Chukat 5763

June 23, 2009

8 min read


Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )

Gratitude is what distinguishes us as human beings. If the Shabbat Shalom has ever made you smile, gave you an insight into life or Torah ... or helped you in a relationship, may I invite you to express your gratitude by helping others by finacially backing the Shabbat Shalom? If yes, then please click ...

This week, the Torah portion outside of Israel is both Parshat Chukat and Parshat Balak. The Torah portion read in Israel is Parshat Balak.

GOOD MORNING!  How would you feel if: overnight the value of your money dropped 66%, what money you have in the bank you can't get out, your boss isn't able to pay you - or worse, you get fired; then, you lose your house because you can't pay the mortgage, your medical insurance is canceled for non-payment, you don't have money for food - and now you and your kids live in one hotel room, depending on charity for one hot meal a day. You spend your days looking for a job that doesn't exist or driving your car offering people rides as a jitney taxi. How would you feel? Can you feel the anger, depression, frustration, hopelessness?

And what if this didn't happen to you? You're OK; but it happened to your brother. How would you feel for him and his family? Would you help him?

Here's the bad news. What I described above is happening to the Jews of Argentina and the Jews of Uruguay in epidemic proportions. Out of 220,000 Jews in Argentina, over 61,000 are presently under the poverty level, 37,000 are jobless, have no permanent roof over their heads and are completely in the hands of charity; in Uruguay, out of 20,000 Jews, 3,000 are under the poverty level.

And here's the good news - they have a brother. You and me! We can help them and we can thank God that we are able to help them -and that it's not happening to us.

The Talmud teaches, "All Jews are co-guarantors for each other." We're not just "members of the tribe," but we are responsible for each other. We are one people. Our destinies are intertwined. If a person's foot hurts, he doesn't say, "So, what it's just the foot, it's not me!" His foot his part of him. If a Jew in another country is suffering, we suffer too - hopefully, we have that sensitivity and humanity to feel his pain and to help.

The Jewish people are known as "bayshanim, rachmanim and gomolay chasadim" - morally sensitive, merciful and doers of kindness. It is our national character and our aspiration.

The Torah tells us:

"Do not harden your heart or close your hand against your needy brother. Open you hand wide to him ... Do not feel bad about giving to him ... it will be a source of blessing to you." (Deuteronomy 14:7-9)

In Leviticus 19:16, we are told:

"Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor; I am God."

Other than redeeming or rescuing captives and hostages, providing relief for starving and destitute people is of the highest priority! (Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 251)

If you want to help, to do something meaningful, to save lives, save marriages and families, then you can give to a special fund to help the Jews of Argentina and Uruguay. And if you ask, what will the money go for? Then I will tell you - for food, housing, medical care, creating job opportunities, education for the children and the pre-Aliyah expenses not covered by the Jewish Agency for those moving to Israel.

Specifically, in Argentina:

  • $16 provides one month utilities.

  • $45 provides one month food voucher for a family of three to buy groceries.

  • $104 provides one month rent subsidy for one family to avoid eviction.

Mail your check to:

Greater Miami Jewish Federation
Att: For the Jews of Argentina and Uruguay
4200 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33137


Or, you may give on line at:
Be sure in the comment box to write:
"For the Jews of Argentina and Uruguay."

On Monday and Thursdays after the Torah reading, the following prayer is offered:

"The whole House of Israel are our brothers, whether in distress or captivity, whether on the sea or on dry land, may the Almighty have mercy upon them and deliver them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from servitude to redemption, speedily - and let us say: Amen."

Let us all send in something. I have already sent my check.

Torah Portion of the Week

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 burned 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.

Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceases to flow. Once again the people rebel 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 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, then repent and therefore 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.)

The second portion this week, Balak, is one of the most fascinating psychologically-revealing portions in the whole Torah! Bilaam, a non-Jewish prophet, is granted a level of prophecy close to Moshe's level of prophecy. The Almighty gives Bilaam these powers so that the nations of the world could not say at some point in the future, "If we had a prophet like Moshe, we too would have accepted the Torah and would have lived according to it." Bilaam is an intriguing character - honor driven, arrogant and self-serving. (Unfortunately, not too unique amongst mankind.)

Balak, the king of Moav, desires to hire Bilaam for a fortune of money to curse the Jewish people. It is interesting that Balak believes in God and the power of invoking a curse from God, yet thinks that God would change His mind about His Chosen People. (God is not a man who changes his mind). Bilaam is very desirous to accept the assignment to curse the Jews (more for the profit motive than the prophet motive).

The Almighty allows Bilaam to travel to Balak (cautioning him to only say what God told him). The Almighty gives every person free-will and allows us to go in the direction that we choose. Three times Bilaam tries to curse us and three times the Almighty places blessings in his mouth. Balak is furious! So, Bilaam gives him advice with hopes of collecting his fee - "If you want to destroy the Jewish people, entice the men with Moabite women and tell the women not to submit until the men bow down to an idol." Balak follows the advice and consequently the Almighty brings a plague against the Jewish people because the men fell for Bilaam's plot. We see from this that the Almighty hates licentiousness and idol worship.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Regarding the Cohen who administers the purification process with the ashes of the Red Heifer, the Torah writes:

"And the priest is impure until the evening."

Rabbi Mendel of Vorki comments that when someone loses out himself in order to help someone else, that is the ultimate in love for one's fellow man. The test of your level of love for your fellow man is the amount of sacrifices you are willing to make.

(or go to

Jerusalem  7:10
Guatemala 6:16  Hong Kong 6:52  Honolulu 6:57
J'Burg 5:13  London 8:55  Los Angeles 7:48
Melbourne 4:56  Miami 7:56  Moscow 8:50

New York 8:09  Singapore  6:58


If you haven't any charity in your heart,
then you have the worst kind of heart trouble.
--  Bob Hope

With Deep Appreciation to
Alex Halberstein,
For His Efforts on Behalf of
The Jewish People and
Especially the Jews of
Argentina and Uruguay

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