FOR ALL US TALKING DONKEYS – Numbers 22-31 – Balak – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

FOR ALL US TALKING DONKEYS – Numbers 22-31 – Balak – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

         You see your friend riding a bicycle too close to the lane of a fast moving truck, what do you do?  You yell “Look out!”  Right?  But what if you lost your voice? Do you catch up with your friend and pull him away?

         Such emergencies spice this Torah reading, in the story of the soothsayer from P’tor, known in Jewish tradition as Bil’am harasha – Balaam the wicked. 

         Why wicked?  Early in the story we might accept Balaam as a friend of Israel. After all, he declares his faith in the Jewish G-d, he apparently follows Divine orders, and he even gives Israel its most famous blessing in the words we repeat when we enter any synagogue: Mah tovu ohalekha Yaakov – “How goodly are your tents, Jacob.” 

         How does Balaam deserve the end he gets in Chapter 31 when the Israelites defeat the kings of Midian, and finding him there, “slay him with the sword?”  

         He gets warned, but rejects his warnings. 

         It starts when Balak, king of Moab, sends messengers to P’tor to ask this famous soothsayer to come and “curse this nation that came out of Egypt” and now frightens Moab.  Balaam invites the messengers to stay overnight, while he communicates with G-d. In the morning he refuses to go with them because G-d told him not to.  “Do not curse this nation, for it is blessed.”  So he stays home.  Balak does not give up, however.  He sends higher-ranking nobles, and promises great honor to Balaam, a kind of write-your-own-ticket deal.  Again Balaam consults the Divine and reports this answer: “If they came to invite you, go. But only the words I put in your mouth may you say.”  The next morning, Balaam saddles his donkey, takes his two servants with him and begins his journey with Balak’s representatives.  No sooner are they on the road than the Torah tells us: “G-d was angry because Balaam went.”

         What happened here?  Did G-d change His mind?   Not likely. The commentary called Or haKhayyim (“Light of Life”) explains the story. While Balaam refused the first invitation and told the messengers G-d would not permit him to go, he behaves differently now.   He just picks himself up and goes.  Not a word about Divine permission or about the limitations on it.  He acts as if he is above all that, just doing what he wants to do.

 That is his first mistake.  The Torah describes him confidently riding down the road, oblivious of a Divine angel – presumably the malach hamovves, the angel of death – standing in front of him with a drawn sword. His donkey sees the angel and veers off the road into a field to save Balaam’s life, whereupon he slaps the donkey.

         Mistake #2 proceeds from there.  Balaam decides that now that he is going to Balak, nothing – not even G-d — can keep him from damaging Israel.  Sensing this, the angel with the sword intercepts Balaam at a narrow spot between two fences.  Again the donkey swerves and bruises Balaam’s leg against one wall.  Again Balaam slaps the donkey.

         Mistake #3 involves Balaam’s experience the night before, relying on his own witchcraft to determine if this trip will really benefit him. He decided that it will make him rich and powerful.  So he ignored the first two warnings.  He keeps riding.  This time the angel of death blocks the road at a turn so narrow that there is no way to get around him.   So the donkey sits down.  Furious, Balaam takes a stick and starts beating the donkey.

         Now comes “Look out!”  G-d “opens the donkey’s mouth” to ask: “What did I do to you, to make you strike me three times?”

 Balaam rages: “You ridiculed me!  If I had a sword in my hand I would kill you.”  More reasonable than he is, the donkey pleads: “Am I not the same donkey you rode all your life?  Did I ever do this before?”  Balaam has to admit: “No.”  Only then does he see the danger.  He bows before the angel, who tells him that if not for the donkey’s alert action, “I would kill you, and keep her alive.”  Her?  For no apparent reason, Balaam’s donkey is female.  Her warning is worth heeding.

         Still Balaam does not change his mind.  The Torah text traces his course.   He reluctantly speaks the words of blessing that G-d puts in his mouth.   So Balak withdraws his offer.  Then Balaam, no longer trusting in his sorcery, sets out to destroy Israel another way.  He organizes a campaign of seduction.  “The men of Israel began to whore around with the daughters of Moab,” as we will read in Chapter 25, resulting in an epidemic of idolatry and disease.  The plague spread by Balaam’s sacred prostitutes kills 24,000.    When the Israelite army conquers Midian, no talking donkey will warn Balaam this time. His evil life ends on a sword.

         One element under-riding this whole amazing story, but apparently ignored by the commentators, poses unasked questions. Why and how did Balaam, a heathen sorcerer, connect with G-d?  Did he have some knowledge of Israel’s faith, and wish to align himself with a military winner?  Did the Almighty accept him as a potential prophet?  Or does this story indicate that good intentions must be sincere, and if not they can result in disaster.  Preventing false prophets from bringing on that disaster requires some strong warnings – dramatized in our story by the talking donkey.  Who can qualify as a talking donkey, to give those strong warnings today?  You and I. 

         No lack of false prophets these days, speaking in the name of religion or democracy or whateverturnsyouonbaby. 

         Most of us might not have the opportunity to grab our friend’s bicycle and pull it away from that truck.  But we can yell “Look out!”  And hope our friends take warning from us — us, the talking donkeys.   We need to talk.  Those who do, can be heroic – or mistaken.  Or villains like Balaam.  They can also be worth listening to.

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KNOW THE LAW – AND UNDERSTAND IT? – Khukas – Numb.19:1—22:1 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

KNOW THE LAW – AND UNDERSTAND IT? – Khukas – Numb.19:1—22:1 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

         Torah law comes in three varieties.  One is called eydos – ordinances.  A second one is called khukim – decrees.  And the third is called mishpatim –judgments. 

We define eydos  as rules of life that would be obvious without even writing them down.  Frequently they are compared to accepted customs that acquire the force of law.  Wearing clothes, for example.

Mishpatim are logical conclusions from reality, formalized into law. The word mishpat means “justice.” To be fair, to be just, we must follow these laws.  Like the Torah’s admonition that a murderer shall not be put to death until he stands trial.   Make sure we have the right one.

Khukim – decrees, or statutes, present a different challenge.  They seem to defy human intelligence.  Since this reading is called Khukas we have a perfect opportunity to explore some puzzling commandments.  One which opens our reading describes the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, an offering which has no stated purpose but is described in full detail.  The cow must be slaughtered and the body totally burned, with cedarwood, hyssop and scarlet cast into the burning body.  We are told that this offering took place only nine times in all Jewish history, and we still don’t know why.  But it is anticipated for the tenth (and last?) time when the Messiah arrives. Along with that sacrifice comes the law of tum’ah – contamination – applied to the priest who gathers the cow’s ashes.  He sprinkles the sacrifice with holy water, thus purifying it.  But he himself becomes contaminated – therefore unable to join in any normal activity – and remains so until nightfall.  So this is a case where the same action “purifies the contaminated, and contaminates the pure.” 

Tum’ah becomes more serious when a human being comes in contact not with a dead animal but a dead human body.  Now it lasts a week.  And if the death takes place in a tent, or if the body is brought into the tent, everything in the tent is contaminated and must be sprinkled with cleansing water, as of course the living humans too.  In today’s Jewish world the mikvah (sacred bathhouse) substitutes for the ancient sprinkle.  Proximity to death still contaminates, so a modern Jewish cemetery will have water faucets available for visitors to use.  And returning from the funeral to enter a house of mourning, we prepare a pitcher and basin on the porch for our guests. 

Yet the riddle remains.  How do we explain the concept of ritual contamination?  This law is not based on logic.  Don’t argue.  Just do it!

A decree or a statue, therefore, is a law passed down from above by absolute authority, whether human or Divine.   In Chapter 30 we will read: “These are the decrees that G-d commanded Moses.”  And later in the Book of Joshua we see how he signed a treaty with the people binding their agreement to dispose of all their idols, and ”made it a statute and a law.”  

All through this chapter we will find the imminence and effect of losing treasured people.  First it is Miriam who dies.  We read simply that she dies and gets buried.  We don’t know who buried her, or what kind of mourning the people did. But we know they felt her loss. In her honor, says our Midrash, a miraculous well followed the Israelite people all through their 40 years in the desert.  As soon as she died, they had no water to drink.  That’s what they complained about.   

Soon thereafter, they lose Aaron.  He and his son Elazar climb the mountain, he gives Elazar his priestly robe, and his life ends.  He is buried on the mountain, and the people mourn him for 30 days. 

Why 30 days?  Significantly, we will read no law about 30 days of mourning.  Yet we still observe it.  Granted, when parents die, these 30 days are now just the first of 11 months of Kaddish, the memorial prayer. But the first month is the deepest, starting with the week of shiva when the mourners traditionally stay at home and refrain from work or other regular activities while they accept sympathy calls; and proceeding through the rest of the 30 days when it is customary not to visit the grave or to partake in entertainment.  Aaron was a great man in our history, but memorializing him took no different form from how we honor each of our departed ever since.  As we will read in Deuteronomy, Moses himself was also mourned by the entire people for 30 days. 

We need these various kinds of laws – ordinances, judgments, decrees — to help us relate to each other.  They teach us to respect those who live by those laws, to support those who teach and enforce those laws and to share an ordered society. 

Dealing with death is different.  No law we can write — or even understand — limits any one lifetime.  Human beings live and die by a decree we cannot know. All we can do for those we love while they are with us, is to help them live.  After that, we can honor good people’s memories as we have always done — from the heart.

The second chapter of this reading details the Israelite adventures — victorious, violent or miraculous – en route to the Promised Land.  Even before Aaron’s death they were denied permission to go through the land of Edom, and facing a powerful army they turned away. Now they face an attack from the Canaanite king of Arad, identified by our commentators as a descendant of Israel’s classic enemy Amalek.  Arad’s men take a prisoner – just one, say the commentators and that one a chambermaid. That’s enough to cause the Israelites to take a vow committing themselves to destroy Arad’s cities, which they do.

Then the detour they take, going around Edom, discourages many of the people, and they speak against G-d and Moses, protesting the decision to leave Egypt “only to die in the desert.”  They are attacked by snakes, in a Divine punishment for their disloyalty, and many of the people die.    But G-d responds to Moses’ prayer and provides a miracle to save the survivors. With Divine help, Moses makes a copper snake to be held on a pole.  If anyone is bitten they could look at that snake and live.  

That miracle is perhaps no less to be expected than what follows in the stories of the Divinely created well that provided water to the entire thirsty nation, and then their successful campaigns against the forces of the Amorites and of Bashan.  Both of those kings tried to keep the Israelites out of their countries.  And when Moses had to face Og, the giant king of Bashan, G-d told him not to be afraid.  So we will read that Moses killed Og singlehanded.  And the reading concludes with Israel camped by the Jordan River, facing Jericho.

Progress toward a goal cannot be guaranteed.  It can be achieved in spite of our own doubts, our tendencies to give up. Unlikely as it may seem, our Torah narratives assure that it’s possible when G-d is with us.



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KORAKH AGAIN, AND AGAIN – Num. 16-18 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

KORAKH AGAIN, AND AGAIN – Num. 16-18 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

         This section tells the story of a revolution.  A revolution that failed.  Not the first such revolt in Jewish history, it was nevertheless a threat to the leaders and the entire structure of the Israelite nation in the desert.  Its leader, a Levite named Korakh, got much closer to success than a recent would be revolutionary in our experience, one Bernie Sanders.  Unlike him, Korakh came to a dismal end, but he earned a place in history that lasted all these centuries.

         Korakh and Moses shared a grandfather, namely Kehas, the oldest son of Levi, Jacob’s third son.  Also Korakh was wealthy, ambitious, and deeply jealous of his cousins Moses and Aaron.  Why should they be the Leader and the High Priest?  Why not he?  Setting out to displace them, he gathered support among other ambitious and impatient tribesmen – some 250 of them, in fact.  Included were not only fellow Levites but also three prominent members of the tribe of Reuben, who felt that as descendants of the oldest son of Jacob they should have the authority.  These 250 rebels are described in the Torah as anshey shem – well known people. They did not consider themselves the disinherited, or the proletariat, or the downtrodden.  These men already had some power.  And wanted more.

         Who else joined them?  Their families.  Wives, children, other relatives, all followed the lead of Korakh and his fellow Levites.  First, they stage a protest.  Gathering together to face Moses and Aaron publicly, they voice their challenge: “Rav lokhem – Enough for you!  Aren’t we all holy people, with G-d among us?  Why do you lift yourselves up?”  In other words, do you have the right to be boss?  At this point, Moses falls on his face as if to express a desperate hope for Divine guidance. 

         After all, this is fourth in a series of rebellions of one kind or another.  Moses is out of patience.  “What is Aaron, that you murmur against him?” asks Moses.   He puts Korakh and company to a test.  Since they focus their rebellion on Aaron and the priesthood – as the religious symbol of authority – Moses uses tomorrow morning’s incense offering as the test. 

It’s easy to see that pagan peoples also offered incense.  They had many idols, many altars, and hundreds of priests. The Israelites had one G-d, one altar, and one high priest.  And here come 250 men who all want to be high priests!  So, the Midrash explains, Moses offers Korakh an attractive test:  take the incense, the most prestigious of offerings. But bear in mind that this incense contains a deadly poison.  This is the offering that already caused the death of two of Aaron’s sons.  And recognize that Ho-ish asher yivkhar haShem hu hakadosh – “the one G-d chooses, he is the holy one.”  Take warning that one offering will be accepted, and all whose offerings are not accepted will die.  According to the Midrash, Korakh had advance knowledge that he would have important descendants, including the prophet Samuel, so he assumed that he would certainly be chosen.  He accepts Moses’ conditions.

         Now Moses sends for two of the Reubenite rebels, Dathan and Aviram, to negotiate with them.  They refuse to come.  They are stubborn enough to follow Korakh’s lead.

         Originally, we might note, there was a third Reubenite involved, named On ben Peles.  He is suddenly out of the story.  The Midrash supplies the reason: On ben Peles did not continue with the rebellion, did not participate in the trial by fire, and he survived.  Why?   Because his wife convinced him to break away from Korakh.  With a true Yiddish kop (“Jewish head!”), she points out that he would just be exchanging one boss, Moses, for another boss, Korakh.  What does he need that for?

         Morning comes, and the firepans are brought to the Tabernacle. Aaron brings his offering and it is accepted.  Korakh and his followers approach, and suddenly fall into a huge crack in the ground – as if the earth opened its mouth “vativla osom v’es boteyhem —and swallowed them and their houses!”  All the people take flight, hearing their cries as they dropped living into the pit!

         Impossible?  Couldn’t happen?  Or could it? Do we see it on TV today, when sinkholes suddenly open without warning?  Or when earthquakes crack and split the ground?  Perhaps the most picturesque comment on the story of Korakh is another story told by Rabbah bar bar Khonnoh, a rabbi in the Talmud, known for his tall tales.  He says: “I was travelling in the desert, and an Arab took me to a spot where there was a crack in the ground.  I bent down and put my ear to the crack.  And I heard the voices of Korakh and his followers, calling out: “Moses and his Torah are true, and we are liars!”

         The rabbis of the Mishna contrast Korakh’s controversy with the later controversy of Hillel and Shammai.  They agreed on almost nothing, yet their dispute had lasting value, because it was – not a revolution – but a makhloket l’shem Shomayim, a “controversy for the sake of Heaven.” For a high purpose.  Korakh’s controversy had no future, because it was built on jealousy and falsehood. 

So that was the end of Korakh and his rebels. 

But wait.  What about the prophet Samuel, who supposedly descended from Korakh?  And what about all the psalms that are assigned to the family of Korakh, and apparently they sang those psalms in Solomon’s Temple centuries later?

The answer to this dilemma comes in one sentence later in the Book of Numbers.  In Sedrah Pinkhas it simply says: Uv’ney Korakh lo meysu – “the children of Korakh did not die.”  So what happened to them?  They were there with their father, weren’t they?  In the Gemara Sanhedrin we find a teaching that they were reserved a special place in Gehinnom (Hell) where they sat and sang. To which the Tosfos commentary adds: “G-d prepared a high spot for them, so they would not go deep into Gehinnom, and they did not die.”  There they sat on a ledge, with the flames licking at their feet, singing psalms! As the Yiddish expression goes: Eykh mir a lebn – Some life!

But the important fact is: they survived.  All the fanciful legends surrounding the descendants of Korakh add up to a marvelous message.  Look at what his descendants lived to do:

As we can read in the Haftorah (the prophetic section accompanying this reading) Samuel the prophet crowned Saul the first king of Israel, and actually completed the organization of the loosely connected tribes into a single nation. And the Levitic family of Korakh became the doorkeepers of the Holy Temple.  They were responsible for eleven different psalms, singing of deeply felt religion – a thirst for G-d.  They sang of human friendship, of Zion and the Temple itself, and they sang about individual life and death.  They played instruments.  They danced. The women took part.  The Korakh family is repeatedly called Maskil – informed, competent, successful in their Levitic duties and their music.

All of this value from the family of the arch-rebel: Korakh, the rich ambitious envious rival of Moses and Aaron.  Korakh the man who lost his cause and his life because he challenged authority for the wrong reasons.  Selfish reasons.  Indeed his children did not die.  They lived, with difficulty at first, but they lived to prove their value for centuries to come.  They transcended Korakh’s mistakes.  They survived his failed rebellion.  They made a better choice.

The pattern of Korakh and his descendants happened more than once in our history.  In fact it is still happening.  Look around, and you find families – we all know one or more families like this – where one generation rebelled against their Jewish heritage, chose assimilation, or Communism, or secular Humanism – and became lost, swallowed up by the world. And then their children, or perhaps their grandchildren, grow up and rediscover their Jewish roots.  They find they enjoy brightening their table with Shabos candles… they find an intellectual excitement in learning Torah… they find great charm in Jewish music… they find a loving fulfillment in sharing Jewish ceremonies.   They find exactly what the rebel ancestors threw away – still there, speaking to them loud and clear, as if those rebel ancestors were calling out to them: “Moses and his Torah are true, and we were wrong!”

Sometimes it doesn’t take two generations.  Or even one.  Sometimes it happens in one lifetime.  Our Judaism can manage to survive all kinds of challenges.  Rebellion can sometimes be valuable too, because it strengthens us. We can only hope that any controversy it produces will be l’shem shomayim – an argument in the name of Heaven.  Then we have a chance to resolve it productively, for a Jewish future that can still sing our songs as the family of Korakh did.

Ken y’hee rotzon.  May this be G-d’s will.

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CHECK IT OUT – Sh’lakh l’kha – Num. 13-15, by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

CHECK IT OUT – Sh’lakh l’kha – Num. 13-15, by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

         You get a call from your friend, or an employee, or a member of your family, advising you of an opportunity.  A home for sale in a neighborhood you like.  You are interested.  So you suggest: check it out.

         Depending on how that person goes about checking out the prospective purchase, you may or may not want to make an offer on it.  For example, here’s one kind of report:

“The house looks solid enough.  Roomy, too.  It has a big yard  with fruit trees.  In fact, we picked a couple of lemons and this avocado – not bad, eh?  Can’t get in to see the inside because the agent demands an accepted offer first.  It’s been painted recently, so the price is very firm.  Questionable neighborhood.  Right down the street we saw some grafitti.  Kids strolled by wearing their hats backwards.  May be gang infested.”

And here’s another:

“Got talking with the lady next door.  Found out the owner is very anxious to sell.  Open to any offer.  Just modernized the kitchen and redecorated, and then got transferred to the east coast. So he has no cash on hand to put down on a home there.  Anyone with a large down payment can write their own ticket.  Neighborhood Watch is very effective; no major problems.”

Are these two people talking about the same house?  Sure they are.  Just as the two groups of spies we can read about in this Torah portion, and in its Haftorah, the corresponding prophetic reading in the book of Joshua.  They were both talking about the same country.  An important difference is how they “checked it out.”

         The 12 spies Moses sends out are princes. Executives.  Commissioned officers.  They follow accepted procedures – sample the fruit, assess the strength of the fortifications, take note of the appearance of the local population. If they only had video, maybe they could bring back picture and sound to back up their report of 50-foot-high walls and men of giant size.  By a vote of 10 to 2, they convince the people that Canaan can’t be conquered.

         The 2 spies Joshua sends are different.  One is 80-year-old Caleb – the only surviving member of the original checker-outers and one of the dissenting minority (Joshua himself being the other dissenter).  The second spy is a youth of 18.   One chosen for courage, the other for wisdom.  They don’t take notes and they don’t bring samples. They spend the night with Rahab. Her occupation is innkeeper, providing accommodations to travelers.  From the Hebrew word zonah we gather that she provides other comforts too. Either way, she has ample opportunity to gauge the spirit of the population.  She trades her inside information for a guarantee of safety, and the two spies return with a message: Piece of cake.

         Chances are, neither report is 100% accurate.  But the contrast is phenomenal.  The negative report here in Numbers brings on 40 years in the desert.  The positive report in Joshua empowers the people and they proceed to take over Jericho in a week.

         How do we go about checking out our opportunities?  Do we suffocate them by overanalyzing the difficulties?  And does that make them look insurmountable?

         Am I too old to learn to use a computer?  After all, I’m not even a good typist, and computer science is as foreign to me as Swahili.  I don’t have money to spend on computer software that can become obsolete in half an hour – let alone the furniture that goes under all that equipment. I’d better stay in the lead pencil desert for another 40 years.

         Do I have the discipline to change my health habits? After all, those exercise machines are really no better than a good walk around the block, are they?  Didn’t you hear about the fellow that lost big pounds and built up his muscles – and died anyway?  I don’t trust these diets either.  I’d better stay in the Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer desert for another 40 years.

         Can I really patch things up with my sister?  So much time went by.  She’ll consider me stupid for trying.  Whatever happened between us isn’t even the issue any more.  We just have different lives now.  We build 50-foot walls between us.  Our antagonism is too gigantic.  Better stay in the breygez (angry) desert for another 40 years.

         Let’s take another look.  Check it out again.  Maybe we can turn part of our future around.  Take a message from your friendly “innkeeper:” A computer is just a tool, and a few simple functions of it can make your life easier and more interesting. The first cream puff you forego, and the first stationary bike ride you take, can be the first step to feeling better. And as for your sister, maybe you and she can both conclude that time wounds all heels.  Take the first step.

         Like Joshua at Jericho, blow the shofar loud enough and the walls come tumbling down.

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AARON’S LIGHT – B’haalot’kha – Num. 8-12 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

AARON’S LIGHT – B’haalot’kha – Num. 8-12 – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

         Of all the Mitzvot – the commandments, duties, responsibilities – that Aaron had to fulfill as High Priest, the one that opens this reading is easily the most symbolic.  Possibly also the most significant.  Distinguishing its value in the very first line of this section, is the word that gives its name to the entire portion: B’haalot’kha – literally, “when you lift.” 

         What did Aaron lift?  He lifted a 7-branch candlestick, known as the Menorah.  In constant use ever since Aaron’s time, it now graces synagogues the world over, and its figure appears on documents and treasured jewelry, on buildings, products and stationery. 

         It also appears on an arch in Rome to symbolize Israel’s defeat.  Capturing the Menorah made the Romans believe they had indeed ended the Jewish nation. How wrong they were.   

         What is so special about this candlestick?   One distinction is the way it is made.  This was not put together piece by piece, a base, then attach a shaft and six branches.  This, we learned in the text of the Book of Exodus, elaborated by the Talmud and the commentators, was formed from one block of gold.  “Of beaten work shall the candlestick be made.  Its base, its shaft, its cups, its knobs and its flowers shall be part of it.”  One block of gold, beaten into shape.  Three branches extended on each side, and one in the center.  And the cups were shaped so as to project the light forward, not just straight up.  The Menorah should spread Divine light to the world.

         Of course Aaron had to light those flames, but that was only part of the Mitzvah.  The message he gets here does not say “when you kindle the flames,” it says “when you lift the flames.” 

         The 7 burning cups of the Menorah are shaped so that the flame does not burn just straight up, but also outward.  Spread the light.  Yes, it is for G-d, and it is also for people.  All people.

         Our commentators note details about the cups on the Menorah that add to the visual engineering.  Of the three cups on the east side, says Rashi, the two outer ones are angled just slightly so they all shine toward whoever is directly facing the middle light; and the same way on the west side.  The innermost of the three on each side, and the center light, (number 4 if you count from either end) are not angled at all, but shine up and straight out.

         From the various laws, observances and travel experiences we will read in these 5 chapters, and from the centuries of history that followed, we can learn something of the value of the light Aaron kindled, and raised.  Our Menorah indeed shines upward toward Heaven, and forward on all who face it. 

         Did it shine on the group of tribesmen who missed the first Passover, and convinced Moses to get them the opportunity to celebrate their freedom a month later?   Of course it did.

         Did it shine on Miriam when she spoke against her sister-in-law?   Maybe it did, and maybe she wasn’t facing it.  She got punished, and she atoned.  In effect, she turned around and accepted the light.

         Our candlestick represents the light of Torah. Like the Menorah of Aaron the High Priest, that light shines both upward and outward.  When we accept it, it can light up our lives.

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