Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1 )
GOOD MORNING! Last week's story about testing the Almighty reminded me of the time I met with one of our supporters, a personal injury attorney, for lunch. At the end of the meal I asked him if he would please renew his support of $2,000 again this year. He told me that he could give $500, but was unable to give what he gave the previous year because of a whole list of reasons. I graciously thanked him for his continued support and then asked him, "What would it take for you to be able to give the other $1500 to continue your level of support from last year? He thought for a moment and then said, "I'd need to make $400,000 this year." And I said, "Great! We have a deal!" I then asked him, "By the way, what did you make last year?" He replied, "Under $200,000."
A ridiculous deal? Maybe. But when you are a fundraiser, you quickly learn to trust in God. Anything can happen. One sees miracles when he fundraises for a cause. My attitude is also colored by an old Jewish tale of a king whose best friend embezzled money from the treasury. The king was loathe to commit his old friend to death, though he knew that he had an obligation to the laws of the kingdom and respect for the law to do it. In order to delay the inevitable, the king decreed that his friend had one year to teach the king's horse to sing ... and if he failed, then and only then would he be put to death.
The embezzler was thrilled. The guard asked him, "Why are you so happy? Didn't you hear? You're condemned to death!" The embezzler replied, "What are you talking about? Many things can happen in a year. - the horse could die, the king could die, I could die. And who knows, I might even succeed to teach the horse to sing!" Such is the attitude of a fundraiser -- trust in God and anything can happen!
During the year I made every effort to keep in contact with the donor. I called. I sent information and interesting books. He didn't take one call or return one message. He never responded to anything I sent. At the end of the year I wrote to enquire how his year was and the status of our deal. No answer to my letter. I figured that there was probably a good reason and perhaps eventually I'd find out.
March 15th of the next year his secretary called me requesting a lunch meeting with me for her boss on the 16th or the 17th. I figured he must have a personal problem and that he needs my help. Why else would he want to meet with me after ignoring me for a year?
On March 17th we had an enjoyable lunch together with lots of "small talk". Towards the end of lunch he asks, "Do you remember our deal?" "Yes," I replied. "Well, I didn't make $400,000," he continued, "I made over $500,000 (later he told me that he made $750,000!). And I asked myself, 'Was this a coincidence or was it because of my deal with the rabbi?' I decided that I wasn't going to pay you so quickly to see what would happen. It was the worst financial quarter of any year since I graduated from law school. So, I decided I would fulfill my word and pay my obligation. And I want you to know, rabbi, that since I made that decision my phone has been ringing off the hook and I have more business than I can handle." He then handed me the check.
I graciously accepted the check, extended my hand to shake his hand and thanked him for his company, for lunch and for his generous contribution. He said, "Well, I guess that's about it." I responded, "There's still one more question". He asked, "What? Will I do the deal again next year?" "No," I replied, "the question is ... 'How much money do you want to make next year?' " (And we made another deal!)
The Torah tells us that we are not to test God ("Do not test the Lord your God" -- Deuteronomy 6:16) ... except in one thing -- tzedakah (charity). The Torah states, "Tithe, you shall certainly tithe." The Talmud (Ta'anis 8b-9a) asks the meaning of the double expression ("ahsair t'ahsair"). Rabbi Yochanan teaches that there is a homiletic lesson based on a play of words (in the Hebrew): 'Tithe so that you will become wealthy!" Rabbi Yochanan then brought support from the prophet Malachi (3:10): "Bring all the tithes to the storehouse, so that there may be food in My House (for those who serve in the Holy Temple), and you may test Me now through this, says the Almighty, the Master of Legions, if I will not open for you windows of the sky, and pour blessings for you without limit." Thus we see that one may test the Almighty -- in one area only, that of tzedakah (charity). And not only that, but we see that the reward for testing in this area is that the Almighty will pour out upon you blessings without limit for what you give! And if you can't wait to try, go to AishDonate.com now!
Chukas Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
Another week of action, adventure and mystery as the Jewish people wander the desert in their 38th year. First, the laws of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) which was burnt with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet thread. The ashes were then used in a purification ceremony for those who had come in contact with the dead. Strangely enough, all who were involved in the making of the ashes became ritually impure, but all who were sprinkled with them became ritually pure. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. God decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.
Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because of the lack of water. The Almighty tells Moshe to speak to the rock for water. Moshe gets angry and hits the rock (instead of speaking to it) and water rushes forth. However, the Almighty punishes Moshe and Aharon for not sanctifying Him by forbidding their entry into the land of Israel. (It pays to follow instructions and to withhold anger!)
Aharon dies. His son, Elazar, is appointed the new High Priest. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and later is soundly defeated. Then there is another rebellion over the food and water which is answered by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moshe prays for the people and is instructed by God to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of God, repent and live.
The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us. There are many questions which need to be asked. Please consult the original work and a good commentary, such as the Artscroll Stone Edition of the Chumash (Five Books of Moses).
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states regarding Moshe's hitting the rock instead of speaking to it (as he was commanded to do by the Almighty):
"And the Almighty said to Moshe and Aharon, because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore, you will not bring this congregation to the Land which I gave them." (Numbers 20:12)
Rashi elucidates that if Moshe were to have spoken to the rock (instead of hitting it) and it would have given forth water, there would have been a greater sanctification of the Almighty in the eyes of the congregation. The people would say, "If this rock which does not speak and does not hear fulfills the word of the Almighty, all the more so should we."
We see from here that the essence of sanctifying the Almighty's name is not merely that someone should be impressed by another person's righteous behavior or to think that a person is acting in an elevated manner. Rather, the key factor is that other people should be influenced to improve their own behavior. Whenever you behave in a manner that influences others to follow the Almighty's will, you sanctify His name.
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You can't take it with you ...
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