I have added the latest additon of the newsletter: Kol Kehillat Kernow to the Newsletter page.
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Have Ark, will travel-Anthony Fagin’s portable Ark which holds our two Torah scrolls, made its debut on Shabbat Mattot-Mas’ei on the 28th of Tammuz, where a Shehechianu was duly pronounced. The Ark, made of plywood with a ceramic crest on top, will be lighter and perfect for the upcoming High Holidays when two scrolls are required. Anthony’s expertise and fine craftsmanship resulted in the perfect solution for housing the two scrolls. Anthony donated the Ark to the KK community for which we are all very grateful. Bravo!
The children of Israel seem destined to have their ups and downs, even as we approach the last few chapters of B’midbar. The years in the wilderness haven’t yet taught them to walk in God’s ways. After the triumphant and glorious declaration by Balaam of what the Israelites can become in the Promised Land, they find themselves mired in the orgiastic practices of Baal-peor as they succumb to the charms of the Moabite women. It is up to Pinchas to save the day after God’s anger against their mass idolatry results in an epidemic plague and orders from Ha Shem to spear the ringleaders. Pinchas’s heroic and dramatic act of expiation for the Israelites’ latest transgression, sometimes seen as a bit over-zealous, is rewarded: The plagues cease and his right to the priesthood are declared. Once that happens, it is back to administrative business, ensuring this next, more pious generation of conquistadores are accounted for and prepared for military service. The land of Israel is apportioned by lot and size of each tribe; Joshua is named as Moses’ successor and a religious calendar is declared.
The seriousness of vows and the power of keeping one’s word is the central theme of the final two parashot of this upcoming week’s Shabbat as the children of Israel make final preparations for entering the Promised Land. Will they be up to the task? Will they remain steadfast? Will they accept their responsibilities to realise the destiny God has planned for them? Insight into these most dramatic of times for the Israelites can be gained by listening to Liz as she leads this week’s service.
Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parashah rather than on the one in the title.
Chukkat, commandments which cannot be rationally understood but are accepted to show man’s love and trust in God, comes immediately after the completion of the tabernacle and the challenge in Korach to Aaron’s priesthood. The opening lines are concerned with the curious purification from contamination by a corpse ritual, involving the ‘porah adumah,’ the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. This is a transitional parashah as the children of Israel move farther away from Sinai into the wilderness of Zin, and closer to the Promised Land. Moses is denied access to the land of Israel as a result of his anger; Miriam and Aaron die. It is up to the next generations to make the covenant manifest as they make their way through Transjordan, encamp on the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.
This leads us into one of the most endearing passages in Torah with Parashah Balak, as Balaam and his talking donkey try to make their way towards the encamped Israelites to curse them rather than bless them. It is the source of ‘Mah Tovu’ which we sing at every service.
To find out more, come to this week’s service and listen to Adam who will explicate this wonderful passage.
Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parshah rather than on the one in the title.
“How long shall this nation continue to provoke Me?… I will kill them with a plague and annihilate them.” So says God when the spies return from spying out the land and the people complain against Moses and Aaron for bringing them there. Is it any wonder that God becomes angry? What a fractious lot we have been. Despite being fed manna from the skies, we groan for meat. Despite being brought to the very gates of the promised land, we lose faith and are filled with terror. Even Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses. Our miserable behaviour is more marked by coming so soon after the tribal leaders brought generous gifts for the altar. Is it not enough that God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm? Is it not enough that he has fed us and protected us from our enemies, guiding us with his presence and communing with our leader? It looks like we have a long way to go before we will be ready to commit ourselves to our destiny as a free people dedicated to God and to building His just and holy society.
Look to the future, but remember the past and remember God. We are given many props and structures to help us, the most recent of which are ‘tzitzit’, which we are commanded to wear at the very end of Sh’lach L’cha, a fitting conclusion to a parsha which begins by telling us to send out for ourselves and explore the territory we are to inhabit.
Surely, the complaining, the fear, the backbiting must be finished. Unfortunately, they aren’t, for along comes Korach, accompanied by Dathan and Aviram, to rail against Moses and Aaron and demand power for themselves. One of the ironies is, of course, that Moses, the humblest man alive, never wanted power. Korach and his fellow rebels are in for a shock which must now put an end to the complaining, but it doesn’t. To find out what happens next and how it is dealt with come along this Saturday at 10.30. Pat Lipert will be leading us.