Korach (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32); Shabbat Rosh Hodesh (Num. 28:9-15) Isaiah 66:1-24

My mind is going.  Two weeks ago, I wrote, with regard to food issues in B’Haalotekha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16), “Note that food is on the lowest rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ( http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/hierarchyneeds.htm ), which must be satisfied before one can even consider striving for higher rungs, like a sense of accomplishment and self-actualization.  More on that next time.”  And there was no “more on that” next time.  (But it fits in today!) Then last week, concerning Shelakh-lecha (Numbers 13:1 – 15:41), I totally forgot about a couple of important items at the end. First, despite condemning that generation (except for Joshua and Caleb) to die in the wilderness, the Lord continues to issue commands about sacrifices, Sabbath observance and tzitzit (the ritual fringe on each corner of a four-cornered garment. 15:37-41 is the third paragraph of the Shema prayer, things they are to do when – not if but when – the Israelites enter the Promised Land.  So there’s some assurance for the people that at least their children will indeed do so. Another point is that someone who someone deliberately, defiantly spurns the Lord’s commandments; that person will be cut off from the Israelite people. 

So, do those words actually console the people, reconcile them to their fate?  At the beginning of this week’s portion, we’re not told.  Before the people can fully digest what’s just happened, some suppressed resentments and ambitions come to the fore and lead to outright rebellion. 

 Let’s consider where the Israelites have been in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. 



The idea is that lower level, basic needs must be attended to before one can value and deal with the needs represented by the higher levels.  The Israelites as slaves in Egypt likely had their physiological needs reasonably fulfilled.  Safety and Love/Belonging were certainly lacking when the Pharaoh was cooking up schemes to kill their sons and double their workload. The goal of the Lord is to develop a holy people, which corresponds in Maslow’s terms to the highest levels, where self-and-other respect and morality come in.  Certainly at least some Israelites were growing into the Esteem level after the miracles of the Exodus, Sinai, and building the Tabernacle.  But the report of the spies sends them psychologically fleeing back to Safety, vulnerable to demagogues like Korach. 

Korach, an ambitious Levite, is jealous of the priesthood.  Reubenites Dathan and Abiram, (and initially On ben Pelet, who apparently drops out of the conspiracy, possibly convinced to do so by his wife) believe the Reubenites should be in charge, being descended from Jacob’s firstborn.  Taking advantage of the unrest within the camp, they all lead 250 chieftains in openly disrespecting Moses and Aaron and renouncing their authority. “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)  But the community is not yet holy; the Lord’s exhortations like “you shall be a kingdom of priests” present holiness as something to grow toward, strive for.  They aren’t yet holy, not by a long shot.  And, at this point, rejection of Moses and Aaron is no less than a rejection of the authority of the Lord, so the rebellion must be ruthlessly put down.  The rebels are separated from the people.  The earth opens up and swallows the chief rebels and their households and the 250 others are consumed by fire.  The people, of course, blame Moses and Aaron for bringing these horrors among them, so they suffer a devastating plague.  Thanks to the intervention of Moses and Aaron, “only” 14,700 die.  Their authority, thus the Lord’s is proven.  Will the Israelites now settle down for the rest of their lives in the wilderness?  Check back next week.

Shabbat shalom,



http://veddma.fateback.com/earthquake.htm  [sent out in 2001 – link is apparently now dead]

Earthquake Safety Tips (excerpts)

Earthquakes can strike without warning, and being prepared for

such a disaster can mean the difference between life and death.

Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones make it through a quake:

– To minimize loss and damage in a quake, try not to own things.

– Practice your burrowing-out-from-under-40-tons-of-rubble skills

ahead of time.

– Look out your window often. If you see a large, zig-zag-shaped

crevasse moving rapidly from the horizon toward your home, step

either to the right or the left.

– Be sure to mail your house-insurance payments a full five

business days before a major earthquake strikes.



LA Earthquake

A few years ago, when the big quake hit the Los Angeles area, part of the damage included the totaling of a car belonging to a tourist who had driven in from out of state.
When he put in the claim to his insurance company, they rejected it. When asked why the claim was not covered, the Insurance company said it was because the tourist had a no-fault policy.
Angry about the insurance company’s decision, the policyholder tried to start a citizen’s organization to fight this kind of rip-off from happening again. He called it the San Andreas Fund.
However nothing came of it. Hardly anyone would contribute to aid the fund in its efforts.

The general feeling was that charity is one thing, but this was being generous to a fault.




Breaking News [from 2005, apparently a dead link]

A big earthquake with the strength of 8.1 on the Richter scale has hit Mexico. Two million Mexicans have died and over a million are injured. The country is totally ruined and the government doesn’t know where to start with providing help to rebuild.  

The rest of the world is in shock. Canada is sending troopers to help the Mexican army control the riots. Saudi Arabia is sending oil.  Other Latin American counties are sending supplies.  The European community (except France) is sending food and money.  

The United States, not to be outdone, is sending two million replacement Mexicans.


Sent out 8 years ago:

Authority and pens

From “Dilbert’s Laws of Work”

At work, the authority of the person is inversely proportional to the number of pens the person is carrying.

Strange things can happen when someone has authority…

From Dilbert Newsletter 16.0

Our company requires us to fill out weekly time sheets and turn them in to the Executive VP (a practice going back 8+ years).  It turns out he never wanted them, so he made a rule today that we need to give them directly to the VP of Development.  The VP of Development does not want them.  The company policy of filling out timesheets will not change in the near future.   So now we are required to fill out timesheets fully, and then throw them out.



Display of Authority

A Department of Water Resources representative stops at a Texas ranch and talks with an old rancher. He tells the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for your water allocation.”

The old rancher says, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there.”

The Water representative says, “Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me.. See this card? This card means I am allowed to go WHEREVER I WISH on any agricultural land. No questions asked or answered. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand?”

The old rancher nods politely and goes about his chores.

Later, the old rancher hears loud screams and sees the Water Rep running for his life. And close behind is the rancher’s bull. The bull is gaining with every step.

The Rep is clearly terrified, so the old rancher immediately throws down his tools, runs to the fence and yells at the top of his lungs…..

“Your card! Show him your card!”



Methods of Mathematical Proof [selected.  These are also useful in non-mathematical argument. IGP]

If the proof of a theorem is not immediately apparent, it may be because you are trying the wrong approach. Below are some effective methods of proof that may aim you in the right direction.

* Proof by Obviousness: “The proof is so clear that it need not be mentioned.”

* Proof by General Agreement: “All in Favor?…”

* Proof by Imagination: “Well, We’ll pretend it’s true.”

* Proof by Convenience: “It would be very nice if it were true, so …”

* Proof by Necessity: “It had better be true or the whole structure of mathematics would crumble to the ground.”

* Proof by Plausibility: “It sounds good so it must be true.”

* Proof by Profanity: (example omitted)

* Proof by Definition: “We’ll define it to be true.”

* Proof by Lost Reference: “I know I saw this somewhere …”

* Proof by Logic: “If it is on the problem sheet, then it must be true.”

* Proof by Majority Rule: Only to be used if General Agreement is impossible.

* Proof by Clever Variable Choice: “Let A be the number such that this proof works.”

* Proof by Divine Word: “And the Lord said, ‘Let it be true,’ and it came to pass.”

* Proof by Deception: “Now everyone turn their backs …”

* Proof by Supplication: “Oh please, let it be true.”

* Proof by Intuition: “I just have this gut feeling …”

* Proof by Authority: “Well, Bill Gates says it’s true, so it must be.”

* Proof by A.F.K.T. Theorem: “Any Fool Knows That!”

* Proof by Vigorous Handwaving: Works well in a classroom.

* Proof by Divine Intervention: “Then a miracle occurs …”

* Proof by Intimidation: “Trivial.”

* Proof by Terror: When intimidation fails …

* Proof by Obfuscation: A long plotless sequence of true and/or meaningless syntactically related statements. .

* Proof by Eminent Authority: “I saw Karp in the elevator and he said it was probably complete.”

* Proof by Importance: A large body of useful consequences all follow from the proposition in question.

* Proof by Vehement Assertion: It is useful to have some kind of authority relation to the audience.

* Proof by Appeal to Intuition: Cloud-shaped drawings frequently help here.



Hammer & tickle [excerpt]

Ben Lewis   20th May 2006  —  Issue 122

Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy. The standard interpretation is that communist jokes were a form of resistance. But they were also a safety valve for the regimes and jokes were told by the rulers as well as the ruled.

Here’s one:

A man dies and goes to hell. There he discovers that he has a choice: he can go to capitalist hell or to communist hell. He wants to compare the two, so he goes over to capitalist hell. “What’s it like in there?” asks the visitor. “Well,” the devil replies, “in capitalist hell, they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives.”

“That’s terrible!” he gasps. “I’m going to check out communist hell!” He goes over to communist hell, where he discovers a huge queue of people waiting to get in. He waits in line. At the door to communist hell is a little old man who looks a bit like Karl Marx. “I’m still in the free world, Karl,” he says, “and before I come in, I want to know what it’s like in there.”

“In communist hell,” says Marx impatiently, “they flay you alive, then they boil you in oil, and then they cut you up into small pieces with sharp knives.”

“But… but that’s the same as capitalist hell!” protests the visitor, “Why such a long queue?”

“Well,” sighs Marx, “Sometimes we’re out of oil, sometimes we don’t have knives, sometimes no hot water…”


http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_rebellion.html [from 2005, apparently a dead link ]


Rebellion Quotes

If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.  ~ Abigail Adams

Every revolutionary ends up either by becoming an oppressor or a heretic.  ~ Albert Camus

It is well known that the most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution.  ~ Hannah Arendt

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