Today’s item is in memory of Michael Quah, my first lab partner at DuPont. His technical, literary, verbal, and business capabilities were formidable. Though he left the company many years before I did, the wonders of electronic communication, especially Facebook, allowed us to reconnect, for which I am grateful.
This week, we come to the end of Leviticus with a reasonably short portion, 78 verses. First, we read the blessings (26:3-13) that the Israelites will experience if they are obedient: rain in its proper time, agricultural abundance, food, fertility, safety, and a good relationship with the Lord. Since everyone knows what good times are like, there is no need to go into great detail. But what follows is a 30-verse section known as the “minor tochechah,” graphic warnings of the consequences of disobedience. [Just wait ‘til we get to the major tochechah in Deuteronomy 28.] This isn’t for garden-variety sinning but for a complete, ongoing rejection of the Law (26:14-16): “But if you will not listen to Me and will not perform all of these commandments; 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 – then I will do the same to you…” There are five distinct sets of punishments (26:16-17, 18-20, 21-22, 23-26, and 27-43), which are in turn increasingly catastrophic, each set 7 times worse than the one before. The good news is that the people can stop it at any point by repenting and obeying the laws.
Leviticus then concludes with instructions for monetary valuations of noncash donations. In ancient times, people would make donations toward the maintenance of the Tabernacle and later the Temple. One way was to pledge the monetary equivalent of something of value. Nowadays, if you donate, say, clothes to Goodwill, there is a guide online for estimating the monetary value of your donation. Back then, the priest would assign a value to an animal or other item of value, like a house. You could also pledge the value of a specific person, and those values were standardized based on age and sex, basically what the person could fetch on the open market as a slave. Not surprisingly, the highest valuation was 50 shekels for a 20-60 year old man.
Next week, we switch back from laws to narrative as we begin the Book of Numbers.
By the way, I just learned of another weekly blog related to the Torah portion that you may find an entertaining accompaniment to Torah Portion Humor (thanks, Stanley!).
A Blog That Mixes the Perfect Drink for Every Torah Portion
May 31, 2016 | By Tamar Fox
Have you ever been reading the weekly Torah portion and thought to yourself, “I could really use a drink”? If you know that feeling, we have just the blog for you: Tippling Through the Torah, a mixology blog inspired by the Torah.
Amateur bartender and Kiddush Club devotee at Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Hyde Park, Chicago, Andrea Frazier started the blog in October 2015, on a dare from the rabbi. Each week the Kiddush Club reads the Torah portion and picks a few key themes or passages to help her create a new drink. For the end of the Ten Plagues (Parashat Bo) a Dark and Stormy. For Lot’s Wife turning into a Pillar of Salt (Vayera) a drink called the Pillar of Salt, which combines coconut water, tequila, lime juice, Bacos, and a salt rim. Frazier and the Kiddush Club even do drinks for Jewish holidays, including an alcoholic seder plate, and two different drinks for Purim, the Golden Scepter, and Vashti’s Tuchis.
The cocktails are fantastic and really creative, but the best part is Frazier’s funny and irreverent Torah commentary. (“So Pharaoh’s heart was still hard, and G-d decided to re-enact a pivotal episode of Little House On The Prairie.”) She’s like Rashi, if he had access to really great liquor (which, as a vintner, maybe he did).
[This week’s is Behukkotai: The Desolation of the Land. IGP]
Funny Warning Labels on Appliances (selections)
- On Odour Eaters: Please do not eat.
- On a blender: On no account improvise as a fish aquarium.
- On stockings: Not to be used in the commission of a felony.
- On gloves: For best results, do not leave at the crime scene.
- On a fridge: Refrigerate after opening.
- On alphabet blocks: Not for children.
Letters may be used to construct words, phrases and sentences that may be deemed offensive.
- On a cardboard windshield sun-shade: ‘Warning: Do Not Drive With Sun Shield in Place’.
- On a microscope: Objects in view are bigger and more frightening than they appear.
- On a calendar: Use of term ‘Sunday’ for reference only. No meteorological warranties express or implied.
Epigrams: rewards, warning, obedience
If you can’t be a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.—Napoleon Bonaparte
To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.—Albert Einstein
The reward of suffering is experience.—Aeschylus
Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book. —Ronald Wilson Reagan
Every conscientious parent recognizes how difficult it is to exercise his God-given authority over his children. The delicate balance of being tough yet tender is not easy to maintain. Many parents intensify a rebellious spirit by being dictatorial and harsh. Others yield when their authority is tested. When a strong-willed child resists, the pressure to give in for the sake of peace and harmony can become overpowering. I am reminded of the mother who wanted to have the last word but couldn’t handle the hassle that resulted whenever she said no to her young son.
After an especially trying day, she finally flung up her hands and shouted, “All right, Billy, do whatever you want! Now let me see you disobey THAT!”
Our Daily Bread.
The $46 Million Man (abridged)
Aug 01, 2003 By Patrick Clinton Pharmaceutical Executive
When I was a kid, I remember reading magazine articles that set out to determine the worth of the human body- just the market value of the chemicals that composed it. The figure I remember hearing was $1.98.
The editors of Wired magazine recently set out to re-create that article. Writer Patrick Di Justo tracked down the market value of more than 50 bits, pieces, and components of the human body. The results? Our body contains $7.12 worth of phosphorous, $5.95 worth of potassium, and about four bucks worth of a dozen other substances for a total of $17.18.
But what if we don’t break it all the way down? Well, Di Justo calculates that your lungs are worth $58,200 each, your heart will fetch $57,000, and your kidneys are good for another $91,400. Your liver has a market value of $54,100, but it’s also the source of a bit more than 22 grams of transferrin at $18,900 per gram, or a total of $419,920.20, or more than seven times the value of the organ itself. Your DNA will fetch more than $9 million, while your bone marrow is worth $23 million.
Your total market value: $45,618,575.82. But I think I’ll be happier when the value of my body crashes. It will, of course. Business focuses so intently on building value that we tend to forget that one of its greatest services is to destroy value. The computer that used to cost tens of millions and fill a building now operates a talking doll for $20. With luck, the substances that give $46 million to the value of my physical being will eventually be cheap and commonplace. And how will we feel? Like a million bucks? No, like a buck ninety-eight. What could be better?