Parashat Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

“As I see them from the mountain tops, gaze on them from the heights, there is a people that dwells apart, not reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9) Parashat Balak is named for a Moabite king who fears the wandering Israelites and hires Bilam, a local prophet, to curse them. His plan backfires when Bilam, […]

Parashat Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

“And from there to B’er; that is the well about which God said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together, and I will give them water.’” (Numbers 21:16) Parashat Chukat appears to be the climax of a string of rebellions: Miriam and Aaron, the ten spies, Korach and his band, and now…Moses himself. When the Israelites […]

Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

“And fire came forth from the Lord and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.” (Numbers 16:35) The rift in communal solidarity that begins three weeks ago with Aaron and Miriam complaining, continuing last week with the spies complaining, becomes a complete rupture this week in Parashat Korach. Korach leads 250 […]

Parashat Sh’lach L’cha (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

“The whole community broke into loud cries, and the people wept that night.” (Numbers 14:1) Parashat Sh’lach L’cha continues last week’s breakdown of authority. Moses sends twelve spies to tour the land. When they return, ten spread fear among the Israelites, who then challenge Moses’ authority. Only two spies, Caleb and Joshua, believe the land […]

Parashat B’ha-alot’cha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

“Not so with My servant Moses; he is trusted through My household.” (Numbers 12:7) The first chapters of Bamidbar (Numbers) are all about organizing the Israelites to cross the desert. Every tribe has its role and its place and the “org chart” is… perfect. Parashat B’ha-a lot’cha describes the plan’s implementation and how everything falls […]

Parashat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

“The Lord bless you and protect you.” (Numbers 6:24) Reading from the Torah is an exacting skill because it must be precise; no errors are permitted. To ensure the reader’s accuracy, two gabbaim (an Aramaic term for community wardens; singular is gabbai) stand on each side of the shulchan, or table, and follow closely. If […]

Parashat Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

“And with you shall be one man from each tribe; a man who is a leader of his father’s household.” (Numbers 1:4) If the first three books of the Torah describe the roots (Genesis), birth (Exodus), and commitment (Leviticus) of the Jewish people, Bamidbar (Numbers) chronicles the transition of the Jewish people. It connects the […]

Parashat B’chukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

“I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you…” (Leviticus 26:6) Parashat B’chukotai includes a list of blessings for following God’s commandments and a much longer list of curses for not following. The final chapter (which many scholars consider a later addition to the text) serves as […]

Parashat B’har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

“…When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a Sabbath of the Lord.” (Leviticus 25:2) Parashat B’har is the Occupy Movement’s Biblical prooftext. It describes the shmita (the seventh Sabbatical Year), when the land lies fallow and debts are cancelled. After seven cycles of shmita, the 50th year shall […]

Parashat Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)

“And Moses declared the appointed festivals of Adonai to the Children of Israel.” (Leviticus 23:44) The Book of Leviticus is known generally as Torat Kohanim, the Laws of the Priests, because of its many laws governing the sacrificial rites. Technically, Torat Kohanim refers to the first part of Parashat Emor, specifically, which focusses on issues […]