Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

I’m baaack.

Did you know there are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley and environs?  And we only got to 10 of them.

Right, the Torah portion.

We are basically in tying up loose ends mode.  The latest plague is stayed, the Israelites are saved, and Pinchas is explicitly rewarded for his violent actions with the hereditary priesthood.  I find it odd that this brief tale is split in two, half last week and half this.  Perhaps that’s related to the ambivalence with which the rabbis viewed Pinchas’s homicidal zealotry (not to mention how they felt about hereditary priesthood, at least by Mishnaic times).  They conclude that this was a singular instance, the zeal of Pinchas was purely in service of the Lord, and this isn’t the sort of action a run-of-the-mill, self-appointed vigilante should take.

Another census is taken.  Male Israelites able to bear arms, 20 years+: 601,730 down 0.3%.  Levites, males, one month and up: 23,000, up 4.5%.  That’s not too bad, given all the plagues and calamities.  This is followed by foretastes of what’s to come.  The brother-less five daughters of Zelophehad protest that they should inherit their father’s assigned holding.  Moses checks with the Lord, who says they’re right, and the inheritance laws are thereby amended, but there will be more to their story.  Moses is then told to get ready to die, and Joshua is officially presented as the leader-designate.  The portion concludes with all the sacrifices for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays, all those little selections we read on Rosh Chodesh and from the second scroll on holidays, more preparation for observances in the Promised Land.  By the way, I think I was an adult before I realized that “sacrifices” were typically not totally burnt up, but eaten (mmm, BBQ); who gets to eat what is summarized on p. 1291 of the Stone edition of the Chumash.

This past Tuesday, the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day, marked the beginning of a somber three-week period that culminates in the black fast of Tisha B’Av (9th of Av).  Three Haftarot of Rebuke/Warning are read, so to get all 3 in, when Pinchas is read after 17 Tammuz, its assigned haftarah (I Kings 18:46-19:21) is replaced with the first of the 3, Jeremiah 1:1-2:3.  BONUS QUESTION: What verses in this haftarah from Jeremiah appear in the liturgy, and where do they appear?

Shabbat shalom,


Rabbis and Priests and Bars, Oh My…
A rabbi, a priest, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, “What is this, a joke?”
Archeologist at a site, reading a parchment scroll: “It starts ‘A rabbi and a priest go into a bar.’  I think this Dead Sea Scroll is a fake.”
A Priest and a Rabbi walk into a bar; the Minister ducked.
A priest, a rabbi and a leprechaun walk into a bar. The leprechaun looks around and says, “Saints preserve us! I’m in the wrong joke!”


A Wealthy Man Dies, What Should They Get?

Mrs. Applebee, the 6th grade teacher, posed the following problem to one of her classes:

“A wealthy man dies and leaves ten million dollars. One-fifth is to go to his wife, one-fifth is to go to his son, one-sixth to his butler, and the rest to charity. Now, what does each get?”

After a very long silence in the classroom, Little Johnny raised his hand. The teacher called on Little Johnny for his answer.

With complete sincerity in his voice, Little Johnny answered, “A lawyer!”


13:19 Wed 05th Sep 2012


Can you believe it?
They sent my Census Form back to me!
In response to question No. 4, “Do you have any dependents?”
I replied – “2.1 million illegal immigrants, 1.1 million crack heads, 4.4 million unemployable people, 901 thousand people in over 85 prisons, and 565 idiots in Parliament.

Apparently, this was NOT an acceptable answer.

Who the hell did I miss ?


Manager’s Journal: The Dilbert Principle

By Scott Adams

Wall Street Journal, 5/22/95

Excerpt of excerpt sent out in 2004.

…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.

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. This has not proved to be the winning strategy that you might think.

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…

The Barbecue

Definition of Outdoor Barbecuing: It’s the only type of cooking a “real” man will do.

When a man volunteers to do such cooking, the following chain of events is put into motion.

1) The woman goes to the store.

2) The woman fixes the salad, vegetables, and dessert.

3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils, and takes it to the man, who is lounging beside the grill, beer in hand.

4) The man places the meat on the grill.

5) The woman goes inside to set the table and check the vegetables.

6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning.

7) The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman.

8) The woman prepares the plates and brings them to the table.

9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

10) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed “her night off.” And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there’s just no pleasing some women.

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