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Word
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The winds of war were blowing; the Israelites were to prepare to fulfill the word of God and take vengeance against the Midianites. The Moav/Midian incursion had left 24,000 Jews dead, and the time had come to settle the score. Moreover, the plan of attack employed by the Moavites and Midianites had introduced idolatrous practices […]
Like a Princess
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Last week’s parashah ended in chaos: Promiscuity, idolatry, and death had somehow overrun the Israelite camp. To be sure, throughout the forty years in the desert there had been episodes of spiritual backsliding, but this episode was different, both in character and in scope: Twenty-four thousand people lost their lives as a result of this […]
A Question of Propriety
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Something had changed. These were not the people who had left Egypt; that generation had already perished. This was a new generation, either born or raised in freedom. The only leader they had known was Moshe; Pharaoh was a name from the past, someone their parents told them about on Passover. This generation would be […]
An Enigma Wrapped in a Riddle
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In a sense, the Israelites had been lulled into a false sense of security. As they moved from one disaster to the next, Moshe was always there to put out fires. Together with his brother Aharon, Moshe had guided the nation from slavery to freedom, from Mount Sinai to the cusp of the Land of […]
You Say You Want a Revolution
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The time was ripe for a power grab: The frightful report of the spies and the unequivocal sentence handed down were still ringing in the peoples’ ears; the Promised Land never seemed farther away. The strategy was simple: Foment unrest, and stage a takeover. The tactics employed were cynical: Collect the disheartened, and create the […]
Seeing Through Wine-Colored Lenses
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It was not supposed to happen this way: A group of scouts was sent to see the Promised Land, presumably to bring back a glowing report that would set the Israelites  on their way into the Land of Israel. Instead, the report was devastating, and the people took it in the worst possible way. Rather […]
School’s Out
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Sometimes – unexpectedly, despite the best plans, things go terribly wrong. Parashat B’haalothcha finds the Jews who left Egypt on the way to the Promised Land, but something goes awry, although it is difficult to place our finger on the precise problem or the exact moment it occurred. The first ten chapters of the book of B’midbar seem focused and purposeful; the path from Sinai to Israel appears to be charted, and the trip should not be a […]
Value Judgments
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The gift of holiness creates a challenge. Holiness has, if not by definition then at least by connotation, an element of “separateness;” what makes something holy is its “differentness,” its uniqueness, its separateness. The new Mishkan, therefore, creates a challenge, and perhaps the most appropriate time to address this challenge is the moment when the […]
A Leap of Love
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All new beginnings are charged with hope; the beginning of a new book of the Torah is no exception. As the book of Bamidbar opens, there is hope that the journey upon which the Jews embarked as they left Egypt would finally bring them to the Promised Land. The book of Vayikra did not document […]
Irreplaceable Theology
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As the book of Vayikra moves towards its finale, several outstanding issues are clarified. A retrospective overview shows us that although it began as a book focused on Temple and ritual, it gradually turned to a discussion of other, more general types of holiness, emphasizing kosher food, “kosher” sexual relationships and, finally, other types of […]