Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

Not feeling adequately up to par today to think, so the comments are from 2013, lightly edited.  

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).  Also in verse 25:12, about the pact of peace between the Lord and Pinchas, the letter vav in the word shalom (peace) is broken:

    tph broken-vav

The rabbis 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” are chanted before Tisha B’Av and seven Haftarot of Consolation afterTo get all 3 Haftarot of Rebuke 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 QUESTIONS: 1. What verses in this haftarah from Jeremiah appear in the liturgy, and where do they appear?  2. The single verse of the Torah that is read most often in the annual Torah reading schedule (other than “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying”) occurs in this portion.  What is it?  Answers next week.  Remind me if I forget.

Shabbat shalom,


Twitter Vigilantes

The Self-Appointed Twitter Scolds [abridged]


JOHN CUSACK tweets with his iPhone and, much like the characters he plays, his style is fast and loose. “…Most of his followers ignore the gaffes. But a vocal minority abuse him about it nonstop, telling the star that as much as they liked “The Sure Thing,” his grammar and spelling sure stink.  “The vitriol was so intense that at first I didn’t think they were serious,” Mr. Cusack said. “Because, like, who would care?”

They do. A small but vocal subculture has emerged on Twitter of grammar and taste vigilantes who spend their time policing other people’s tweets.. They build their own algorithms to sniff out tweets with typos or flawed grammar, or written in ALLCAPS — and then send scolding notes to the offenders.  They see themselves as the guardians of an emerging behavior code: Twetiquette.

“With Twitter particularly, the feedback is so intense and so immediate, it does something very particular to your ego that even the blogs don’t,” said Xeni Jardin, a partner in the blog site Boing Boing and a usual suspect on Twitter. “That feedback rush is like pouring plant food on weeds.”

It’s hard to tell, but the number of Twitter accounts devoted to pointing out other people’s language foibles does seem to be growing. Among the more mentionable ones are CapsCop, Grammar FailGrammar HeroYour Or Youre, Word Police and Spelling Police, which for a time fixed Español malo.  A user called Twenglish Police monitors Australian tweets.

For his part, Mr. Cusack has been trying a new strategy, he explained by e-mail: first, he spells things wrong on purpose to get the critics riled up, and then “I blockthem executioer style now with no warning!!”

——————————–  (true story!)  [dead link – sent out in 2001]

Parrot gets Draft Letter from Selective Service


WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, Pa. (AP) In its endless search for a few good men, Uncle Sam is ordering one Sam Garmize to register for the draft — or face prosecution.

But there’s something the military brass ought to know: Sam is a parrot.

“They probably wouldn’t want him because he only has four toes, green hair and no teeth,” said Sharon Garmize, owner of the blue crown mealy amazon parrot who received the letter from the Selective Service on Monday.

The Selective Service bases its mailings on lists of graduating high school seniors obtained from commercial vendors, spokesman Larry Waltman said. “Sometimes we get a dog. Sometimes we get a cat,” he said. “This time we got a parrot.”

Ms. Garmize suspects a friend or co-worker listed Sam and two dogs as members of the family on a survey several years back.   Since then, Visa has offered him a credit card with a $2,000 limit. A tuxedo shop has offered a nice deal just in time for the prom. A student foreign exchange program has asked him to study abroad.


Funny Census Entries From Readers
Posted by Diane
My favorite census entry exhibits the creativity enumerators used when families weren’t at home. I can’t help but wonder, what if this family had had 10 children? What if they’d been Irish or Italian? What would the enumerator have come up with instead? From the 1889 Washington Territorial census:

Name of Persons          Nativity
Dutchman, Mr.            Germany
——- , Mrs.                   “
——- , Little                  “
——- , Small                 “
——- , Smaller              “
——- , Smallest             “
Lisa Oberg
Shoreline, Wash.

Was her mother named Goose?
The funniest name I’ve come across in the census is a woman named Bo Peep, listed in the 1910 census of Harrison County, WV, with her husband Lee Maxwell. I did a little further research and sure enough, there she was in a West Virginia marriage index: Bo Peep K. Smith. Her husband was a farmer; I wonder if he raised sheep?
Maggie DeFazio
Pittsburgh, Pa. 


10 Unbelievable Inheritance Stories

4. The richest woman in Asia gave away her multi-billion-US-dollar fortune to a feng shui master in return for a promise of eternal life

Nina Wang, who died of cancer in 2007 at age 69, signed over her vast fortune to a previously unknown feng shui master Tony Chan as a promise for eternal life. Wang changed her will in 2006 in order to leave everything to the feng shui master, voiding a previous will written four years earlier that left the fortune to her family and to charity. With no children of her own, Wang wrote a new will in 2006, two years after her ovarian cancer was diagnosed, making 48-year-old Chan her sole beneficiary.

The question is, why would Chan ask Wang to put him in her will if he had ensured her she would live forever, or at least for a very long time? (Source)


tph succession plan Alice

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