B’Haalotekha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16)

In this portion, there is a big mood shift, from the excitement of the final pre-march tasks to the continuous kvetching you’d expect of cranky four-year-olds.

Aaron finishes setting up the divinely designed, 7-branched gold menorah.  The Levites are ritually purified (sprinkling with water, full body shave, laundry) and are publicly, formally designated for the Lord’s service, in place of the first-born Israelites.  Next, in order to accommodate those who could not eat the Passover sacrifice because of ritual impurity, a second Passover (Pesach Sheni) is instituted a month after the first.  Then, two silver trumpets are made for summoning the people.  As we read earlier, a cloud is to cover the Tabernacle by day and fire by night, their movement indicating when the people should decamp.  Now the tribes are ready to move forward, and they do so with ceremony: Verses 10:35-36, set apart by two inverted letters nun, i.e., ׆, are to be proclaimed whenever the Ark to sets out and we still sing those verses today in our own Torah services.  And Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, goes home.

Those are the last positive experiences we’ll see for a while.

There is a basic pattern we’ll see over and over again: The people misbehave, the Lord strikes, Moses prays, the Lord relents.  Usually, the people also repent or run to Moses somewhere in that sequence.  At the start of Chapter 11, for example, the people complain, bitterly (about what, isn’t in the text), and the Lord strikes them with fire.  The people cry to Moses, Moses prays to the Lord, and the fire dies. 

Then they complain about the food.  They’re tired of manna. They miss the “real” food of Egypt (fish, meat, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic), which comes dangerously close to being nostalgic for Egypt itself.  But it’s not just the food. Like tired, cranky children, they’re just plain unhappy, and giving them Egyptian goodies really won’t help. Rabban Gamaliel understood this: “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” (according to Rashi, in Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar, pp. 110-111). 

In response to their whining, the Lord sends them quail for “a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils” (11:20) followed by a plague, probably food poisoning. 

Even Moses is fed up at this point: “I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me If You would deal thus with me, kill me rather, I beg You, and let me see no more of my wretchedness!” (11:14-15).  So, the Lord gives the gift of prophesy to 70 elders to help him bear the load. 

To top it all off, Miriam and Aaron start grumbling that they aren’t getting their due as prophets along with their brother Moses and gossip slanderously with regard to his “Cushite” wife (Zipporah? A second wife?).  Miriam is punished by being stricken with tzara’at, the skin disease that is not leprosy and is considered a punishment for slander.

Are any of us surprised that the Israelites complain?  They are in the wilderness, literally and emotionally.  Not much more than a year ago, they were slaves in Egypt, and they retain that mindset.  How can they focus on an idea, the idea of being a free people in a Promised Land?  

Shabbat shalom,



Medical Lightbulb Jokes

Q: How long does a nurse take to change a lightbulb?
A: It takes just 30 seconds to change the lightbulb but 45 minutes to document it.;

Q: how long does it take a house officer to change a lightbulb?
A: it depends how long it takes him to find a nurse.

Q: How many senior consultants does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Just one, he holds up the bulb and waits for the world to revolve around him.

Q: How many doctors does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Three. One to order a replacement bulb, one to watch the nurse do it, and one to bill it all to Medicare.

Q: How many surgeons does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They would wait for a suitable donor and do a filament transplant.

Q: How many orthopedic surgeons does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Why don’t you just let us take out the socket? You aren’t using it anyway, and it will only cause you trouble later.



tph green eggs and ham



tph nostalgia



Quotes: Never Satisfied

Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart. George Eliot

Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied. Henry George 

I immediately doubt things if I become satisfied with them. Being satisfied by something is a real danger for me. I hope I never lose that. That would be death. Jamie Wyeth

The intellectual power is never at rest; it is never satisfied with any comprehended truth, but ever proceeds on and on towards that truth which is not comprehended. So also the will, which follows the apprehension; we see that it is never satisfied with anything finite. Giordano Bruno

No matter how correct a mathematical theorem may appear to be, one ought never to be satisfied that there was not something imperfect about it until it also gives the impression of being beautiful. George Boole


A Russian Jew wanted to immigrate to Israel. 
The local commissar calls him in for questioning and asks: 

Q. Haven’t we allowed you the right to worship in your Synagogue? 
A. Can’t complain. 

Q. Haven’t we let you live in peace with your fellow Jews? 
A. Can’t complain. 

Q. Haven’t we allowed you to travel freely within and beyond the village? 
A. Can’t complain. 

Q. Haven’t we allowed you to teach your children Torah? 
A. Can’t complain. 

Q. Haven’t we let you practice your profession? 
A. Can’t complain. 

Q. Then why do you want to go to Israel? 
A. “There, I can complain!”



Gossip Jokes

Why was the well-done steak a terrible gossip? It wasn’t juicy enough!

A boss told his secretaries to stop gossiping and get back to work. To which one replied “We’re not gossiping we’re networking.”

Rumors are worse than being robbed, because gossips steal another person’s dignity.

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