[Posted late – sorry, computer problems.]
This week’s (actually, last week’s. see above.) portion contains various items which seem to be unconnected.
That means, of course, post-Biblical commentators have tried to find a
connection. I am particularly intrigued by that of a modern rabbi, Umberto
Cassuto (1883-1951), who 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 census of the Levites and their job descriptions,
only men aged 30 to 50 this time, since their work included disassembling
and carrying the Tabernacle through the wilderness, whence their early
retirement.Then, as we just finished talking about the camp, there’s a
reminder to remove ritually unclean people from said camp. This brings to
mind the offerings required as part of ritual purification, which brings in
the verses about the guilt offering when one has done wrong (e.g., robbed
someone), which “is breaking faith with” (or “a trespass against”) the
Lord. The same language is used for a wife suspected of adultery; she is
accused of breaking faith with her husband. The ensuing jealousy ritual (
sotah) involves not just having her drink “bitter waters” in a trial by
ordeal, but also uncovering her hair. What follows next are laws
concerning nazirites, which involves vowing not only to abstain from
intoxicants and grapes and refrain from contact with a corpse, but also not
to cut one’s hair or beard. Becoming a nazirite was intended to enable a
person to attain a holier state, temporarily (30 days or more) consecrating oneself to the Lord. Samson, whose birth is foretold in this week’s
haftarah (Judges 13:2-25), was an exception in that he did not choose this
for himself and he was supposed to be a nazirite permanently. Then what do
we found after this discussion of the holier-than-the rest nazirites (the
rabbis were ambivalent about the practice)? The priestly benediction
(6:24-26), recited by those who were supposed to be continually focussed on
holiness. Continuing the theme of holiness and dedication to the Lord, the
final chapter contains the list of gifts brought to dedicate the
just-completed Tabernacle, twelve identical offerings, from one tribe each
day, leading to the result of all this activity, 7:89: “When Moses went
into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he would hear the Voice
addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the Ark of the Pact
between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him.”
I think it’s a neat way to look at the portion’s organization, as a sort of
stream of consciousness. I don’t know if it’s a particularly effective
memory aid, not that you need much of one for 7:12-83, which describes the
12 identical offerings identically (except for the names of tribes and
chieftains), but it provides a different perspective.
The boss is finally old enough to retire from the company. On his last day of work, he ordered a farewell party for himself. The boss wanted everyone to express their good feeling about him by writing on the farewell card, so later he could remember how his staff “miss” him. Most people are writing standard phrases like, “Without you, the company will never be the same,” “We will always remember you,” etc.
Obviously the boss was not satisfied. “I need something from the bottom of your heart, something really touching, you know. Okay, John, you have been working with me for the last 20 years. You are my best staff. I am retiring now. What do you have to say?”
Slowly but firmly, John wrote, “The best news in 20 years.”
A Child’s View of Retirement
After a Christmas break, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holidays. One small boy wrote the following:
We always used to spend Christmas with Grandpa and Grandma. They used to live here in a big brick home, but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Florida.
Now they live in a place with a lot of other retarded people. They all live in little tin boxes. They ride on big three-wheeled tricycles and they all wear nametags because they don’t know who they are.
They go to a big building called a wrecking hall; but if it was wrecked, they got it fixed because it’s all right now. They play games and do exercises there, but they don’t do them very good.
There is a swimming pool there. They go into it and just stand there with their hats on. I guess they don’t know how to swim.
As you go into their park, there is a dollhouse with a little man sitting in it. He watches all day so they can’t get out without him seeing them. When they can sneak out they go to the beach and pick up shells that they think are dollars.
My Grandma used to bake cookies and stuff, but I guess she forgot how. Nobody cooks, they just eat out. They eat the same thing every night, Early Birds. Some of the people are so retarded that they don’t know how to cook at all, so my Grandma and Grandpa bring food into the wrecked hall and they call it “pot luck.”
My Grandma says Grandpa worked hard all his life and earned his retardment. I wish they would move back up here, but I guess the little man in the dollhouse won’t let them out.
- Three year old son Scott had thin fly-away hair, so his mother often wet it to comb it into place. One morning as she applied water and slicked his hair back , she announced it was time for him to get another haircut. “Mom.” Scott replied, “If you’d quit watering it so much, it wouldn’t grow so fast!”
- 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 a man stepped on Rapunzel’s hair would he be arrested for tress-passing?
The man approached the very beautiful woman in the large supermarket and asked,
“You know, I’ve lost my wife here in the supermarket. Can you talk to me for a couple of minutes?”
“Because every time I talk to a beautiful woman my wife appears out of nowhere.”
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Adam and Eve
Sometimes women are overly suspicious of their husbands. When Adam stayed
out very late for a few nights, Eve became upset.
“You’re running around with other women,” she charged.
“You’re being unreasonable,” Adam responded. “You’re the only woman on
earth.” The quarrel continued until Adam fell asleep, only to be awakened
by someone poking him in the chest. It was Eve.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Adam demanded.
“Counting your ribs!”
Drinking to Success [excerpts]
Arthur C. Brooks,
01.22.09, 06:00 PM EST Forbes Magazine dated February 16, 2009
Teetotalers are not quite as successful as moderate drinkers. Why?
So you overdid it with the booze again… In an attempt atnredemption, your resolution for 2009 is to cut out the sauce. A prudent endeavor, right?
No. While excessive drinking is of course dangerous and unwise, moderate drinking is, for most people, a lot better than abstinence. There are tangible benefits for health, career and happiness associated with sensible partaking….
Research suggests that having at least one drink per day lowers the risk of heart disease by up to 40%. Even further, although the connection has not been definitively established, some research has shown that moderate drinking may protect against type 2 diabetes, reduce risk for strokes and lower the probability of gallstones. Even more provocative, some researchers believe that alcohol can lower the risk of dementia later in life.
Moderate drinkers feel better than nondrinkers about their health. Moderate drinkers are richer than teetotalers, too. In 2001 the University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics found that… [if] two adults were identical with respect to education, age, family status, race and religion, except that the first had one or two drinks each night after work while the second was a teetotaler, the drinker would tend to enjoy a “drinker’s bonus” of about 10% higher income.
The data show that average income rises with alcohol consumption up to a point and then falls off as one moves into the range of heavy drinking. Income peaks at 2.6 drinks per day for men and 1.5 per women. …Drinkers are not only richer than abstainers, they tend to be happier, too…Given the income and happiness gaps, it is no surprise to learn that those who imbibe reasonably are many of America’s best charitable givers. …
In sum, moderate drinking has links to good health, fortune, humor and character. None of this is to argue that your Bacchanalian excesses over the holidays were advisable. But as you contemplate your sins, be careful not to overcorrect in 2009. You might not like the results.
Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, is author of Who Really Cares and Gross National Happiness (both from Basic Books).