Balak, King of Moav, is in morbid fear of the Bnei Yisrael. He summons a renowned sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them. First, G-d speaks to Bilaam and forbids him to go. But, because Bilaam is so insistent, G-d appears to him a second time and permits him to go. While en route, a malach (emissary from G-d) blocks Bilaam's donkey's path. Unable to contain his frustration, Bilaam strikes the donkey each time it stops or tries to detour. Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bilaam why he is hitting her. The malach instructs Bilaam regarding what he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say about the Jewish People. When Bilaam arrives, King Balak makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will succeed in the curse. Three times Bilaam attempts to curse, and three times blessings are issued instead. Balak, seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace. The Bnei Yisrael begin sinning with the Moabite women and worshipping the Moabite idols, and they are punished with a plague. One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe and the people. Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon, grabs a spear and kills both evildoers. This act brings an end to the plague — but not before 24,000 people diedThe laws of the Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer, are detailed. These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death. After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss of their water supply that until now has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam's righteousness. Aharon and Moshe pray for the people's welfare. Hashem commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth. Distressed by the people's lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of Hashem's mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe's word. Therefore, Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land. The Jewish People resume their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor, Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aharon was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him for 30 days. Sichon, the Amorite, attacks Bnei Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a result, Bnei Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.
Rabbi of the Year
“…a man who would die in a tent” (19:14)
We saw a lot of hashgacha pratit (Divine supervision) when our daughter got married a few weeks ago, but one of the more amazing events was the following. When the uncle of the groom, Julian, opened his invitation to the wedding, he exclaimed, “My rabbi is the groom’s father-in-law!” The fact that I was Julian’s rabbi was news to me. I’d never met him. Julian is a professor of physiology and biophysics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. As Julian explained at the Shabbat Sheva Brachot, he has a fifteen-minute ride from his office to his home. He doesn’t have a lot time, and so every Elul he chooses one rabbi from Torah Anytime to be his rabbi for the year. And this year, out of more than one thousand Torah Anytime rabbis, he chose me.
The modern media has brought a communication explosion. The virtual classroom means that you can now give a shiur, a lecture, that millions of people can join. Your audience is limitless. But it also has a drawback. Sometimes you feel, “Hello! Is there anyone out there?” When you speak to a live audience, you sense their reaction and it nourishes you. It gives your presentation life. When you make a video, you’re not speaking to flesh and blood, you’re speaking to a piece of glass, a lens that is as responsive as one would expect a piece of glass to be.
Baruch Hashem, I’ve had the merit to be able to make Torah videos for over four years on an almost weekly basis, but there’s no denying that some weeks I’m using more perspiration than inspiration. It gets more and more difficult to keep coming up with something original. There are just so many clips of desert landscapes to depict the Exodus, just so many videos of ancient Egypt. So, it’s really nice when someone steps out from “behind the lens” and gives you the encouragement to carry on.
“…a man who would die in a tent”
When you feel you’re in your own tent and there’s no-one out there, it’s great to know that someone’s listening.’
As Rabbi Noach Orlowek once remarked, “Rabbis need encouragement too.”