WORDS TO REMEMBER
From The Haftarah Commentary by Plaut-Stern, p.394
It has been told you, O mortal, what is good,/ and what the Eternal requires of you–/
Only this: to do justly,/ and love mercy,/ and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/chukat-balak
Chukat – Balak (חֻקַּת – בָּלָק – Hebrew for “The Ritual Law/Balak”) – Num. 19:1−22:1, 22:2−25:9
The Eternal One spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “This is the ritual law that the Eternal has commanded: Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid.” – Numbers 19:1-2 Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. – Numbers 22:2
- The laws of the red heifer to purify a person who has had contact with a corpse are given. (19:1-22)
- The people arrive at the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies and is buried there. (20:1)
- The people complain that they have no water. Moses strikes the rock to get water for them. God tells Moses and Aaron they will not enter the Land of Israel. (20:2-13)
- The king of Edom refuses to let the Children of Israel pass through his land. After Aaron’s priestly garments are given to his son Eleazer, Aaron dies. (20:14-29)
- After they are punished for complaining about the lack of bread and water, the Israelites repent and are victorious in battle against the Amorites and the people of Bashan, whose lands they capture. (21:4-22:1)
- Balak, the king of Moab, persuades the prophet Balaam to curse the Israelites so that he can defeat them and drive them out of the region. However, Balaam blesses the Children of Israel instead and prophesies that Israel’s enemies will be defeated. (22:2-24:25)
- God punishes the Israelites with a plague for consorting with the Moabite women and their god. The plague is stayed after Pinchas kills an Israelite man and his Midianite woman. (25:1-9)
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balak_(parashah)#
The haftarah for the parashah is Micah 5:6–6:8. When parashah Balak is combined with parashah Chukat (as it is in 2023…), the haftarah remains the haftarah for Balak.
Connection between the haftarah and the parashah
In the haftarah in Micah 6:5, Micah quotes God’s admonition to the Israelites to recall the events of the parashah, to “remember now what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him.” The verb that the haftarah uses for “answer” (עָנָה, ‘anah) in Micah 6:5 is a variation of the same verb that the parashah uses to describe Balaam’s “answer” (וַיַּעַן, vaya‘an) to Balak in the parashah in Numbers 22:18 and 23:12. And the first words of Balaam’s blessing of Israel in Numbers 24:5, “how goodly” (מַה-טֹּבוּ, ma tovu), are echoed in the haftarah’s admonition in Micah 6:8 of “what is good” (מַה-טּוֹב, ma tov) in God’s sight, namely “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/chukat-balak
What Did Balaam Really See?
By: Rabbi Leah R. Berkowitz
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
For Torah Study, instead of the portion from the Book of Numbers that is read on this Shabbat, we will read the Haftarah (a selection from the prophets) from Micah 5:6-6:8. You can read this week’s double Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Numbers.19.1-25.9, and the Haftarah at https://www.sefaria.org/Micah.5.6-6.8
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
חקת Chukat – Numbers 19:1–22:1
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Anna Urowitz-Freudenstein, pp. 931-2
Miriam dies (20:1). Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7.4 uses this occasion to reflect upon the lives of righteous people in general, noting that when the righteous are born nobody feels the difference, but when they die, many are affected. Following Miriam’s death, for example, her well–which had provided water for the Israelites in the wilderness–ceased to exist, and everybody felt her loss (also Tosefta Sotah 11:10). The Bible does not mention the marvel known as Miriam’s Well. However, the earliest forms of rabbinic literature discuss how the death of each of the three leaders in the wilderness resulted in the end of a beneficial supernatural phenomenon that had assisted the Children of Israel. The supernatural qualities of Miriam’s Well include that it traveled with the nation in the wilderness (BT Shabbat 35a) and that it later had healing powers (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 22.4). The medieval commentator Rashi explains the connection between Miriam’s death and the disappearance of the well (on BT Shabbat 35a) by pointing out that the subsequent verse states, “The community was without water” (20.2).
Miriam died (20:1). The Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 28a) asks, “Why is the death of Miriam juxtaposed to the portion of the parah adumah (the red heifer of Numbers 19)?” It then provides the answer that the ritual of the parah adumah, which according to the Rabbis was performed until the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.), was intended to provide atonement for specific types of sin. Therefore, the Talmud explains, the deaths of righteous people including Miriam, have an atoning effect. This emphasis on atonement seems to stray from the biblical presentation of the parah adumah as a ritual purification sacrifice and ceremony. The talmudic linkage to the idea of atonement is clarified by the Tosafot to that passage; it states that the parah adumah, as described in Numbers 19, provided atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32).
The theological idea that the death of Miriam, or any righteous person, enables atonement is a difficult concept for modern Jews to accept. Ours is evidently not the first generation to grapple with the notion of vicarious atonement, since it was already discussed in the 13th-century commentary of Rabbi Menachem ben Solomon Meiri. He stated that it is not the act of the righteous dying that atones for sins; rather, these deaths often move the living toward introspection and private acknowledgement of wrongdoing, which then results in personal prayer for repentance.
Miriam died there (20:1). A rabbinic tradition (BT Baba Batra 27a) states that six people did not die as ordinary mortals do. By the conventional method, as explained by the Rabbis, it is the Angel of Death who takes individuals from this world. The six who did not die in this manner experienced their deaths by God’s “kiss”–that is, their lives were taken by God directly. These six were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. The Talmud discusses the last three individuals in this list, noting that the Torah text can be said to describe Moses and Aaron’s demise explicitly as “by the kiss of” God (translated in this book as “at the command of,” but literally “by the mouth of,” Deuteronomy 34:5; Numbers 33:38). Miriam’s death “by the kiss of” God, however, is derived via a midrashic method that compares the technical language used in describing her death to the technical language used for the deaths of her brothers. The language is similar enough to imply that the details of their deaths were similar as well. After comparing these deaths, the Talmud then goes on to explain that Miriam’s death by God’s “kiss” is implicit rather than explicit, because it would be considered indelicate for her–the only woman on this list–to have been described in such a manner (BT Mo’ed Katan 28a).
Spring up, O well–sing to it (21:17). This is the beginning of the song of thanksgiving that was recited by the Israelites after God gave them water from a well in the region of Beer (sometime after Miriam’s death). Although the Torah does not mention Miriam in connection with this biblical incident, rabbinic traditions did link her to it later. One of the ancient Aramaic translations of the Torah, the Targum Yerushalmi, incorporates an elaboration of this verse, explaining that this well was brought forth due to the merit of Miriam. It also links her to a tradition of wells associated with other biblical figures, namely, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, as well as other unnamed leaders.
בלק Balak – Numbers 22:2–25:9
Post-biblical Interpretations – by Judith R. Baskin, pp. 954-5
Balaam son of Beor (22:5). For the Rabbis, the biblical soothsayer Balaam personified the perceived gentile evils of immorality, idolatry, and sorcery. Rabbinic literature consistently portrays the wicked Balaam as advising other nations’ kings on how to destroy Israel, iniquity noted already in Numbers 31:16 (not in this parashah). The Rabbis affirm that Balaam had great prophetic powers and the facility to bless and curse effectively. According to Midrash B’midbar Rabbah 14.20, God bestowed these special abilities on Balaam so that the nations of the world should not say: “Had we possessed a prophet like Moses we [too] would have worshipped the blessed Holy One.” Thus, the nations wasted their opportunity to find a way to the worship of God and could not claim that Israel had special privileges.
While Israel was staying at Shittim (25:1). B’midbar Rabbah 20.22 recounts that during all the years in the wilderness, the Israelites acted virtuously; they did not commit any sexual sins until they came to Shittim. The reason for their lapse, according to the midrash, was the waters of the local spring: “Some fountains produce strong men and some weaklings, some handsome men and some ugly men, some chaste men and some men who are steeped in lewdness.” According to the Sages, this fountain of Shittim, which promoted immoral sexual behavior, was also the fountain that provided the water for Sodom. They predicted that at some future time God would cause this cursed spring to dry up and then renew it in purity, as the prophet Joel predicted, “A spring shall issue from the House of יהוה, and shall water the valley of Shittim” (Joel 4:18).
whoring with the Moabite women (25:1). The Rabbis recall that the Moabites were descended from the incestuous union of Lot and his older daughter (Genesis 19:33–35), following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Sages usually treat this event positively, since the two daughters believed that the rest of the world had been destroyed and they were trying to reconstitute humanity by sleeping with their father. In B’midbar Rabbah 20.23, however, this act of incest is cited as the beginning of a history of debauchery by the women of Moab: “Cast a staff into the air, and it will fall back to its place of origin. The one who began the harlotry in the beginning [Lot’s older daughter], finally committed it again [the Moabite women].”
who invited the menfolk to the sacrifices for their god (25:2). According to a number of rabbinic sources, including BT Sanhedrin 106a, the plot to seduce the Israelite men, which led to the deaths of 24,000 people (25:9), was concocted by the villainous Balaam, in accordance with what Numbers 31:16 states in the next parshah. In order to ensnare Israel, Balaam advised Balak to erect stalls where old women would offer linen garments to the Israelite men. However, inside the stalls, young women offered to sell the same items for less. Having established a relationship with a particular man, the young woman would say to him: “You are now like one of the family…. Why is it that though we love you, you hate us?…Are we not all the children of one man, Terah the father of Abraham?” She would then encourage him to drink wine, and he would desire her–as it says in the Prophets, “Harlotry, wine, and new wine destroy the mind of My people” (Hosea 4:11). At that point, the young woman would refuse to have sexual relations with the Israelite man until he had sacrificed an animal and bowed down to the local idol, Baal-peor.
who were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (25:6). B’midbar Rabbah 20.24 suggests that Moses and the Israelite leaders were weeping because they were so shocked and disappointed at the behavior of the Israelite men who were worshiping Baal-peor. The midrash offers a parable: “It is like a king’s daughter, adorned for her wedding and sitting in her bridal litter, who was discovered in a compromising position with a stranger, and so the king and her relatives lost faith in her. It was the same with Israel. At the end of forty years they camped by the Jordan to cross over into the Land of Israel…and there they gave way to harlotry. [At this betrayal] the courage of Moses failed him, as did that of the righteous with him.”
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 11 Tamuz through 18 Tamuz, we lovingly remember:
First Yahrzeit, Friend of Jane Kolber
Father of TKH Lay Leader Doug Annino
TKH Shofar Donor
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, June 30, 2023.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Haftarah Chukat-Balak: Micah 5:6-6:8
Time: Jun 30, 2023 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jun 30, 2023 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat – Gut Shabbos!
PS – About the Book of Micah (sixth of the Trei Assar)
From Jewish Encyclopedia
From My Jewish Learning
Timelines from Wikipedia