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Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

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It should not surprise us that in this week's Torah portion, parashah Balak, the animal that saves Balaam’s life is female. How consistent this is with the theme that it is often the women in the Bible who guide, instruct, or shape the events surrounding surprisingly clueless males.

Beginning with Eve, women like Rebecca, Tamar, the six women of the Exodus, Samson’s unnamed mother, Hannah, Ruth, Vashti, and Esther – are much more savvy than their male counterparts.

But there is more.

Balaam was a world-class sorcerer. The Sages claim that Balaam communicated...

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In the second year of their journey from Egypt, God instructs Moses to send 12 scouts, one from each of the 12 Israelite tribes, to spy on the Promised Land (Numbers 13 ff). Moses requests that the spies bring back a detailed report of the land they plan to invade and conquer.

The spies return and tell Moses, essentially, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the land is wonderful. It is rich and fertile; it “flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27). To prove their point, the spies return with a cluster of grapes so rich and lush that it took two men to bear the...

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By this week's Torah portion, Parashah B'haalot'cha, it is no surprise that the children of Israel are complaining. This time the desert cuisine of manna is not to their liking, and they demand that Moses give them meat.

Moses loses it! He is overwhelmed, and in his anguish he cries out to God, “Shall I carry these people in my bosom as a nursing father (how I love that image!) carries a suckling child?“ (Numbers 11:12)

But even though the Eternal One is also very angry with the people, God tells Moses to relax because he is taking too much on himself.

Then God...

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In vain I searched the Internet for the words from Yitzhak Rabin seared into my memory but apparently forgotten by Google among his more famous speeches.

It was in July of 1974 when during his first term as Prime Minister Rabin addressed a joint session of congress and eloquently described learning the words on the Liberty Bell in their original Hebrew as a small child: “U’kratem dror ba-aretz l’chol yoshveha – Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all of its inhabitants” (Leviticus 25: 10).

Rabin pointed out that this cardinal foundation of both American and Israeli...

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Cafe Spindel is a quaint café in the center of Bad Segeberg, Germany that used to house a wool-processing factory. Because it was an unseasonably warm and sunny late summer day when I visited, our host, Pastor Martin Pommerening, suggested we sit outside.

The setting was pleasant, the conversation was delightful, the food was delicious – and then I looked up and noticed the tall chimney attached to the old wool factory. I shuddered as Israel’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Nelly Sachs’ famous poem came into mind:

O the chimneys On the ingeniously devised habitations of death...

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