Normally I do not do sermons for Yom Kippur. However given that I hear widespread confusion engendered by the politicization of the pandemic, I am sharing now some of the words I recently shared with a friend and colleague who is intensely worried about the pandemic and this widespread confusion. Please know that the reliable epidemiologists do agree on what needs to be done – and has never been done.
Further if I read many of you correctly, the pandemic causes you the greatest angst because you have not been able to understand what proper epidemiological approaches are- whether or not there are treatments, cures, vaccines, or whatever. Perhaps some give equal weight to myths as to the words of respected trained professionals. If so the Rambam would have been most distressed with those folk...
As an epidemiologist [a Dr.], I know that there are specific protocols for dealing with a pandemic, protocols ignored by the administration. This is not opinion but rather scientifically based, fact driven procedures based on scientific observations of what works best in epidemiology.
Hence first, I want to describe the bare bones minimal medical wisdom: In order to fight a pandemic one needs to have three basic prongs: testing, tracing, and quarantine. Testing needs to be widespread, rapid, and frequent both to determine active cases and to determine who has already had antibody build up against the virus. For those who test active, quarantine is essential as well as thorough contact tracing to alert others they have been in contact with and to test them as well.
For those who have antibodies, they need to be monitored both to see how long antibody levels remain elevated and whether they show signs of reinfection happening. However no concerted effort was made to get adequate and proper testing capacity, adequate contact tracing, and adequate quarantining. We still do not have anywhere near what is needed in large part due to lack of funding.
Further, masks should be worn properly by everyone outside of their homes – and frequent hand washing. If in a multi-person home, a person testing active needs to wear a mask and stay away from others. Ideally there would be quarantine hostels/apartments/hotels for all who test positive so they would not risk infecting others in their household. Top medical experts have repeatedly stressed that masks are the most important aspect to our safety.
One needs to recall that no one method is perfect. For instance: A mask might leak if not 100% snug or if the person wiggles it around or moves it to be heard better. Hence there are no absolutes and never will be. We can only do our best to minimize exposures. A great part of that then falls on the individual to properly follow the health recommendations. Education to maximize understanding and implementation of these recommendations is also critical – and has not been funded adequately. Further it has been muddied by political myths and disreputable people claiming to be medical professionals but who do not have expertise in the area.
An example just happened in a congressional hearing when Rand Paul ‘questioned’ Dr. Fauci. Rand Paul is a non-practicing doctor who has not specialized in epidemiology and related. He also has political motivations. big time. One can tell by his inflammatory language. Fauci was on the defensive as he explained that he did the best he could with information he had and knowing that testing was minimal. However shut down was spotty. Home quarantine partial. Use of masks limited. Hence as more info came in, fine tuning of what needed to be done naturally occurred. Additionally he needed to factor in that resources were not made available to do what he originally recommended.
Some of you are hurting. I hear you. Lumping other concerns such as about bigotry into a question as to whether government interferes with providing adequate aid to those in need is not a rational way to approach the question asked. I suspect it is personal for many of you – as it is for me. However I try to stay focussed on the question – of how to do adequate Tikun Olam given the resources and conditions we have to work with.
Perhaps concerned folk should research the flu epidemics and the TB epidemic and other past epidemics. Also a history of Typhoid Mary might give further insights. Consulting with widely respected professional epidemiologists might also be helpful. Ask questions of people who are trained to have the answers- not sycophants to a particular ideology such as anti-vaccination folk, or gaia adherents, scientologists, or herd immunity idiots, etc.. For the last, Sweden decided to try for herd immunity and had highest morbidity and mortality of the Scandinavian nations. The highest scientific adviser later said as she resigned her post that she deeply regretted with going that way and causing needless suffering and deaths. [‘Herd immunity’ by itself is a form of natural selection...]
As for opening schools or not: rather than have federal health guidance, the decisions have been left up to the states and often the states leave it up to each school board. There has been no major effort to increase funding to enable adequate safety measures in the schools. During the TB epidemic of the 1900’s, school classes were moved outdoors and everyone wore masks. For us, testing, tracing, and quarantine need to continue. Indoors one would need physical distancing as well as masks, improved ventilation from the typical 3 full cycles per hour to 9 per hour, and a low student to teacher ratio. Again funding for these measures does not exist.
Certain groups of students cannot learn remotely. They should be the focus for the first return to school programs with adequate safety measures in place.
The disagreement among officials is most often politically based and has nothing to do with reliable medical advice. Restaurants and other indoor places were opened contrary to medical advice due to economic concerns placing profits over the lives of people.
As for PPE’s: there have not been adequate PPE’s available. Often the medical providers have to re-use items without any guaranteed way to safely decontaminate them and recycle them. Some equipment sent them was defective as well. Plus when these people are off-duty, there are additional ways they could be exposed to the virus outside of the work environment. I also have seen medical providers who apparently do not have a concept of proper sterility and isolation measures and hence put themselves and others at risk of cross-infection. [They would have flunked my micro classes.] So yes, some medical providers have died of covid-19.
One guiding voice needed to come from the Federal government, but has been quelled by the politics of the executive branch. Fauci and others do speak out on other forums.
As for viruses: viruses are parasites made of nucleic acids often coated in a protein envelope. When not in a host they are dormant and can not do any biological functions. When in a host, they hijack the hosts machinery to replicate the nucleic acid and to make various proteins that can cause severe adverse symptoms. Given that they replicate, they can be considered alive [but that will depend on how one defines life- however that definition is irrelevant. what is relevant is how they function.]. Disinfectant does not per se ‘kill’ them but rather denatures them so that they can no longer infect a host. De facto that amounts to ‘killing’ them as they no longer can replicate. Given the abysmal science education of the country’s people, language has been dumbed down by some of the various centers of information. Anti-bacterials are not what is used for disinfecting. Anti-microbials work against both bacteria and viruses as well as other microbials such as fungi and prions.
COVID is an RNA virus, a coronavirus. It acts differently than DNA viruses like influenza. It is related to the 2 previous SARS viruses.
I am happy to answer any of your concerns and questions or help find solid scientific resources for you that can answer your queries. As per Rambam: learning the facts of your generation is the best way to be able to interpret Torah – [and live a healthy, safe life...]
There are no definitive answers in life. In part that is why we pray on the High Holy Days that we understand that there are many ways a person can die but plead for our own deaths to be delayed until old age takes us. The ever present uncertainty factor... We can only control our lives up to a certain point. There are no guarantees as to the outcomes. The cumulative choices made by everyone will determine what happens to us and the world. We each only control a tiny part of that...
So we all feel unsafe to one extent or another. Hence we pray.
Gmar Chatima Tova
Shana Tova Tichateimu
If this information can be helpful to others, please feel free to share.
Blessings and Love
Shabbat Sukkot 5781
Sukkot IS Outdoors!
Now what a joy it is to realize
That Sukkot’s a holiday all outside!
While far distancing we can pray and more
Like shake the Lulav, observances’ core -
Do Sukkah hakafot should we desire
As we now share good weal we so admire.
Eating delicious meals becomes no chore
When positive wishes come through the door.
So YES to outside with guests we don’t hide:
RBG or grandpa, dead or alive!
Yom Kippur went well mostly online. A service with a memorial Yiskor section was done on the phone as was a final service with shofar blowing and Havdalah. Given volunteer help, our Sukkah is now up and ready to go. Physical distancing can be done outside so that eating the yummies without masks will be possible. The Sukkah will be available all week along with lulav and etrog. All are welcome to sit in the Sukkah, shake lulav, and eat goodies. Morning hours are best to avoid the heat.
Sukkot starts the evening of 10/2 through the weekend. Intermediate days are all the weekdays. We will beat willow branches to lose their leaves symbolic of our last sins on Friday morning, 10/9. The Eighth day of Assembly, Shemini Atzeret is on Shabbat. Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in the Torah is Sunday 10/11/20, complete with rewinding the Torah back to the beginning…
So Chag Sukkot Sameach and Shabbat Shalom! Be safe y’all!
High Holy Days Closing
We’ve beaten the willows until all leaves fell,
These symbols of our sins are hence gone as well
As we contemplate the memories of our dear dead:
Our lost parents, our teachers, our role models we’ve read…
We’ve prayed for ourselves to be sealed for a great New Year.
We’ve prayed that recalcitrant rains will promptly appear.
While the gates to the divine realm will soon be closed tight
We’ll start cycles anew, rejoice in Torah come night!
Bereishit 5781; Recycling; Bereishit 1-6:8; Isaiah 42:5 - 43:10
Will Cain kill Abel once again
As history repeats itself?
Will Abel this time escape unscathed
Or will Cain prosper from Abel’s wealth?
It is as though life restarts anew
With every encroaching extinction.
The rich and the poor will all pass on.
Death will make ‘tween them no distinction.
Unless we can learn to work as one,
Our planet and lives will soon be done.
Will it be a deluge or massive fires?
We have no answers although we inquire…
Next week in Noach we’ll discover the outcome of the Mabool Flood, one possible answer to mass extinction… In the meantime be safe and
Lech Lecha - Go Forth into the Unknown
Lech Lecha 5781, Into the Unknown; Genesis 12-17; Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16
“Go forth, Avram, and explore the unknown,” said HaShem. Gee! That sounds like biblical Star Desert Trek [navigated by the stars]…
So after his brother was killed before them, perhaps as an encouragement to the family to flee by the new anti-semitic Elamite regime. Avram’s father felt he had no choice but to flee west to Hauran. Since they had domesticated camels from their Caucuses origin [a rarity in the areas of Ur, Hauran, Canaan, Egypt, etc. except for caravan merchants and royalty], it is likely they had friendly contacts along the trade routes such as in Hauran. These contacts would have helped them resettle.
Hence when HaShem told Avram ‘Lech Lecha’, Avram went forth trustingly to explore the unknown. There were adventures with Pharaoh, with invading kings, with an arrogant concubine abused by his wife, and ever many more.
Were these experiences lessons to teach Avram humility and how to work for non-violent solutions to problems? Did they teach him to be a diplomat? Did they teach him how to pursue a more ethical life? Given all this, how do you think Avram would have handled the divisiveness of our modern times?
If these were lessons to improve Avram’s approach to the world, they were only the start of all the lessons he would experience. Our portion of Parashat Lech Lecha ends with an Avram still seeking HaShem’s favor by circumcising himself, his son Ishmael, and all of his entourage.
Bereishit [Genesis] pauses at this point to let the newly re-named Avraham recover from his ordeals. It is a good pause that also lets us ponder the experiences of our own lives and compare/ contrast them with those of Avram. How did each of us reach a point where Torah study is included if not important to us? Whether it be by reading Torah interpretations and commentaries by past or present Rabbis or by incorporating Haftorah readings, we have all regularly included a bit of Torah or Tanach study into our lives. Why? Are we like Avraham, striving to live more ethical lives?
Be safe in these uncertain times!
It has been a tense time of late with many challenges, often illogical, to existing voting rules and often no flexibility to accommodate pandemic difficulties. We at Beit Torah bless the mail in ballot. Even in Torah it appears that sometimes, but rarely, there are exceptions to the rules:
VaYera 5781, Exceptions to the Rules; Genesis 18-22; 2 Kings 4
This week’s portion of Parashat VaYera seems to describe a busy and somewhat perplexing group of events. What may seem to us to be obvious rules appear to be challenges on many levels.
We would think that it would be unacceptable to offer daughters up for prostitution as is later written in Torah. Yet to save the lives of guests an exception nearly was made for Lot. In the end, we are told that the law/rule was reinforced as the ‘guests’ blinded the mob at the door. Nonetheless an exception later was made for Lot. Even though incest is not something we would endorse, Lot’s line was preserved through his daughters who thought there were no other men in the world. One wonders where they got so much alcohol [wine] to keep Lot inebriated and so sloshed that he would not realize his joining with them…
A little trickier is the use of partial dishonesty to avoid the possibility of men wanting to kill you in order to steal your drop dead gorgeous wife. The ploy worked the first time in Egypt, resulting in the accumulation of considerable wealth. Was it a bribe to insure that no accusation of adultery would be levelled at the Pharaoh? However when the same ploy is used with Abimelech, one wonders if it was a con used to get richer [based on previous results] – or if Avraham was truly fearful for his life.
Two rules in this parashah very clearly have no exceptions. Child sacrifice can never be accepted. The corollary is that human sacrifice can never be accepted. Yet some still question these truths. Think about several people shipwrecked at sea in a life-raft for days with little if any supplies…
How do we cut corners in our lives? How well do we observe speed limits? Are we carving out exceptions in the rules for ourselves? Do we need exceptions to the rules such as for pandemic effects? Let us ponder these questions in comradery and good intents come Shabbat!
Be safe in these uncertain times!
In these unsettling times we all wish to go forward with informed consent, factually informed about the pressing issues of today. We at Beit Torah try to follow Torah and teachings of sages to determine what is factual and what misinformation. Informed consent apparently was important to the ancestors as well as seen in this week’s portion of Parashat Chayei Sarah:
Chayei Sarah 5781, Family Unity with Informed Consent,
Bereishit 23:1-25:18; 1Kings 1:1-31
Not all our Genesis stories reinforce family unity and informed consent. However, this week’s portion of Parashat Chayei Sarah clearly speaks to informed consent especially by women. It is seen in Rivka’s need to agree first to the marriage proposal before embarking on the journey to marry Yitzchak. Maybe female equality and independence ran in the family as we certainly saw such independence and strength in Sarah.
The legacy of Sarah was through her sons
As educated partner, her husband’s true love,
She counselled and protected him, Avraham,
While they travelled the world, she charmed the leaders -
As she watchfully raised with deep love Yitzchak, her son,
Cherished much more than Ishmael, her adopted one.
Still both sons became great nations together
When they honored, buried, their beloved Father
Priestess to Princess, equal in stature to
Sarah, a model of being human, teaching
”she can” !
Family Unity is another theme of these Genesis stories from Avram protecting Lot repeatedly to family acting together for parental last rites and more despite disappointments and differences as we will see soon in upcoming parashot. If only our country could see itself as a family…
Toldot - a gadfly edition of the weekly commentary:
Toldot 5779 ; Repeating; Bereishit 25:19-28:9; Malachai 1:1-2:7
Toldot as a poetic parashah:
Once again two brothers, sibs looking like day and night,
one righteous and caring, the other ready to fight.
Once again two paths of opposite extremes,
both leading to great nations by either means.
Was it a con on Yitzchak or a story to share
with neighbors whose bias was firstborn inherit there?
Yet Hurrite practice was to the most worthy must go
inheritance despite needing to flee in fright and woe!
Thinking about Lech Lecha, VaYera and even Toldot, one wonders how important was it in biblical times to maintain the honor - or at least the appearance of honor- among the leaders of people such as Pharaohs, Tribal Priests, men of wealth, Kings, etc. If it was all important so that those leaders would not be killed or overthrown, then one must ask:
Was Sarah actually Avraham's half-sister?
Was saying so a ploy to prevent harm to Avraham or to con the Pharaoh and, later, Avimelech?
Did Pharaoh actually not have sexual interactions with Sarah?
Was the wealth given to Avram a bribe to keep quiet about sexual improprieties by the Pharaoh - thus maintaining the honor of Pharoah?
Did Avimelech actually not have sexual interactions with Sarah?
Was the wealth given to Avraham a bribe to keep quiet about sexual improprieties by Avimelech - thus maintaining the honor of Avimelech?
Was it just coincidence that Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak less than a year after the episode with Avimelech?
Did Lot actually not give his daughters over to the mob wanting to harm his 'guests'?
Did Lot, alternatively, give them to the mob resulting in their pregnancies? If so it would dishonor the family to have daughters as harlots...
Hence, did Lot and his daughters [when they met up with people after their sojourn in a cave] concoct a story of pregnancies after the escape from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah that would explain their children and maintain their honor?
The toughest questions revolve around the [almost] sacrifice of Yitzchak. Many have asked whether Yitzchak was sacrificed given that he did not return to the waiting servants along with Avraham. Others posit that Yitzchak was so angry with his father that he went off in a different direction [with no supplies, servants, or steeds]. If indeed he was an adult, he might have had the skills to successfully do so... but as a child???
What if he were one of a set of twins where one was sacrificed and the other married Rivka? Would not the changing of the narrative to only one son save Avraham's honor?
Are the episodes in these portions all related to the preservation of the honor of the leaders of the time - and consequently maintaining the peace and preventing civil unrest?
Was it a con for Rivka and Yitzchak to have tried the sister-wife ploy again on Avimelech?
Was the scheme, also in Toldot, to get Yaacov the inheritance blessings just another con to convince the neighbors that it was confusion of a blind old man [who lived decades more afterwards] rather than the family following Hurrite tradition of inheritance going to the most worthy of the offspring?
Are we the descendants of very successful con men and women such as Solomon who may have ascended to the throne by a con perpetrated on David by Batsheba and the Priest Nathan convincing him of a promise that might not have been made? [or maybe it was just politics…]
Many questions from a gadfly, so few answers…
Be safe and SHABBAT SHALOM!
As some welcome Thanksgiving, it is upon us to recall that it is not a holiday for many. Whether from being a native american to being displaced from natural disasters, pandemic caused poverty or illness, jahrzeits of loved ones, or loss of safety and security; it is a time of shock and grief for many. We at Beit Torah know we must protect each other the best we can as a family unified against the woes of the world, even as Yaacov, Rachel, and Leah protected their family:
Shabbat VaYetzei, Thanksgiving Weekend, 5781; More Family [Dis]Unity
Genesis 28:10-32:3; Hosea 11:7-12:12 Sephard; 12:13-14:10 Ashkenaz
He loved his Mother enough to deceive his Father.
Yet his conscience did trouble his days going forward.
Then he received the deceit of his Uncle Laban
To which he responded in an honest way with no sword.
Not so with Rachel who understood well her Father:
To restrain violence he surely would not bother.
She knew she needed to interrupt his decisions
By removing his counselors, idols of visions...
So that claims to property and children became moot;
So that in local court he could never win a suit.
Thus Jacob, Leah, Rachel showed family unity
With fourteen plus years resisting Laban’s impunities.
Still discord and fear of Father Laban, his offspring,
Who were ready to fight for all flocks, lands, and well springs -
Until a treaty was agreed to amid a feast,
With boundary markers set and servitude released!
Not all was unity during all those years as related in this week’s portion of Parashat VaYetzei. Laban unilaterally kept changing work terms to less favorable for Yitzchak. Rachel and Leah vied for Yaacov’s attention and for presenting him sons from themselves or their surrogates.
Although tricked into marrying both twins Leah and Rachel, we learn that Yaacov was a good husband to both and included them in important family decisions [31:15-16]. So despite the rivalry between the two sisters as to who would bear more sons, it is clear that they worked together for the best welfare of the family.
Given the insinuated threats from Laban and his sons, brothers to Rachel and Leah, Yaacov left an uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous situation with his entire family and much wealth in livestock and followers while being told not to come back ever – just like his paternal grandparents in Egypt before him. Did better and broader education, along with awareness of the existing politics, help Yaacov honestly prevail over dishonest and poorly educated Laban? Would such help us prevail in politics?
As for karma: Was Yaacov’s ‘deceit’ of his Father Yitzchak repaid by Laban’s deceit towards him? Will the travails of childbirth be karmic repayment to Rachel for her absconding with her Father’s teraphim, family idols? Are these just coincidences?
We at Beit Torah recognize that there are natural consequences to our actions which may have wide rippling effects. Indeed the violence of Shimon and Levi led to the family needing to flee and to the deaths of Devorah and Rachel. What are the natural consequences of not repairing family, community, or government discord?
VaYishlach 5781; Repairing Discord; Bereishit 32:4-36:43; Ovadia 1:1-21
‘Being sent out’ in verse: Karma Continues
Yaacov struggled with his pain
over fear of brotherly wrath.
One misstep done and he could go lame
or even lose sons along his path.
Hard to overcome family discord
as when broken sib trust must be restored:
Language is cautious, actions ever more so
as family unity’s where they must go:
‘I now won’t step on yours, please do not step on mine.
If together we do so, we both should be fine.’
Yet even that path was still fraught with danger
When Dinah was raped by a Princely stranger.
Shimon and Levi killed all the Shechem men,
Vengeance for their sister’s rape – and then
They fled: midwife Devorah did die;
Rachel, bereft, in childbirth did cry:
“By my suffering I am killed.”
Jacob’s sorrow could not be stilled…
He buried dear Rachel on the way
to Father Yitzchak, where he could stay,
who lived one hundred eighty years we’ve heard:
By both Jacob and Esau was interred...
Can we light our candles though in quarantine?
Of course we can and must let their light be seen.
Must we have parties or give gifts to other folk?
Only if we protect ourselves – NOT A JOKE!
Masks, distance, zoom, ventilation in each room
Preclude goyish parties but let gifts resume
Their flow by mail carrier to each loved one,
Although we must be satisfied with less fun…
Yet the only observance that we must do
Is share the Chanukah candles’ lights anew!
We at Beit Torah wonder where the line is between honesty and deception when telling the whole truth might cause severe damage to others. When does a con become a vital deception to save souls and lives - Pikuach Nefesh?
Shabbat Chanukah! VaYeishev 5781; Con or Vital Deception?; Bereishit 37-40; Zecharia 2:14-4:7 [also the haftorah for B’haalotecha] [if not Chanukah: Amos 12:6-3:8]
After abuse by Judah in unseemly ways,
Tamar and loyal friends decided on a con.
Posed as a comely harlot to sweeten his days,
She could build then family on his dead sons’ names.
When discovered she knew to show proofs of his feat
So that Judge Judah had to admit to defeat.
Was this con truly a vital deception
To lead to David’s line with a warm reception?
Children know nothing of family unity.
They pick on each other with gross impunity.
Whether their Mothers in honor were different
Or Father’s favors flamed jealousies needing vent,
The lording dreams of their flaky brother Yosef
Pushed some o’er the edge of brotherly devotion
To sell their brother to become a slave in Egypt,
To lie of Yosef’s death to pain Father’s emotions.
Yet had they not done so, the whole family was doomed.
So too the baseless lies of Potifar’s lewd wife
Had helped to prepare Yosef for fame clearly well groomed,
Soon, as the grain Vizier with wide powers and full life!
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameach [Dec. 10-18]!
In Mishnaic times an additional Torah reading of the initial sacrifices and offerings of the tribes in the desert was read during Shabbat Chanukah I. [Num 7 in a different scroll] Many Orthodox groups still read this. We at Beit Torah no longer incorporate readings of animal sacrifices. Instead we discuss the sacrifices of our beings in order to remain Jewish both in life and in death.
Miketz 5781; Revenge or Vital Deception?;
Bereishit 41:1-44:17; 1 Kings 3:15-4:1
Dreamcatchers can catch all sorts of dreams.
Dream tellers tell us what they mean.
Given Pharaoh’s dreams, Yosef then could say
Plenty and famine were on their way.
Overseeing grain stores became Yosef’s day,
So folk from far lands for food came to pay.
Among them ten brothers, Yosef’s kin unknown
Coming from Canaan land where no food had grown.
A tearful Yosef welcomed them all
Alone to eat in a great big hall.
He told them to come back only if
They did bring their youngest brother with.
The famine was strong, scarce was more food.
It forced Ya-acov to change his mood
So that his beloved Benyamin could then go
To seek food for their folk, woe forgo.
Relief all around, anxious to leave
When they were all ready to go back.
Was it revenge or a clever ploy to
Hide his goblet in his full brother’s pack?
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameach [Dec. 10-18]!
We at Beit Torah pray for all parts of this country to be reunited. The benefits of reuniting and working together are shown in this week’s portion of Parashat VaYiggash:
VaYiggash 5781; Reuniting; Bereishit 44:18-47:27; Ezekiel 37:15-28
Judah spoke to defend his Father
From his youngest being also lost.
Yosef, overcome with emotion,
In private told what treachery cost:
Egyptian family able to save them!
So to bring Jacob back to Egypt they went.
Now Jacob at one hundred thirty years old
Was wizened, depressed, cranky and prone to vent.
Clearly Jacob was very feeble and cold
When “Yosef, your son, is alive!” he was told:
Serah sang a sweet song to him so that he truly would believe
“Yosef is still alive” she said, “Go to Egypt and you will see!”
So he packed up all his flocks and folk to travel to his lost son,
To bless the Pharaoh ‘fore he died, knowing safety now had been won.
To Goshen they then went to thrive and prosper.
Others, in famine, indentured selves for food.
Pharaoh was enriched with flocks and food payments…
Soon another Pharaoh will come, change the mood...
Do you know the story of Serah? How did it come to be? Was selling Yosef to Egypt really a treacherous act – or Yad HaShem, the hand of God? Do you perceive Yad HaShem in your lives? How?
We at Beit Torah pray for healing despite recent traumatizing events. May we have a comfortable settling in period once the pandemic passes, at least for a while as they did in this week’s portion of VaYechi:
VaYechi 5781; Settling In; Bereishit 47:28-50:26; 1 Kings 2:1-12
Now Ya-acov lived seventeen years more with family all around.
Although carried by others to and fro, his deep joy and peace were found.
He blessed Yosef’s two sons to be his double portion.
He gathered other sons to tell them their flaws and strengths.
Each gained a blessing o’er what they had done or not done
Before he rested and came to his long journey’s end:
Embalmed for the long travel home
To be with his Fathers, Mothers, and less loved Wife.
We see then with approval
That Yosef held fast to forgiving all of his contentious brothers’ strife.
Next, too, another ending of one hundred and ten years of Yosef’s life,
Embalmed and in waiting to return home to Canaan with all of the tribes.
As Jews we decry embalming, yet twice in this final portion of Bereishit [Genesis] we hear of major Jewish leaders being embalmed. Why was it okay for them and not for us? Different acceptable burial traditions? Lack of refrigeration and no rapid burial? Avoidance of Egyptian religious rituals during the embalming? Both these last two? Why not now? May we be involved with more pleasant thoughts in our present lives other than death and embalming!
We at Beit Torah pray for all manner of blessings as we embark on a new Gregorian year and on a new Book of Torah as we prepare for plagues yet to come:
Shemot 5781 ; Introducing Moshe ; Shemot [Exodus] 1:1-6:1;
Sephard: Jeremiah 1:1-2:3; Ashkenaz: Isaiah 27:6 - 28:13; 29:22 - 29:23
Moshe Grows Up
“It is not yet Pesach,” dear Ellie would say,
“So why do we read this portion on this day?”
She was one of our folk, passed on a couple years back.
Yet every year at this time, this question she’d ask!
It is the Pesach story that starts the Book of Names,
Shemot, a saga with intrigue, harsh plagues, and games.
We start with the cruelty of a conquering Pharaoh
Decreeing death to newborn boys without a care – Oh
But for Shifra and Puah who refused to do so
By saying strong Hebrew women did not need their help
When a baby boy or girl by themselves they could whelp.
Then Yochevet’s baby in a closed cradle was placed
As Sis Miriam to the Princess swiftly did race.
“From water did I pull you,” the Princess exclaimed.
“As a result, henceforth, Moshe will be your name.”
When grown he saw an overseer vilely act.
He killed him. ‘Twas known to Hebrew Slaves as a fact.
So he fled to Midian, to a Priest’s daughters was kind.
This led to friendship as Zipporah to wife he did find.
This story began here when HaShem now did appear
In a burning bush that neither ashed nor disappeared!
HaShem did proclaim, “To Egypt you must go:
From Horeb to Pharaoh for desert prayers to plead
For all Hebrews with elders, wives, and children in tow -
Just as was given to other folk when such was their need.
A snake rod, a hand with white scales, and blood as water
Are grand signs for in Pharaoh’s court to be seen and heard.”
Moshe’s protest: ‘I’m not worthy! ‘Twill be a slaughter!”
“So let Aaron convince them with his eloquent words,”
Said HaSHem as he promised with their neighbors’ wealth
There later would be an exit at night in stealth…
So Moshe asked from Yitro, top Midian Priest, permission to go
While HaShem said: ”Egyptian firstborn die if plea’s refused by Pharaoh.”
Some of this prediction Zipporah did hear
Hence for her Egyptian firstborn she clearly did fear.
So he would be a Hebrew, his small foreskin she took
To save his life when the Angel of Death came to look.
Yet when Moshe asked Pharaoh for wilderness prayers,
He and Aaron were laughed out of court, kicked down the stairs!
As life became harder with withdrawn straw for the bricks,
Hebrews could not meet quotas, could not use sticks…
Those Hebrews did curse them, causing them both such despair…
Then HaShem cautioned patience: “Moshe, we will get there!”
Wow was this a long parashah! So much to ponder and discuss! Here we have a prediction of all that will come without the details of the plagues. What parts caught your fancy? What would you wish to discuss? Can any of this be applied to our lives today? If so, what?
As we are living through a pandemic plague, can we relate to the people in Egypt inundated with plagues? We at Beit Torah feel the palpable pandemic fear overlaid on our usual medical concerns and complicating them. How then did the Egyptians feel when bombarded with plague troubles? As we now read details of the first group of plagues, think about how those afflicted felt during those days:
VaEra 5781; Plagues and Pandemics, Pandemic Plagues;
Shemot [Exodus] 6:2-9:35; Ezekiel 28:25-29:21; Isaiah 66:1-24
No details were given last week in our preview.
So now we embark on this version two, brand new…
HaShem promised Moshe soon there would be release
Even though the Hebrews firmly refused to believe.
Then Moshe, in fear, said he truly could not speak,
So HaShem spoke to Aaron, his spokesman to be.
Hence to prove his credentials: lineage revealed
[Though Miriam’s not mentioned as to Yocheved born].
Thus now with this info was his leadership sealed,
Moshe and Aaron returned to their task forlorn.
When going back to Pharaoh with his hardened heart,
Aaron’s snake rod swallowed the magicians’ - all parts.
Pharaoh still said ‘no’, your folk to pray can not go’ -
Despite other nations being allowed even though!
So blood was the first plague in water, wood, and stone
Since volcanic iron oxide paints all red roan;
Poisons the water so that fish die, rot and smell;
Lets uneaten tadpoles escape to land as well...
Now light volcanic ash is like lice on skin cooking;
Will kill food sources, so hungry insects come looking;
Will sicken the air so that all will feel ill until
The skin bubbles open as blisters or boils in pain
Only to be struck by fiery hail and again
Another plague since Pharaoh refused still…
Historical documentations by the Ipuwer papyri [circa 1600 BCE] support the occurrence of the biblical plagues and coincided with the first of the expulsion of Semites from Egypt and with the massive volcanic explosions of Thera that destroyed about half the island about 400 miles away from Egypt. This is consistent with the teachings of the Rambam, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, and others that HaShem does not violate natural laws but uses them to cause what appears to us to be ‘miracles’. Shabbat Shalom!
We at Beit Torah are grateful for our hard won freedom now and then:
Bo 5781; Freedom at Last; Shemot [Exodus] 10:1-13:16; Jeremiah 46: 13-28
Now there wasn’t much left to drink or eat
After the bugs and the boils and the beasts,
So when hungry locusts then swarmed the land
Almost naught for people remained but sand.
Even when locusts to marshes were blown,
Pharaoh continued refusing to yield.
“So blind you are,” Aaron then told Pharaoh,
“A darkness plague will make your blindness real.”
Volcanic debris in Thera’s umbra
Made particle filled air quite touchable.
Nine Ipuwer days or three from Torah,
Either caused asthma, fear so palpable,
That the people were more than ready to go
If only okayed by the cruel Pharaoh…
Alas, he said ‘no’, no flocks could go…
Hence from the neighbors riches to “borrow”-
Post-firstborn deaths. Folk fled on the morrow.
So momentous a moment, Sages say,
That we must remember each year this day
With signs on our hands, also between our eyes,
To recall Egyptian servitude cries
Which led to freedom for all who did heed:
Blood on Lintels, roast lamb on which to feed,
Burn all the leftovers, flee at dawn’s break
With unleavened bread of no time to bake.
Further, to HaShem our firstborn belong
Recalling that last plague of dark horror.
That we were set free becomes now our song
Recalled each year in matzah and maror.
The Death of the Firstborn can also be tied to the toxic deposits of the volcanic debris and ash. Since all food sources were destroyed save the tar covered warehouse pits, all Egypt would have used them. However first portions always went to the firstborn - and they would have been the most toxic if not deadly from absorbed volcanic output. This would have been most toxic in the heaviest umbra deposits. Goshen to the East was in the penumbra and had lighter effects from plagues. How they avoided tainted grain is not clear. What would you do to save your firstborn? -or would you try to save all the people?Shabbat Shalom!
Shabbat Shalom for Shabbat Shira! We at Beit Torah wonder how to protect freedom and democracy:
BeShallach 5781; Freedom Shock; Shemot [Exodus] 13:17-17:16;
Judges 4:4 - 5:31 Ashkenaz; 5:1-31 Sephard
What does one do when one suddenly becomes free
Without any experience as to what can be?
Quite unlike Moshe who was years Egyptian raised,
Also lived in Midian for many of days.
What did those Hebrews do when they too became free?
They groaned and bemoaned o’er what for them could not be…
In shock at Sukkot, weary travelers’ waystop,
They could not guess what still ahead would be their lot.
Along that cool, spring wadi, so wet and so green,
Not realizing what travelling east would mean:
Chased by Pharaoh’s chariots and quite loyal troops,
Once more they fled with their flocks in very large groups
‘Til by irrigation canals’ northernmost lake.
Now given that on the northern garrison road
Locals and sea refugees were coming to blows,
To the Sea of Reeds was where they needed to go,
Area known to Moshe from jobs with Pharaoh.
To control water sluicing some work it would take
After a night of intense fog where none could see...
At dawn a time of relatively dry land would be
For all flocks and folk to walk over to the other side
Until Moshe’s arm went down, signal to let waters ride
And cover the pursuing army now trapped in the muck.
Chariots and horses and men could not flee. They were stuck.
While Moshe and Miriam and all the people were very glad,
HaShem was a bit cross as death of horses and men is so sad.
Still they sang their joyous songs in gratitude to HaShem.
Next they continued their long journey eastward and then:
Bitter waters at Marah, dunked honeywood made it sweet;
Elim Oasis was water with no parasites to drink;
The Wilderness of Sin had no food and no meat;
Then given six days of Mannah [weekday leftovers stink],
With double portions on the sixth day - Shabbat did now show -
A day of rest, no gathering of wood or food you know;
Tamarisk sap lice product sounds like the Mannah that fell
And there were occasional quail provided to eat as well;
At Meribah, Massah, Horeb, more lack of water woes-
A smacked rock cracked open to provide water flows;
Then just as they approached Arabia’s narrow pass,
Amalekites appeared, striking down weak and the old,
So Joshua’s unexpecting folk had to fight, alas:
In all ages we must oppose Amalek we’re told...
It should be noted that the Nile River in Egypt, the major source of drinking water, was contaminated with several types of parasites. So the promise of no Egyptian illnesses was fulfilled by clean, parasite free water. The fulfilling of other promises is yet to come for the fleeing tribes have yet to learn what laws of HaShem they will need to uphold. Is keeping to the mitzvot a guarantee that we can hang onto freedom? If not what else must we do? Amalekite tyrants and autocrats will be in every generation, challenging our freedoms and democracies. How best can we oppose them? Will we ever be safe from them – or must we always be on alert to fight?
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah wonder how to use our mitzvot to protect justice:
Shabbat Yitro 5781; Brit Laws and Delegation; Shemot [Exodus] 17:17-20:23;
Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5-6 Ashkenaz; 6:1-13 Sephard
Now journeying through desert sands is slow
When some people have kids and flocks in tow.
So Moshe sent his wife and sons ahead
To Grandpa Yitro’s to visit instead.
So, too, to not be distracted from the refugee woes,
Moshe tried to do everything by himself, alone,
Which led to some intense burnout and severe overload.
Still Moshe did all needed tasks with not even a groan!
Near Arabia, Yitro came with Zipporah and sons,
At once evaluating what Moshe’s efforts had done.
“You can’t go on like this,” he said. “You’ll wear yourself out.”
“Delegate to several levels of judges and laws!”
“Teach them how to do it themselves, what it is all about,
So that only the most major will come before your gaze,
Knowing that good, fairly done judgment did review each cause
And the People will decide for their own, have happier days.”
Moshe’s People kept on their way while Yitro went on home.
Refidim to Mt. Sinai’s desert, from Egypt three moons.
Mt. Sinai’s South South East - ish of Midian in Arabia’s dunes,
A volcanic area with quakes, smoke, fire, and earth groans -
A place to rest with three days of purification tasks:
Do not touch the mountain nor your women; wash clothes;
Then listen to the words coming from behind the smoke cloud:
This is our covenant, ten terms to our Brit.
The mountain of lightning, thick smoke, and thunder was so loud
That frightened People begged Moshe to later intercede
So they themselves would not hear directly HaShem’s words.
Moshe did as they asked so HaSHem’s words only he heard:
“Build now an earthen altar, for sacrifices to be blessed -
No idols thereon nor ever should be built anywhere…
Or use then un-hewn stone for an altar without steps.
No lewd dancing, modesty in worship, joy should be there...”
Unlike other nations, no nudity nor idols would be part of sacrifices and worship. One wonders if the Solomonic era compiler added a nudity on steps ban after David danced twirling on the palace steps revealing his manhood to all [no underwear]… What part of our Brit covers nudity and modesty? Be safe!!!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah wonder how laws can be used justly in courts:
Shabbat Shekalim/ Mishpatim 5781; More Brit Laws; Shemot [Exodus] 21-24:18 ;
2 Melachim [Kings] 11:17 - 11:20 ; 12:1 - 12:17 Sepahardic; Ashkenaz start 12:1;
with Maftir from Shemot 30:11 - 30:16
What do the terms of our Brit Covenant Contract mean?
Details of laws and compensations heretofore unseen?
Intentional murder or manslaughter: How can one tell?
The Judges must decide without bias, frivolous suits, or bribes;
Strangers, widows, orphans, the oppressed stand equal as well
‘Ere they on guilt, restitution, compensation decide…
Who is property? While we know all people we must respect,
Which rights and behaviours of “owners” must we select
To evaluate and review, to condone or reject?
The souls and spirits of all folk we are told to protect:
NO abuse of parents nor employees tolerated;
NO kidnapping regardless of class or status stated;
NO cursing Judges for being fair; No interest lending to the poor;
NO evil tongue speech, lashon haRah; No kid boiled in milk; NO blood in food;
Found property must be returned; help struggling animals in distress;
Road kill and carrion are for the dogs; Do all the mitzvot to be blessed;
NO idols; NO magic; NO sacrifice to a ‘god’;
While self-defense is okay, a revenge murder is not.
Seduction, coercion, rape are theft of bride price and soul.
Forced marriage is the repayment if Dad and Daughter agree.
If not, the cost is the bride price as she can’t be made whole.
Such payment is said reasoned: valued eye for eye you see,
Medical treatment and time lost considered, too, in the cost…
Courts knew to calculate payment if a fetus was lost…
Or if a servant by vicious owned animal does die:
First offense to pay? Repeated: for owner murder to try?
So too for compensating loose livestock damaged then caught...
It is hard to determine when restitution is sought
For damage from wild beasts, loose animals, or missing thieves…
There is no-one found to sue, no hidden wealth to retrieve!
Fire starters, thieves of all kinds, animal borrowers pay
Restitution for their crimes as per what the Judge does say.
Observe Shabbat each seven days, shmita each seven years,
Post-seven shmitot: Jubilee! Males, first born, all for Priests.
Celebrate three pilgrimage festivals every year
With prayers and sacrifices, observances and feasts.
HaShem will soften nations up bit by bit, drive them out…
So now seventy elders and four Priests on sapphire floor
With HaShem up the mountain discussed the Law, feast, and more…
A pillar for each tribe’s sacrifice while they wait about
Forty days while Moshe went up the mountain for the Law.
We’ll learn more as we read later what else they did and saw!
Stay tuned… Shabbat Shalom!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah wonder how we can contribute to our community?
Shabbat Zachor/ Terumah 5781; Donations to Build; Shemot [Exodus] 25-27:19 ;
1 Samuel 15:1-34 with Maftir Deuteronomy 25:17-19
The Tabernacle needed to be built to plan
From freewill gifts, whatever to give people can.
Priestly garb [ephod and breast pieces] to adorn
From the Holy of Holies to each altar’s horn…
The innermost sanctum contained the Ark of Law,
Ornamental with carrying poles covered in gold,
Built with gold cherubim either side of the top
With wide wings spread for shielding the cover we’re told.
Nearby a table for accouterments to hold:
Show bread, spice holders, jars, ladles, bowls for the dough,
[The last three used in the preparation of bread],
Jugs for drinks or with water for cleaning instead-
All of gold pure best they could do [but not for bread!]
Seven lamps close by to light the Ark of the Law,
Each with six branches on a central four light stalk,
Three lights per branch – tongs and fire pans keep light going
When helped by hands for time eternal’s light showing.
At the inner room entrance embroidered a screen
Separating from the bronzed altar a space.
With bronzed carry poles, bronzed corner horns, bronzed means
Of basins for blood, scraper shovels for trash trace,
Flesh hooks turn offerings; atop a bronze sieve grate
To drain the waste from each sacrificial estate.
Outermost structure’s, like others: acacia wood;
For a frame to hold twisted linen coverings
Embroidered with Cherubim: crimson, purple, and blue;
Held in bronze or silver sockets with golden loops
And rings and clasps, silver hooks and bands according
To plan with bronze pegs and four layers on the roof,
Then tanned ram skin tent with dolphin skin waterproofed.
All the details of building given so they could.
Remember Amalek! Shabbat Shalom! Be safe!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah wander masked, hidden, doing good, unrecognized?
Shushan Purim, Tetzaveh 5781; Dress Incognito; Shemot [Exodus] 27:20-30:10;
Ezekiel 43:10 - 43:27
Sunset to dawn pure olive oil did light the Law.
Aaron and sons did this task but must dress for all:
Pouched breast cover, ephod, tunic, turban, and sash
With poncho beneath ephod, inscribed forehead plate,
Knee length shorts - or breeches if you prefer to say -
To cover sudden nude exposures. No oops flash!
A floor length tunic, woven and fringed, tied at sleeves
With a coloured sash and headdress complete the chic,
Though the forehead plate is only for the High Priest’s leave,
So, too, the breast pouch to the High Priest was unique.
Still, all the Priests were so colourfully adorned;
Vestments by dedicated, skilled labour were worn...
Two pieces were joined at ends for the ephod shoulders:
Engraved onyx shoulder buttons in gold holders,
Each with six Israelite tribes named in birth order
With wreaths of plaited gold chains all on embroidered
Fine twisted linen; yarns of gold, purple, scarlet, blue;
With a wide woven belt of the same colours too.
Two ply Urim/ Thummim pouch over High Priest’s heart
Within a bejewelled breast cover of four square parts:
Signet engraved for each tribe four rows of precious gems,
Per row three gold set gems; gold rings at shoulders and hems
Secured by blue threads – Breast pouch for Judgment calls’ sight
When Priest decides issues with Perfection and Light.
A sleeveless blue poncho under the ephod did rest,
The neck reinforced with a woven collar, no vest -
At hem, coloured balls alternated with golden bells.
These pomegranate shaped balls swung with the tinkling bells
As all his work the High Priest did without pause as well.
The turban had a front plate, signet-like inscribed:
“HaShem’s Holy”; held with blue thread on forehead side;
To bear the Israelite sins and atone for them all
After Priests were consecrated to answer their call…
Priests were washed and dressed inside the Tabernacle tent
To be consecrated. This for seven days they went
With unleavened breads and sacrifices to share
‘Til they were ordained, saying: “HaShem’s dwelling there.”
Sacrifices made tents stink, a disrespect to the Law…
Built was a small, square ‘altar’ for incense burning, daily twice,
Next to the Holy of Holies’ veiled screen opening’s maw:
With gold moulding, gold rings for the golden carrying poles;
Save yearly re-consecrating blood, ‘twas used only with spice...
Sin offerings year’s atonement to be made for all souls!
Shabbat Shalom! Be safe!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah know we must avoid idolatry and guard our souls:
Shabbat Parah, Ki Tissa 5781; Calves Red or Gold; Shemot [Exodus] 30:11-34:35;
A Mishkan Tabernacle we need to build,
But now, how can we pay the craftsmen so skilled?
A tax on each adult male for sins un-named
Claimed to ward off contagion, pandemic tamed!
For Priests’ hands and feet to wash at Mishkan’s door
Stood a bronzed washing bowl on the sandy floor...
While Moshe was up The Mountain the Law to get,
Lewd folk coerced Aaron an idol to make -
A golden calf idol! - and an altar to take
For feasting and dancing, worship you bet!
Oops! Then HaShem wanted to destroy them all,
But Moshe stopped such, asking HaShem to recall
Promised Land to Avraham and the Brit Pact,
Hence stopping HaShem from such a violent act!
When to Moshe the extent of sins was found,
He hurled the Law tablets to break on the ground.
Three thousand idolaters Levites did slay;
Heavy metal water was forced drunk that day.
This water laden with gold calf ash caused then
A “plague” on all as punishment for sins when
Prayers to a gold idol were the mob’s goal…
A reminder to zealously guard each soul!
Then HaShem’s Presence in a cloud at the Tent
Hovered there when to give counsel Moshe went.
Yet Tablets were still needed in the Ark to be:
For forty days Moish carved Law for all to see.
Upon his return, all idols were destroyed.
All idolaters then we had to avoid
So we could be pure for the Pilgrimage Feasts,
For Firstborn to redeem, for Shabbat to keep.
Special rules for Pesach note no sacrifice leavened
Nor left all night – days of Matzah are seven.
First fruits are for HaShem at Shavuot time.
To not be like the Pagan festival rites,
Never seethe a kid in its Mom’s milk [she’ll pine] -
But follow glowing Moshe to spirits’ heights!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah must each build our own Mishkan for HaShem:
Shabbat HaChodesh, VaYakhel/ Pekudei 5781; Mishkan Construction; Shemot 35:1-40:38; Ezekiel 45:16-46:18-34 [Ashkenaz]; Ezekiel 45:18-46:15 [Sephard]
Now the People assembled upon Moshe’s call.
Then they were told they needed to give their all
In donations of property, skills, and time
To build the Tabernacle to be very fine…
Freely they gave enough for the Mishkan and more
Until stopping - ‘Twas no room for excess to store!
Yet their skills were still needed, men and women both.
So the best of their talents came forth – none was loathe.
There was one, so dedicated, who oversaw all
Following the plan given in his recent past.
Based on his experience, Bezalel did call
On craft mistresses and masters to fill his Cast.
Then with them he addressed all the various needs;
With Ohaliab, organized that Cast to heed
Making altars for burnt incense or offerings;
Coloured linens, cherub designed as ark cover,
With the outer linen edges of wool loops, blue;
Seven golden lamps, of purest gold that they could;
An embroidered screen door; planks of acacia wood;
The show bread table and accouterments therefor;
Most Important the Ark and cherub cover! More:
Tanned skins of ram over the goat hair tent were laid
Covered by dolphin skin above. Mishkan parts made
Along with an embroidered screen enclosure gate;
Enclosure of bronze, silver, linen hangings, wood -
Mishkan and enclosure parts were then done, but wait!
The Tent of Meeting needed to be done as should
With women attendants’ help, as much as they could,
Whose bronze mirrors made the washing bowl and wash stand
And who at the tent with vestments could lend a hand…
Moshe blessed dedicated efforts and skilled tasks,
Instructed them on how to put it together.
The Tabernacle parts were cleaned and anointed.
Then Priests were washed, dressed, anointed as appointed.
Burnt incense and offerings, grain offered at last…
Shkina’s cloud filled Mishkan regardless of weather
Until Israelite journeys would need to resume.
When encamped were HaShem’s cloud by day, fire by night,
A visible reminder that HaShem was nigh!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah must each decide what our offerings and sacrifices should be for HaShem:
5781; Offerings; VaYikra 1-5:26; Isaiah 43:21-44:23
VaYikra, Leviticus, the handbook for the Priests to study
Tells how to expiate or celebrate when learned with a buddy…
Details are given on how sacrifices were to be prepared:
No blood nor fat from organs nor from entrails were to be used
For offerings of celebration, atonement, or gratitude.
Expiation was given for the sins and guilt of those who cared
But criminals gave no offerings unless compelled by the Court.
Maybe repayments were required although full forgiveness came up short…
How to prepare offerings specific to each reason was told
(Such as refusing to witness, contact with nidah or death,
Or for prayers for peace; words of thanks, joy, or blasphemous oath)
While Priests were taught words to celebrate or expiate with each breath.
Considered about sins was whether to falter there was intent;
Or whether it be to defraud, rob, or illegally take;
Whether it was individual sin or a community bent
On unethical practices for their gross selfishness to slake…
It is said all leaders cannot avoid sinning and must atone.
Hasidim says Gates of Heaven are closed to those who do not heed
Forgiveness, atonement, whether as a group or being alone -
Sages such as Rambam or Abravanel said we do not feed
HaShem sacrifices. So not to confuse folk, they are no more.
Rather with prayer and good deeds, HaShem we honor and adore!
Shabbat Shalom! We at Beit Torah must each decide for what the fire in our hearts burns [hint: not antacid!]:
Shabbat HaGadol;Tzav 5781; Fire in our Hearts; VaYikra 6:1-8:36; Malachai 3:4-24
Yitro told Moshe:”Delegate”. That then was done
By giving the Priests all the spiritual tasks,
By anointing them with a seven day cleanse, won
With little suffering so that they then could bask
In the sweet adoration by the People’s trust
That all what Priests did would lift their spirits as must.
Moshe consecrated accouterments and tools,
The tabernacle and altars as per the rules
Until Priests, fully anointed, duties could do
Or later anointed Kings these duties could do too!
With more rules for Priests who are no more
To handle the People’s guilt and thanks;
To feed Moshe and Priests evermore
No organ fat, only breasts and shanks.
Does altar fire all night in the heart of the camp
Mean such intense fire lit in our hearts will be stamped
There forever? So if blood on clothing is spilled,
We boil out impurities; cleanse our hearts as willed.
Now a person anointed, a Moshiach makes -
Hence a Messiah of regular human form…
Never a Moshiach was ever meant to take
On being a supernal redeemer reborn!
Where is the fire of your passion?
Who now can be our anointed leader? Do we need one?
Are your fire and leader both spiritual?
Pesach 5781 – Motzei = evening after [in this case Shabbat] [said “Moe-tsay]
Oh the prospect of crunchy matzah for nine days,
A special treat when Pesach: Shabbat Motzei!
Who can predict the joy when April fifth rolls around,
When pizza and puff cremes in the fridge will be found!
Pesach is over. Now we appreciate leavening even more. However we at Beit Torah would really like to be focused on the now. Friday [4/9] is the Day of Remembering the Holocaust and the Bravery of those who resisted. Next Thursday is Israeli Memorial Day [4/15] and Friday [4/16] Independence Day. Much to think about and remember.
Shemini 5781 Impurities, Impunities…; VaYikra 9:1-11:45; 2 Shmuel 6:1-7:17
Impurities, impunities, sincerity, immunities
All pertain now to this week’s readings
Of sincere heeding or not heedings…
Moshe taught Aaron how offerings must be done.
Aaron was to teach all processes to his sons,
But Nadav and Abihu, heady with power and drink,
Did not follow those ways when they entered the Holy rink.
A strange fire flash-over left their tunics untouched
Burning alcohol and anointing oils with such
Ferocity that Moshe decreed: no loose hair,
No torn clothes, no drinks, no oils, face the ark when there!
Sons Elazar and Ithamar ate burnt sin offerings
That Dad Aaron wrongly had done. Hence he was inferring
That the tragic fire was punishment for his not heeding.
Then more laws did follow on what foods we could be eating,
How to tell if a critter was kosher to eat:
Fins and scales; cloven hooves; no predators; - replete
With locusts and grasshoppers and crickets as added treats…
Later revoked as identities weren’t recalled complete.
The vaccines here are kosher and needed by all-
To get immunity, the pandemic to stall.
Uzzah was faithful, but when the ark tipped,
He touched it. It then crushed him as he slipped.
When his wife, Mical, loudly decried his manhood display,
David did not heed her. So they went their separate ways.
So stories this week have impure impunities to suss.
Sincerity did not prevent consequences. Discuss!
May we all have a safe and restful Shabbat… and get totally vaccinated soon!
It is somber to recall the unnecessary deaths of so many people in every generation. Hence we at Beit Torah are focused on the now: Thursday is Israeli Memorial Day [4/15] and Friday [4/16] Independence Day.
Tazria/ Metzora 5781 Discharge Triage; VaYikra 12:1-15:33; 2 Kings 7:3-20
If it looks off, call Cohanim Priests
For priestly triage with some quarantines.
It may be fungal, allergic, or yeasts
On skin, on clothes, or inside stones unseen…
If it looks wrong presume contagion risk
That must be quarantined until proven not.
For people: bathing and purifying mix
After shaving hair off, tainted clothes thrown out;
By the Tent of Meeting, blood and incense sprinkle
(Yuk! Gross!) to ‘purify’ every wrinkle…
Now discharges make both genders impure they said
Even if natural upon the sex bed.
By the Talmudic times though men were excused
From needing to bathe after every act.
Yet for natural women’s monthly discharge:
Quarantine then bathing was the needed track…
What of childbirth and the blood therefrom?
Quarantine Mother until the brit for boys
Or even longer when a girl babe was born
Who can’t carry on the name? Or brings less joy?
Or do Mom’s hormonal changes differ some?
Unnatural discharges made all impure.
Hence all involved seven days respite received
Followed by washing the bedding and people
Returning to life’s activities relieved,
‘Til the next discharge starts the cycle once more.
For those structures with blight, rot, mildew, or mold:
Quarantine seven days like people we’re told.
After cleaning out the places of wrong hue,
If rot returns, structures are demolished too.
If not, the place must be splashed with mix
Of blood, incense, and so on to complete the fix.
[Ewww!] Shabbat Shalom!
A Haftorah word: describes siege on a town.
With the people starving, the Prophet proclaimed:
This bitter challenge they would soon overcome…
While four outcasts were convinced to surrender
To the invaders, but they arrived too late -
For gallopings were heard echoing around
(?pounding in water cisterns and pipes in the ground?)
Chasing the troops away! Their riches were found,
Shared by all save the King trampled asunder…
For Shabbat 4/24/21
Is there hope we all can love each other? At Beit Torah we would like to believe so.
Acharei Mot/ Kedoshim 5781 Over 78; VaYikra 16:1-20:27; Amos 9:7-15
In Torah, the do’s and don’ts we often find
If only we bother to open our minds…
First was told how to stay well safe to the Priests
Focussed on the High Priest to the ark’s approach
With a week of cleansing, linen garments cleaned,
To atone for sins: first his, then all others.
To remind us of Aaron’s wrongly burnt feast
Of the sin offering? Or for all brothers?
On the tenth day of the seventh month, Tishrei,
For all Peoples is the Spirit’s New Year’s Day…
Incense burnt for gossip, slander, sins unseen;
Blood pure ark in incense cloud for sin goat’s roast
Atones for Priest’s sins. Sins of folk on second goat
Sent to the wilderness to disperse our sins…
Only Mishkan’s offering of two goats wins
As sacrifices elsewhere were banned we note.
The Laws said clearly to us all: Blood don’t eat;
NO carrion; NO mutilated nor live!
If you touch the dead, impure ‘til eve, then bathe.
NO blood sports; NO practices of Canaanites
Nor of Egyptians; NO idolatrous ways;
But tree fruit, fifth year or later, are your treat!
Don’t violate Torah save for folk to save
From idolatry or killing with intent,
Adultery, incest… though your life be spent…
NO close relative sex (marriage included).
Such inbreeding leads to few and sickly kids
Who don’t mature to marry and make more yids…
Sex acts with animals also excluded...
NO child sacrifice, NO sodomy we’re told.
Yet payment for sex with marriage promised slave
Was practiced, not now in use, but then of old…
Follow these Laws for to HaShem’s path to pave,
Surrounded by good folk, other Laws embrace:
Don’t be a scoundrel in Torah, a shrewd con
Who can’t be prosecuted on worldly shores;
Deference to elderly; revere Dad and Mom;
Be Holy! Keep Shabbat! Leave gleanings for poor
Whom we should help (so they won’t steal) even more.
If no left gleanings, are we by greed stealing?
If we then defraud with dishonest dealings,
Is it stealing as robbers of others’ rights?
Watch our tongues to not profane the Holy Name;
NO vengeance nor grudge; NO species mixes;
NO pimping; NO self-mutilation fixes;
NO shaving like Egyptians; NO seance acts;
Nor soothsaying, divination days or nights;
Don’t abuse others who are disabled – PAUSE,
And think it could be you, too, with just the same…
Or you could be blind, unaware of the laws…
Best reaching blind judgments with using just facts…
Do not adopt non-Torah ways of others in the Land.
For if you do misbehave, you’ll have naught on which to stand.
Punishments of old no longer are in use.
They may now appear in subtle ways, obtuse.
To keep the Land, all these Laws we must follow,
Else our prayers to Hashem will be hollow.
To reap the promised blessings that ours could be,
We must love each other and justice seek…
Does our classifying others open the door to divisions and bigotry? At Beit Torah we fear that may be so and wonder how to achieve harmony and unity.
Emor 5781 Cohain do’s and don’ts; VaYikra [Leviticus] 21:1-24:23; Ezekiel 44:15-31
Is each Levite and Cohain just like us all?
Or do they have some special duties and rights?
This Cohanim’s handbook part limits its call
To Priests striving to be in the Holy Light:
For close relatives burial touch is got
When they pass though for a married sister not
Unless a childless divorced or widowed lass…
Not one pagan mourning rite can be done.
Yet a touch of death makes Priests not pure
Until end of day – then water cleansed and splashed…
Or if from eruption or discharge impure,
Eight days wait, recheck until wash need is won.
So virgin marriage was the restriction then,
(Cohain widows later added as okay.)
Else sons grown up to be Priests can not so be.
The High Priest was restricted even more when
Marriage just to virgin Kohenet decreed,
Else a grown son could never be a High Priest.
And... We don’t burn up Kohenet whores today!
So too the disabled Priests’ leadership ban
Causing rejection of a disabled man…
It is a dilemma for us all today:
Defining who’s disabled we need to say…
Yet during war time drafts some young boys were maimed
So the Russian draft would not take them away.
Without a Temple, sacred foods matter not.
So, too, physical offerings are forgot.
Yet the times to celebrate remain with us:
A weekly Shabbat of rest, no work, no fuss;
Chag Pesach the fourteenth; Chag Matzot next day
(With start of Omer count) for seven days long
With the last day of rest as Omer counts on;
Until Shavuot is reached with gleaning left
So all could rejoice and none left food bereft;
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot in Fall
Welcomed by shofar blasts, self-denials all;
Followed by festive booth living for a week
Shaking etrog, lulav: willow, myrtle, palm;
Closed by an assembly day for all to speak
Of the joys and success in post-harvest calm.
Mishkan Menorah lit evening to morn
Became the eternal lighting of our Law.
The twelve Shabbat loaves with frankincense adorned
Now are two for our table without any flaw.
Blasphemer stoned dead is no longer in use.
Saadia said ‘eye for eye’ means pay for abuse.
Be it beast or man, restitution’s needed.
Yet too, for each murderer, death is meted.
To each person, all folk, Laws apply the same.
No changes on differences. Just one game!
Be safe you all!
Shabbat Shalom! Are we all of equal value? How can we achieve equality? At Beit Torah we have no idea what can work despite our many ideas...
B’Har/ B’Chukotai 5781 Achieving Equality and Equal Value;
VaYikra [Leviticus] 25:1-27:34; Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Seven years until Shmita leaving lands untilled
To reverse nutrient depletion, health losses refilled.
Yet maintaining for health: vines and trees could be hewed!
Seven by seven years then led to Jubilee.
T’was often never followed unfortunately.
All was to be re-balanced, out of poverty to be.
Poor and rich made equal, clear at least in theory,
For a fresh, clean start, energized and not weary.
Foreclosures to be reversed, so too servitude…
For all is HaShem’s, hence no folk owning, just lease.
Servants are just temps until Jubilee release.
Yet some renegged on contracts saying what would be:
Refusing to return servants, lands, properties.
Despite equal Jubilee food uncertainties
Somehow the rich stayed rich, the poor poor were not pleased,
And the Priests had their hands filled with Spiritual disease!
If you truly embrace HaShem and do behave
You will be able to live life free, not a slave.
Peace, rain, and crops – fertile life all around
In people, in flocks, and throughout the ground.
Yet if you misbehave, all will be lost: your battles fought,
Wars, illnesses, barren fields, wild beast attacks, famine, drought,
Despair unto cannibalism, destroyed cult sites and folk,
National identity lost, towns ruined, no fuel to coke…
Still HaShem welcomes vows of repentance – T’shuva -
So people are valued as to costs of their vows
From one month old babe up, save for offspring first born.
Male and female alike offered vows of values Priests formed.
For tithes taxes and vows on holdings, flocks or land,
The Priests assessed the values according to plan.
We all finish now this murky handbook for Priests.
Gone on to desert stories as this book does cease! Chazak! Chazak! V’Nitchazek!
Shabbat Shalom! Can we all be counted equally? What is the significance of being counted equally? Voting access? Housing? Health care? At Beit Torah are we all counted equally?
B’Midbar 5781 Being counted equally;
Numbers 1:1-4:20; Hosea 2:1-22
Why ‘Numbers’ when ‘in the desert’ the Hebrew is
For this next Book of Torah we now embrace?
Perhaps since it starts with many a census counts:
Of elected tribal Chiefs (for just dealings – a fount);
Of draft aged men; of one month old males and older;
Of all Levites en toto and by each clan’s case -
Not once but twice to assign tasks each must shoulder
Ages thirty to fifty, light tasks for older biz
When post-fifty wisdom is the skill used best:
How to dismantle and assemble Mishkan parts;
How to organize the camp, all facing the ark,
By each unit of each tribe at Moshe’s behest.
If elef is one thousand, the census seems wrong.
Yet if elef is a unit of six or five,
The numbers to camp for forty years and survive
Are reasonable in a desert clime to belong.
Since Reuven’s misbehaviours it possibly seemed
That the Levites were viewed like first born by HaShem…
Hence first born sons for the Priests could then be redeemed
At five shekels a head by the Pidyon HaBen.
Of a spiritual desert Hosea wrote
In our Haftorah portion for this week’s readings.
By temptations refused, the Exodus recalled,
Our bond with HaShem restored by Mitzvot heeding.
Ken yehi ratzon! So may it be! Shabbat Shalom!
Shabbat Shalom! Do we falsely accuse others of wrongdoing? Do we embrace vows to our own detriment? At Beit Torah we try not to jump to conclusions...
Nasso 5781 Vows and Accusations; Numbers 4:21-7:89; Judges 13:2 -13:25
Now we learn more of how Levites special were made:
Merarites stood to protect Mishkan contents all
Which were sacred to HaShem and the Tribes it’s said;
Gershonites transported Mishkan parts without falls;
Kohathites maintained the Tent of Meeting quite well
While each clan performed its tasks, too many to tell…
One said to be impure outside the camp was placed
While those who had stolen were then given a break
At a hundred twenty percent repayment take,
Not two hundred... [ Was it guilty conscience based?]-
Yet since perishable gifts to named Priests were okay,
One wonders: were there bribes to limit costs that day?
Communal non-perishable gifts to coffers saved
Allowed Mishkan functioning in every case
Such as for women accused of being unchaste,
Then given floor dirt and cursed ink flavored water
To cause childlessness if an unfaithful daughter,
But not death, just shaming, from the cursed bitter ink
Or bitterness when falsely accused one might think…
Yet no consequence for a false accuser was made…
[Paranoid misogynistic men on parade?]
Now the Nazarite vows were not taken lightly,
Required no takes of grapes or ferments in any form,
No hair cuts, no nearing the dead. So was the norm.
If someone present died, vows restarted once more
After seven days impure shaved rightly,
With purifying rites for spirit to restore.
Speaking of Nazarites, it’s good to know
That the Haftorah for this week, as Judges goes,
Is of the birth of Samson with his Mother’s vows
Of no grapes nor ferments nor wines nor nearing death
To finally have a child to raise with each breath,
A male child who grew to be by HaShem quite blessed
Like our portion ending with three Priest blessings blessed...
Shabbat Shalom! How often do we see what others see but perceive it differently? At Beit Torah we need to listen more intently to those differences...
BeHaalotecha 5781 Varying Views; Numbers 8:1-12:16;
How to make lamp stands from hammered gold alloy plate
Opens our parasha portion to light the way
To another revealed version of Yitro’s name,
One more account of Mishkan* purification
Restating Levite’s special first born-like station
So Israelite sons [but not from flocks] can regain
Family status when redeemed with shekels paid.
Now Yitro, Hobab, and Reuel are Zipporah’s line
As named Midian Priest, High Priest, Grandpa or Dad.
The confusing bit may stem from multi-sourced tales
Of the same events of history, yours and mine,
Just like Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb, both HaShem*’s pad,
The Holy abode, source of our Brit, whence Mitzvot hale!
Also at odds are male head counts and job ages
Whereas before, Levites started work at thirty...
Now twenty-five, a larger workforce was made...
The old were only guards, no hands getting dirty…
Still as before, post-fifty we may find sages.
So elef’s unit, not a thousand as today,
Said unit likely comprised of five or six guys
Totalled a count where all could find work if they tried.
This is seen, too, when telling of longing for meat -
Three K plus kin [not six hundred K plus] to feed
Is easier with dropping quail for a month of meals,
So free dropping birds were at quite a price, a steal!
Were they low on oxygen, energy or air?
Did a toxin overcome them? hot fumes? or death fare?
As uncooked or uncured, with raw meat: Death was there…
Was bdellium colored Mannah a better stew?
Corriander seed and cream taste kept folk alive.
If one missed Seder, in a month was a re-do.
Did Pa Hobab agree to be the People’s guide?
Herein is told: The Tent of Meeting’s outside camp
Unlike the central Mishkan, Shechinah*’s cloud…
So when travel was needed, trumpet blasts were loud
With given signals to guide the gathering crowd
Following the high Mishkan cloud along their tramp.
(Such horn blasts were used too to herald special days
Of Festivals and Rosh Chodesh* BaAretz* stays…)
We are told the camp outskirts suffered a blaze
Of perhaps a lightning strike or man made mishap…
If Tent of Meeting was located there those days,
Then a first seventy elders in meeting trapped,
Perished- all lost – So Moshe tried to fill the gap;
Overwhelmed, suicidal, exhausted, despaired;
Told to gather another seventy; aware
Of their honest efforts to fairly judge with care
Along with Eldad and Medad, prophets spirit-filled,
In the camp amongst the people as HaShem willed.
Or was this version of how seventy gathered
An otherly sourced tale of how judging mattered?
His siblings hazed Moshe about his Cushite wife.
So Miriam’s stress caused her scaly skin so white;
Gave her seven days quarantine for her to heal;
Then on to Paran with no further word revealed...
Shabbat Shalom!* Mishkan = Tabernacle
Shabbat Shalom! What triggers mob violence? Can it be prevented? At Beit Torah we need to cling to Mitzvot to avoid the temptations of the mob...
Shlach Lecha 5781 Mob Violence; Numbers 13-15; Joshua 2:1-24
Now twelve scouts were chosen, one from each tribe.
They were sent to check out the Promised Land.
They returned with a plump grapes bunch in hand
And a good report of milk and honey
Flowing throughout, with right rainfall, sunny.
Yet they felt for to conquer a bad vibe
Of them being very weak and far too small
To take over the Land, to take it all.
This fear, this vibe, they gossiped widely spread
‘Til frenzied folk wanted dissenters dead.
Caleb and Joshua were barely saved
When Shechina in Meeting Tent was seen
Telling Moshe he had to intervene
And stop the mob violence the People craved.
How frightening for him it had to be
When ‘good’ folk into monsters he could see.
More so for Joshua’s and Caleb’s sight…
Repeated over in our history:
Kristallnacht, Tulsa, the Native homes wiped
Out by lies, hatred, myths, and bigotry.
While the Scouts brought back a plague somewhat new,
Killing more than ten mob leaders, at least,
The People were told it is time to go
‘Tween the inland valley Amalekites
By the Sea of Reeds near the Canaanites
(This reed sea is not the Exodus one,
But near a gulf somewhat more to the east.)
Still rebuked folk tried invasion re-do,
But without HaShem’s backing, failed, were done…
Their efforts left them with just deaths to show...
With the People then HaShem was not fine,
Threatening to send plagues and disown them -
Moshe pled for forbearance one more time,
Not wanting to sire a nation chosen
To follow the Brit without mobs nor gripes…
So from his begging came a compromise:
Save for Caleb and Josh, adults perished
Before the People could enter the Land
Where future generations could then stand
Compliant with Laws, their Land would cherish.
By the by, a sacrifice list given
Told what to do post-forty years living
In the desert, then entering the Land
Where all peoples there had one Law as planned.
Residents, citizens, and strangers, all,
Were to have same rituals, rules, and Laws…
Now Moshe saw mob violence People made
So he feared becoming the next victim.
He was upset with politicking lies
After hoping at least some would realize
That mobs don’t follow Mitzvot. They stray.
So though told cut off* defiant sinners,
All the mob stoned the gatherer whose sin
Was Shabbat wood pick up. Hence no winners.
Not even one refrained from his stoning -
Just one such was what Moshe was hoping?**
Was the man senile? With one sick at home?
Context and intent were unchecked, unknown.
In wake of this so disappointing act,
Folk were told to always recall the fact
That Mitzvot must be followed all the time
So wearing Tzitzits*** now was to remind…
Now Caleb and Joshua were good spies.
So, too, Jericho’s Rahab helped two scouts;
Protecting them by hiding them with lies;
Helping them escape when they went about.
She was rewarded for her work it is told
With family safety and growing old
In marriage with Joshua, leader bold,
And successful and well-known descendants…
Even the low can become ascendant!
*cut off = excommunicate or shun; defiant = intentional
** if one refused to stone the man, then stoning would have been prevented
*** tzitzits = fringes or tassels with blue thread on clothing corners
for June 12, 2021
Shabbat Shalom! What causes discord and divisive politics, be it in language or violence unchecked? How can we get to better cooperation? At Beit Torah we need to refrain from judging; we must listen and respect...
Korach 5781 More Rebellion; Numbers 16-18; I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Although they were not sent to scout out the Land,
Within the ranks of Levites there was dissent.
Korach was sure that he the People should lead.
Abiram and Dathan followed where he went.
Rebellion continued, now nearly a mob
Of two hundred fifty Chiefs of good repute:
Hoodwinked by Korach? Or Reuvenite desire
To regain first born state, their bitter dispute?
Korach said now all as Holy Priests could stand.
He ignored duties to strive to be Holy
And clear obligations he’d not understand.
‘Twas power he wanted, ego feed solely…
So Moshe replied to the challenge with calm:
Come all with fire pans of fire and incense balm
To the Meeting Tent, see who’s chosen come morn…
While signals of earthquakes and sink holes did form...
Moshe could tell well what these signs would portend.
He saw the rebel camps in mortal danger.
He knew from experience how this could end,
But the People knew not as desert strangers.
Moshe warned all to stay clear of those doomed camps,
Explaining that strange death would be upon them.
All Abiram, Dathan, most of Korach stayed...
Their disbelief was quite misplaced. The earth then swayed
And rumbled and opened wide to swallow them
So completely - and then sealed all in the mire.
The shaking and quaking caused panic and fear.
People fled in all directions, falling, dropping wares -
So that the two fifty controlled not their pans…
Fire lit the flammable, engulfing all there…
Fear fired up a mob that blamed Moshe for deaths,
Thinking that he, not HaShem, made folk expire -
Then the Shechinah cloud covered the Meeting Tent
Where with HaShem to talk Moshe quickly went
To stop destruction of the mob, madness bent,
While Aaron made fragrant forgiveness prayers,
Stopping the then started plague’s spread through the air.
Just a few thousand [or fifteen K] lost breath...
Fire pans in the blaze were thought to be Holy.
They were gathered to make plating for the Ark.
Yet the leadership question still was open.
So Moshe told Chieftains to bring their rods:
All twelve tribes along with Aaron’s, bark to bark,
Stored overnight – then clearly chosen at dawn
Was Aaron’s blooming and almond fruited one.
‘Twas placed by the Ark, reaffirming his job.
With all this, Folk feared to be near the Mishkan
Fearing death for their misdeeds then might be won.
Without land, the Levites to survive had a need:
For them ten percent tithes and first fruits were received.
As for the first born, boy babes could be redeemed,
One month old: five shekels/ twenty gerahs wad…
Another rebel chapter done, so it seemed…
Shabbat Shalom! How can we become impure? What can purify us when needed? At Beit Torah we need to attend to the dead even as we would the living, even if it might make us ‘impure’...
Chukat 5781 Red Heifer, Red Blood, Reed [Red] Sea; Numbers 19-22:1; Shofetim [Judges] 11:1-33
They were short on water, yet pure they still needed to be
Particularly after coming in contact with death.
They took a red heifer, burnt it up completely to ash,
Then mixed its ash with water, all outside the camp, so that
The mix was for use when purification was needed,
Sprinkled by hyssop on tent, vessels, and folks so treated.
Was such a practice needed when Miryam at Kadesh died?
With their dowser gone, there was no water. The People cried,
Which angered Moshe. He spoke harshly to all of no faith
That he would find a way from the rock’s inside to provide
By cracking the volcanic outer shell with two staff strikes…
Yet he should have said the glory was HaShem’s – not his own…
So it’s said that’s why Moish could not go to the Land, go Home.
With all the dramas going on, Moish was likely quite tired,
Wanting to see Midyan family and friends, to retire…
Yet Aaron was feeble, so close to death that up Mount Hor
He went to give his vestments over to his son and more,
With Eleazar as Priest, join his Forbears at Moab’s edge
[Since the Moabite King refused to the People passage].
So there were thirty days folk mourning, for Aaron a pledge…
Arad’s King attacked thinking deep grief weakened the masses,
But the People were strong enough. His attempt met defeat…
Then they kept on going through the wetlands by the Dead Sea.
Along this way of travel they came upon
Some orange-gold coloured snakes’ hatching ground.
That they’re not vipers the Folk did not know,
So hysterics and fear of painful bites
Caused much great distress such that some might die.
So Aaron’s copper serpent staff distracted
The folk to believe it would keep them live
If when they went, they did gaze up at it.
All they had to do was to go, go, go…
There were many Transjordan stops on their way
Through the wadi streams, marshes, and sand dunes.
Then they asked to pass through Amorite lands.
When refused and attacked, they won the day.
Still when faced with Haughty Og, they over-ran
Them with no ask, taking Bashan, their ruins.
Now Ibn Ezra said the Book of Wars
Included songs of praise to these battles,
But given that that Book is now no more,
We’ve no way today to know its prattles.
So we leave this parsha on Moab’s steppes
With Jericho in sight from where Folk slept,
Camped east of Jordan River as it swept.
Once more we had Ammonites causing grief
When the People were settled in the Land.
They’d become soft so they turned to a thief,
A skilled warrior highwayman to stand
Against invaders. With one ask he agreed:
That he’ld become ruler if victory!
He vowed if so, the first life to meet him
At home would be sacrificed – gratitude…
Omitted in Haftorah, verses then say
His daughter, only child, rushed to greet him!
The women mourned her each year for four days…
Later Commenters said she was sent away
Never to know a man in any way...
Shamed such conduct was rude, lewd, and eschewed?
What do you think of their editting ways?
Shabbat Shalom! How can we truly listen to the world around us? How can we hear and understand HaShem? At Beit Torah we strive to remember to discover all the facts of a situation before coming to a judgment and taking action...
Balak 5781 Truth, Justice, Mercy, Humility, Talking with Animals;
Numbers 22:2-25:9; Micah 5:6-6:8
King Balak sent for Bilaam to curse all the People
Bilaam clearly did not want to go.
King Balak insisted, bullied Bilaam to come -
HaShem was displeased. Bilaam did know.
Now on his way, his donkey dear
Could see the danger coming near.
She balked and stopped. Saved his life…
Bilaam had thoughts on other things,
Was not aware what action brings…
He cussed and fussed, beat her thrice.
Then he continued on to his unpleasant fate
To thrice bless the Israelites encamped,
Gain King Balak’s ire, punishment could not wait
As HaShem’s consequence, sealed and stamped.
Not only did Balak the camped People not curse
But Bilaam’s three tries led to something far worse…
On the third Ma Tovu blessing it came to pass
That other nations were doomed to lose, alas...
Midyan was a loose Congress of many tribes.
Not in any sense were they ever Moabites.
Now few of the tribes had treaties with Moab Kings
But just for peace and trade, not habits nor rites.
Yet when some Moabite women led men astray,
A Midyanite Princess’s life was to pay
By the hand of a hot-headed, bigot, zealot,
Who skewered her Israelite husband as well,
Them together in their tent on their marital bed.
So Josephus reported this info instead…
Pinchas, his evil rewarded with High Priest’s lot…
Or was it to temper his flames as some might tell?
The Haftorah concludes with how to be a Jew:
Seek Justice, Love Mercy, with all be Humble too.
Shabbat Shalom! How can we truly value each person? How can we respect our differences without imposing our own views on others? At Beit Torah we strive to not impose ourselves, but also to vigorously oppose being imposed upon…
Pinchas 5781 Blood Lines, Inheritance, Admonition;
Numbers [BaMidbar] 25:10 – 30:1; Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
Now Kohain character Pinchas was introduced to us last week,
Acting as a zealot in his youthful, hateful, murderous rage.
He believed in blood line purity like Ezra in later days
And like Hitler for the Aryan blood line purity he did seek.
Zimri ben Salu of the Shimonite tribe
Married Cozbi bat Zur, Princess Midyanite
When a plague was blamed on female Moabites.
Whether S.T.D. or flu-like did not jive;
Thought to be punishment for idolatries
At Peor where zealot Pinchas took their lives.
The Sanhedrin later would have disapproved
As unlike Moab, Midyan’s not a nation,
But foul murder made enemies out of all:
The Moab nation and Midyan tribes were moved
To oppose Israelites at each station…
Pinchas made no friends of the ‘impure’ at all…
For Land allotments: another census count
Caused wonder: which centuries past [four? or two?]
Serving Egypt – two exits combined as one?
Hyksos Kings lost with Plagues? Then slaves fleeing too?
Lower Kingdom times, one? Pi-Ramses fled, two?
It is rare to hear in Torah of women
Yet here: Serah, Asher’s daughter of sweet voice;
Yocheved, Moshe’s Mom placed his ark swimming;
Son-less Zelophehad’s girls who sought a choice:
Mahlah, Milcah, Tirzah, Noglah, and Noah
Wanted to inherit their father’s land lot.
Moshe agreed but later did remold
So only spinsters or married in tribe got
A portion which, if married, husbands took hold.
Over the years ways how to inherit changed.
Sages said the widows and the daughters could gain
To inherit by tenth century arranged
With the sons a full portion and the females,
A half amount; women fought for rights each day
So by nineteen forty three, got equal pay.
Yet if there were no sons or daughters or wives,
All went to the next of male kin still alive.
Then Moshe chose Joshua to follow in command.
Eleazar made it official: he laid on hands.
Then all were reminded to give offerings at those times
Appointed as Holy: daily; Rosh Chodesh; Shabbat;
Rosh HaShanah with shofar blasts; and now not forgot,
Yom Kippur with goats to purify, expiate just fine;
Sukkot outside living; Pesach; Shavuot in line,
Nearly all celebrated with good food and sweet wine…
At three Shabbatot before the Ninth of Av time
Haftorah admonishes our misbehaviours,
Asks us to truly consider staying in line
Else we’ll desolately despair lacking wavers.
Shabbat Shalom! How can we avoid acting out of vengeance? Can we trust our legal system to mete out justice? At Beit Torah we strive to find solutions to disagreements without fighting…
Mattot/Masei 5781 Havens, Land, Fighting, Purity, Oaths, Admonition;
Numbers [BaMidbar] 30:2-36:13; Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, Sephardim add: 4:1-2
Oaths and vows men make, they must do -
But for females, Dads can veto
As can their husbands veto too...
Yet only when oaths or vows first known
Is veto valid or chance is flown.
Fight Midyanites the Folk were told
Using a unit from each tribe.
Rekem, Reva, Zur, Hur, Evi:
Five Kings killed when Folk winning bold...
Hence Moab’s Bilaam lost and died.
It is said Bilaam had orchestrated
The women to entice the men astray…
Still, maybe the People were most hated
For Cozbi’s murder in so foul a way?
In any case, when the fighting was done,
Booty was taken, virgin captives won…
Yet all other prisoners were then killed…
Sounds like S.T.D. plague fear was then stilled.
After all this killing and horrid death,
The troops needed to purify their breath
As described in BaMidbar portions past:
Quarantine, bathing, lustration spray cast…
Reuven, Gad, half Menashe got to stay
East of Jordan River’s conquered land
Only if they agreed to join the fray
Conquering the west, as troops undermanned.
Tribes and clans were told that land to be theirs
They would need to conquer their given share,
Leaving not one remnant, all dispossessed,
Else left folk be a thorn, tempting the best…
Levites assigned towns as they had no land
As were man-slaughterers, refuge cities:
Three east and three west of River Jordan planned…
Girls inheriting restricted – a pity…
What’s to be done on entering the Land
Was explained to the Israelites as well
When they were east of the River encamped.
With all this said there’s little more to tell.
Now other books like Joshua do say
That taking o’er the Land was not this way.
It was slower, not all at once was done…
Not all were dispossessed when wars were won…
As warned before and in Haftorah too,
The thorns did prick with idols, the Land defiled!
Yet return and repent could see Folk through
‘Til Nations blessed and praised Folk all the while!
Shabbat Shalom! How can we avoid bloodshed and violence? Can this Parashah tell us what not to do? Or does it just remind us that there is always a tendency to do harm? At Beit Torah we strive to keep yetzer haRah [the evil inclination] in check…
Shabbat Chazon, Erev Tisha B'Av
Devarim 5781 Recap; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 1:1-3:22; Isaiah 1:1-27
Now Moshe was an old and feeble man
With his memory mayhap in part shot -
Of his days, they all seemed like yesterday,
So the Devarim Book is what we got:
A recap of forty long desert years
Of their fights and gripes did seem quite a lot…
Was it written later in Moshe’s name
Using newer, good language per each jot?
Hot off the press to help Josiah teach
A return to the laws that all might reach?
The bloody overtaking of the Land
With the slaughter of all its native folk
Was perhaps the end goal that Moshe planned,
But in truth not all local folk did croak…
The peoples and nations in Devarim and their known names
Are like in Numbers, but not all fights were described the same…
We close with a reminder that those Folk who stayed behind
Agreed in the East to be shock troops for the Western line.
Joshua, as military leader, was charged to trust
That HaShem would battle with him to conquer as they must…
We now approach Tisha B’Av with the first of Isaiah’s words
To the Kings of Judah during their four reigns
Railing against depravities, iniquities of which he heard
That would cause, if unchecked, desolation pains…
He urged them to fully cleanse themselves and right the wrongs they had done,
Such as by protecting the widows and orphans, too…
Or if not, Hashem would bring them low until evil was all gone,
Repentant ones called righteous, Zion redeemed anew…
For July 24
Shabbat Shalom! How can we comfort the grieving? At Beit Torah we strive to comfort all as best we can …
Vaetchanan 5781 Shema; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 3:23-7:11; Isaiah 40:1-26
Now Moshe had high hopes when he set out to do his task:
To free Jacob’s descendants and do all HaShem might ask.
Yet the People were quite naughty with idols, gripes, dissent…
They made HaShem quite cross with them nearly everywhere they went.
Moshe begged on their behalf their punishment to prevent …
HaShem, though cross with Moshe’s ways, in the end did relent.
With leading fights on Transjordan land, aged Moish could not keep up.
He sorely blamed HaShem, it is said, for keeping him in the East…
Still it was closer to family… Time for Joshua to lead…
Hence Moshe’s focus was teaching the Law for which there was great need,
Recapping the giving of the Brit by a voice alone, naught seen...
Then No idols could be made of HaShem’s form seen only in dreams.
In short, Moshe Rabbeinu taught the Folk to follow Laws
In order to achieve life especially in the Land,
To avoid destructions, calamities bad choices cause -
Although HaShem promised no annihilation was planned
While Heaven and Earth witness as us caretakers flub up…
And all again told of three refuge cities in the East…
Moshe exhorted Folk to faithfully learn, study, teach
All the Laws as well as the Brit he put within their reach:
NO idols; NO swearing falsely; NO other deities;
Observe Shabbat: livestock, Folk, servants, strangers to include;
Honor your parents [but only their good behaviours do];
NO murder [not ‘killing’]; NO adultery; NO stealing
[particularly of souls and spirits]; NO covetting;
NO false witnessing! Follow the Brit and all Laws to thrive,
To help prevent calamities as well as stay alive!
At this point, to the People Moshe proclaimed the watchword
Of Shema and VeAhavta as Brit, not command nor prayer.
Then he added on some more exhortations to be heard:
When lands are taken, destroy foreign idols, objects, places.
Do not intermarry. Foreign religions: leave no traces…
At times: Folk were told to expel natives; others: kill them there…
Bloody dramas of this portion along with the good, too,
Leave us a bit unsettled. What history should we rue?
So the comfort of Haftorah is welcomed, Nachamu,
With a promised Jerusalem restored – what does that mean?
Yet with a strong caution since our ephemeral flesh will be
As all is, save the Words of HaShem throughout eternity.
None can be likened to HaShem at who’s call all will be seen…
So Comfort’s the call as we go to the High Holy Days scene…
Shabbat Shalom! How can we care for the needy? At Beit Torah we strive to provide care to the needy as best we can …
Eikev 5781 Being Deserving; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 7:12-11:25; Isaiah 49:14-51:3
This portion reiterated that all needed to follow the Laws
Or else, it is further stated, there will be curses without pause.
Blessings, respect, admiration by all nations if we’re true
Or if not, infertility plagues and Egyptian diseases we knew
Will return with People’s bad choices regardless of prayer filled voices.
Reminders of the past recalled forty wilderness wander years,
Of Egypt’s plagues and wonders: miracle at the Sea of Reeds;
Manna as food; broken tablets; water found to provide for needs.
Stiff-neckedness; orneriness; building a golden calf from fears;
Fire destroying outskirts of camp along with Judges’ Meeting Tent;
Also plague from gluttony with uncooked quail as they went;
For such weaknesses and much more were these all sent as punishment
While Moshe interceded many times to save from even worse…
The People built an Ark as per given specs to avoid being cursed.
To Ancestors the Land was promised. ‘Twill be given on their crowns.
So, too, the People’s survival not by their merit but by grace
Of HaShem so they could conquer thirty-one Kings’ Canaanite towns…
This largess and Moshe’s pleadings repeatedly saved Aaron’s face
As well as of erring People’s, who’d yet to earn their Holy place.
Heed, they’re told: shun idolatry; treat all with no favors nor bribes
Just as HaShem does follow Laws; care for the widows and strangers,
Fatherless, converts, as you should your own family’s weal and lives.
Faithfully perform all the mitzvot to avoid further dangers…
Our second Shema paragraph, therein included, clearly stated:
Follow Laws, love HaShem to be blessed. Be faithful so all goes well.
Care for livestock, the less fortunate, and children before yourselves.
If these things aren’t done, you’ll be cursed. Bless HaShem when you are sated.
A similar vein here in Haftorah we find
As HaShem cares for offspring, cautions them to mind
With pronouncements and deserved punishments dished out
Calling all: pursue Justice, the Holy revere
As we recall our forebears who answered the call
To reach comfort, fruitfulness, joys bringing us near
With gladness, sweet music, thanksgiving, love and cheer!
Shabbat Shalom! Do we choose wisely? At Beit Torah we strive to do so …
Re’eh 5781 Being Deserving; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 11:26-16:17; Isaiah 54:11-55:5
This is the well known portion with focus on one thing:
When one is given to choose between curse and blessing,
One should choose life for the blessings, many it will bring,
Not like barren Ebal but like the lush Gerizim -
Both west of Jordan River where Folk entered the Land
In which they would follow rules and Laws as HaShem planned.
Yet first they were to wipe out all the idolatry,
All forms considered evil, including folk you’ll see
Encouraging your false worship – hence they all should be
Destroyed – including false prophets, even family…
This is uncomfortable to hear in today’s world.
We will not do as they did with harsh killing unfurled.
To get those desired blessings, worship as you are told,
Not as others do. Bless the future with good and right
As you rejoice appointed times with all your household,
With sacred and freewill offerings, feasts at night…
Recall: all of the blood is to be poured on the ground -
No self-mutilations among you are to be found …
Permitted foods are listed as was noted before,
Save for the eating of locusts permitted no more.
For some urban dwellers it is easier to do -
For farmers post-influx just locusts are left to eat…
Further, do not boil a kid in its mama’s milk too
And do not consume natural death carrion meat!
All offerings should be at the designated place,
Although must be observed even if too far away -
So if tithes the trip to the Holy Site won’t survive
Then they are to be sold with all funds hence to be used
On many goods at the designated Holy See
Of the Levites’ refuge, to boost the economy,
While making sure strangers, orphans, widows, and needy
Are always provided for not just on all feasts!
Now each seventh year remission of debts for the poor
Expected to default yet still given loans before…
Further release of indentured servants if they want
So all released plus the poor can get a new start…
Compassion’s the lesson for generations to flaunt…
We’re told the first born are consecrated to the Priests.
No repeat mention is made of the Pidyon HaBen…
Of importance it is said to celebrate all Feasts:
Pascal offering, seven unleavened days, and then
The Feast of Weeks and of Booths the whole household rejoices
At pilgrimage times with Feast special rites until when:
Sephard unblemished offered; Ashkenaz other choices…
The Haftorah tries to comfort the forlorn
Saying scholars will be children yet unborn.
Safety from wars and slander will be achieved
If faithful to Laws the forlorn will then be.
For hunger and thirst, food and drink will be free.
Their knowledge and counsel the Nations will seek.
for Aug. 14
Shabbat Shalom! Do we judge wisely? At Beit Torah we strive to do so …
Shoftim 5781 Judicious Judging; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 16:18-21:9; Isaiah51:12-52:12
We read: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue”
With impartial Judges and taking no bribes…
With two witnesses needed to convict
And cast the very stones to take those lives
Of idolaters or who verdicts flee
From Judges’ decisions or those of Priests…
Now if a witness a false statement gives,
And an investigation proves it so,
Then the punishment for the crime is his.
Paid equivalent for each loss you know -
Eye worth for eye... or tooth, hand, foot as you go…
Mellows Hammurabi’s harsh edict so!
When Folk are settled in the Land,
Three refuge cities there are planned,
Three more elsewhere if all goes well
For manslaughterers to restart…
If murder with intent instead,
To blood-avenger until dead…
There is always much to be truly judged:
Whether some boundary markers were moved?
Whether a prophet is true one or false?
If false, should die – but how can it be proved?
A chosen Monarch like a Judge should be...
Ever loyal to HaShem, humble, true,
Not haughty, faithful to Laws’ study too,
Not alien foreigner nor a hoarder
Of gold and silver nor of wives or steeds…
No exchange with Egypt for any needs…
No altars save only to HaShem,
Unblemished offered, no deities.
Support the Levites with sacrifices
Wherever may be their communities.
So if a human corpse on the road is found,
Responsibility’s on the nearest town
To bury, but Levites must clear the site,
Purify and absolve all guilt and fright.
Death if heathen acts are done, dispossessed:
Sacrificer of kids; caster of spells;
Consulter with ghosts, spirits or the dead;
An auger; diviner; or sorcerer;
A soothsayer to be cast out as well.
In a war you must preserve women, children, trees and vines
So that after the battles one can collect grapes for wines.
Even as the fellow with new unused vineyard released,
So too, the betrothed or one afraid, home sent they’re to be.
Offer surrender before the fight save to the locals
To be killed for fear that idolatry might be increased.
To comfort those in deep dread and fear,
Isaiah: stand tall, proclaim your faith
To the Holy Name, one who is near,
Who marches with you if you’re sincere.
Shabbat Shalom! Do we fastidiously follow the laws? At Beit Torah we strive to do so:
Ki Tetzei 5781 Rules and Laws; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 21:10-25:19; Isaiah 54:1-10
This portion’s seventy-four mitzvot we find,
But not all appear in these comments in kind:
Treat fair captives kindly, marry or release;
Give less loved wife a double portion increase;
Gal post-second husband can’t return to first;
Women’s rights not great – other nations were worse;
Newlywed exemptions like from army draft;
Sex, slave traders should be executed fast;
Nocturnal emission? Bathe and wait the day;
Rape of not betrothed means bride price must be paid;
Rapist of betrothed like adulterers die,
Including women in town not heard to cry;
Prove virginity at marriage, else no go;
Sex with close relatives is a big no-no;
No mixtures of work animals, threads, or seeds;
On outer clothing one needs to put tzitzits;
Shield escaped servants; just nest’s eggs to be used;
Make sure your homes are safe with guard rails for roofs;
Vows are to be honored as noted before;
Lepers like Miriam follow their Priests’ lore;
Shun maimed, bastards, Moabites, and Ammonites…
Grandkids okay of Egyptians, Edomites...
Lending’s at no interest among the Folk.
With no inflation worries, ‘twasn’t a joke!
Collateral of needs not to be taken
For loans to servants, widows, fatherless, poor,
Such as a mill or millstones, night clothes, and more;
For these people and for strangers, too, recall
To leave olives, grapes, and field gleanings for all.
Collection of debts’ not to endanger souls
Nor intimidate by forced entry to homes.
There’s no collective family sin assigned
For individual’s guilty act we find;
Even for cults, harlotry, defiant sons,
Cross-dressing or failure to pay wages same day won.
For all those sins for which guilty’s life is paid,
They’re to be impaled for view until end of day.
No false weights or altered measures to your likes.
Judgments can be given up to forty strikes.
If a brother’s levirate marriage is refused,
The widow in public then spits in his shoe.
If wife defends husband crushing attacker’s balls,
Her hand’s to be cut off! What a sexist call!
Had hubby protected wife in such a way,
What charges would be made? What would Judges say?
Care for wayward animals until claimed;
Do not muzzle oxen as they tread their grain;
If livestock is in distress, help fix the mess.
Remember Amalek who preyed on the weak,
Who must be wiped out every year, each week!
A favorite Haftorah appears this week
As only ten short verses to read there be!
From barren to fruitful inhabited Land
Is promised by HaShem with kindness and peace,
Leaving behind anger and rebuke now canned,
Returning comfort with compassion’s increase.
for Aug. 28
Shabbat Shalom! Do we compassionately reach out to help all in need? At Beit Torah we strive to do so:
Ki Tavo 5781 Charity; Deuteronomy [Devarim] 26:1-29:8; Isaiah 60:1-22
So we start this week’s portion with a simple refrain:
All first fruits we give to HaShem in thanks for the Land
While we recall Laban’s treachery in Aram pain;
Times in Egypt with slavery oppressing each man;
Resolve to care for strangers, Levites, needy, and poor.
With third year tithes collected they can get even more.
If all mitzvot followed correctly, renown’s at hand.
Upon entry to the Promised Land, the Folk were told
They needed to write the Law on twelve pillar steles,
Plaster covered like in Egypt, but this Land won’t hold
[Too wet!], placed on Mount Ebal for all to see…
Six tribes stood on Ebal and six others Gerizim,
With Cohanim and altar in the valley below.
As blessings were pronounced, all said, “Amen” in clear voice
Just as in prayer services of later years we know.
All had a memorable event of the Brit choice.
The Blessings were clearly coming from observing rules:
Such as fertility in family, flocks and fields;
Surpluses in many products; with a plenty food;
Enemies will be scattered; safety in travel too.
So all will be approached from the head, not the tail/ heels!
Then the curses were so listed in spades
For all those who refused still to obey:
Weather calamities, blessings reversed,
With pandemics, inflammations, folks cursed…
Madness, abuse at the hands of others…
Infidelities, idolatries, pests,
Panic, corpses rot, kids: enslaved brothers,
Infections, infestations, no nerve rest…
Strangers rule, no place as home, projects doomed…
As in Lamentations, all horrors loomed…
An encouraging closing is meted out to all:
Since succeeded with Reuven’s, Gad’s, and half-Menashe’s call
On the River’s East, so too on the West: Success with Gall!
Isaiah’s haftorah promises this week
Fertile families and good economy
With all prospering and Peace throughout the Land!
Our small nation will have honor in the world,
Our flag equal among all nations unfurled!
for Sept. 4
Shabbat Shalom! Do we pursue good quality of life for all? At Beit Torah we strive to do so:
Nitzavim 5781 Choose Life; Deuteronomy 29:9-30; Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Again we read reaffirmation of our Brit
So we’ll be blessed if we avoid idolatry
And follow all the Mitzvot Laws to not be cursed…
If we do not, life for all will be even worse.
The whole Land will suffer even if some don’t sin.
For those who scoff Laws, pardon has no path, can’t come in.
To follow all the Brit Laws, it isn’t too hard.
Hence it should be easy to choose which side of the card
Stands for blessings witnessed well by Heaven and Earth
So all choices combined will cause blessing not curse.
Isaiah once more with words of comfort galore
That Jerusalem’s returning People and more
Lead to rejoicing, redeemed by HaShem so well…
Nations saw our triumph of return as we tell:
HaShem’s not now angry; with mercy we’re renewed;
Saved with love; vengeance, anger, and fury eschewed!
May we forgive trespasses against us and be forgiven for ours!
Shanah Tova Tikateivu!
And Shabbat Shalom!