Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
Rabbi Avraham Fischer, rabbi at Darche Noam Institutions
Facing Long-Standing Foes
Several commentators identify the Canaanites with whom the Israelites fought as the nation of Amalek, continuing the Israelites struggle against their age-old enemy.
Imperceptibly, the Torah has skimmed over nearly 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. The generation of the Exodus has expired, and the generation of the wilderness has taken its place. Two beloved leaders of the Exodus generation–Miriam and Aharon–were taken from them. A new reality crystallizes: this will be the generation that will conquer and settle the Land of Israel, and will establish a society based upon the Torah.
The wilderness generation will fight many wars. Their parents had fought only once against Amalek in Refidim (Exodus 17:8-16). And when they themselves are faced with the threat of war against Edom, they are constrained to withdraw:
And Edom refused to allow Israel to cross his border, and Israel turned away from him (Numbers 20:21).
Rabbi Shimon Felix is the Israel Director of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel
Korah and his followers masked their quest for personal power and gain as a desire for an egalitarian, democratic society.
This week we read the story of Korah, who is traditionally seen as an arch-villain, the archetypal rebel against Moses and Aaron–the ‘establishment’ of the Jewish people. When we look at it carefully, however, Korah’s complaint against the hegemony of Moses and his brother, who between them and other members of their family run the entire show in the desert–has a compelling ring to it: “You’ve taken too much! For the entire community, all of them, are holy, and God is in their midst. Why should you exalt yourselves over the congregation of God?”
Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britain's Former Chief Rabbi
Listen carefully to the report brought back by the spies sent by Moses to examine the promised land:
They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
Rabbi Avraham Fischer is a rabbi at Darche Noam Institutions. The following article is reprinted with permission from the Orthodox Union in myjewishlearning.com
How The Trouble Began
The Israelites' troubles, and indeed our own troubles, begin when we turn away from God.
In the aftermath of a national calamity, we try to reconstruct the events that led to the tragedy. We try to locate the turning point, in the belief that there was a precise moment at which, had we been aware, we might have prevented the catastrophe.
To be sure, the Children of Israel were sentenced to die in the desert because of the sin of the scouts (Meraglim), as we will read in Parshat Shlah Lekha. However, the first signs of dissolution emerge in B’ha’alotkha.
Rabbi Avraham Fischer, Darche Noam Institutions, for myjewishlearning.com
The Service Of Song
The duty of the Levites to accompany the Tabernacle service with music and song reminds us to serve God with joy.
The G-d-centric, Torah -centric, Mishkan (Tabernacle)-centric Israelite camp described in the opening section of the Book of B’midbar [Numbers] is ordered, sanctified and serene. A census of the population is taken. The tribe of Levi is counted separately, and their holy tasks in the Mishkan are assigned:
All those that were numbered, whom Moshe and Aharon and the princes of Israel counted of the Levites according to their families and according to their fathers’ houses; from thirty years old and upward, until fifty years old, all those who come to perform service to a service (avodat avodah) and the service of carrying in the Tent of Meeting. Their accounts were 8,580. According to the word of Hashem through Moshe did he appoint them, each one to his service and to his burden, and those that were numbered constituted that which Hashem had commanded Moshe (Numbers 4:46-49).