For the week ending 6 August 2016 / 2 Av 5776

Parshat Masei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah names all 42 encampments of Bnei Yisrael on their 40-year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. G-d commands Bnei Yisrael to drive out the Canaanites from Eretz Yisrael and to demolish every vestige of their idolatry. Bnei Yisrael are warned that if they fail to rid the land completely of the Canaanites, those who remain will be "pins in their eyes and thorns in their sides." The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined, and the tribes are commanded to set aside 48 cities for the levi'im, who do not receive a regular portion in the division of the Land. Cities of refuge are to be established: Someone who murders unintentionally may flee there. The daughters of Tzelofchad marry members of their tribe so that their inheritance will stay in their own tribe. Thus ends the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers, the fourth of the Books of the Torah.



“These are the journeys…” (13:17)

Every ba’al teshuva (a secular Jew who returns to observance) has a moment (or moments) of epiphany. A moment which seems to be sent directly from Heaven to help him on his journey.

At a reunion of a group of ex-secular Israelis organized by a leading outreach organization, one of the Rabbis happened to be passing by an older group. One member of the group picked up a piece of watermelon, and before eating it said with great concentration, “Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, shehakol nihiyeh bid’varo!”

Said the Rabbi, “Ilan, bidi’avad (post facto) the beracha you made is sufficient, but the correct text of the beracha is “Borei p’ri ha’adama”.

“Listen Rabbi”, said Ilan, “I was on the Golan Heights in a tank in ’73. We were surrounded by Syrian tanks. No one was getting out of there alive. Someone came over the radio and said, ‘Doesn’t anyone know a prayer or something?’ Silence. Then someone said, ‘I once heard something, and it goes like this: Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, shehakol nihiyeh bi’dvaro! So we all shouted in unison down the radio: Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, shehakol nihiyeh bi’dvaro! And ‘Boom!’ — we took out one of the Syrian tanks. So I shouted again: Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, shehakol nihiyeh bi’dvaro! And ‘Boom!’ — another Syrian tank! Baruch Atah Hashem… shehakol nihiyeh bi’dvaro! — and another one. …shehakol nihiyeh bi’dvaro! — another one; “…shehakol nihiyeh bid’varo! — and another one.

“So listen Rabbi, if it’s good enough for the Syrians, it’s good enough for watermelon.”

(*It’s a wonderful story, but of course the proper beracha for watermelon is as the Rabbi had instructed.)

  • Source: Heard from Rabbi Dovid Kaplan

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