Numbers 30:2–36:13Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
The Prophetic Voice
During the three weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha b’Av, as we recall the destruction of the Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in the prophetic literature, the first two from the opening of the book of Jeremiah, the third, next week, from the first chapter of Isaiah.
At perhaps no other time of the year are we so acutely aware of the enduring force of ancient Israel’s great visionaries. The prophets had no power. They were not kings or members of the royal court. They were (usually) not priests or members of the religious establishment. They held no office. They were not elected. Often they were deeply unpopular, none more so than the author of this week’s haftarah, Jeremiah, who was arrested, flogged, abused, put on trial and only narrowly escaped with his life.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Influence and Power
Knowing that he is about to die, Moses turns to God and asks him to appoint a successor:
Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Num. 27-15:17).
It is a farsighted, selfless gesture. As Rashi comments: “This is to tell the praise of the righteous – that when they are about to leave this world, they put aside their personal needs and become preoccupied with the needs of the community.” Great leaders think about the long-term future. They are concerned with succession and continuity. So it was with Moses.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
A People That Dwells Alone
One of the most profound and influential comments ever made about Jewish destiny was made by the pagan prophet Bilaam in this week’s sedra:
As I see them from the mountain tops,
Gaze on them from the heights,
Behold it is a people that dwells alone,
Not reckoned among the nations. (Num. 23:9)
To many – Jews and non-Jews, admirers and critics alike – that has seemed to epitomise the Jewish situation: a people that stands outside history and the normal laws governing the fate of nations. For Jews it was a source of pride. For non-Jews, it was all too often a source of resentment and hate.
Britain's Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks for OU
Why was Moses not destined to enter the land?
IT IS ONE OF THE MOST PERPLEXING, even disturbing, passages in the Torah. Moses the faithful shepherd, who has led the Israelites for forty years, is told that he will not live to cross the Jordan and enter the promised land.
No one has cast a longer shadow over the history of the Jewish people than Moses – the man who confronted Pharaoh, announced the plagues, brought the people out of Egypt, led them through the sea and desert and suffered their serial ingratitudes; who brought the word of G-d to the people, and prayed for the people to G-d. The name Israel means “one who wrestles with G-d and with men and prevails.”
Rabbi Bernie Fox for OU
What Was In It For Datan and Aviram?
“And Korach the son of Yitzhar the son of Kahat the son of Leyve separated himself, together with Datan and Aviram the sons of Ahaliav and Ohn the son of Pelet, the sons of Reuven.” (BeMidbar 16:1)
Korach initiated a dispute with Moshe regarding the leadership of Bnai Yisrael. Rashi explains that Korach was motivated by personal ambitions. Moshe had appointed Elisafan the son of Uziel as prince of the family of Kahat. Korach believed that he should have received this honor. Datan, Aviram and Ohn were not involved in this issue. They did not have this personal motivation to join the dispute. Why did they become involved?