B’Haalotekha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16)

This week’s portion is of two moods.  The beginning is a continuation of the preparations before finally setting out from Sinai.   Aaron lights the lamps of the 7-branched menorah.  The Levites are officially designated and ritually purified, including a full body shave.  A Pesach Sheni (second Passover) is added to the calendar a month after the first, to allow those who missed the first because of ritual impurity to eat their Passover sacrifice.  In a nice upgrade from rams’ horns, two silver trumpets are made for summoning the people.  A cloud is to cover the Tabernacle by day, fire by night.  Then, ta da!  The tribes, in their four divisions, set out.  Verses 10:35-36, set apart by two inverted letters nun, i.e., ׆, are to be announced whenever the Ark was to set out; those words sung before our own Torah processions.  Why inverted letters?  There are various commentaries, but maybe it’s just an ancient scribe’s way of bolding or italicizing the text.

And then the Israelites march triumphantly to the Promised Land and conquer it a mere two years after leaving Egypt, always awed by what has befallen them, eager to obey the Lord, and… 

No, that’s the “and they lived happily ever after” version, the Hollywood ending.  The text paints a more disheartening, but more believable, picture.  The people complain.  Kvetch.  Gripe.  Complain.  Whine.  They’re tired of manna.  Egypt is seen through a nostalgia haze as a place of free fish, meat, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic.  And do you think they could have complained so much in Egypt with impunity?  As anybody who’s dealt with a tired, cranky child knows, they’re just unhappy, regardless of the specific complaint.  According to Rashi, Rabban Gamaliel expounded on this text, “You will never satisfy them…If you give them beef, they will say they asked for mutton.  If you will give them mutton, they will say they asked for beef, for fish, for grasshoppers.” (Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar, pp. 110-111) 

In turn, the Lord sends punishments and quail, and the “gift” of quail turns into a plague, probably food poisoning.  Even Moses is fed up, so the Lord gives the gift of prophesy to 70 more elders to help him out (how is unclear).  And Miriam and Aaron whine that Moses isn’t the only prophet in the family and they slander Moses with regard to his “Cushite” wife (Zipporah? A second wife?), so Miriam is stricken with tzara’at (skin disease).

Of course they all complain.  They’re wandering in the wilderness physically and emotionally.  They no longer have a tangible focus, like building the Tabernacle.  And they feel very uncertain about their future, an uncertainty that will lead to disaster. 

Shabbat Shalom,



History of Shaving – The Original Hairless Elite (excerpts)

Prehistoric Times – shaving history takes us way back to the Stone Age, around 100,000BC, when Neanderthal Man started first pulling hair from his body.  Cave paintings show that early man simply plucked the hair out using seashells like tweezers.

The earliest shaving razors discovered were flint blades from as far back as 30,000BC.  These implements were the first disposable razors as flint dulls rather quickly.

4000-3000BC Women are removing body hair with depilatory creams made from such combinations as arsenic, quicklime and starch.

3000BC marked the first permanent development of razors due to metalworking being invented. In both India and Egypt razors made from copper are found available.

1500-1200BC  Some of the most elaborate razors in ancient times in Scandinavia were produced.  Razors were found in leather carrying cases with scenes embossed in the bronze blades with handles carved into horse head shapes.

500BC (actually 356 – 323 B.C.E. IGP) It became popular for men to crop their hair very short and shave the face in Greece. Alexander the Great s obsessed with shaving.  He shaves even during war and will not be seen going to battle with a five o clock shadow.

Roman women remove their hair with razors and pumice stones. They even make their own depilatory creams from medicinal drugs such as Bryonia.

They also pluck their eyebrows using tweezers.



Political Lightbulb Jokes

How many US Presidents does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None, the constitution says that only Congress can screw in light bulbs, so only Congress is responsible for the dark, which is why we need a Constitutional amendment.

How many presidential candidates does it take to change a light bulb?
Less and less all the time.

How many believable, competent, “just right for the job” presidential candidates does it take to change a light bulb?
It’s going to be a dark 4 years, isn’t it?



Impossible to Please
A man who robbed a Wendy’s in Atlanta was so put off by his skimpy haul that he called the restaurant twice to voice his disapproval. That’s better than what police say Arthur Bundrage did. Bundrage approached a Syracuse, New York, bank teller and demanded $20,000. When he got home, he discovered he’d been shortchanged. Outraged, he stormed back to the bank to tell them what he thought of their service. That’s when he was arrested.
—Source: Associated Press



tph food poisoning



tph nostalgia is dead



Slander Quotes

It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you”   Mark Twain quotes (American HumoristWriter and Lecturer18351910)

He who knows how to flatter also knows how to slander.”   Napoleon Bonaparte quotes (French GeneralPolitician and Emperor (1804-14). 17691821)

Slander-mongers and those who listen to slander, if I had my way, would all be strung up, the talkers by the tongue, the listeners by the ears.”   Titus Maccius Plautus quotes

Self-praise is half slander”  Proverb quotes


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