Behukkotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)

With this week’s Torah portion, we finish the book of Leviticus (stop cheering – some folks think the next book, Numbers, is a real downer).  The portion starts with eleven verses of blessings (26:3-13) that the Israelites will enjoy if they obey the Lord’s laws: rain in its proper time, agricultural abundance, enough food, fertility, safety (but military prowess if needed), and a good relationship with the Lord.  Not much detail, nor is much needed.  This rosy picture is followed by 30 verses referred to as the minor tochechah (“rebuke” or “warning”, “minor” to distinguish it from the major one in Deuteronomy 28), detailed descriptions of the consequences of disobedience.  These punishments do not occur all at once but in waves of increasing intensity: 26:16-17, 18-20, 21-22, 23-26, and 27-43, each successive wave occurring only if the people persist in disobedience.  And it’s not simply breaking a law or two, but a total and continuing rejection (26:14-16, Stone edition translation, which is more colorful here than the JTS one): “14 But if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments; 15 if you consider My decrees loathsome, and if your being rejects My ordinances, so as not to perform all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant –  16 then I will do the same  to you…”  Note the use of “all” in 26:15.  But there will always be an opportunity to stop the spiraling degradation, and the Lord will not destroy the people, nor forget the covenant.

Leviticus then concludes on a rather mundane note.  People contributed money or items of value toward the upkeep of the tabernacle.  Just as you can make a pledge for a modern fundraiser, people could pledge the value of, say, a cow, and the priest would assign a monetary value to it.   One could also pledge the value of a specific person, and those values were standardized based on age (1 month and up) and sex, likely related to one’s value in the open market as a laborer (highest: 50 shekels, for a 20-60 year old man).

Sunday is Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day (the Hebrew letters lamed ל  and gimel ג stand for 30 and 3 respectively, so גל stands for 33) of the counting of the omer (a measure of barley), which began with the second day of Pesach and will end with Shavuot.   While the time from the end of Passover up to Shavuot is customarily a semi-mourning period with certain restrictions, the only legal obligation is to count the omer.  Restrictions on weddings came later, and customs concerning avoidance of haircuts, shaving, and instrumental music after that, some of this becoming normative during medieval times (Rabbi A. Yuter, Congregation B’nai Israel, Baltimore, MD). The one break in this semi-mourning is Lag B’Omer, and it isn’t exactly clear why.  Reasons put forth include a break in a plague that had decimated Rabbi Akiba’s students during the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans; a pause in the fighting during that revolt; or maybe even a Jewish military victory.  Lag B’Omer is particularly a students’ holiday, celebrated with picnics, bonfires, and playing with bows and arrows.  Have fun, even if it’s not clear why.

Shabbat shalom,

Obedience Humor

A father of five young children won a toy at a raffle. Back home, he called his kids together to let them determine which one should have the present.

“Who is the most obedient?” he asked. “Who never talks back to Mother? Who does everything she says?”

Five small voices answered in unison: “You, Daddy!”

From 2010:

School Discipline

A school teacher injured his back and had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body. It fit under his shirt and was not noticeable at all. On the first day of the term, still with the cast under his shirt, he found himself assigned to the toughest students in school.

Walking confidently into the rowdy classroom, he opened the window as wide as possible and then busied himself with desk work. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he took the desk stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.

He had no trouble with discipline that term.

There are various “How much are you worth?” quizzes on the web.  Out of curiosity, I tried the one at the site

with identical input data except for varying age (25 or 60) and sex (male or female).  Results are tabulated below.  Being 25 and male gave highest calculated worth and being 60 and female the lowest, but there was only a tiny, tiny difference between them:

Calculated worth ($) Sex Age Worth relative to age 25 male
3226686 female 60 0.998010
3231352 female 25 0.999453
3228454 male 60 0.998557
3233120 male 25 1.000000


Washington Post Style Invitational: Safety Rules (just a couple)

Children wearing zombie Halloween costumes must have a fluorescent orange sticker on their foreheads saying “FAKE ZOMBIE” so that law enforcement officers do not accidentally shoot them. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park, Md.)

Place “Caution: Handrail Ending” signs at the bottoms of all staircases in your home. (Michael Rae, Potomac, Md.)

Danger: Room atmosphere is 79 percent nitrogen, an odorless, colorless gas that does not support life. Avoid breathing. (Irene G. Plotzker, Wilmington, Del., a First Offender*)

*As a “First Offender,” I got a “First Ink” award, a FIR(st) Tree air freshener hanger.


Production development discussion:
“We’ve simplified the warning label to: ‘May result in lawyers’ “

Warning Labels

tph Funny-Warning-Label-Stupid-Idiots

In case you need further proof that the human race is doomed because of stupidity, here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods…. (selections)

On a bag of Chips: You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside. (the shoplifter special?)

On some frozen dinners: “Serving suggestion: Defrost.” (but, it’s “just” a suggestion).

On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding: “Product will be hot after heating.”(…and you thought????…)

On packaging for a K-Mart iron: “Do not iron clothes on body.” (but wouldn’t this save me more time?)

On Nytol Sleep Aid: “Warning: May cause drowsiness.” (and…I’m taking this because???….)

On most brands of Christmas lights: “For indoor or outdoor use only.”(as opposed to…what?)

On a Japanese food processor: “Not to be used for the other use.”(now, somebody out there, help me on this. I’m a bit curious.)

On Nobby’s peanuts: “Warning: contains nuts.” (talk about a news flash!)


tph quiverquips2 echo

—————————  (from 2011)

Tie Score

It’s very uncommon for two archers to have the same score.
Everyone knows that bow ties went out of style years ago.
—————————   (from 2011)

Shot With a Bow

Lawyer: “Now, would you please tell the Jury the truth. Why did you shoot your husband with a bow and arrow?”

Defendant: “I didn’t want to wake up the children.”


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