The scene is all too familiar. The husband (let us say) of a friend has died — suddenly, from a massive heart attack — and you are getting out of your car for a shiva call. You thought you might be out together, enjoying a movie this Saturday night. Instead you are visiting on Thursday, and you wonder what to say when you get inside.
I recently heard on the radio, “I want kids to learn history the way it really happened,” regarding a controversy in Texas over what should be recorded in history textbooks. The difficulty? No one is sure what really happened ever; interpretations vary greatly. That’s why Jews are fortunate to have the guidance of Moses and Devarim — the Book of Deuteronomy.
What unites Jews throughout the world as one nation and one people? What is the most critical factor responsible for our amazing persistence as a unique historical entity, despite being scattered throughout the globe, subject to persecution and pogrom?
The mystical ritual of the red heifer [Numbers 19:2] is a chok, a commandment we follow not because it is rational, logical or moral, but because it is Divinely ordained. The very notion of the Kohen (Priest) purifying an individual who has been defiled by contact with a dead body, through the process of sprinkling him or her with the ashes of a red heifer mixed with spring waters, seems irrational.
Candlelighting: 8:12 p.m.
Torah Reading: Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftarah: I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Sabbath Ends: 9:21 p.m.
The story of Korach is a revolution in three days of screaming headlines: “Rebels Master Moses in Surprise Israelite Coup!” Then, “Earth Swallows Rebel Leaders!” And, finally, “Aaronite Priests Purges Rebels, Regain Power.” This looks like a banana-republic revolt suppressed by the old-guard leadership, which then restores the status quo.
‘And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite (Midianite) woman he had taken to wife (and divorced)… And they said, ‘Did the Lord speak only to Moses? Did He not also speak to us.’” [Numbers 12:1-2].