Chukkat (Numbers 19:1 – 22:1)

At first glance, this week’s Torah portion looks like a typical wandering-in-the-desert episode.  It includes an inexplicable ritual (the red heifer), Israelite complaints (how good Egyptian food was, a lack of water), a plague (seraphic serpents), Moses’ intercession with the Lord to save the people, a miraculous object (bronze serpent).  But it telescopes about 38 years of wandering in the wilderness into one chapter (according to Rashi, everything from Chapter 20 to the end of the Torah takes place in the fortieth year) and provides a nexus for profound issues.  And the image running through all of it water.  The ashes of the red heifer (and other ingredients) are mixed with water for use in making a person ritually pure after contact with a corpse.  According to Midrash, the Israelites had water because of a well that accompanied them while Miriam lived.  In this portion, she dies, leading to the complaints about a lack of water that lead to the incident in which Moses strikes the rock instead of speaking to it, so he and Aaron are forbidden to enter the Promised Land.  Aaron dies.  After the serpent plague, the Israelites obtain water by singing triumphantly for it instead of whining or watching Moses do something to a rock. And the portion ends with the Israelites, having just defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan, and camped across the Jordan River from Jericho.

I remember as I watched the 1996 movie “Romeo + Juliet” feeling puzzled by all the water imagery; as I recall, Romeo first saw Juliet through the glass of an aquarium and the iconic balcony was replaced with a swimming pool.  I had no idea what the water imagery meant, though it would make for a dandy English class essay.  But in the portion Chukkat, the water imagery appears everywhere for a reason.  It is part of life, death, purity and impurity, despair and hope.  The ash/water mixture is purifying, but this simultaneously makes the priest who administers the ritual impure himself.  Miriam’s death is accompanied by the Israelites’ loss of water.  When Moses strikes the rock to get water, he’s part of the old generation that must die in the wilderness, as is Aaron.  The Israelites who sing for water at Beer are the new generation, an Israel that has been reborn.  And the River Jordan is simultaneously a barrier between them and the Promised Land, and a symbol of hope and life.

Shabbat shalom,
—————————–  [sent out 9 years ago]

High Quality Cows

The place where this man grew up in Central New York State was serious farming country – apple, dairy, and other fruits such as berries were the biggest items. There was one farmer named Mayne, who consistently won the state prizes for the best milk and milk products.

He was quite successful financially, and his farm was large enough that he needed a small helicopter to get around it. One day, some officials from the State Dairy Board dropped in to talk to him. The Chairman, his Assistant and Mr. Mayne all got in the helicopter and took a flying tour of the pastures.

As they were flying by, the Chairman noted that despite the huge acreage, many of the cows were congregated in one pasture whose ground cover was much darker green than the rest. The Chairman asked about this, and Mr. Mayne replied “Oh, yes. That’s part of my secret, you see. Some years ago, I bought out part of the land belonging to one of my neighbors, who was a fruit farmer. Anyway, he’d planted strawberries, and I just let the cows eat them, intending to replant later. Well, the cows that had been pastured out there produced much more milk, and of higher quality, that I planted more berries for them to eat, and you have seen the results.”

The Chairman nodded, and said “I should have realized that. It makes sense – strawberry fields for heifer.”

Rabbi’s Sermon Drinking Game [selections, slightly edited]

by Seth Galena    Posted: 07-19-2006(Viewed 791 times)

If you follow these simple game rules during the rabbi’s sermon, you will be sure to be on a higher level of spirituality once the speech is over: Chug a beer the entire silence from when the rabbi gets to podium until he begins speaking

1.        If Rabbi begins sermon with “In this week’s parsha” [Torah portion] and you know the parsha ,do a shot of Scotch
2.        If the first commentary quoted is Rashi, drinking a simple revi’is (1/4) of French wine is required
3.        If Rabbi’s tallis is adjusted or falls off while speaking, refill 1 cup of Manischewitz Extra Heavy
4.        If the rabbi opens a book or gives out printouts/sources do a shot of Slivovitz for each source quoted
5.        If the rabbi looses his train of thought, chug beer till he gets back on track
6.        If there is mention of splitting the sea in the sermon, drink a Seabreeze (vodka, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice)
7.        If there is mention of the Jews being in the desert, parch your boredom with a shot of tequila or a Corona
8.        If the speech has to do with any sacrifice/korban or parah adumah (red heifer)  you should drink a Red Bull and Vodka
9.        If any story revolves around a shtetl, mix yourself a White Russian
10.        If the speech quotes a page of talmud & gives the exact daf/page number you must drink that number of shots of vodka
11.        If there is mention of giving the First Fruits hit the Sabra Peach Schnapps
12.        Finish off chugging beer the entire time from when the rabbi finishes until the cantor starts Adon Olam (the final hymn).

Corny Water Jokes [v. lightly edited]

BE PREPARED: A guy notices that his new girlfriend (an airhead) brings two glasses to bed each night, one empty and the other filled with water. “Why do you do that?” he asked. She answered, “Well, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I don’t know if I’m going to be thirsty or not.”

THE CURE: A man goes to his doctor because he’s been feeling very ill for days. The doctor examines him, leaves the room and comes back with a large assortment of pills. He says, “Take the green pill with two big glasses of water when you get up. An hour later, take the white pill with another glass of water. Take the blue pill with a big glass of water after lunch. Mid afternoon, take the orange pill with plenty of water, and repeat that at dinner. Then, just before going to bed, take the red pill with several big glasses of water.”
The man is alarmed at huge volume of medicine he has been given to take, and nervously asks, “What’s the diagnosis? What’s wrong with me?” The doctor says, “You’re dehydrated.”


GPS Horror Stories

[Speaking of wandering in the wilderness…]

Following Your GPS Over A Cliff Is No Excuse For Bad Driving

from the in-case-you-were-wondering… dept

by Mike Masnick   Tue, Sep 22nd 2009 8:30am

Verve alerts us to the news that one of the many drivers who have been chronicled following their GPS over their own common sense has discovered that “following my GPS ” is not an acceptable defense in court. In this case, the guy followed the GPS’s commands down a “narrow cliffside path” until the car got stuck against a fence, overlooking a sharp drop. He’s now been convicted of “driving without due care and attention.” The prosecutor wasn’t exactly kind, but apparently the following was convincing to the judges:

The path was not designed for motor vehicles yet Mr. Jones slavishly continued to follow the satnav system to the point where his eyes and his brain must have been telling him otherwise to such a degree he was not exercising proper control of the vehicle
For his part, the guy admitted he was an “idiot,” but said he was just following instructions:
I might have been an idiot for taking the wrong road or carrying on but I have not driven without due care or attention.

Couple Taken 400 Miles Off Course By Trusting Their GPS

from the at-some-point,-don’t-you-begin-to-question… dept

It really is amazing to see some of the stories about people shutting off their brains (and often their own eyes) in order to believe everything that their GPS device tells them. The latest example involves some Swedish tourists in Italy, who wanted to go to Capri, but mistyped it into the device as Carpi, an industrial town in Northern Italy, 400 miles away from the beautiful isle of Capri. Apparently, it didn’t occur to them as they drove (and drove and drove) that perhaps things weren’t right. According to tourist officials, after being informed, the couple got back in the car, and turned around to head in the right direction.

GPS  — Balasubramanian Venkataraman

Scene: A conversation between two of my friends.
Friend #1: Are you visiting us tomorrow? Do you need directions?
Friend #2: I’m all set. I have the address, a GPS, and a GPS override. Friend #1: What’s a GPS override?
Friend #2: My wife.

(Actually, in our case, it’s my husband who knows best when to override the GPS.)

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One Response to Chukkat (Numbers 19:1 – 22:1)

  1. Sarah Brennan says:

    I found this especially interesting this week, Irene and I liked the jokes and stories a lot. We used a lot of water on Joey Thursday and yesterday. Poor baby got sprayed in the face by a skuke.

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