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  • Selected events
  • On this weeks Torah portion: Chukat: Singing or Sadness?
Selected events
Monday, 25 Sivan
Among the millions of Jews cruelly killed by the Romans were the “Ten Martyrs”–all great sages and leaders of Israel–memorialized in a special prayer recited on Yom Kippur. Three of them–Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha and Rabbi Chanina S’gan Hakohanim–were killed on Sivan 25 in the 2nd century.
Thursday, 28 Sivan
After escaping Nazi-occupied Paris, and many perilous months in Vichy France, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah, boarded the SS Serpa Pinto in Lisbon, Portugal. On Monday, June 23–Sivan 28 on the Jewish calendar–at 10:30 A.M., they arrived in New York.

Shortly after his arrival, the Rebbe’s father-in-law, the then Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneersohn (who had been rescued from Nazi-occupied Warsaw in 1940), appointed him to head the social and educational outreach programs of Chabad-Lubavitch. Thus the Rebbe began his decades-long revolutionary work to revitalize Jewish life in the Western Hemisphere, which spread, by means of the emissaries (“shluchim”) he dispatched from his New York headquarters, to every part of the world.

On this weeks Torah portion: Chukat: Singing or Sadness?
“Then Israel sang this song, ‘Come up well, we will answer you.  The well which the princes dug, the leaders of the nation hewed it, they carved it with their staffs”
Numbers 21:18
This verse is mentioned when recounting the events of the desert.  It was, as Rashi fills in, a song that was sung about Moses and Aharon for the water which came from the well.  The same well, however, was the incident when they did not follow God’s command exactly, and for that minor disobediance, they were told they would die in the desert.
1) Was it appropriate for the Jewish people to sing about the miracle of water coming out of the well?
2) Why is this song not recorded with the original incident, when Moses and Aharon actually hit the rock?
3) Why were Moses and Aharon not mentioned as leading the Jewish people at that time?
Please share your answers in the comments.  See below.
To take a tangent, if a person’s father dies, the person recites the blessing reserved for sad occasions: ‘Blessed is the true judge’.  If a person receives a large inheritance that benefits him and other people, the person reciets the blessing reserved happy occasions that benefit many people, ‘Blessed are you…who is good and does good.’  If a person’s father dies and receives a large inheritance, the person recites both the blessing for ‘the true judge’ and ‘who is god and does good.’
This same idea is at play here.  Even when something bad happens, we need to notice and celebrate the good.


  • Selected Events
  • A Thought from Rav Kook
  • On this week’s Torah portion: Korach.  Prophesy, Prayer, and Embarrassment?

Selected Events

Sunday, 17 Sivan
The Hasmonean fighters recaptured Migdal Tzur from the Greek enemy and proclaimed this day a holiday in 140 BCE (Talmud, Megilat Taanit).

Friday, 22 Sivan
In 1312, BCE, Miriam, the elder sister of Moses and Aaron, was afflicted with tzaraat (leprosy) after speaking negatively of Moses, and was quarantined outside of the camp for seven days–as related in Numbers 12

Saturday, 23 Sivan
Even after Haman was hanged on the 17th of Nissan of 357 BCE, his evil decree “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, from young to old, infants and women, in one day, the 13th day of the 12th month (Adar)” remained in force. Queen Esther pleaded with King Achashverosh to annul the decree, but Achashverosh insisted that “a writ that has been written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s seal, cannot be returned.” Instead, he suggested to Esther and Mordechai to “inscribe, regarding the Jews, as you please, and seal it with the king’s seal.” On the 23rd of Sivan, Mordechai drafted a royal decree giving the Jews the license to defend themselves and kill all who rise up against them to kill them, and dispatched it to all 127 provinces of Achashverosh’s empire. (Book of Esther, chapter 8)

A Thought from Rav Kook

The inner essence of faith is so greatly beyond the intellect, that one who is not truly intellectually free will find faith in opposition with their intelligence.

Prophesy, Prayer, and Embarrassment?


In this weeks Torah portion, Korach and a 250 men gather to Moshe and Aharon and say:

It is enough for you!  The entire assembly is holy, and God is within them.  Why then do you place yourself as rulers over the community of God?!
Numbers 16:3

When Moses hears this, the Torah reports that he “fell on his face” and then answered this rebellion with a challenge: tomorrow, present the incense offering to God, and He will make known who is His choice for a leader.  The following day, Korach and his group are swallowed into the earth, and perish in a fire that came down from heaven (Num. 16:18).

As mentioned by a number of the classic commentators, it was clear to Moses based on Korach’s timing of his complaint (right after the decree issued in response to the spies that the Jewish people would now wonder in the desert for 40 years) that Korach really wanted the priesthood for himself, and did think it was appropriate that the priesthood was given to Aharon, Moses’s brother.


Why did Moses “fall on his face”? (Num. 16:4)


1.  Moses was overwhelmed with prophetic inspiration at the moment, and fell on his face.  (ibn Ezra)

2. Moses assumed the position of prayer. (Rashbam)

3. Moses was embarrassed for being accused of giving leadership to his brother.  (Hizkuni)

Follow up questions

1.  Moses was able to speak to God ‘Face to Face’ so why was he overwhelmed with prophecy and needed to fall to the ground?

2.  Why did Moses assume the position of prayer?

3.  Why was Moses embarrassed?  He knew who the leader should be.

I’ll leave the questions out there for you to think about, and to comment on.


This was certainly a moment that Moses faced a serious attack on his leadership.  We’ve all faced times when people doubted us.  At times we may have responded with embarrassment.  Perhaps sometimes we felt the need to pray.  And maybe, sometimes, we’ve felt that the attack gave us insight into ourselves and our future.  Moses shows us that all three reactions are possible.


Thanks to everyone for your nice wishes.  The time off gave me a chance to rethink how I am going to proceed for the next year.

Here’s my plan:

I’ll do 1 post for the week.  The post will include

  • Highlights of historical events
  • A passage of Agadah
  • A passage from Rav Kook
  • A question (probably from that weeks Torah portion) along with some answers
Hopefully, you’ll find the posts a little more interactive.  You’ll still be able to open up the app and get a quick idea, but I also wanted to provide some opportunity to click around and see some questions and answers.  After all, most of you are viewing this post on your iPhone, so it makes sense to take advantage of your touch screen to do more than just scroll down the page.
Look for the first post at the start of next week.
All the best,

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June 2011