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David’s Corner – August 1, 2022

Moses begins his review

I,  Moses, now speak directly to my people

To remind them of all that has transpired

Since the Exodus

And what now is expected of them.

Do not make the same mistake

The last generation made,

When they refused Adonai’s command

To take the Land promised to them.

That refusal resulted in 40 years wandering 

From encampment to encampment

With no hope of ever entering the land.

Now Adonai is commanding you 

A second time to take the land.

When Adonai tells you to fight, 

What will you do?

Will you merely hanker for land you crave?

Or will you fight alongside your brothers?

If you fight like that, you will win.

David’s Corner – July 25, 2022

Watch what you vow!

According to the Torah

If you’re a man, every vow you make, shall stand.

If you are a young woman, still in your father’s house,

Your father can object on the day he finds out, and 

the vow shall not stand.This is not a policy based on sexism.

Rather, it recognizes the immaturity and vulnerability of youth.

If, you, a woman are married while the vow you’ve taken is in
effect,

And your partner objects on the day he finds out,

The vow shall not stand.

This promotes intimacy, for sharing with your partner

Sooner rather than later recognizes trust in the partnership.

But don’t mess around.

If your husband fails to object on the day he finds out,

The vow shall stand, for both of you are responsible now.

The same is true if you are a widow or a divorced woman

You are a mature woman of some experience and know the rules,

So whatever you vow shall stand.

Watch what you vow!

David’s Corner – July 18, 2022

Discipline maintains focus

No sooner had the Israelites defeated their foes

 

Then they decided to celebrate by fornicating with Moabite women.

 

God responded by inflicting yet another plague and hundreds died.

 

Pincus, Aaron’s grandson, picked  up a spear

 

And crying, “Enough of this self-sabotage,”

 

Pierced an Israelite and his Moabite lover.

 

The plague stopped and God praised Pincus

 

For understanding that the cycle of victory, 

 

Followed by undisciplined mischief could not stand.

 

Focus turned to naming Joshua, son of Nun 

 

As Moses’s successor with a worthy ritual.

 

With Eleazar, son of the departed Aaron,

 

In place as the Head Cohen,

 

The sacrificial calendar was reviewed,

 

With a precise focus not only on the daily sacrifice rituals,

 

But also on those rituals that marked special festivals each year.  

 

A full accounting of the animals to be sacrificed was made.

 

With that the parasha named for Pincus became a lodestar

 

For centuries to come.

David’s Corner – July 11, 2022

The Donkey

Tossed to and fro

Pulling to the opposite

Side that Balaam did.

The donkey had been this agitated before,

But never before had he been able to say,

In a human tongue:

“You silly man!

What kind of prophet are you

To force a donkey 

To do your will?”

“And what kind of donkey 

Are you to speak to me

In my tongue?” responded Balaam.

“I’ve brayed at you for years,

But you never listened,” said the donkey.

“Now that I can speak in a human tongue

Would you like to know what I think?”

“I care not what you think!” said Balaam 

“I am waiting for God to tell me

Whether I should curse or not curse

The tribes of Israel.

“And why do you think I can 

Speak at all?” said the donkey.

“Hasn’t it occurred to you

That God is speaking 

This moment through me?

You can waste your time

Pulling me to and fro as usual

Or you can listen to what 

I have to say.”

Balaam sighed.  “So tell me”

“You are not to curse the people of Israel.

Rather, you are to bless them.”

“Bless them?  Really?

That cantankerous people?

You cannot possibly be God 

If you are suggesting such a thing.”

With that, Balaam’s foot 

Was caught in the stirrup

And he fell off the donkey,

Who dragged the prophet along

Until Balaam cried for mercy.

The donkey was succinct.

“You are to bless the Israelites.

And you must not reveal your source.

If you do, your King Balak 

And his entourage will chase you away,

Thinking you a madman

For even suggesting a donkey could speak.”

“But you have spoken just now!” cried  Balaam.

In response, the donkey simply brayed

But he did let Balaam dust himself off

And climb back on.

It was some distance from 

Where Balaam needed to be

To report God’s decision

And he needed to arrive before sunset,

For it would soon be shabbat.

 

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David’s Corner – July 4, 2022

Respect and Disrespect

When you consider how disrespectful

Korach, Dathan, and Abiram were toward Moses 

And by extension to Adonai,

It isn’t hard to discern a certain relief in their destruction.

But what about Adonai insisting on correct sacrificial ritual

For an animal that may not even exist?

Maybe by respecting a “red cow,”

We are respecting Adonai’s wishes

Without really having to know why.

It is like a blank check of trust

That may come in handy

When deeper concerns come up,

Such as the difficult reality of handling

The impurity of dead bodies.  

Not only are the Israelites respecting

Adonai’s wishes,

They are respecting the generation

That now must die

Before their descendants can enter the land.

In this parasha, both Miriam and Aaron die.

Guess who that leaves?

And why does Adonai say

That Moses will never cross over

To the Promised Land?

Moses displayed disrespect to Adonai

By hitting his rod against a rock,

Instead of trusting that Adonai

Would easily cause the water to flow

Without such violent action.

Moses takes this lesson to heart.

In dealing with the Israelites’ enemies.

The tribes of Israel,

The foreign kings are told, 

Only wish to pass through their lands,

Not to conquer them.  

(The Israelites even politely offer to pay 

For any well water used.)

It is only when the kings react violently

In their refusal to let the Israelites pass,

That they are destroyed.

Adonai, as we have seen in the Torah,

Cannot and will not tolerate disrespect

So why keep disrespecting Adonai?

Do the Israelites really wish to suffer

The same fate as Korach and company?

That is the question of the parasha

And Adonai awaits our answer 

Always.

David’s Corner – June 27, 2022

Korach

We know that Amalek

Was the worst of the worst

But really, Korach,

When you add up all the folks

Who were swallowed up

With you 

And those who died in 

The plague that followed

Yours was a worse crime,

For you destroyed a part

Of your own people from within,

While casting doubt on Moses and Aaron.

How could you not remember 

The fate of Nadab and Abihu,

When they each picked up a fire pan 

And placed incense in it?

You deserved to die,

For your rebellion was restless stupidity.

Korach, you the man!

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David’s Corner – June 20, 2022

Woulda, shoulda, coulda.

It’s likely that the exodus generation

Invented this phrase.

Instead of taking the opportunity

To enter and fight for the Promised Land

They played on their own worst fears

Listening to the naysayer scouts   

Rather than listening

To the inner voice of possibility.

Their great reward:

A sentence of up to forty years

Wandering in a broiling desert

So they could drop dead 

Short of the Promised Land.

It’s been whitewashed

By commentators 

As the necessity of the older generation

To die  out so their children

Would enter the land.

What saints!

Don’t fool yourself.  

And don’t make the same mistake in your own life. 

 

 

 

David’s Corner – June 13, 2022

It's Grumpy Time

The Israelites are complaining about 

 

Having to eat mana all the time.

 

Miriam complains about 

 

Moses’s new black bride from Cush

 

Aaron complains about Moses 

 

Getting all the attention from the Lord,

 

Acting as if he is the only person the Lord talks to.

 

The Lord hears all this and is chagrined.

 

How to get them all to shut up?

 

Up to now the Lord’s response was merely 

 

To zap the troublemakers.

 

But if the Lord keeps zapping Israelites

 

They will never choose the Lord 

 

Or the society 

 

The Lord is trying to establish for them.

 

So the Lord takes a step back and decides

 

On different strategies

 

If the Israelites won’t stop complaining about 

 

Their diet lacking meat,

 

He’ll give them so much meat 

 

They’ll be throwing up for days.

 

This works!  The Israelites shut up already.

 

As for Aaron, as high priest to the one God, 

 

The strategy is straightforward:

 

The Lord tells him that Moses is unlike any leader 

 

That the Lord has communicated with.  

 

The Lord doesn’t have to talk to Moses 

 

In riddles or dreams.  

 

For the Lord can speak directly to him, 

 

Knowing that Moses will immediately get it.

 

Chastened, Aaron shuts up immediately.

 

Handling Miriam is trickier.  

 

She is Moses’s beloved sister, 

 

Who had saved him from certain death as a baby.

 

You can’t zap such an important person, 

 

However insulting she.has been to her brother.

 

Besides, Moses himself begins 

 

Begging the Lord not to punish her.

 

Moses is a good boy, a good brother, 

 

But he has to understand

 

Miriam would be better served 

 

By retreating from the camp for seven days.

 

How do you do this?  

 

Well, you strike her with a skin disease,

 

By doing so, the Lord immediately 

 

activates one of  the laws 

 

That he has dictated to Moses:

 

With a skin disease, the victim must be held 

 

Outside the camp for seven days. 

 

To assure that Miriam will not be left behind 

 

By her impatient compatriots,  

 

Another law is invoked:

 

The  Israelites are not allowed to break camp 

 

Until the Lord signals them to do so.

 

This works too, but far better 

 

Than the way the other complaints were handled.

 

In this case, the Lord is appealing to justice 

 

By invoking laws.  

 

Even better, by applying this to one of Moses’s siblings, 

 

The Lord is providing a precedent that 

 

All Israelites can see for themselves.  

 

A law isn’t thus merely an abstract:  

 

It can be concrete and practical and, yes, 

 

Far more merciful than 

 

The one response of zapping all complainers.

 

The rule of law has been established.

david

David’s Corner – April 25, 2022

Aaron

After the deaths of his sons Nadab and Abihu.

Aaron said not a word —

Not to his brother Moses,

Nor to his wife, Elisheba,

The mother of Nadab and Abihu,

Nor to his other sons, 

Eleazar and Itamar,

Who worried greatly about him.

Aaron awaited HaShem’s further wrath,

Entertaining fantasies of personal destruction,

Instead he awoke each day,

Astonished  he was still breathing.

Then one day 

Moses whispered  in his brother’s ear:

“You are not to die now.”

Aaron spoke as if for the first time:

“But how am I to live carrying so much guilt?”

“You shall follow HaShem’s commands to the letter,

You will atone for yourself, your family and then your people.

In so doing,

You will be a model of repentance for your people,

So that they can atone.

Aaron followed HaShem’s commands

Sending a goat to Azazel

Sacrificing a bull in purification

Confessing sin,

Making expiation for the priests and for

All the people of the congregation.

And to this very day, the leader of a Jewish community

Models Aaron’s atonement, 

Not by actual animal sacrifice,

But by first reading aloud from the torah,

Each step of Aaron’s repentance

And then by confessing his own sins

As his congregation confesses theirs.

In this way, neither the leader 

Nor the congregation 

Carry their guilt into the indefinite future,

But are instead purified

And forgiven by HaShem.