Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Balak Seeing and Moab Fearing

In General on July 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm

And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many; and Moab was overcome with dread because of the children of Israel.

Bamidbar 22.2-3

How could Balak “see” all the Israel had done to the Amorites?

Did Balak see only the episode with Sihon and the Amorites? Or did he see what happened to Og too?

Who are these “people”? What is the difference between these “people” and the “children of Israel?”

Why does the text say “Balak…saw…And Moab was…afraid?” Was Balak afraid too? Or not?

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The Consumption Question

In General on June 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I open the newspaper
And am forced to ask myself
What should I read today?
And more importantly
What should I believe today?

After the rebel ringleaders are “consumed” in earth and fire, God commands that their fire pans be hammered into a covering for the altar as a warning to the rebels.  Does this strike you as reward or punishment?  The people who wanted to be closer to God in authority, as they perceived Moses and Aaron, are dead.  Then they – or perhaps, more accurately, something of themselves – are brought closer to God as they wished. 

Is the warning to the rebels simply don’t rebel? Or is the statement being made a bit more subtler than that?

Consider the circumstances: the people involved in these rebellions were committed to their interests. They were willing to take risks in the name of those interests, like offering incense out of context despite the clear warning to the contrary in the case of Nadab and Abihu. These people didn’t scruple to hide themselves, being in plain sight throughout their narrative. These people did not hesitate to stand up and identify themselves as “one of us.”

Our history is rife with rebellion. Abraham rebelling against Terah. Israel rebelling against Egypt. The Maccabean Revolt and the uprisings against Rome. In all of these cases, the question is one of freedom.

So what is the question here?

Moses’ words to Korah are telling: do you seek the priesthood too? You are fighting against God. Who is Aaron that you should rail against him?

Dathan and Abiram’s are moreso: Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us?

Did these people have legitimate grievances or were they consumed by lust for power? If the later, were they so consumed that they would say one thing while meaning something else, as the text implies?

What would these people have done if they’d gotten what they wanted?

Yet, if the warning was solely against being consumed, I think the text would have stopped with the rebels bring consumed, and a different warning used (e.g. heads on pikes). This raises the question: can the state of being consumed be a positive thing? Is this the message of the fire pans covering the altar which, by design, consumes sacrifices?

Who does the consuming here: God or Man?

Pharoahs

In Exodus, General on January 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm

To march forward and
Not march backward we must look
At ourselves and ask

To where do we go?
And from where do we come from?
Where are we right now?

Exodus 1.1 – 6.1
Isaiah 27.6 – 28.13; 29.22 – 23

Parsha Shemot

What does this passage teach?

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people: ‘Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.’ Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And they were adread because of the children of Israel.

Exodus 1.8-12

What does not knowing Joseph have to do with Pharoah’s behavior? Also, why does the text say “knew not Joseph”? What does one have to do with the other?

Is Pharoah angry and evil here? Or is he just afraid? Do his actions make any sense to us?

Are there Pharoahs in your life? What makes them Pharoahs? Are these people mean and bullish, or oppressive and belittling? Do they flee responsibility for their actions while you clean up the mess? Are they obstacles to you doing what you want to do and being what you want to be? There are many people out there who fear their own shadow, and pale at their own reflection. How would they respond if they could actually see themselves?

Isaiah instructs us not to condemn, but to mourn.

When the boughs thereof are withered, they shall be broken off; the women shall come, and set them on fire; for it is a people of no understanding; therefore He that made them will not have compassion upon them, and He that formed them will not be gracious unto them.

Isaiah 27.11

Do these people sound at all evil or wrong, or deserving of this fate? Or do they just need all the help they can get?

There’s a wonderful book by Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. It’s a wonderful book and I highly suggest you read it. It’s Viktor’s account of life in the WW2 camps, and his encounters with people in them. Some were reduced to little more than animals, bereft of any understanding of humanity, driven by survival. Some became churlish, mercenary, working with the camps to make their own lives just a little easier. And others found it in themselves to say Shacharit, the morning prayers, with little more than scraps of newspaper and shoelace tefillin. How is this like our portion? What does this teach us?

Are we measured by our ability to adapt to survive? Or is our ability to weather oppression the catalyst that helps us to increase, to wax exceeding mighty?

My questions are: what is the difference between necessary and unnecessary suffering? How can you tell? How do you know when to quietly acknowledge or actively answer? And, how can we break the cycle, so that Pharoahs will dread no more this year?

A New Year Prayer 2012

In General on December 31, 2011 at 9:22 pm

We bless the old year
We strove
We shrugged
We celebrated
We bless the new year
Fear no trial
Fear no triviality
Fear no treasure
We bless our family
May all endings
Be new beginnings
Be new becomings
Of parents
Of peacekeepers
Our progeny

May we all take root and flourish.

Shabbat Blessing (4th, Tevet 5772)

In General on December 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

It’s been a long week
Wipe the sweat from your brow
You’ve finished planting your vineyard
Now enjoy the sweet wine
Recline upon soft pillows
Pull your wife into your lap
Laugh and play with your children
Take a well earned nap

Shabbat Shalom

Walking in Circles (Simchat Torah 5772)

In General on October 20, 2011 at 9:52 am

image
Calligraphy by Kanjuro Shibata XX, Enso, ca. 2000

Go on the eastern road
Come on the western road
Where are you going?

Joshua 1:1-17
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Genesis 1:1-2:1

Why do we read the end and the beginning of the Torah, on Simchat Torah? Why not just the oft-skipped final parsha?

Why do we follow the High Holidays with two cyclical holidays, and not just one?

Do we truly begin the Torah every year with a clean slate?

***

Why do we try to spin warmth and beauty from a text that is at times so cold and stark?

Joshua is told by the Reubenites, Gadites, and half of Manasseh that we will obey you just as we obeyed Moses (Joshua 1:17). Promise, or prophecy?

Where do consciences go? What do you do when you can’t find one?

War for Peace? (Sukkot 5772)

In General on October 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm

We are comforted
yet arm for war.
What Return? What Redemption?

Zechariah 14:1-21

Why does the first Sukkot prophet, Zechariah, tell us about war, when Sukkot celebrates the harvest? Does harvest represent peace and fellowship? Or does it represent hard won prosperity?

What do you celebrate when you eat on Sukkot? Do you sit in the Sukkah, or in your home? Are you thankful for the food, or wanting more? Do you make peace, or war?

Questions we Ask

In General on September 3, 2011 at 8:05 pm

What is the meaning of life?

What is the meaning of money?

What is the meaning of friends?

What is the meaning of love?

What is the meaning of God?

What is the meaning of Heaven?

What is the meaning of Hell?

What is the meaning of leaven?

What is the meaning of strife?

What is the meaning of anguish?

What is the meaning of holy?

What is the meaning of profane?

What is the meaning of clean?

What is the meaning of unclean?

What is the meaning of justice?

What is the meaning of mercy?

What is the meaning of faithfulness?

What is the meaning of loyalty?

What is the meaning of joy?

What is the meaning of sorrow?

What is the meaning of Messiah?

What is the meaning of world to come?

What is the meaning of goodness?

What is the meaning of compassion?

What is the meaning of sympathy?

What is the meaning of empathy?

What is the meaning of beginning?

What is the meaning of ending?

May his name always be for blessing…

In General on August 6, 2011 at 11:55 pm

He was always there
And then he was gone, vanished.
Funny. Brilliant. Missed

Posts may slow down for a few days on account of the passing of a family member. Faithful readers, please hold us in your thoughts during this difficult time. We’ll be back soon.

Is it Just that our loved ones be taken?

Frank Aronson, uncle and beloved

Yitgadal…

A Brief Interlude

In General on June 8, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I’m traveling for the next few weeks and won’t post as often. I will be studying. There are new adventures to be had, outside and in! Dear readers, you should too.

take care,
talmid