Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

Addendum to the June 11 weekly on Korach:
Stanley sent me the following article (Thanks!).                
Maslow’s Pyramid Gets a Makeover
Apparently, the pyramid is considered by some to be passe
I beg your indulgence.
Tomorrow is the first of my summer Fridays off and the start of a 4-day weekend for me.  In anticipation of doing as little thinking as possible for the next four days, my mind has already started shutting down.  And a visit from a team of European patent examiners consumed more time than expected.  So, my comments this week are essentially a combination of those from last year and two years ago.

Lots going on in this week’s portion as the Israelites continue preparations for conquering and living in the Promised Land.  There is a census of men aged 20+ able to bear arms (no one from the tribe of Levi).  If you compare this census with the one a little less than 39 years earlier (see Numbers, Chapter 1), you see that the total has shrunk a bit, from 603,550 then to 601,730 now, down 0.3%, possibly held down by a combination of lower fertility in straitened circumstances with various plagues and battles.  Interestingly, the population changes varied from tribe to tribe.  Biggest % decreases: Shimon, 63% and Ephraim, 20%.   Biggest % increases: Menasheh, 64%; Benjamin, 29%; and  Asher, 29%.  Why the differences?  Rashi goes through a careful analysis of even the families to account for their fates; one conclusion is that essentially all the deaths from plague fell to Shimon (note that Zimri was from the tribe of Shimon.).  Once the census is complete, a plan for apportioning the Promised Land among the tribes is described, and we are then treated to an object lesson as to how the laws can develop in response to new situations.   The five daughters of Zelophechad publicly petition Moses for what would have been their father’s land, saying that it is unfair for his name to be lost simply because he had no sons.  Moses asks the Lord and the Lord agrees with the women that they should inherit their father’s holding, and this should be a general rule when there are no sons.  We’ll come back to this at the end of Numbers.  Moses is told again that he can only look, not enter Canaan, and he asks the Lord to make sure he has a successor, and Joshua is formally chosen.  Finally, we read all those portions we read during the year on Rosh Hodesh and the holidays about the appropriate offerings.  I’ve read this part many times, and there are times, especially Ch. 29:12-32, when there is so much repetition of both words and melody that I recall the British joke about an orchestra musician who said, “I dreamed I playing ‘Messiah” and when I woke up, I was!”

I did not forget about Pinchas, grandson of Aaron.  After killing an Israelite chieftain and the daughter of a Midianite chieftain who were publicly, uh, consorting in public in front of the Tent of Meeting (where was Moses during this?) at the end of last week’s portion, Pinchas is praised by the Lord for his zealotry and rewarded with the hereditary priesthood. The rabbis later apparently had mixed feelings about praising vigilantism, even when praised by the Lord, seeing as the accompanying Haftarah, I Kings 18:46-19:21, is read rarely, only when Pinchas is read before the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day that initiates the mourning period before Tisha B’Av.  This year, Pinchas is read on the 21st of Tammuz (close, but no cigar), so instead, we read Jeremiah 1:1-2:3, the first of the three Haftarot of Rebuke preceding Tisha B’Av.  This is the call to prophecy of Jeremiah, a reluctant prophet of doom, whose writings nevertheless at times continue great beauty, like 2:2, used in the High Holy Days liturgy: “I remember for you the kindness of your youth, the love when you were a bride, how you followed me into the wilderness, into a land unsown.”

An early Shabbat Shalom and happy Fourth of July,
Published Friday April 30, 2010  The New York Times

Twitter vigilantes aren’t so silent about grammar, spelling [excerpts]

[I do not tweet, nor do I text, nor do I plan to.  IGP]

John Cusack tweets with his iPhone and, much like the characters he plays, his style is fast and loose.

He said by telephone: “I’m pretty new to it, and if there’s a spell check on an iPhone, I can’t find it. So I basically get in the general ballpark and tweet it.”

Consequently, Cusack has introduced strange words such as “breakfasy” and “hippocrite” and has given a more literary title to his new movie: “Hot Tub Tome Machine.”

Most of his followers ignore the gaffes. But a vocal minority abuse him about it nonstop, telling the star that as much as they liked “The Sure Thing,” his grammar and spelling sure stink.

“If you’re going to be political, maybe learn how to spell Pakistan, and all words in general,” wrote one person.

“The vitriol was so intense that at first I didn’t think they were serious,” Cusack said. “Because, like, who would care?”

They do. A small but vocal subculture has emerged on Twitter of grammar and taste vigilantes who spend their time policing other people’s tweets.

These are people who build their own algorithms to sniff out Twitter messages that are distasteful to them tweets with typos or flawed grammar, or written in ALLCAPS and then send scolding notes to the offenders. They see themselves as the guardians of an emerging behavior code: Twetiquette.

Enforcing etiquette on Twitter is basically begging to be called an idiot, but those who do it don’t seem to mind.

Ole and Lena were enjoying their morning coffee when a knock at the door
revealed the census taker on his rounds. He was welcomed and seated at the
table and served coffee and smultringer. Then he began his recording,
getting full names and details on the pair and when he asked about how many
children they had, Lena said, Yust a minute and called out, Helga, Olga,
Sven, Olaf, Haakon, Tosten, Ingeborg, Marit, Erik og Hans, come in here!
And the kitchen filled up with twins,to the amazement of the census taker.

After he had finished recording all their details, he nervously turned to
Lena and asked, Mrs. Olsen, did you get twins every time?
Lena blushed a little and whispered, Oh no, dere vas tousands times ve got  notting!

Animal Sacrifice To Cure Sick Could Lead To Shark Attacks

Blood from sheep butchered in a religious ritual at one of South Africa’s busiest tourist beaches could lure sharks towards those in the water.

The Leader of the Healing Oracle, Prophet Moses Michael said the ritual was inspired by the Old Testament to help cure sick people.

Biologist Sheldon Dudley of the Natal Sharks Board told a Reuters reporter that, “putting blood or offal into the water is simply not sensible…a shark in the vicinity of the beach may come to investigate.”

Animal protection officers said they were also investigating cruelty allegations around the sacrifices, and an official supervising the Durban beach said they were unacceptable.

“A beach is a public place and we can’t have animals being sacrificed in front of visitors and children,” the beach official told Durban’s daily news.

Business one-liners 63 [excerpts]

If at first you don’t succeed, give up. No use being a stupid fool.
If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.
If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not your sport.
If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll get a lot of free advice from folks who didn’t succeed either.
If at first you don’t succeed, your successor will.

The Bible According to Kids
(A few excerpts.  See Richard Lederer’s paperbacks for many others of this ilk.)
·        Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread which is bread without any ingredients. The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert.
·        Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten amendments.
·        Moses died before he ever reached Canada.
·        Then Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol. The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.
From 2004:
Moses recognized that selecting a leader is not easy.  He himself was selected by God, so, naturally, that’s Whom he turned to to identify his successor.   It is often painfully clear that those who choose leaders today lack the benefit of such divine guidance, particularly in the corporate arena…

Manager’s Journal: The Dilbert Principle[excerpted]

By Scott Adams

Wall Street Journal, 5/22/95

 …Stories… prompted me to do the first annual Dilbert Survey to find out what management practices were most annoying to employees. The choices included the usual suspects: Quality, Empowerment, Re-engineering and the like. But the number-one vote-getter on this highly unscientific survey was “Idiots Promoted to Management.”

This seemed like a subtle change from the old concept where capable workers were promoted until they reached their level of incompetence — the Peter Principle. Now, apparently, the incompetent workers are promoted directly to management without ever passing through the temporary competence stage.


Boss: “When I had your job I could drive a three-inch rod through a metal casing with one motion. If you’re late again I’ll do the same thing to your head.”

Lately, however, the Peter Principle has given way to the Dilbert Principle. The basic concept of the Dilbert Principle is that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

Maybe we should learn something from nature. In the wild, the weakest moose is hunted down and killed by Dingo dogs, thus ensuring survival of the fittest. This is a harsh system …But the point is that we’d all be better off if the least competent managers were being eaten by Dingo dogs instead of writing mission statements.

It seems as if we’ve turned nature’s rules upside down. We systematically identify and promote the people who have the least skills. The usual business rationalization for promoting idiots (the Dilbert Principle in a nutshell) is something along the lines of “Well, he can’t write code, he can’t design a network, and he doesn’t have any sales skill. But he has very good hair…”

If nature started organizing itself like a modern business, you’d see, for example, a band of mountain gorillas led by an “alpha” squirrel. And it wouldn’t be the most skilled squirrel; it would be the squirrel nobody wanted to hang around with.

I can see the other squirrels gathered around an old stump saying stuff like “If I hear him say `I like nuts’ one more time, I’m going to kill him.” The gorillas, overhearing this conversation, lumber down from the mist and promote the unpopular squirrel. The remaining squirrels are assigned to Quality Teams as punishment….

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