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Chukat - Balak

Chukat - Balak

The Ritual Law / Balak
Numbers
19:1−22:1, 22:2−25:9

The Eternal One spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "This is the ritual law that the Eternal has commanded: Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid." - Numbers 19:1-2

Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. - Numbers 22:2

Summary: 
  • The laws of the red heifer to purify a person who has had contact with a corpse are given. (19:1-22)
  • The people arrive at the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies and is buried there. (20:1)
  • The people complain that they have no water. Moses strikes the rock to get water for them. God tells Moses and Aaron they will not enter the Land of Israel. (20:2-13)
  • The king of Edom refuses to let the Children of Israel pass through his land. After Aaron's priestly garments are given to his son Eleazer, Aaron dies. (20:14-29)
  • After they are punished for complaining about the lack of bread and water, the Israelites repent and are victorious in battle against the Amorites and the people of Bashan, whose lands they capture. (21:4-22:1)
  • Balak, the king of Moab, persuades the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites so that he can defeat them and drive them out of the region. However, Balaam blesses the Children of Israel instead and prophesies that Israel's enemies will be defeated. (22:2-24:25)
  • God punishes the Israelites with a plague for consorting with the Moabite women and their god. The plague is stayed after Pinchas kills an Israelite man and his Midianite woman. (25:1-9)

RECENT COMMENTARY

  • By Elyse Frishman

    " In the beginning, God created . . . B'reishit bara Elohim et . . ." (Genesis 1:1). Et is the fourth word of Torah and it has no meaning. It's a grammatical Hebrew term marking the direct objecthashamayim, "the heavens."The purpose of et appears to be to draw attention to exactly what God is creating.

    Yet, how could the fourth word of Torah have as little significance as to serve only as a marker . . . to mean nothing? As humans, when we imagine we form a picture-and that isn't "nothing." It's impossible to see nothing.

    Alternatively, consider the composition of et, with the two letters alef and tavalef is the beginning and tav the end of the "alphabet," the alef-bet. Perhaps et, which is nothing, suggests the full alef-bet, which is everything. It is as if to teach: from nothing God will create everything.

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