Korach (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32)

I have just returned from vacation.  Virginia Beach.  Just a few days, but enough for my brain to switch to low power, so I decided to repeat a TPH on demagoguery for Korach, which I thought I’d written last year, it being ever-so-appropriate in 2017.  To my surprise, I wrote it in July 2016, months before its relevancy shot up exponentially.  It is even more relevant today.  Democracy is a fragile form of government. It requires that everyone participate, knowledgeably and thoughtfully.  Abdicating that responsibility is an invitation to disaster. When you feel hopeless and betrayed by a world in which the rules have changed, along with your place in it, the idea of a strong man (yes, man, historically) simply taking over and making everything all right again (for you) is very tempting.  Keep that in mind as we examine the story of Korach.

From 2016. When we last left the Israelites, they were still coming to grips with the prospect of spending the next 38+ years in the wilderness instead of the Promised Land.  Their response is not the usual whining but a series of out-and-out rebellion.  In one, Dathan and Abiram (and briefly On ben Pelet, whose wife – according to Midrash – told him not to be an idiot and kept him away) feel they deserve higher status as descendants of Jacob’s firstborn Reuben.  Their insolence toward Moses is breathtaking (calling Egypt a land of milk and honey?!).  They join with Korach, an ambitious Levite, and 250 other chieftains in questioning the authority of Moses and Aaron:  “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the Lord is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the Lord’s congregation?”(16:3) 

Moses responds that they question not his authority, but the Lord’s. Further, for Korach et al., isn’t being a Levite special enough?  And he protests to the Lord that he has never personally profited from his position.  [That’s also how Samuel acts in the haftarah, I Samuel 11:14 – 12:22, telling the people what a fair judge he’s been and what ungrateful wretches they are to ask for a king.  This is as Saul is about to be crowned.] The next morning, he declares, the rebels are to bring their firepans for offering incense, which will show if they have the Lord’s favor.  Having apparently forgotten what happened to Nadav and Avihu (Lev. 10: 1-3), the 250 chieftains try to offer incense and are consumed by fire.  The earth splits open and swallows up Korach, Dathan, Abiram and their households, to the horror of the community.

Do the people settle down now?  Nope, they blame Moses and Aaron for what happened to the rebels.  A plague strikes (surprise).  Moses convinces the Lord not to destroy the people (again) and Aaron stops the plague by offering incense, so that “only” 14,700 die.  Aaron’s legitimacy is re-established when his staff, and only his, buds, blooms, and bears almonds.  The portion ends with a description of what the priests and Levites get from the Israelites’ offerings.

Korach can be difficult for us to get a fix on.  It seems reasonable for him to question the leadership of Moses and Aaron when faced with a total of 40 years in the wilderness.  However, it was the Israelites’ own behavior that doomed them.  Korach also seems to be promoting democracy, but, while apparently dictatorial, Moses and Aaron were given their authority by the Lord.  Korach is clearly an opportunist, but is he actually a demagogue?  In Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (Macmillan. 2009. pp. 32–41.ISBN 0230606245), Michael Signer cites James Fenimore Cooper’s (yes, that James) four rules followed by true demagogues (pp. 35-6): 

  1. They present themselves as being of the common people, not the elites.
  2. They depend on a powerful, visceral connection with the people, far beyond ordinary political popularity,
  3. They manipulate this connection for their own benefit and ambition.
  4. They threaten or even break established rules of conduct, institutions, even law. They do that either internally (threatening tyranny, subverting an inherently corrupt system of law) or externally by attacking other nations or groups.  In either case, they are intrinsically violent.

Signer describes the process.  “The cycle begins with a demagogue, ambition, and charisma.  …Soon enough, the people give him the government itself.  The democracy rapidly becomes a tyranny.”  In time, the tyrant is overthrown, eventually leading to a re-establishment of democracy, which lasts until the next demagogue emerges.  The Greek historian Polybius (2nd century BCE) described this as “a cycle of constitutional revolutions” in which the ashes of a destroyed democracy give rise to a despot because the people sacrifice freedom for order.

Back to Korach.  Korach exhibits the 4 demagogic behaviors listed to varying extents, but he doesn’t have enough time to develop into a full-blown demagogue capable of overthrowing the current system.  Of course, that would require besting the Lord, so Korach was doomed from the start.  Thank goodness.

Shabbat shalom, 



tph a-demagogue-with-delusions-of-grandeur-a-maniac-with-nuclear-weapons-an-evil-spymaster-as-a-countrys-president-when-did-i-start-living-in-a-marvel-comic




The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.  BARACK OBAMA, Feb. 9, 2009

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right. H.L. MENCKEN

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.  WINSTON CHURCHILL

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment. ROBERT HUTCHINS

Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.  H.L. MENCKEN



Oh no you didn’t! 30 acts of rebellion that will make your day (selections)

THEY’RE life’s little rebellions – like jaywalking or taking the lift during a fire drill. Here are 30 small acts of defiance that will make your day. Kate Midena   [I am not necessarily endorsing any of these, except #7, once in a while, and that depends on the dessert. IGP]

1 Catching the lift in a fire drill instead of taking 25 flights of stairs

5 Swallowing your chewing gum

7 Not just eating dessert before dinner, but eating dessert INSTEAD OF dinner

12 Sneaking a few extra items through the ten items or less line at the supermarket

15 Tearing recipes and pretty pictures out of magazines in waiting rooms

18 Jumping the queue and pretending you didn’t realise there were ten people in front of you

23 Eating potato chips for breakfast… potato is a vegetable so it’s good for you, right?

24 Switching your phone back on before you’ve been told you can on the plane

25 Quickly closing the lift doors when you see people coming

28 Being given extra change accidentally and keeping it



tph tectonic relationships


While looking for jokes about incense, I often see this definition:

INCENSE: Holy smoke!

I was at a study session a few weeks ago where someone asked what the origin of the phrase “holy smoke” was and I have now finally looked it up.

It does not refer to the smoke arising when a new pope is being elected.  It does refer to burning incense, but only in part.  IGP.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/holy-smoke/  The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest print sighting of ‘holy smoke’ as found in “The Epiphany,” a 1627 poem by Sir J. Beaumont: ‘Who lift to God for vs the holy smoke Of feruent pray’rs.’ (‘Who lift to God for us the holy smoke Of fervent prayers,’ for those better accustomed to more modern spelling.)

In that 1627 work, the phrase is used as a picturesque way of describing the burning of incense. It is not until 1892, however, that it is recorded as finding employment as an exclamation or mild expletive; that is, as a saying wholly divorced of anything literally to do with something being burned or the smoke it would give off. In that year, Rudyard Kipling and his American agent Charles Balestier used it as an independent vehemence in “The Naulahka:” ‘By the holy smoke, some one has got to urge girls to stand by the old machine.’ From that point forward, ‘holy smoke’ began appearing in the literature of the day as a generic exclamation.

The two uses may have arisen independently and so be unrelated. … The divergence theory is supported by the number of other ‘holy’ exclamations in existence, such as holy Moses and holy cow. … (E)xamining the broader scope of two-part ‘holy’ terms, one quickly sees that a great many use as their completers words that have a strong ‘O’ presence: holy joe, holy moley, holy toledo, holy horror, and holy roller, as well as the previously-mentioned holy Moses and holy cow. ‘Holy smoke’ fits this alliterativeness, this joy-filled pursuit of the rolling ‘O.’

Barbara “in the O zone” Mikkelson

So now you know.  IGP


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Shelach (Num. 13:1 – 15:4)

Spies.  Surveillance.  Sanctioned and unsanctioned.  I took a course at Osher this spring on the workings of U.S. intelligence agencies.  It was given by a retired CIA operative.  I learned that the CIA is supposed to just gather intelligence, not get into policy decisions, and the FBI is supposed to focus on domestic crime, not foreign.  I also am listening a course on the history of espionage and covert operations back to ancient times, including the stories of the spies Moses sends out in this week’s Torah portion and Rahab and Joshua’s spies in the haftarah, Joshua 2:1-24.

The task Moses sets for 12 men, one per tribe, is CIA-like information gathering.  It is not to decide policy, i.e., if the Israelites could invade the Promised Land successfully.  They have a list of very specific questions to answer (13:7-20):

“Are the people who dwell in it strong or weak, few or many? Is the country in which they dwell good or bad? Are the towns they live in open or fortified? Is the soil rich or poor? Is it wooded or not? And take pains to bring back some of the fruit of the land.”

And they duly scout out the whole land for 40 days, gather data and report that the land is indeed very fertile, bringing back a giant bunch of grapes that had to be carried by two men, some figs, and pomegranates.

Unfortunately, 10 of the 12 also report, publicly, that there is no way the Israelites can conquer the land.  The cities are fortified, and the inhabitants are like giants, the Israelites like grasshoppers beside them.  The youngest of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, vigorously disagree.  But the people accept the majority report, with disastrous results.  Some cry out that it would have been better to die in Egypt.  Some actually propose going back to Egypt.  The Lord is understandably outraged.

After eloquent pleading by Moses, the Lord agrees not to destroy all of the Israelites (the 10, naturally, die of a plague). Instead, they will have to wander in the wilderness for a total of 40 years, one for each day of scouting, so that the slave generation will die off and the next generation will grow up untainted by the timidity of slaves.  When some of the people then repent and try to invade anyway, even though Moses tells them the Lord won’t be with them, they are crushed.

So what went wrong?  Was it unreasonable for the spies to be sent out? Not really, but there were probably too many of them, it was all done too publicly, and the men were chosen because of local prominence, not skill or faithfulness.  But their caution, lack of confidence, and low self-esteem were mirrored in the people at large, so I wonder whether the people really would have been gung-ho about a military invasion, even if the 10 naysayers had given a less negative report.

And what happens next?  The Lord gives Moses some more laws, for when (not if, when) the people finally settle in Canaan, concerning sacrifices (e.g., first bread, unwitting and defiant sins), Sabbath desecration, and tzitzit.  These are the fringes that go on the corners of a four-cornered garment (for example, a tallit), a concrete reminder of the laws.  This section, Numbers 15:37-41, became the last paragraph of the Shema in our liturgy.

The haftarah tells of a successful spy mission.  Joshua, no doubt remembering the earlier debacle, secretly sends out two spies, who infiltrate Jericho and are hidden by the innkeeper (harlot?) Rahab. They make a deal: The Israelites will not harm her family if they stay in her house and she doesn’t spill the beans about the coming invasion.  The protected house will be identified by a red cord tied to the window (an echo of the tzitzit?). After 3 days of hiding, the spies report back to Joshua, “…all the inhabitants of the land are quaking before us.”

Next week, we’ll see how meekly (or not) the Israelites in the wilderness accept their fate.

Shabbat shalom,


Pizza Spy 

[This really happened! Go to   http://www.snopes.com/medical/asylum/fbipizza.asp  ]

FBI agents conducted a “search and seizure” at the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in San Diego, which was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of poring over many rooms of financial records, some sixty FBI agents worked up quite an appetite. The case agent in charge of the investigation called a local pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.

The following telephone conversation took place:

Agent: Hello. I would like to order nineteen large pizzas and sixty-seven cans of soda.

Pizza man: And where would you like them delivered?

Agent: To the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

Pizza man: To the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s right. I’m an FBI agent.

Pizza man: You’re an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s correct. Just about everybody here is.

Pizza man: And you’re at the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s correct. And make sure you don’t go through the front doors. We have them locked. You’ll have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.

Pizza man: And you say you’re all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And you’re over at Southwood?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And everyone at Southwood is an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s right. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving.

Pizza man: How are you going to pay for this?

Agent: I have my check book right here.

Pizza man: And you are all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right, everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service   entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.

Pizza man: I don’t think so.


[They did eventually get their pizzas – take-out, not delivery.]



tph paranoid



Low Self-Esteem Quotes

Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-brake on.  Maxwell Maltz

Hiding, secrets, and not being able to be yourself is one of the worst things ever for a person. It gives you low self-esteem. You never get to reach that peak in your life. You should always be able to be yourself and be proud of yourself.  Grace Jones

I think high self-esteem is overrated. A little low self-esteem is actually quite good. Maybe you’re not the best, so you should work a little harder.  Jay Leno

The thing that drives me crazy is when comics say, ‘I have low self-esteem.’ No, you don’t. You’re standing on stage asking people to pay. You don’t play an instrument. You want people to pay to hear what’s in your mind. You don’t have low self-esteem. You might have other problems.  Colin Quinn


tph 40 laps


Goldstein the Spy

From RABBI SHRAGA SIMMONS d’var Torah, Shlach 5778 (Aish.com) (Thanks, Arlene)
The Israeli government has a spy in France named Goldstein. They want to send him a message, so they call in another spy and say, “Go over to France and you’ll find Goldstein living in an apartment at 16 Champs Elysee. To make sure there’s no mix-up, when you meet him, say the secret password: ‘The blue bird flies over the cloudy sky.'”

The spy flies to France and takes a taxi to 16 Champs Elysee. He walks up the steps to the apartment building, looks at the mailboxes, and lo and behold – there are two Goldsteins!

So the spy flips a coin and tries the Goldstein on the first floor. An old man answers. The spy says nervously, ” Umm … the blue bird … umm … flies over the cloudy sky!”

The old man thinks for a moment and says, “Oh, you want Goldstein the spy – he lives upstairs!”



Tzitzit have come to be regarded as having supernatural, protective powers, providing a spiritual bulletproof vest.  In fact, my mother told me that my  great-great-grandfather’s arba kanfot was regarded as having magical healing powers in Koval, Poland, Titusville, PA, and West Philadelphia. 

Ben’s Tallit Shop: Tzitzit for IDF Soldiers (excerpts)

The campaign to stop Gaza rockets has now resumed, and in the meantime Lt. Colonel (res.) Rabbi Yedidya Atlas of the IDF Central Command is continuing his campaign to supply IDF soldiers with army issue tzitzit and other religious articles needed by soldiers in the field.

tph tzitzit for idf

IDF soldiers with two layers of protection

He told me that he has received repeated requests on the command level, both from units in the south around Gaza and in Judea and Samaria, for the IDF Rabbinate to meet the demand for olive green “dri-fit” tzitzit for all the combat soldiers who request them.

Many combat soldiers refer to the olive green tzitzit as השכפ”ץ האמיתי (“the real bullet-proof vest”). Most combat reservists only have a white tallit katan to bring with them when they report for duty. The white not only compromises unit discipline but can actually pose a danger since it can be too visible at night, with flashes of white peeking out from under army fatigues. Normally the IDF distributes simple cotton tzitzit garments that  become saturated with sweat, making them uncomfortable during training and combat, and making soldiers more vulnerable to skin irritation. The “dri-fit” type features an inner layer designed to wick away moisture and odor.


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B’Haalotekha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16)

Whine. Kvetch. Whine, whine, whine. Kvetch.

And this reading starts out so positively.  As if we’re having a lovely dream or a happily-ever-after story read to us as we drift off.  Then we wake up to a bleak reality. 

The Israelites, after over a year at Sinai, are preparing to set out on their journey to the Promised Land (why does “a 3-hours tour” spring to mind?).  Aaron lights the golden menorah; and the lighting of a menorah is the focus of the haftarah, Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7 (also read on Chanukah), where light is a symbol of the spirit of the Lord.  The Levites are ritually purified, offer sacrifices, and formally take up their duties as substitutes for first-born Israelites.  A second Passover (Pesach Sheni) is set a month later for anyone who was unable to celebrate at the right time because of ritual impurity.  The cloud-by-day, fire-by-night phenomenon starts up. Two silver trumpets are made for summoning the people to war and for celebrating holidays and the like.  Jethro decides his son-in-law Moses has matters under control and returns to Midian. Finally, the march toward the Promised Land begins, and we read verses that are part of the Torah service to this day, 10:35-6:

“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: ‘Advance, O LORD! May Your enemies be scattered, and may Your foes flee before You!’  And when it halted, he would say: ‘Return, O LORD, You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!’”

Ta da!


The people start whining.  A dysfunctional pattern emerges:  The people complain, the Lord wants to punish them, Moses prevents their total destruction (just wait until the Korach rebellion), but they’re hit with a plague or fire, or whatever anyway, whatever fits.  For example, after the people complain about missing meat, they are sent thousands of quail, followed by a plague (food poisoning?).  Even Miriam and Aaron act up, slandering their brother because of his marriage (details are fuzzy).  They are bawled out by the Lord and told that, yes, Moses actually is more special than his siblings.  Miriam is stricken with tzara’at (a skin disease that is not leprosy), recognized by the rabbis as a punishment for gossip and slander.  Moses, far from being vengeful, simply prays that she be healed, and the people wait for her for her week of quarantine.

The people’s grumblings are of great interest to the reader (they’re really complaining about missing cucumbers?) and their crankiness probably derives in large part from boredom (“Manna again?”), fear of an ill-defined future, and a lack of daily purpose.  All their needs have been met, as if they are (spoiled?) children.  This year, however, let’s look more closely at how all this is affecting Moses.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in his d’var Torah Faith and Friendship, points out that, in this reading, Moses reaches his nadir emotionally, and he cries out to the Lord (Num. 11:11-15):

 “Why have You brought this trouble on Your servant? What have I done to displease You that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their ancestors?… If this is how You are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favour in Your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

And how does the Lord respond?  By scolding Moses, saying he has no “right” to feel that way?  By urging him to cheer up, it’s not that bad?  No.  The response is quite practical.  The anguish Moses feels is in part because he is alone and, contrary to his father-in-law’s earlier advice, trying to do too much himself. What would be of the most use immediately is what the Lord prescribes (Num. 11:16-17):

“Gather for Me seventy of the elders of Israel…I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself.”

Rabbi Sacks writes, “What is moving about this episode is that, at the moment of Moses’ maximum emotional vulnerability, God Himself speaks to Moses as a friend. This is fundamental to Judaism as a whole… He is not just a supreme power. He is also a friend. That is what Moses discovered in this week’s parsha…(And the seventy elders) did alleviate his isolation. They shared his spirit. They gave him the gift of friendship. We all need it. We are social animals. ‘It is not good to be alone.’ (Gen. 2:18)” 

Much research has been done identifying the huge effects – behavioral, emotional, physical – that friends have on us and how we “tend to become what our friends are. So choose as friends people who are what you aspire to be.”

Rabbi Sacks concludes,

“Judaism has foundational beliefs, to be sure, but it is fundamentally about something else altogether. For us, faith is the redemption of solitude. It is about relationships – between us and God, us and our family, us and our neighbours, us and our people, us and humankind. Judaism is not about the lonely soul. It is about the bonds that bind us to one another and to the Author of all. It is, in the highest sense, about friendship.”

Our current state of polarization has ruptured too many bonds and broken too many friendships.  I remember when my mother, as an elementary school teacher, walked a strike line for the first time, her colleague and close friend Ruth refused to strike.  They nearly severed a friendship that went back to childhood until it was pointed out to my mother how very much more important that friendship was than politics.  Maybe, despite the present mishigas, we can all start healing our broken friendships.

Shabbat shalom,



tph trumpet



Irma Kurtz (2013) The joy of kvetching, Jewish Quarterly, 52:3, 88, DOI: 10.1080/0449010X.2005.10705252


Grumbling and kvetching, though both based on complaint, are not the same thing. Grumbling is muttering and solitary; kvetching is vocal and wants comradeship. Grumbling is established and dangerous: volcanoes grumble. Kvetching is lilting and portable, like a violin. The goyim grumble; only a Jew can kvetch.

Kvetching is not whining, either; certainly not when undertaken by a virtuoso.  My father became a consummate kvetch in his old age, the wintry season when kvetching, like wisdom, normally achieves its peak. We used to visit my grandparents every summer at Grossinger’s Hotel in the Borsht Belt of the Catskill Mountains. There, every evening on the porch, old people of both sexes retired to rock in unison, and sigh, and intone kvetch after kvetch about the food, the weather, the entertainment, their health, and mostly about their wayward children. The sound of kvetching was not unlike prayer, except prayer beseeches for the tribe; a kvetch is every man for himself, albeit in unison with landsmen. My father had the advantage, practically a necessity when it comes to world-class kvetching, of speaking Yiddish as his first language. How often nowadays do I wish his generation had not refused to let us learn Yiddish, the tongue of philosophers and peddlers, with its melancholy cadence and a built-in shrug of resignation that is the keynote of Jewish complaint? A kvetching shrug is unlike any other in the world; it does not say, as Nordic and Latin shrugs do, ‘Who cares?’ but says instead: ‘Who cares that I care? That we care? So who should care?’



Quotes about Bonds and Friendship

The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when. Simon Sinek

I define friendship as a bond that transcends all barriers. When you are ready to expect anything and everything from friends, good, bad or ugly… that’s what I call true friendship. Harbhajan Singh

In all our contacts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted which gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond. Eleanor Roosevelt

I don’t have a twin, but I do have a brother and sisters, and I do know that there is a special bond there that is – I’m going to say – closer. It’s different. It’s closer than having a best friend. It’s easier to forgive them. I think it’s also easier to get mad at them. You feel a little piece of yourself in them. Justin Hartley



A member of the United States Senate, known for his hot temper and acid tongue, exploded one day in mid-session and began to shout, “Half of this Senate is made up of cowards and corrupt politicians!”

All the other Senators demanded that the angry member withdraw his statement or be removed from the remainder of the session.

After a long pause, the angry member acquiesced. “OK,” he said, “I withdraw what I said. Half of this Senate is NOT made up of cowards and corrupt politicians!”



sarahkeilman94 wrote: when i was little i thought food poisoning meant that someone had literally poisoned your food and one time my sister got food poisoning from mcdonalds so i told everyone at school that the drive thru guy tried to kill my sister


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Naso (Numbers 4:21 – 7:89)

Suspected adultery! Hair*! Samson!  All this and more this week! 

*Scroll past the comments for my own hair history.

“More” is right.  At 176 verses, this is the longest single weekly Torah portion.  There appear to be several topics, but they hang together in a stream-of-consciousness manner. As I noted here 6 years ago, Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) wrote that Biblical subject matter “was often linked by a process of thought and, in particular, word association,
probably designed as an aid to memory.”  (Cassuto, Sefer Hakinus, 1947 lectures, p. 168, cited in N. Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar, pp. 38-9)   

  • First, we complete the Levite census and job descriptions. Since they had to take down and carry the Tabernacle and its accoutrements en route, they were retired from that at age 50, though I don’t know why their census here starts at 30, not 20.
  • Since we just read about the camp, that leads to a reminder to remove ritually unclean people from it.
  • Their ritual purification requirements lead to comments about the guilt offering required when one has done wrong “is breaking faith with” the Lord.
  • That phrase is also used for a wife suspected of adultery, i.e., breaking faith with her husband, so (of course) what comes next is the sotah ritual for such suspected wives. This involves not just having her drink “bitter waters,” but also uncovering her hair.  
  • So, of course, what follows are laws concerning nazirites, who vow not to cut one’s hair or beard, to abstain from intoxicants and grapes, and to refrain from contact with a corpse.
  • Since this practice was to enable a higher state of holiness, what do we read next but the well-known priestly benediction (6:24-26); note that the priests don’t bless the people themselves but are expressing a wish that the Lord will bestow blessings on them (6:27).
  • This naturally leads into the list of gifts brought to dedicate the
    just-completed Tabernacle, twelve identical offerings, from one tribe each
    day, each described in detail over and over and over, which takes up about half the reading, whence its length.

The sections on the sotah process and the nazirite generally evoke the most interest (curiosity, head-scratching, etc.). We have an entire tractate Sotah in the Mishnah , a tractate in the Babylonian Talmud, https://www.sefaria.org/Sotah.2a?lang=bi and of course lots of commentaries with details that flesh out the description in Numbers. For example, in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Maimonides describes many such details: how the woman must be warned, what women are exempt, what if she confesses, what if she refuses to drink, what kind of ink is used to write the Holy Name to be dissolved from parchment into the bitter water, implications for subsequent divorce and marriage, etc.   The plethora of details, plus apparent rabbinic squeamishness at the need to write the name of God on parchment and then dissolve it away, strongly suggest that the rabbis wanted to use this as a threat to prevent a wife’s unfaithfulness but did not want her to actually go through with the ritual.  According to the Mishnah, the practice was halted in the 1st century C.E. by R. Yohanan ben Zakkai, ostensibly because adultery had become so common (Mishnah Sotah 9).

The nazir, as noted above, vowed to abstain from intoxicants, grapes, haircuts and shaving, and contact with a corpse, thereby consecrating himself (or herself) to the Lord.  The rabbis were ambivalent about the practice, noting that a sin offering was required at the end, and that our tradition teaches moderation not asceticism (Sources: http://www.mishnahyomit.com/issues/Vol3Iss24.pdf , and Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar, pp. 51-9.)  With the exception of Samuel and Samson, nazirut was for a limited period, usually at least 30 days (and if you broke the vow, even accidentally, you had to start the count over).   Samuel was consecrated as a small child by his mother when he was given into the care of Eli (1 Samuel 2:28). Samson’s birth is foretold in this week’s haftarah, Judges 13:2-25.  (Slight digression: my choral group, Delaware Choral Arts, put on a well-received performance of Handel’s oratorio, Samson, two weeks ago. It has little to do with the Biblical account, though, except for pulling down the Philistine temple at the end.)  He was to be a nazir from conception.  His life, even pre-Delilah, indicates he didn’t fully appreciate the spiritual aspects of his status. 

Shabbat shalom,


My Hair History

Over the last several decades, I have gone from very short hair to hip-length and back again.  As a start-of-summer ritual, my mother would take me to get my bobbed hair cut even shorter.  I really wanted curly hair, and my mother assured me that, since the ends had started to perk up, cutting it shorter would make it curlier.  I fell for that one for years. 

As I got older, I let my hair grow during the year but kept the summer pixie cut until high school.  There, I was a bit smug about my long, naturally straight hair that required no ironing.  I liked playing with it, too, ponytails, braids, whatever, even though it made me look about 12.  In college, I also loved playing with my boyfriend’s curls.

After a year of grad school, my hair was hip length, mainly out of neglect. It doubled as a sweater on cold days in New England.  I missed Rich and playing with his curls (we were about 1200 miles apart), especially at services when we sang Anim Zemirot with its reference to taltalim sh’chorot, black curls. 

I then got my hair cut to shoulder length, where it pretty much stayed until after I had kids. My toddler son regarded my hair as his blankie, so once I collected the clippngs at the hairdresser, hoping to glue them to a cardboard backing.  Didn’t work. 

I gradually adopted a shorter style, since that made me look closer to my age and was easier to neglect.  When a haircut was noticeable, I indulged in one-liners:

You got a haircut!
No, I got all of them cut.

You cut your hair!
No, I paid someone else to cut it.

Did you get a haircut?
No, it shrank in the wash.

You got a haircut!
(astonished) I did?!!

And this doesn’t even begin to get into color issues…



Retirement Quips & Words of Wisdom & Humor

  • The key to a happy retirement is to have enough money to live on, but not enough to worry about.
  • Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.
  • When you retire you must be active and social, don’t sit around the house or become a couch potato or pumpkin or any kind of vegetable.
  • I retired early for health reasons – my company was sick of me and I was sick of them.
  • A father said his teenage son took an aptitude test and was found to be well-suited for retirement.
  • I have never liked working. To me a job is an invasion of privacy.
  • Retirement is a night owl’s dream, you finally don’t have to do mornings.



tph holier than thou



A married man was having an affair with his secretary. One day, their passions overcame them in the office and they took off for her house. Exhausted from the afternoon’s activities, they fell asleep and awoke at around 8 p.m. As the man threw on his clothes, he told the woman to take his shoes outside and rub them through the grass and dirt. Confused, she nonetheless complied and he slipped into his shoes and drove home. “Where have you been?” demanded his wife when he entered the house. “Darling,” replied the man, “I can’t lie to you. I’ve been having an affair with my secretary. I fell asleep in her bed and didn’t wake up until eight o’clock.” The wife glanced down at his shoes and said, “You liar! You’ve been playing golf!”



Hair Jokes

  • Preventing baldness is simple. Just knot your hair from the inside.
  • A man was driving along the highway, and saw a rabbit hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the rabbit, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of the car and was hit. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the rabbit. Much to his dismay, the rabbit was dead. The driver felt so awful, he began to cry.  A woman driving down the highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong. “I feel terrible,” he explained, “I accidentally hit this rabbit and killed it.” The woman told the man not to worry. She knew what to do.  She went to her car trunk and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead rabbit, and sprayed the contents of the can onto the rabbit. Miraculously the rabbit came to life, jumped up, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped down the road. 50 yards away the rabbit stopped, turned around, waved and hopped down the road, another 50 yards, turned, waved and hopped another 50 yards. The man was astonished. He couldn’t figure out what substance could be in the woman’s spray can!! He ran over to the woman and asked, “What is in your spray can? What did you spray on that rabbit?” The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: “Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair and adds a permanent wave.”
  • If you perm your hair twice in opposite directions, does it come out straight?



On 1 Foot – Parshas Nasso

12 Princes came to the Mishkan dedication party all bringing the same gifts.

Princes: “We all brought the same thing?!”

Torah: “Let me write this all down… Name please? Tribe? Gift? Next….”

Longest parsha ever.



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Bemidbar (Numbers 1:1 – 4:20), Shavuot

Numbers!  Lots of them!

Actually, though its English name is Numbers, the book’s (and weekly portion’s) Hebrew name, “Bamidbar,” means in the wilderness, (or, directly from the text, “Bemidbar,” in the wilderness of…). Of course, that’s how many people feel when confronting numbers.

But not in my family.  My oldest sister doesn’t recall this (Hi, Sar!), but when I was about 6, we were sitting at the kitchen table, and she tried to teach me multiplication. I wasn’t paying attention until I heard, “3 plus 2 equals 5, but 3 times 2 is 6.”  I responded, “Then 4 times 1 is 6?” thinking it was rather silly to have a whole big thing called “multiplication” just for adding 1 to a sum.  Sarah tried again, saying that “3 times 2” means you have two threes, a total of 6, so that made more sense.

My daughter Roz was particularly drawn to subtraction as a toddler, especially with food (“3 grapes take away 1 grape leaves 2 grapes,” munch, repeat). When my son’s teacher wrote 4 minus 7 on the board and asked the class if that was doable, everybody else said “No.”  Alan, a Jeopardy fan, said, “Yes, it’s a negative number.”  I don’t have any cute stories about my husband as a child with numbers.  Yet.

Back to the Torah portion.

After a little over a year at Mount Sinai, the Israelites are preparing to head off to the Promised Land. They are commanded to take a census of Israelite men aged 20+, except for the Levites.   The tribes are told how to arrange themselves in camping around the Tabernacle, three tribes on each side. This also determines the order of march: first, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun; second, Reuben, Shimon, and Gad; third, Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin; and fourth, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali.  Total: 603,550, not evenly distributed.  Last year, I finally looked up some opinions as why the tribes are distributed as they are. It’s basically a combination of family rank and future potential.

The census of the Levites is then begun, by house, from one month old and up, each house assigned the duties that normally would have been the responsibility of the first-born Israelites.  At this stage, however, there are more first-born Israelites than Levites, so 5 shekels is to be collected to redeem each “excess” first-born. Israelite.  This is where we get the ritual called pidyon haben, the re-enacted redemption of a month-old, Israelite, first-born son.

There is something about being counted that, from ancient times, has had negative connotations.  Nowadays, in the U.S., people who do not want to be counted are those who do not want to be found.  Unfortunately, this has negative effects on the apportionment of money and Representatives.

Jewish law throws in additional monkey wrenches.  The Talmud contains several statements that it is forbidden to count the Jewish people directly, usually drawing for support on the half-shekel head tax for the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:12).  Also, in Hosea 2:1 in this week’s haftarah, as well as Genesis 33:12, the people are supposed to be uncountable, like grains of sand.  A more primal source of fear of counting is fear of drawing the evil eye (Rashi, “the evil eye controls something which is counted,” Abarbanel).  Besides a head tax, items like words in a verse or shards of pottery could be used to count people indirectly. Some sources conclude that a census of the population is allowed when there’s a good reason, some of these preferring an indirect count.

Numbers can lead us toward a truth.  But numbers do not equal truth. In “The Evil Eye Controls Something Which is Counted: Gaza, Israel, and the Nature of Numbering,” Larry Gilman writes,

“Strange but true: people are both countable objects and distinct universes of absolute worth on which no number can be laid. But the scientific habit of mind does not find this double vision congenial.  The more time we spend quantifying everything in the universe, including people…the less plausible non-quantifiable human value seems. It cannot be detected or measured, which to the scientific mind is suspicious. It smacks of superstition, prescientific thinking, dualism.”

Using numbers as a substitute for truth is dangerous.  You end up aiming for the number, not for the reality.  If you are sick, and the thermometer reads 102 ºF, your goal should be to understand why and figure out how to get well; it’s not to figure out how to get the thermometer to read 98.6 or thereabouts. Yet that’s what our teachers and students are subjected to, when test scores become the goal instead of being recognized as merely a crude indicator.

Saturday night, Shavuot.  Like Sukkot and Passover, it’s a harvest festival.  We also celebrate the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai.  Summary of readings:

  First Day Second Day (Orthodox, Conservative)
Torah Exodus 19:1-20:23, Ten Commandments.

Numbers 28:26-31, sacrifices.

Deut. 15:19-16:17, holidays. Numbers 28:26-31, sacrifices.
Haftarah Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12, Chariot visions. Habakkuk 2:20-3:19, prayer for mercy in exile.  Yetziv Pitgam mystical song of praise, may be inserted.
Other text Akdamut, 11th c. poem Book of Ruth, celebrating conversion, spring harvest time

From 2016:
“The Torah doesn’t say a whole lot about the holiday’s observance beyond offerings, not even connecting it with the Ten Commandments, its current central theme.  Even the date is ambiguous in the Torah (Lev. 23:15-16 and Deut. 16:9); we finally settled on the 6th of Sivan, 7 weeks (whence the name, “Shavuot” meaning weeks) after the second day of Pesach.

Other customs are all-night study sessions (I just go to a 2-hour one), decorating with flowers (we’ve got lots of roses this year), reading the Book of Ruth which celebrates conversion (joining the tribe) and occurs at harvest time, and eating dairy (cheesecake, blintzes, ice cream, etc.).  It’s a nice, quiet spring holiday, requiring a whole lot less effort than Sukkot and Pesach.”

Shabbat shalom and Chag Sameach,

tph dry bones dumb user



Largest known prime number [integer that is evenly divisible only by 1 and itself]
The largest known prime number (as of March 2018) is 277,232,917 − 1, a number with 23,249,425 digits. It was found by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) in 2017.

Euclid proved that there is no largest prime number, and many mathematicians and hobbyists continue to search for large prime numbers.

Expect the next one any time now. See graph below. IGP

tph Prime number digits

Plot of the number of digits in largest known prime by year, since the electronic computer. The vertical scale is logarithmic. The red line is the exponential curve of best fity = exp(0.187394 t – 360.527), where t is in years.



Math Jokes

Halloween Math

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin pi

The Calculating Sheepdog

After a talking sheepdog gets all the sheep in the pen, he reports back to the farmer: “All 40 accounted for.”

“But I only have 36 sheep,” says the farmer.

“I know,” says the sheepdog. “But I rounded them up.”
Submitted by Norie Bloom, Honolulu, Hawaii

Zero Sum Puns

The problem with math puns is that calculus jokes are all derivative, trigonometry jokes are too graphic, algebra jokes are usually formulaic, and arithmetic jokes are pretty basic. But I guess the occasional statistics joke is an outlier.

Submitted by Denis Everett, Coronado, California

Hear about the statistician…
Hear about the statistician who drowned crossing a river?

It was three feet deep on average.



Ten Commandments Quotes

Say what you will about the ten commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them. H. L. Mencken

We may not all break the Ten Commandments, but we are certainly all capable of it. Within us lurks the breaker of all laws, ready to spring out at the first real opportunity. Isadora Duncan

When you hear people demanding that the Ten Commandments be displayed in courtrooms and schoolrooms, always be sure to ask which set. It works every time. Christopher Hitchens

I have ten commandments. The first nine are, thou shalt not bore. The tenth is, thou shalt have right of final cut. Billy Wilder


Hidden Personality Traits Revealed Through Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor 

If you think ordering vanilla means you’re boring, see how personality traits are linked to your favorite ice cream flavor. (excerpts only – research details at the site.)

·        Vanilla lovers are impulsive…colorful, impulsive, idealistic risk-takers who “rely more on intuition than logic,”

·        Strawberry lovers are introverts… also logical and thoughtful.

·        Chocolate lovers are flirtatious…also lively, charming, dramatic, and gullible.

·        Mint chocolate chip lovers are argumentative, ambitious, confident, and frugal. “[They] aren’t fully satisfied until they find the tarnish on the silver lining,”

·        Rainbow sherbet lovers are pessimistic…analytic and decisive.

·        Rocky Road lovers are aggressive…and engaging…good listener…goal-oriented

·        Coffee lovers are…lively, dramatic, and approach life with “gusto,”

·        Chocolate chip lovers are generous…competent, and a go-getter

·        Butter pecan lovers are devoted, conscientious, respectful…hold high standards for right and wrong

(So, if you really like all of these, do you have multiple personality disorder? IGP)

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Behar-Behukkotai (Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34)

I’m having an unusually busy week.  Besides the usual (synagogue teen program, music lesson, choral rehearsal, adult ed classes, volunteer reading to 3-5-year-olds):  an annual Hadassah event, 2 additional choral rehearsals, two car-repair trips, one medical check-up, one concert (whence the 3 rehearsals), and, unfortunately, one funeral.  By the end of May, “the usual” will be reduced to the volunteer reading, at least for the summer.  But right now, I feel kind of scattered.

But I think I can focus enough to make a couple of points about this week’s double portion.

Parashat Behar (Lev. 25:1 – 26:2) contains instructions for observing the sabbatical (shmitta) and jubilee (yovel) years in the Promised Land.  The jubilee follows 7 complete cycles, so it is the 50th year. Land lies fallow in those years, just as humans and animals observe a sabbath of rest every 7th day.  Thus, one hopes for bumper crops in the 6x years, especially year 48.  This is akin to the double portion of manna on the sixth day of the week in the wilderness.  

The jubilee year, additionally, is a time for a reset, or reboot.   Land holdings go back to their original owners, debts are forgiven, and Israelite slaves are freed. Measures are prescribed to ensure people aren’t ruined by these observances. Here we find that verse on the Liberty Bell (Lev. 25:10), “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.”   Michael Carasik wrote about the jubilee, “They say ‘cash is king,’ but Leviticus 25 denies it.  God is king, and both the land and its people belong to Him.  The underlying idea appears to be that the free market, allowed to run untrammeled, will eventually knock things out of kilter; the function of the jubilee is to apply the brakes and, by redistributing the land every 50 years, start things over again from a position of radical equality.  ‘The jubilee is for you,’ the chapter insists in verse 10, explaining that (emphasis added) true freedom depends on reversing the distortions of a free-market economy.”  Food for thought for, say, a D.C. Bible study session?

Behukkotai (Lev. 26:3-27:34) appears to be a simple carrot-and-stick section: if you’re good, you’ll get rewarded, and if you’re bad, you’ll be punished, but there is more underlying it.  Good things tend to be easy-to-describe (peace, abundance, the presence of God among them) and universally applicable, kind of like Tolstoy’s famous quote from Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” That takes up a mere 11 verses. 

Then we have 29 verses of warnings as to what will happen if the Israelites are “bad” (i.e., disobey the Lord), in five very detailed series (Lev. 26:16-17, 18-20, 21-22, 23-26, and 27-43).  This is referred to as the minor Tochachah (admonition), the major one being in Deuteronomy. Consequences grow worse and worse. Each series of promised punishments is supposedly 7 times as bad as the one before; if 1st=x, then 2nd =7x, 3rd=49x, 4th =343x, and 5th =2401x.  However, at every stage, there is a chance to atone and halt the process.  In that sense, this is like a parent carefully instructing a child that there are specific consequences for actions, these get worse with persistent disobedience, and yet forgiveness is available by changing behavior.  

This section is followed by details regarding vows concerning offerings (think donations) for the maintenance of the Tabernacle (later, the Temple).  I wrote here in 2016, “One way was to pledge the monetary equivalent of something of value.  Nowadays, if you donate, say, clothes to Goodwill, there is a guide online for estimating the monetary value of your donation.  Back then, the priest would assign a value to an animal or other item of value, like a house.   You could also pledge the value of a specific person, and those values were standardized based on age and sex, basically what the person could fetch on the open market as a slave.  Not surprisingly, the highest valuation was 50 shekels for a 20-60-year-old man.”

And so, we close out the book of Leviticus.  Next week, Numbers and a lot more narrative.

Shabbat shalom,


Non Sequitur, May 3, 2018

tph rebooted



30 People Share the Most Creative Punishment They Have Ever Received (selected) By hoK leahciM  March 7, 2014

4. Do you want to go into the attic?

My father would tell me that he built me from spare parts in the basement, and that his earlier, failed attempts lived in the attic, and that if I misbehaved he could easily send me to live with them and just build a new me. The imagery was horrifying, and it also kept me from exploring in the parts of the house he didn’t want me in. – Snowleaf

5. My sister wanted it too

When I was six, the child psychologist said that I needed “boundaries” and suggested that my parents punish me by making me stand on a kitchen towel in the middle of the room, kinda like standing in the corner but where I could see all the things I couldn’t participate in.

Well and good, until my two year old sister decided that it looked like fun. She got a towel of her own, carefully laid it out next to mine and stood next to me.

Punishments are less effective when the parents can’t help but laugh. – Sapientiam

9. Stop **** reading books and go out and kiss someone, dammit

I was an absolute book worm when I was a kid. Being sent to my room did nothing as I’d spend most of my day curled up in there reading anyway.

So, my parents used to padlock my bookshelf and force me to go outside for punishment. – honorarykiwi

16. Did you at least get someone?

When I was a kid my sister got detention for shooting rubber bands at kids in the lunch room. When the Principal called my mom she instinctively asked “Well did she hit anybody?”, to which the principal quickly replied that it was not relevant. Later on that night, however, my dad set up a target in the kitchen, on the fridge, and my sister’s punishment was that she had to spend an hour a night shooting rubber bands at that target. He explained to her that if she was going to get in trouble for something, she better at least be good at it. – wish_you_were_here



Warning Labels

Manufacturers of consumer products have to be liberal with the warning labels these days, lest they get sued. But for these, it’s hard to know whether the company is being outright stupid or if they’re simply targeting the most brain dead dumb among us.

Product Warnings:

  • “Caution: The contents of this bottle should not be fed to fish.” — On a bottle of shampoo for dogs.
  • “Do not use while sleeping or unconscious.” — On a hand-held massaging device.
  • “Do not eat toner.” — On a toner cartridge for a laser printer.
  • “Warning: Do not climb inside this bag and zip it up. Doing so will cause injury and death.” — A label inside a protective bag (for fragile objects), which measures 15cm by 15cm by 12cm (6” by 6” by 4.8”).
  • “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” — On a sign at a railroad station.
  • “Warning: do not use if you have prostate problems.” — On a box of Midol PMS relief tablets.
  • “Do not dangle the mouse by its cable or throw the mouse at co-workers.” — From a manual for an SGI computer.
  • “Warning: May cause drowsiness.” — On a bottle of Nytol, a brand of sleeping pills.


  • “Safe for use around pets.” — On a box of Arm & Hammer Cat Litter.

Small Print From Commercials:

  • “Do not use house paint on face.” — In a Visa commercial that depicts an expecting couple looking for paint at a hardware store.


Book: That Reminds Me of A Joke: Outrageous News Stories that Echo our Favorite Jokes. By Editors at Reader’s Digest


My mom drove cross-country to visit me in college.  Heading south from Tucson, we were on our way to spend the day in Mexico when a state trooper pulled us over. “What seems to be the problem?” Mom asked.

“Drug smugglers use this road a lot,” he explained, “and a suspicious-acting Buick with Pennsylvania plates has been spotted going up and down it.”

“I just got in yesterday,” Mom said. “And I’m hardly a smuggler.  Just a teacher on sabbatical.”

“The patrolman eyed her suspiciously. “Do you have a prescription for that?”

– Joseph Blumberg



Starting Over

The mother of three notoriously unruly youngsters was asked whether or not she’d have children if she had to do over again.

“Sure,” she replied, “but not the same ones.”

Happy Mother’s Day!  IGP

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Emor (Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23)

Comments are from 2011, with changes in italics.

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, is in the middle of what is referred to as the Holiness Code (roughly Chapters 17-26 of Leviticus). It starts with laws concerning priestly restrictions. A priest cannot “defile” himself (i.e., contract ritual impurity by tending to a dead body) for anyone who has died except his parent, child, brother or virgin sister; the high priest cannot do so even for those. A priest cannot marry a harlot or divorcee; the high priest additionally cannot marry a widow but only a virgin.

To be fit to offer the sacrifices, a priest also has to be physically perfect, i.e., undamaged (see 21:18-23 for unacceptable defects). Unlike expectations of today’s rabbis (see “The Perfect Rabbi,” male and female versions, at https://igplotzk.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/emor-leviticus-211-2423/),

this perfection is defined as an absence of physical defects (the list is at 21:18-23), not behavioral ones, and this limitation only concerns his ability to offer the sacrifices. And the priests are to be scrupulous in policing who is and is not allowed eat of the sacred offerings (mmm, meat…).

Emor is a portion every newbie Torah reader should learn, because part of it is read four times a year (unless your synagogue is on the triennial cycle of Torah reading, in which case it’s read 10 times in three years): first and second days of Sukkot, second day Pesach, and the regular Sabbath reading. [I first read (“leyned”) Torah from this portion on the 2nd day of Pesach when I was 17, and my son did for his Bar Mitzvah on the 1st day of Sukkot.] Chapter 23 includes laws concerning the observance of the “fixed times”: Sabbath, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. So we read some of this portion about 5 weeks ago. But since most people on the second day of Passover are too groggy from two consecutive nights of 4 cups of wine and seemingly unending food at the seemingly unending sedarim, you probably weren’t at synagogue for that reading anyway.

The last chapter of the portion includes directions for kindling the lamps with pure olive oil and an incident of blasphemy. Since the blasphemer is stoned to death, this leads into laws concerning capital punishment (e.g., for blasphemy and for murder) and restitution in cases of assault, formulaically described in 24:20 as “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

Shabbat shalom,



tph scroll sources


Holiday Psychology (slightly edited)

Holidays are explained at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays

Jewish holidays for people with (specific) illnesses:

Purim is for alcoholics. 
Pesach is for OCDs. 
Lag B’omer is for pyromaniacs who weren’t satisfied with Chanukah.
Shavuot is for insomniacs.
Tisha B’Av is for depressives.
Rosh Hashana is for people who obsess over dying. 
Yom Kippur is for anorexics.
Sukkot is for the homeless. 
Simchat Torah is for those in the manic stage of bipolar disorder.

And people still wonder why the Jews invented psychology!



8. My Father the Rabbi

Three young boys were walking on the sidewalk arguing over whose Daddy was the greatest.

David said, “My Dad is the greatest because he is rich stock broker on Wall Street.”

Michael said, “That’s nothing. My Daddy is a politician and he says he’s the most powerful man around.”

Moishie said, “That’s nothing, my Dad is a rabbi, and he owns hell.”

“How can you own hell?” asked the other boys.

“Well my Dad came home last night and told my mom that the Shul Board gave it to him!”



Quotes about Perfection

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Ann Landers

Perfection itself is imperfection. Vladimir Horowitz

Confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age. Albert Einstein

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. Michelangelo



Light Bulb Jokes: Musicians

Q: How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. One to climb the ladder while the second kicks the ladder out from under her. And the third to say, “I knew that was too high for you dear.”

Q: How many brass players does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One to hold it in place and two to drink until the room spins.

Q: How many jazz pianists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Screw the changes, we’ll fake it.

Q: How many pianists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Four: One to light a candle and the other three to say it’s better than electric light.



Death Penalty

Once upon a time there lived three men: a doctor, a chemist, and an engineer. For some reason all three offended the king and were sentenced to die on the same day.

The day of the execution arrived, and the doctor was led up to the guillotine. As he strapped the doctor to the guillotine, the executioner asked, ‘Head up or head down?’

‘Head up,’ said the doctor. ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised the axe, and z-z-z-z-ing! Down came the blade and stopped barely an inch above the doctor’s neck. Well, the law stated that if an execution didn’t succeed the first time the prisoner had to be released, so the doctor was set free.

Then the chemist was led up to the guillotine. ‘Head up or head down?’ said the executioner. ‘Head up.’ ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised his axe, and z-z-z-z-ing! Down came the blade and stopped an inch above the chemist’s neck. Well, the law stated that if the execution didn’t succeed the first time the prisoner had to be released, so the chemist was set free.

Finally the engineer was led up to the guillotine. ‘Head up or head down?’ ‘Head up.’ ‘Blindfold or no blindfold?’ ‘No blindfold.’ So the executioner raised his axe, but before he could cut the rope, the engineer yelled out: ‘WAIT! I see what the problem is!’


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