanding what Edom needed to see and hear.

The second problem is backbone. Moshe and Aaron were told to go together to talk to the Rock. When Moshe went off track, Aaron was supposed to push back. He was supposed to stand up to another man, as commanded by G-d. Not with violence, but with fortitude. Likewise, he was supposed to serve as an example for the people – standing up to Edom, not with violence but with fortitude. He was supposed to have backbone.

He failed with the nation when the rock was struck and he failed to lead the nation when they were turned away from Edom.

It was time to replace him. He was no longer the right man for the job.

Aaron dies right away because his only job is to maintain the link between Hashem and the people. He fails at this at a critical juncture. Moshe has other jobs – jobs that carry him forward.

In a way, Aaron’s death repairs his lack of leadership with Edom. The people can see the cost of failing to connect to both G-d and man while being steadfast for the Lord. Aaron dies at a very great height and he is mourned for 30 days. Nonetheless, he dies. The people would do well to internalize the lessons of his death.

They do internalize some of them.

Canaan

After Aaron dies, the King of Canaan takes captives from among the people. Amalek, back in Beshalach, also took captives. There Hashem has to command the people to react. But here, Canaan takes captives and the people react all by themselves. They ask Hashem to support them.

They’ve grown.

But there’s more. They name the place they conquer Charamah. It was the same name of the place they were driven to by the Canaanites and Amalekites who lived in the mountain.

They were driven to separation, to shame, because they fought without Hashem’s support. Now those same enemies are shamed because the Jewish people fight with Hashem’s support.

The people realize their strength comes from their divine connection. And they realize they have strength of their own.

A slave people, totally lacking in initiative, has been transformed.

The question must be asked though, why is the story of the Canaanite chapter here? I think it is showing the effects of the death of Aaron.

The people now have backbone and we can see it. They’ve learned from Aaron’s story.

But the connections to G-d and Man remain a little weak.

No Waters Two

After Canaan, the people are impatient. They want to get a move on. They want to reenter the natural world – where there is normal water and real food. The verse doesn’t actually say there was no water. And even as they complain of no bread, they also say the bread is thin.

They simply aren’t satisfied with the divine fare they have.

But this murmuring is resolved in a very distinct way.

Hashem punishes them with burning serpents. Literally  הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים (Nachashim haSeraphim),

Serpents, going all the way back to Bereshit, are tools of Hashem. Seraphim are angels of Hashem.

Seeing the הַנְּחָשִׁים הַשְּׂרָפִים, the people recognize their sin immediately. They realize G-d is punishing them, not Moshe. And they realize their desire for ‘real’ things has driven them away from G-d.

The resolution is also almost immediate. Hashem tells Moshe to make a Seraph – which could be an angel or a cobra and mount it on a Nais – which could be a poll or a miraculous sign.

Moshe famously makes a brass serpent.

This literally repeats the same shoresh נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת

Copper was the practical metal of the time. Copper is a utilitarian material when used in the mishkan. It is used for rings and pole supports and the such. As we said, snakes are the tools of Hashem. So, this Copper Snake represented the tool of man and the tool of G-d united.

When the people look to it, they will live.

When they see that their own efforts can combine with Hashem’s and be a miraculous sign – then they can survive the attack of angels.

They aren’t there for ordinary bread and water. They are there to carry the waters of the Lord.

The people resolve this. They show they’ve grown.

They may backslide, but they also have the tools to move forward.

More Travels

What comes next is a series of encampments and then a very weird excerpt from another book.

Let’s start with the encampments. The people next go to Avot (which means fathers) and then to what might be translated as the isolation of the Hebrew עִיֵּי הָעֲבָרִים.  This place is in the face of Moav and towards the rising of the sun. Then they go to Zered, which could be broken into two roots (a single root source doesn’t seem to exist) and be Zaar, Re’ed – or Foreign Humiliation or downfall.

They then cross the Arnon, which is a sapling or a branch. This is “in the wilderness” on the border of the Amorim. Amor means speaking.

All of this could be describing a simple physical path. But it could also be describing a spiritual path, which is why it is laid out here.

The people come from the Avot – the forefathers – they stand alone as Hebrews. They stand betwixt Moav (a very contrary religious system) and the Sun (representing light). They suffer foreign humiliation – perhaps when struck by the people in the mountain after the story of the spies. And then they cross the sapling and come to the edge of speaking. Almost like they are growing anew after the elimination of the generation of Korach and are ready to be spoken to as at the beginning of this reading. These travels seem to capture what they’ve accomplished, spiritually.

What’s next is what’s really weird.

Book of Wars of Hashem

There’s a reference to a Book of the Wars of the Lord. But there are no traditional wars referenced in this excerpt. Instead, there is this flow of ideas – as if the true wars of the Lord are not about spears and cannon, but about ideas.

If we read what is written using a literal translation of the placenames, we end up with something like:

“The raised offering in the gathering, and the streams (נחל) of the sapling. The pouring of the streams that stretch towards the seat of desolation (Arar) and leans on the border of Moav. And from there towards the well. This is the well where Hashem said to Moshe, gather the people together and give them water.”

Interpreting this: the people are gathered and raised up. They are a sapling. The word Nachal runs throughout the relationship with Hashem. We are His Nachal. It means both a stream and a valley cut by a stream; both the flowing waters and the effect they have. So we are both a fresh branch and the waters of the Lord.

These waters stretch toward the seat of desolation (Arar) and lean on the border of Moav. Moav practiced a religion of public exposure – Ba’al Peor – which included public orgies. They sought to bring the divine down to the animalistic rather than lift the human up.

So, this stream flows to the seat of desolation and pushes against those who want to bring G-d down to man’s level.

From there, it flows towards the well where Moshe was supposed to speak to the people and give them water. The spiritual waters of the people are supposed to nourish the people. Just as the waters of the Parah Aduma – which represent the potential of the people – are supposed to renew those same people.

And then there is a poem: Az Yashir Yisrael. In Beshalach, it was Az Yashir Moshe and the waters parted so the people could cross through on dry land. Here it is Az Yashir Yisrael and, as we’ll see, the people are the waters flowing through the desert.

The people sing, rise up o’well

Which well? The well princes dug and the nobles delved. It is, of course, referring to a people developed by their leaders. What tools did those leaders use? ChoKek means Laws and Shaan was used in the context of Moav to suggest leaning against. They used laws and pressure.

Where does the stream flow? It starts in midbar (the desert) and continues to matana (gift) which is a possible reference to the giving of the Torah. It then continues to nachal-el, the valley of the Lord, which is what we become after the sin of the calf. Then it then flows to bamot, which could mean ‘death’ and be a possible reference to the passing of the generation of the spies – or could mean ‘high places’ which simply reinforces that this unnatural water flows uphill. Next it flows into the valley of Moab. But the word for valley is very rare and generally only used in the context of idol worship (e.g. valley of Baal Peor). It cuts into the idol worship of the world. This valley is over the head of prominence (pisgeh). It is very important, but also very unnatural – again, physical water doesn’t flow uphill. From this high place, it looks down (shakaf) on yeshimon (which suggests oil and wealth, but can also literally mean desert).

The water cuts through a world of desert and spiritual emptiness. It cuts into the spiritual world of Moav, that seeks to bring G-d down. And, in the end, it occupies a place of great prominence – far above the simple promise of wealth.

As I said before, with the Az Yashir at the crossing of the sea, Hashem gave us a physical path through holiness. Now, we are the holiness flowing back into the physical world. We are the water that can flow into the spiritually desolate but greatly honored plains of Moav.

This is a song of Israel. We are the sapling that spreads the waters of the Lord.

Remember the waters theme. We had Parah with the cleansing waters of our own potential. We had the drawing out waters through speech. We had the separation from Edom’s waters – both in our denial and their inability to understand. And we had a desire for ‘real’ water – for the physical side of things.

When we look upon the miraculous sign that is the merging of divine and human tools in the copper snake, we can not only be rescued from Seraphim, we can become the waters of the Lord.

Our desire for ‘real’ is replaced by a sudden awareness of that which is greater.

It is in the wake of this sudden awareness, that we come to Sihon King of the Amorim.

Sihon and Og

The Amorim speak, and Sihon has some nice poetry about himself. He consumes his neighbors. He devours Moav and the high places of Arnon.

His city is called Cheshbon. It means calculation. In Devarim (Deuteronomy), the Torah says his Heart is Hardened just as with Pharoah.

I think Sihon is an atheist champion. He uses words. In response to the people promising not to eat his food or drink his water as they cross through his lands, he attacks. He isn’t like Edom which just showed strength, Sihon attacks. The people fight back. They have backbone. They have acquired personal strength. And they crush Sihon. The parallels continue. Sihon is like Pharoah: a man with great press who believes it and must protect it. But this time, instead of Hashem doing all the heavy lifting, the people do.

They do not turn.

Now, they have finally conquered their slavery and are ready to face the challenges of free men.

In another podcast, I talked about who Sihon is and why he hated Israel. His was one of the nations Avraham did not save in the War of the Four Kings. He could, and does, bear a grudge.

The people asking to pass through was a test to see if the Amorim had moved on. And they hadn’t.

But the people also made a mistake. They repeated the error of Edom by saying they would drink no water and travel the King’s road. They didn’t try to help the Amorim move beyond their shared past. Instead, they antagonized them in the same way.

We learned backbone, we learned how to connect to Hashem – but we still could not relate to the ordinary man.

This is reinforced in the final battle of the reading. The people turn north. They go to the edges of Bashan, the residence of the warlike Og. Og’s people are also remnants of a people Avraham did not save. But we didn’t need to attack Og. Og was an enemy, but his territory was not our territory.

Nonetheless, we drew near to him and threatened him and he attacked.

The problem is not so much Og (with whom we probably would have had a war at some point) as it was with other nations. By picking a fight we sent a message to the rest of the nations in the area.

We are a warlike people, seeking to devour all.

We learned backbone, we learned how to connect to Hashem – but we still could not relate to the ordinary man. We can not yet be a Kingdom of Priests.

It is this weakness that will undermine us in the story of Balack and Bilaam.

In Beshalach, we were slaves. A stubborn rock who had to be struck. A holy people who had to be protected from the waters. A people without initiative who could not protect themselves. All of that described us as we left the ‘real’ world.

Now, at the heights of Chukat, as we prepare to reenter the ‘real’ world, we are independent and we protect ourselves. But beyond that, we have become a fresh sapling, growing anew. We have become a grasshopper leaping towards heaven. We have acquired the ability to learned through speech. And we have, ultimately, become the waters of the Lord.

But our mission, to flow through the spiritual deserts of the world, cannot be fulfilled if our waters can not touch the souls of our fellow men. We must nourish and water the spirits of mankind and we have not yet learned how to do so.

It is our failure to do so that will gnaw at the foundations of our ultimate potential in the story of Balack and Bilaam.

Shabbat Shalom!

Joseph

Photo by Alex He on Unsplash

  1. Yosef+Yaffe says:

    No one “put down their pencils”.
    The same Chaza”l who said it was beyond the wisest man gave explanations too.

    “Zevach” (slaughter) is probably related to that it makes the animal’s blood flow [outside it].

  2. Susan Quinn says:

    I was intrigued by your comment on the reason Aaron died when he did. You said “When Moshe went off track, Aaron was supposed to push back.” Are you assuming that they discussed Moshe’s action in advance so that Aaron could talk him out of it? I have the impression that Moshe acted spontaneously; if so, how would Aaron have pushed back? Corrected him after the fact?

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