Torah Portion Highlights – July 2016

NUMBERS – B’MIDBAR

Hanukkah 1 - 5

 

02 July      Korach – Korach                           Numbers 16:1-18:32; 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22

09 July     Chukkat – Statute                           Numbers 19:1-22:1 ; Judges 11:1-33

16 July    Balak – Balak                                  Numbers 22:2–25:9; Micah 5:6–6:8

23 July    Pinchas – Phineas                          Numbers 25:10–30:1; 1 Kings 18:46–19:21

30 July    Mattot  – Tribes                              Numbers 30:2 – 36:13;  Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

 Korach – Korach   

The portion Korach focuses on rebellion against God’s Divine appointing and
anointing. The group led by Korach was of the tribe of Levi. Jealousy and resentment
over his cousins’ appointments to positions of status may have been at the root of
Korach’s dispute. He believed that, as a leader of the Levites, he had as much right as
Aaron did to fill the position of High Priest.

An interesting section of this week’s portion is chapter 17, which describes the miracle of Aaron’s dry staff being filled with buds and blossoms and ripe almonds overnight. As we read in the chapter, this was the Lord’s supernatural affirmation of His appointment of Aaron as High Priest, and his staff was to be kept in the Sanctuary as a permanent reminder to the children of Israel. It was also a miracle that the buds, blossoms and almonds stayed continually fresh and did not wither, which returns our thoughts to the almond tree of the Menorah representing the Word of God. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever” (40:8).

Chukkat – Statute 

The last portion Chukkat records the deaths of Aaron and Miriam. Along with Moses,
they are honored as two of the three “good leaders” of Israel. However, like their
brother, they are destined not to enter the Promised Land. Chapter 20: 12-13, tells us:
“…ye believed not in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel”; and
verses 23-24: “…ye rebelled against My Word at the waters of Meribah.”

At Meribah, Moses struck the rock in his own strength, rather than obeying God’s command to ‘speak’ in order to bring forth water.  Due to Moses’ lack of patience with the people, a unique opportunity was lost to honor the Name and character of God through which they could have been inspired to walk in greater love and obedience to Him and His Word, for their greater blessing.

 Balak

Although the parasha this week is named after Balak, it is more accurately the story of Balaam. The importance of Balaam’s story is underscored in the Hebrew Scriptures. It also is referred to numerous times in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament).

There are amazing connections between the beautiful haftarah reading from the prophet Micah and the Torah portion. In his time Micah denounced the corrupt, indulgent and luxurious lifestyle of many of the wealthy. He admonished all the people, no matter their status, to focus on what was significant and lasting in the light of eternity—their relationships with God and their fellow man.

Micah lists the examples of the Israelites deliverance from Egypt and the repercussions of the plot against them that was spearheaded by Balak, the king of Moab, and Balaam, the famed soothsayer-prophet of Mesopotamia. The Israelites had requested passage through Balak’s land. In his unreasonable opposition to them, the king calls for Balaam, whose incantations and curses are known never to fail. He implores Balaam to curse the Israelites that he might overcome them. In effect, he is challenging the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the eternal King. In response, God intervenes and turns the curses into blessings.

En route, in answer to Balak’s call, we read the famous account of Balaam’s angry conversation with his donkey and his encounter with the angel. God may allow us to go ahead in our own designs and arrogance, contrary to His will, but then He may “hem us in,” narrowing our options until we are forced to hear Him. The angel of the Lord says in verse 32: “I have come to hinder you.” Sometimes it is not people or circumstances that stand in our way, it is God Himself, working to get our attention!

Pinchas / Phineas

The righteous Phineas was introduced when the portion of  Balak concluded on a dramatic note. Twenty four thousand Israelites had died as the result of the plague; something had to be done. In the face of an outrageous act of immorality and idolatry, Phineas acted. He raised a spear and slew the Israelite and the princess of Midian as they were fornicating before the Holy Place of the Tabernacle in a blatant profanation of the Name of God. Is a radical act like Pinchas’ accepted as an ideal in the eyes of God? He obviously does not encourage random violence, even as a stand for ‘right’. However, as we see in the first verse of this week’s portion, God confirms that Pinchas’ action is indeed righteous when He establishes a covenant of peace with him.

We learn that peace is God’s reward for righteous action and not an isolated end in itself. An inherent danger is present when peace becomes an idol with the slogan: “Peace at any price.” True and lasting peace cannot be achieved by means of any humanistic, man-made agenda established outside of the context of the Word and will of God.

The portion concludes with the appointment of Joshua as Moses’ successor. Joshua had served Moses faithfully throughout the wilderness journeys. He had always been at his side, assisting, watching, and learning all that the Lord was teaching Moses. He was the ideal disciple. Nevertheless, when the time came to appoint his successor, Moses didn’t assume the obvious, but looked to the Lord to “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Only He who truly knows “all flesh” is qualified to appoint a shepherd for His sheep (v.17). Immediately the Lord confirms the appointment of Joshua, “a man in whom is the Spirit” (v.18). He instructs Moses to lay his hand upon Joshua in the view of all the people and to honor him in their sight (v.19, 20). Joshua’s life indeed bore witness  that he would continue to lead the people in the Spirit of the Lord, according to the truth and instruction of His Torah, as Moshe did before him.

Mattot – Tribes

The final portion: Mattot. The Hebrew words most commonly used in the Bible to designate a tribe, as in the tribes of Israel, are shevet  and matehmattot in the plural form. Both words have primary meanings of staff, stick and rod (which carry connotations of authority) and, by extension, branch. This last meaning emphasizes that each tribe is a branch of the larger whole. Each has its unique role to play in fulfilling the mission of the entire nation. In similar vein, Yeshua declared, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing [of eternal worth] (Jn. 15:5).

In answer to God’s call, our highest goal should be to live our lives as vessels for the expression of His will and truth wherever He chooses to place us and to encourage one another to work together in unity, as branches of the same holy Vine – indeed, “to the glory  of God the Father.” (Phil.2:11).

 

 

Leave a Reply