By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, July 28, 2008

"These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt"
Numbers 33:1

How odd, the commentator Malbim points out, that the Israelites' destination, the land of Israel, is not mentioned at all. Surely the intention of the Exodus was to take the Jewish people to the holy land and inhabit it? Why then is this not stated in the verse above?



By Dr Diana Lipton, July 21, 2008

"The Reubenites and the Gadites owned cattle in very great numbers"
Numbers 32:1

In this week's parashah, the Gadites and the Reubenites ask to stay on the "wrong side" of the Jordan to accommodate their many cattle (Numbers 32:5). According to Numbers Rabbah 22.8, these cattle were seized from the Midianites (Numbers 31:9). The Torah itself does not report this, but describes in detail how the Midianite booty was meticulously turned over to Moses for proper distribution. So what justifies the claim in Numbers Rabbah?



By Johnny Solomon, July 14, 2008

“Moses brought their case before God ”
Numbers 27:5

When Moses was petitioned by the five daughters of Zelophehad to give them a portion in the land of Israel, one would have expected him to respond with ease. Surely this was not the most complex question he had encountered?!



By Rabbi Daniel Glass, July 11, 2008

“What have I done to you that you struck me this three times?
Numbers 22:28

Children have a sense of wonder at the ordinary. Why the wind blows, what thunder actually is, the way the spores of a dandelion fly.

Great artists and scientists often possess the rare ability to retain this child-like wonder. Van Gogh could look at a flower as if he had never seen a flower before. Einstein wondered what it would look like if you could travel on a beam of light.



By Maureen Kendler, July 4, 2008

“And Jephthah vowed a vow to the Lord”
Judges 11:30

One of the Bible’s most tragic incidents is recounted in this week’s haftarah. Jephthah, a judge, makes a vow promising God that if He surrenders the Ammonite enemy into his hands, whatever comes out of his house to welcome him on his return shall be sacrificed to Him as a burnt-offering.



By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, June 27, 2008

“Moses became distressed and said to the Lord, ‘Do not accept their offerings. No donkey of any one of them did I take, nor did I harm any one of them’”
Numbers 16:15

The great leader Moses is faced with rebellion. It is clear that he is disturbed, but why does he find it important to emphasise that he took “no donkey”? It seems he was not the only leader who makes this claim.


Shelach Lecha

By Dr Diana Lipton, June 20, 2008

“And we looked like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we were in their eyes”
Numbers 13: 33

This week’s parashah contains what may be the Bible’s only example of meta-empathy. The spies sent to scout out the land of Canaan do not merely put themselves into their enemies’ shoes and consider how the world must have looked from their perspective (empathy), but they imagine how they themselves must have appeared to their enemies (meta-empathy): “And we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes.”  



By Johnny Solomon, June 13, 2008

“If any man becomes contaminated through a human corpse or on a distant road, whether you or your generations, he shall make the Pesach offering for God in the second month on the fourteenth day”



By Rabbi Daniel Glass, June 6, 2008

“One silver bowl, one silver basin”
Bemidbar 7:13

In Judaism, legislation governs everything from how you wage a war to how to tie your shoelaces. Where, then, is the space for self-expression? This week’s portion suggests a pathway into this issue. As a text, the Torah concentrates intense, immense meaning into all of its words and even letters — it takes only 31 sentences to describe the entire creation of the universe…



By Maureen Kendler, May 30, 2008

“Take a census of the entire assembly of the children of Israel according to their families”
Numbers 1:2

The sidrah begins with a detailed census of the people, tribe by tribe, as they prepare a military campaign to take the land. Rashbam suggests that the purpose of this census was to count the men over the age of 20  for military service.