Tag Archives: Bamidbar

Korach- Rebelling against the Establishment

Samuel and Saul by Laya Crust

Parasha: Korach Haftarah: I Samuel 11:14- 12:22

In the Torah reading Korach, a priest, gathered 250 followers and challenged Moshe’s authority. Korach thought it was presumptuous of Moshe and Aaron to retain the leadership of the Israelites. He said, “You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them…” (Numbers 16:3). The accusation was particularly galling since Korach and his followers were already distinguished as men of note with special roles.

Later in the parasha there was another rebellion concerning Aaron’s role as High Priest. Gd proscribed a test where each tribe inscribed a wooden staff with its name then put the rod into the Tent of Meeting. The rod of the true leader would sprout leaves overnight. The next morning Moshe brought out the twelve rods. Not only had Aaron’s rod sprouted leaves but it had flowering buds and almonds on the staff.

The haftarah echoes the rebellions against the established leadership. The prophet Samuel was the prophet and leader of the Jews around the year 1000 BCE. The Israelites saw that other nations were ruled by a king, and they wanted to be like other nations. Samuel saw this as a betrayal of Gd and Gd’s rule. Moshe and Samuel each attempt to convince the Israelites not to overturn the leadership. Moshe says, ” I have not taken a single donkey of theirs, nor have I wronged even one of them.” (Numbers 16:15) Samuel says, “Whose ox have I taken or whose ass have I taken? Whom have I defrauded or whom have I robbed? From whom have I taken a bribe to turn the other way?” (I Samuel 12:4)

The parasha is resolved with Moshe and Aaron each retaining their positions and the rebels being punished. In contrast, Samuel loses his position as leader. He anoints Saul as king and becomes Saul’s advisor.

The Israelites wanted a king so they would be like all the other nations.  The change wasn’t being sought for positive, constructive purposes. Rather the change was being pursued so that the Israelites would be like the other nations.  Similarly, Korach’s goal was not the improvement of his people. His goal was self-promotion and personal power.

The issues of self-interest and personal power are issues that plague us to this day. To create a healthy society and a healthy world we need leaders who are leading for the betterment of society, not for self-promotion. At the grassroots level, we need to strive to make the world a better place by supporting wise leaders and with our own fair and caring actions. Hopefully, through these actions we will see peace,  justice, and equality in the world sooner rather than later.

A word about the illustration for this haftarah: The painting is inspired by a woodcut from a book by Isaac ben Solomon ibn Abi Sahulah. Born in Castile in 1244, he was a scholar and Hebrew poet. He noticed that Jews were reading foreign novels like “The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor”, fables from India, and books from other cultures. Isaac wanted Jews to read about Jewish subjects so he wrote his own book of poems and parables called “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” (The Ancient Proverb). It was so popular it was reprinted six times in Hebrew and nine times in Yiddish! My painting shows Samuel speaking to Saul, based on a German reprint from 1450. 

Let’s all hope for good directions in this crazy world of crazy leadership that just seems to get crazier. Shabbat Shalom, Laya

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Yom Yerushalayim- and food

Jerusalem

Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day, will be celebrated this week on Thursday night, May 21, and Friday, May 22, 2020. Jerusalem was established as the capital of Israel by King David almost 3,000 years ago, and the Jerusalem Antiquities Authority has just discovered more ancient ruins near the Western Wall.

My question is: What food should we eat to celebrate Jerusalem Day? I reached out for expert advice and received a few suggestions. The top winners were Jerusalem Mixed Grill (מעורב ירושלמי) and Jerusalem bagels.

Jerusalem Mixed Grill photo by Bridges for Peace

You can find great kiosks selling Jerusalem mixed grill around the city, but particularly near Mahane Yehuda. The smell of the greasy, spicy mixtures wafts through the streets, and here is a video about the originator of this fine fare.

Another contender, the Jerusalem Bagel, is found all over the city. During the Six Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was reunited by the Israelis. Tourism blossomed in the city and these bagels, sold by vendors became super popular. They are long and oval, and the bagel itself is softer and lighter than the usual bagels. They are covered with sesame seeds and served with zatar, an Israeli spice mixture, which is given in a little packet made of newsprint.

The bagel recipe is a closely guarded secret, but adding extra oil to a regular bread recipe will make the dough lighter.

Here are two recipes, one for zatar, and one for a homemade Jerusalem Grill.

Zatar: (from Janna Gur’s cookbook)

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a pan

1/2 cup dried hyssop

1 Tablespoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind the hyssop in a spice mill or blender until it is powder. If you don’t have hyssop you can use dried rosemary or thyme. Add all the other ingredients and you are ready to go!

Jerusalem Grill

about 1 1/2 lbs. chicken innards- liver, heart, spleens, plus some chicken breast or thigh.

For a vegetarian version chop up firm tofu & portobello mushrooms, and you can add blanched cauliflower

4 sliced onions

4 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. salt

Cut the chicken into small pieces. Put into a bowl with the onions and the garlic. Pour on some olive oil and the spices, and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3 -24 hours.

Heat up a large frying pan and add some olive oil. Pour in the meat mixture. Fry until the meat is done. Serve in a pita with tehina, hummus, pickles, and olives. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful Jerusalem Day. I hope you found my Jerusalem food blog interesting and that you might even try something new!

Have a happy Shabbat Shalom and stay safe. -Laya

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Korach and a Change in Leadership


KorachKorach   art by Laya Crust

I Samuel 11:14- 12:22

Samuel (prophet and judge) 1070 – 970 B.C.E

This Torah reading tells how Korach, a Levi, led a group of people and confronted Moses. They wanted to know why Moses and Aaron were so special and they wanted a change in leadership. The accompanying haftarah is also about a call for change in leadership.

Samuel was prophet and judge and as things turned out he was to be the last of the judges of Israel. The Israelites asked for a King so that they would be like the neighbouring nations. In this haftarah Samuel reluctantly anointed Saul as the first King of Israel. He reminded the people of all that God had done for them, and how he himself had been an honest and caring prophet and leader. He told the children of Israel that if they did not listen to God and obey His commandments they would be punished.

The image I painted shows Samuel advising Saul.  My painting is based on a woodcut in a book from Southern Germany, 1450 called “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” (The Ancient Proverb) written by  Isaac ben Solomon ibn Abi Sahulah.  He was born in 1244 and lived in Guadalajara, in Castile. Isaac ben Solomon was worried about the influence of secular writings on his fellow Jews.  He noted that Jews were reading and being influenced by non-Jewish books. For example The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor  and Kalila and Dimna- fables from India- were translated into Hebrew and read extensively by Jews in the Middle Ages. Below are two illustrations from an edition of Kalila and Dimna dated 1210 CE.

               

To counter the effects of these non-Jewish texts Isaac wrote his own book of  stories, poems, fables and parables. The book was illustrated with miniatures and wood cuts. The “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” was so popular it was reprinted six times in Hebrew and nine times in Yiddish! It was a popular book, but of course it didn’t stop Jews from reading and loving secular literature.

Samuel was concerned that the people were going to turn away from God; that they would subconsciously conclude that because they had anointed a King as leader of their country they could ignore God’s commandments. Samuel wanted to remind the people that their fate would always be in God’s power. It was the wheat harvest season. After Samuel was finished speaking he called to God, asking for thunder and rain When the thunderstorm came the show of force the frightened Israelites. They realized, “…we have added to all our sins to request a King for ourselves…” (Ch 12 v.19).  Although they admitted their error the statement did not prevent the Israelites from sinning against God as they continued their lives.

People are always looking for a change in power. When the leader is a good leader it is the forces of extremism or selfishness that want to change the status quo. When someone with poor vision or evil intentions is at the helm those with good leadership abilities must try to change the direction of politics. It is important element to have the wisdom to recognize good leadership and bad leadership, and to further the goodness.  Let’s all hope for good directions in this crazy world of crazy leadership that just seems to get crazier.

Have a good Shabbat,

Laya

 

 

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The Angel, the Donkey and the Man

Balak:    Numbers 22:2–25:9

This week’s Torah reading is about a Moabite king, Balak, who calls Bilaam the seer to curse the children of Israel.

After being called by the king twice Bilaam goes, and here is the order of events: Bilaam gets up early in the morning, saddles his donkey, and goes towards his destination accompanied by two young men, his helpers.  En route an angel appears. He’s invisible to Bilaam but the donkey sees him and is frightened. We don’t hear anything more about the two young men, they may have returned to the original camp. The donkey, upset, talks to Bilaam and finally the angel, armed with a sword, appears and challenges the seer.

The story reminds me of an earlier narrative, the story of Abraham and Isaac going up to Mount Moriah. Early in the morning Abraham saddled his donkey, and went up the mountain with two young men. The donkey and the young men stopped part way while Abraham continued with Isaac. He was about to scarifice his son when an angel appeared and stopped him.

There are a number of similar elements in the two stories but Bilaam’s narrative has been turned upside down.

Most notably, Gd spoke to both of these men, not a common occurrence in the Bible. Abraham and Bilaam each hastened to get a start on their trek, but Abraham was carrying out Gd’s instructions and Bilaam was carrying out Balak’s directive. The donkey and the angel each helped Abraham (the donkey by  carrying provisions) whereas the angel and donkey both criticized Bilaam for his actions. Finally, the angel stopped Abraham’s sword but in the second story the angel brandished his sword at Bilaam.

Bilaam finally accepted that he had to bless the children of Israel in Gd’s name. He finished off with words that are said each day in synagogue.Balakart by Laya Crust

The message of the parsha is that when we are faced with a situation we have to look at the situation itself and listen carefully to our conscience. (That’s what Bilaam should have done.)  Angels, and in this case the talking donkey, are prophetic visions according to the Rambam (Maimonides) . Prophetic visions for the ordinary person may be deep thought that takes us to the correct answer to a difficult or morally challenging question. It may well be that Bilaam knew that he should have been listening to Gd, not Balak, but he was worried about the repercussions of ignoring a king. The vision of the talking donkey and the sword brandishing angel were his conscience giving him the answer he knew was right.

Next time you have a moral dilemma think deeply about the wise lessons you have learned and they will point you in the right direction.

Balak’s prayer was:

“How goodly are your tents, Jacob and your dwelling places  Israel

The text poetically continues, ” stretching out like brooks like gardens by a river, like aloes planted by Gd, like cedars by water.”

If you find these ideas interesting share them with your friends. And let me know what you think by sending me a comment.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Korach

KorachArt by Laya Crust

Korach:  Numbers ch 16 – ch 19

Haftarah:  I Samuel 11:14- 12:22

This week’s Torah portion and haftarah reading are both about challenges to leadership.

The  illustration is inspired by a woodcut from a book by Isaac ben Solomon ibn Abi Sahulah. Isaac ben Solomon was a scholar and Hebrew poet born in Castile in 1244. He noticed that Jews were reading and being influenced by books like “The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor”  and “Kalila and Dimna” (fables from India). To counter the effects of these non-Jewish texts Isaac wrote his own book of  stories, poems, fables and parables called “Meshal ha-Kadmoni”. The “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” was so popular it was reprinted six times in Hebrew and nine times in Yiddish! My painting is based on a a reprint of   “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” (The Ancient Proverb) from Southern Germany, 1450. The picture shows Samuel speaking to Saul. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

In the Torah reading Korach, a priest, gathered 250 followers and challenged Moshe’s authority. Korach thought it was presumptuous of Moshe and Aaron to retain leadership of the Israelites. He said, “You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them…” The accusation was particularly galling since Korach and his followers were already distinguished as men of note with special roles.

Later in the parsha there was another rebellion, this one  questioning Aaron’s leadership. Gd proscribed a test where each tribe inscribed  a wooden staff with its name then put the rod into the Tent of Meeting. The rod of the true leader would sprout leaves over night. The next morning Moshe brought out the twelve rods. Not only had Aaron’s rod sprouted leaves but it had flowering buds and almonds on the staff.

Sanctuary Vessels- manuscript painting by Solomon ben Raphael, 1299. Note Aaron’s rod in the bottom right hand corner.

The haftarah repeats the theme of challenging the “Establishment”. The Israelites wanted a King so they would be like all the other nations.  The change wasn’t being sought for positive, constructive purposes. Rather the change was being pursued so that the Israelites would be like the other nations.  Similarly Korach’s goal was not the improvement of his people. His goal was self promotion and  personal power.

The issues of self-interest and personal power are issues that plague us to this day. To create a healthy society and a healthy world we have to hope our leaders have the right goals. Unfortunately often that is not the reality. So- we have to pursue the right path ourselves and endeavor to make the world a better place through our own fair and caring  actions.

I am blessed to be part of a community of educators, activists, and caregivers who devote large amounts of time to improving the world. Hopefully through their actions and our actions we will see peace,  justice and equality in the world sooner rather than later.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,

Laya

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Korach

Korach

I Samuel 11:14- 12:22

Samuel (prophet) 1070 – 970 B.C.E , he was the last of the judges

The Israelites wanted a King so they would be like all the other nations. In this haftarah Samuel reluctantly anoints Saul as the first King of Israel. He reminds the people of all that God has done for them, and how he himself has been an honest and caring prophet and leader. He tells B’nei Yisrael if they do not listen to God and obey His commandments they will be punished.

Samuel is concerned that the people are going to turn away from God; that they will subconsciously conclude that because they have a anointed leader in their country- a King- they can ignore God’s commandments. It is the wheat harvest season. When Samuel is finished he calls to God, asking for thunder and rain- to remind the people that their fate is in God’s power.

On the heels of this show of force the frightened Israelites say, “…we have added to all our sins to request a King for ourselves…” Ch 12 v.19

The image I painted shows Samuel speaking to Saul. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) My painting is based on a book illustration from Southern Germany, 1450 called “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” (The Ancient Proverb).  The circumstances surrounding ”Meshal ha-Kadmoni” are very appropriate to today’s haftarah and the prophet Samuel’s concerns. Just as Samuel was concerned about the Israelites straying due to outside influences (wanting a King like all the other nations) Isaac ben Solomon, the author of the proverbs, was worried about the influence of secular writings on his fellow Jews.

Isaac ben Solomon ibn Abi Sahulah was born in 1244 and lived in Guadalajara, in Castile. Isaac noted that Jews were reading and being influenced by non-Jewish books. For example The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor  and Kalila and Dimna- fables from India- were translated into Hebrew and read extensively by Jews in the Middle Ages. Below are two illustrations from an edition of Kalila and Dimna dated 1210 CE.

               

To counter the effects of these non-Jewish texts Isaac wrote his own book of  stories, poems, fables and parables. The book was illustrated with miniatures and wood cuts. The “Meshal ha-Kadmoni” was so popular it was reprinted six times in Hebrew and nine times in Yiddish!

You can read more about Isaac ben Solomon ibn Abi Sahulah in the Encyclopedia Judaica.

How are the parsha and haftarah related? The parsha’s main theme is that Korach and his followers challenge Moshe’s leadership and demand that the leadership be more democratic. This is akin to the Israelites wanting a King because they now feel that a prophet or “shofet” (judge) is not adequate for their modern needs.

Another link between the two readings are similarities between Moshe  and Samuel. The two leaders are chosen by HaShem, the two men defend their honour with their record of justice and respect towards their people, and later, in the Book of Jeremiah, God speaks of Moshe and Samuel in the same sentence. (Jeremiah ch. 15 v.1)

Both the parsha and the haftarah are interesting to read. So, this Shabbat,  read and enjoy.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

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