Weekly Message 07/03/2020
PARASHAT CHUKAT (Decree)-BALAK (Wearing a Crown) - Numbers 19:1 -25:9
As we approach the 4th of July celebration still in the midst of the growing pandemic, we have much to be thankful for. Despite all our problems and the political turmoil we are facing in our "imperfect union", we appreciate our nation and the rights to live freely as Jews and Americans.
This year, the 4th comes out on Shabbat, so we are especially cognizant of our freedom to worship and the freedoms of all faiths to practice as they choose. We'll discuss more on the special meaning of the 4th to Judaism at our service this evening at 7:30 pm which will be held at the synagogue and on Zoom with the following login instructions:
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Meeting ID: 497 903 0958
Our Torah reading is the double sedrah of Chukat-Balak, one of the most action packed int he entire liturgy. It contains the story of the Red Heifer that we studied more intensively when we read it on Shabbat Parah, one of the special Shabbatot before Passover. How different our situation was then as we were just beginning to understand what was to become a global pandemic and change the way we live for the foreseeable future!
In addition, Parashat Chukat contains the deaths of Miriam and Aaron and the "striking of the rock" which condemns Moses to die in the wilderness along with all the others who were adults when they left Egypt. Only those who weren't directly affected by living as slaves were capable of entering the promised land. So now the children of Israel are about to spend nearly forty more years in the wilderness in preparation for living in their own nation and governing themselves.
In the second half of this week's reading, we are introduced to Balak and Bilaam and learn that curses can be transformed into blessings, specifically the beautiful Ma Tovu song that is uttered by Bilaam after he is paid to curse the Hebrew nation and instead with some help from God, blesses them with this tune:. "How great are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUJCDlHYnJU
Our Haftorah from the Prophet Micah contains one of the most stirring and moving statements teaching us that what the Lord requires of us is not only that we send sacrifices, but mainly "to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God". Can you imagine how much better this world would be if everyone heeded Micah's prophetic words?
I hope to see many of you tonight whether it be on Zoom or in the shul and ask that you all have a wonderful 4th of July Shabbat weekend and celebrate it safely and in continued good health!