Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Balak 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Blessings from Curses

Posted on July 6, 2017

This week we read the Torah portion of Balak in the Book of Numbers, which includes some of the best words an outsider ever delivered about our people.   In the portion, one of just two in the entire Torah named after a non-Jew, 40 years of wandering have passed and the Israelites have finally arrived on the borders of the land of Canaan.  They are about to move in and they seem unstoppable to their opponents.  Balak, King of Moab, comes up with a novel plan: he will hire Balaam, a pagan sorcerer, to curse the Israelites, which will destroy their chances of defeating his own army and entering his land.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Balak 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chukat 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

The Price of Holiness, and Healing

Posted on June 29, 2017

This week in the book of Numbers we read the odd, ritualistic Torah portion of Chukat, the rites of the red heifer.  In order to achieve true ritual purity ancient Jews were required to find a completely unblemished young red female cow, slaughter it, burn it to ashes, and mix the ashes with water to create a liquid of purification in which to wash away ritual impurity. 

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Chukat 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Korach 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Bald Truths: How Rebellion Teaches Us Leadership 

Posted on June 22, 2017

Korach chronicles the greatest rebellion in the entire Torah, the palace revolt of the Levite named Korach and his 400 followers against the divinely ordained leadership of his fellow Levites, Moses and Aaron.  As so often seems to be the case, we Jews are our own worst enemies.  The result of this insurrection is disastrous, at least for the rebels.  The earth opens and Korach and all of his misguided followers are swallowed up, never to be heard from again.  

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Korach 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Shelach Lecha 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Changing Culture:

Posted on June 15, 2017

This week we chant the dramatic portion of Shelach Lecha in the book of Numbers, the story of the meraglim, the spies. The Israelites have journeyed to the borders of the Holy Land, just a year and a half after leaving Egyptian exile. Under God’s direction, Moses sends 12 spies, one from every tribe, princes of the people—wealthy men of standing—into the land of Canaan to scout out the land and see if it can be captured.

The spies take a month and they see the whole land—and report back to Moses that the land is very good, flowing with milk and honey. They bring back a huge cluster of grapes, so large it needs to be carried by two men on a pole, now the enduring symbol of Israel’s tourism ministry. Everything’s going to be great—only it’s not. Ten of the twelve spies then report that the people of the land are huge—“we felt like grasshoppers next to them”—and numerous, the cities fortified and unassailable. The Israelites have no chance, in spite of having God’s support.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Shelach Lecha 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Beha'alotecha 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Talk About It: The Ethics of Speech

Posted on June 8, 2017

This week our portion, Beha’alotecha from the Book of Numbers, is filled with a series of incidents and events from the Wilderness Days, as well as a couple of important commandments.  It’s in this week’s portion that instructions are given to create the first menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that has become the most enduring symbol of Judaism.  It’s also here that we get the first rumblings of rebellion that will explode into full-fledged revolt against Moses and Aaron in just a few more weeks, the disastrous story of Korach.  But most significant in this week’s sedrah is a peculiar little story about gossip.

Moses has married a new wife, and his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, don’t think much of her.  So they begin to talk about her, and about Moses, behind his back, circulating rumors and gossip.  She isn’t of the right ethnicity, they don’t like her influence on Moses, she probably laughs inappropriately or wears her hair too long.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Beha'alotecha 5777

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