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Torah Sparks

July 21, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Num. 30:2-36:13; Hertz Chumash, p. 702
Triennial Cycle III: Num. 33:50-36:13; Hertz Chumash, p. 716
Maftir: Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2; Hertz Chumash, p. 725

(30:2-17) Laws concerning vows made by women.

(31:1-51) The war against Midian, including the distribution of spoils.

(32:1-32) The Reubenites and Gadites ask for the land east of the Jordan. Moses agrees after they promise to participate in the conquest of the land of Canaan.

(33:1-49) The Israelites' itinerary during their wilderness wanderings.

(33:50-34:15) An additional warning to uproot idol worship from Canaan; instructions on dividing Canaan among nine and a half tribes.

(34:16-35:8) A list of the tribal heads. Forty-eight cities are set aside for the Levites.

(35:9-34) Laws concerning the cities of refuge. Someone who kills someone else by accident was protected from avenging family once he had reached the city of refuge. This section also deals with judicial procedures.

(36:1-13) Final discussions ruling that the daughters of Zelophchad could inherit their father's portion of the Land.

Theme 1: There's No Place Like Home

And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess. (Numbers 33:53)

  1. It happened that Rabbi Judah ben Batira and Rabbi Matya ben Harash and Rabbi Hanina the nephew of Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Yohanan were journeying abroad. On reaching Palatium (outside of the boundaries of Israel) they recalled Eretz Israel and their eyes filled with tears and they rent their garments and applied to themselves the following verse, "Thou shalt possess them and dwell in their land" whereupon they retraced their steps and went back home saying, "Residence in Eretz Israel is equal in weight to all the mitzvot in the Torah (Sifrei)
  2. At all times should a man reside in Eretz Israel, even in a city inhabited mostly by heathens. Let him not reside outside the Land, even in a city mostly inhabited by Jews. Since whoever resides in Eretz Israel is like a person with a god, while whoever resides outside it is like him who has no god. As it is stated (Lev. 25:38) "To give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d". Do you mean to say that whoever does not reside in the land of Israel has no G-d? but what is meant is, whoever resides outside the land is as if he worships idols. (Talmud Ketubot 110b)
  3. ...The Torah cannot be observed in its entirety except in a society wholly governed by its precepts and not in an alien framework ruled by other ideals. Admittedly there are personal religious obligations that can be observed anywhere, even by a Jewish Robinson Crusoe on his desert isle, but the Torah as a whole, implies a complete social order, a judiciary, national, economic, and political life. That can only be achieved in the Holy Land and not outside it. (Nehama Leibowitz; Studies in Bamidbar/Numbers; p. 399-400)

Discussion Sparks:

Have you or someone in your family ever thought about living in Israel, getting a job there, earning a living and fulfilling the responsibilities that come with living in the Holy Land? How would one's religious/spiritual life be different?

Theme 2: Backstabbing Religion

You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I Myself abide, for I the Lord abide among the Israelite people. (Numbers 35:33-34)

  1. It was bloodshed which caused the Temple to be destroyed. It once happened that two priests were running and rushing to ascend the ramp to the Altar (to get the honor of performing the service there). One preceded the other by four amot. The other took a dagger and stabbed him in the heart. Rabbi Zadok came and stood on the steps of the hall and said, "Listen to me, my brothers of the House of Israel! It says, "If, in the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you to possess, someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known, your elders and officials shall go out and measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby town (Deut. 21:1-2)." Let us measure and see who should bring the heifer. (Clearly Rabbi Zadok is making the point that this is a horrendous crime in a most sacred place.) (Sifrei Numbers 161, 222)

Discussion Sparks:

What lesson was lost on the young priests who were vying for the "honor" of tending the Altar? In a way, there srill is this kind of "back-stabbing" when it comes to religion in Israel. For instance? What do you predict will be the state of religion there infuture years?

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