Category Archives: 5770

Stopping Moses

Deuteronomy Fiction: Vezot Habracha

Stopping Moses

Bukki and his friends hid behind the gooseberry bushes on the Moabite plain. Heart-sized red fruit adorned the bright green bushes. Bukki’s back was to the flowing Jordan River, with the walled city of Jericho sitting lonely in the distance. From the Moabite plain Bukki heard the moaning of a million voices. Some of his friends cried as well.

“Moses is really going to die,” whimpered Assir, a chubby five-year old. “He is leaving us. We will be alone.”

“Quiet,” Bukki hissed to Assir and the other children. At seven years old, Bukki was the oldest and the natural leader. “Moses is almost here. Wait until I stop him, and then follow the plan.”

“I’m scared,” Assir sniffled. “What if he gets angry? We’ll die.”

“Don’t worry,” Bukki waved his hand. “Moses will not hurt us. And even if he does, it’s worth the risk.”

“I’m not sure,” Assir implored.

Bukki peaked through the bushes and spotted Moses approaching, escorted by Joshua.

“Look, Joshua,” Bukki overheard Moses. “Wild gooseberries. I love these. God is gracing my last moments.” Moses plucked several of the ripe fruit, careful to avoid the thorns of the bush. He placed them in the folds of his robe. “I will save these for the climb up the mountain.”

“Stop!” Bukki jumped out from the bushes and blocked the path of Moses who towered above him.

“Hello, Bukki,” Moses said. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m not going to let you die.” Bukki’s voice trembled.

Moses smiled. “It is God’s command. I have always followed God’s command.”

Bukki waved at the bushes. Assir led a row of four other children from behind the bushes. They walked between Moses and Joshua and grabbed on to Moses’ robe from behind. They closed their eyes.

“Oho!” Moses gasped. “What trickery have you hatched, Bukki?”

Bukki stepped forward and grasped the hem of Moses’ robe.

“We will not let you go. If you can’t go up to Mount Nevo, you can’t die. We will hold on to you for the rest of our lives. We are much younger than you and can hold on as long as we need.” Bukki looked up at Joshua. “No disrespect to you sir, but we want Moses to stay with us and take us into Canaan.” Joshua nodded silently.

Moses looked down and around at the children surrounding him.

“Then we might as well make ourselves comfortable,” Moses said as he sat down on the ground.”

The children sat down, still holding on to his robe.

“You are very brave,” Moses said, “for daring to stop me. God has requested my presence and you are delaying my mission.”

“There is one more mission we want you to do. Take us into Canaan.”

Moses sighed. “I wish to with all my heart, my dear Bukki. I would like nothing better than to feel the earth of the Promised Land beneath my feet. To breathe the air of its mountains. To taste its fruit. Its grapes. Its figs. To sit in the shade of its trees. To drink the sight of its sunrises and sunsets. But it is not to be.”

“So come with us. I don’t always listen to my parents,” Bukki whispered. “You have argued with God before. It’s right here across the river. Please.”

“I have often argued with God, and I argued much on this point, but I always listen in the end and so must you. My mission with the Children of Israel is complete. It has been long and difficult. God has assigned the conquest of Canaan to Joshua. You must let me go.”

The other children looked nervously at Bukki.

“No,” Bukki pouted. “We need you. How will we manage without you?”

“That is why I must leave. You need to learn to manage without me. You have Joshua, you will have other leaders. You, Bukki, will be a leader one day as well. And you have the Torah. Never forget the Torah. Never let its words leave your mouth. That will guard you better than anything. It is God’s word and we must follow it.”

The children continued to hold his robe.

“Have you heard, how I killed Og the giant?” Moses asked.

The children nodded.

“I jumped to a very great height. Would you like to see that?”

The children looked at each other in confusion.

“But first I want to give you each a gift.”

Moses stood up and out of the folds of his robe he removed the ripe gooseberries. He raised his hands like a magician and showed one fruit in-between each of his spread out fingers. He flung one fruit at each of the children, one at Joshua and put one back in his robe. Bukki let the fruit bounce off his chest as he held tight to Moses’ robe. Joshua caught his fruit. The rest of the children caught the fruit letting go of the robe.

Moses crouched for a second and then leapt a dozen feet into the air. Bukki, still clutching the robe, was pulled along, screaming. Moses caught Bukki in midair and they both fell back to the ground, with Bukki in Moses’ arms.

Moses put Bukki back on his feet. Bukki’s whole body shook. He had let go of Moses’ robe.

“I need to go now, Bukki,” Moses said.

“I don’t understand.”

“You will one day.”

“We will miss you.”

“I know. I will miss all of you too.”

Moses began to walk up the mountain, never to be seen by mortal man again. As he ascended, he drew the remaining gooseberry out of his robe and took a hearty bite.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Deuteronomy Chapter 34

1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said unto him: ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7 And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.

Secondary Sources:

Rashi: The Children of Israel tried to prevent Moses from ascending Mount Nebo.

Names:

Bukki is the grandson of Pinhas son of Elazar son of Aaron, the High Priest. Mentioned in I Chronicles 5:31

Assir is the grandson of Korach. Mentioned in I Chronicles 6:22

Removing Adam’s Curse

Tzvi Ilan ben Gita update: Ilan is doing great. He is scheduled for surgery tomorrow to put back parts of the skull. He still has issues with word recall and difficulties moving his left side, but otherwise there is good daily progress in his movement and functionality.

Deuteronomy Hizkuni: Vezot Habrachah

Removing Adam’s Curse

At the very beginning of the Torah we are informed that humanity is to suffer eternally because of Adam’s primal sin, for his inability to control himself:

“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” Genesis 3:17

The result has been that we have to work hard for a living – very few individuals enjoy a paradisiacal existence.

At the very end of the Torah, the tribes of Joseph are blessed extravagantly:

“And of Joseph he said: Blessed of the Lord be his land; for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep waters that crouch beneath. And for the precious things of the fruits of the sun, and for the precious things of the yield of the moons. And for the tops of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the everlasting hills. And for the precious things of the earth and the fullness thereof, and the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush; let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the crown of the head of him that is prince among his brethren.” Deuteronomy 33:13-16

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) explains that this blessing comes to free Joseph’s descendents from Adam’s curse.

What made Joseph unique among his brothers that his descendents should inherit such a blessing? That they should be the only ones amongst humanity absolved from Adam’s curse and blessed with easy wealth and bounty?

The sages called Joseph “The Righteous” based on a single act of his. He resisted the seduction of Potiphar’s wife (remember Genesis 39:12?).

Apparently the path to an effortless livelihood is leading a life of overcoming and resisting temptation.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, Health, Happiness and Success. May we overcome the many temptations around us and thereby enjoy the resulting hassle-free financial reward.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah, Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the memory of R’ Yisrael Kimche z”l, father of R’ Alan and R’ Shlomo Kimche. A pillar, he left 113 descendents. For article (in Hebrew) with much more on this incredible man click here.

The Fiery Baton

Deuteronomy Fiction: Vayelech

 

The Fiery Baton

The northern wind howled outside the tent. The tent sat in the middle of the camp on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. The clouds that had surrounded and protected the Israelites for forty years were gone. They disappeared months ago, following the death of Aaron, the High Priest. The raw wind and hot sand scoured the pink soft skin of the Israelite tribesmen.

Moses and Joshua were alone as usual, silent in the tent. Moses, standing upright, eyes closed, was in a deep trance yet conscious of his surroundings. He was in the midst of his communion with God. Joshua stood near the tent entrance.

Was it resignation Joshua saw on the face of Moses? At one hundred and twenty years old, Joshua’s master was still a physically impressive presence. His aura was overwhelming. Joshua had served him with unyielding dedication for forty years. He had learned to interpret the minutest facial expressions to get an insight into his master’s thoughts.

No. It wasn’t resignation; it was a sad determination. Moses intended to fulfill God’s will to the last instruction, fully aware of all the disappointments and failures of the last forty years.

“It is you.” Moses opened his eyes and with an indecipherable face turned to Joshua. “You shall lead them into Canaan.”

“I am honored, my master,” Joshua bowed. “But perhaps there are others more qualified?”

“It is your destiny.” Moses smiled as if remembering an old tale.

“But what about Elazar or Pinhas? They are of your family and already priests of God.”

“No,” Moses said and slashed the air with his hand. “Priesthood and kingship can never be shared. It is a disastrous combination.” Moses closed his eyes with a pained look.

“What about Caleb? Caleb has the blood of kings in his veins. He is a natural leader and a master strategist. He would be excellent.”

“Caleb is a great man,” Moses nodded, “and he will be of immense value to you, but it is you Joshua, you and only you who will lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.”

“I have always been your assistant. How can I now lead?”

“Enough!” Moses roared. “You would deny God’s wishes in this?”

“I serve and obey.” Joshua’s body shook for a moment as he bowed again to Moses.

“I know your fear and your hesitancy. I resisted this burden more determinedly than you. But you must be strong and valiant. God has chosen you by name and He shall be with you as He has been with me.”

“Am I not right to fear?” Joshua asked. “I have been next to you through all the travails. The battle with Amalek, where you were barely able to stand on your own. I was with you when the burden of leadership was so heavy you begged for death. I was with you at each rebellion, when God repeatedly desired to wipe us out. And it was only you, my master, you who stood up to the Almighty. You who spoke with God face to face as no mortal has and no mortal will. How can I hope to take your mantle? To take this fiery baton from you.”

“Just as God helped me defeat Og and Sichon, so will He help you defeat the kings of Canaan. Just as we have set out tribal allotments for Reuven, Gad and Menashe on the east of the Jordan, so will you succeed in allotting the rest of the tribes in Canaan.”

“But you are able to speak with God. I am not.”

“The era of Instruction shall indeed end with me. But you will begin the epoch of Prophecy.”

“God shall speak to me?”

“When He needs to.”

“What if I fail?”

“Success and failure are in the hands of God. We can only strive. Strive with all our might, but the striving does not ensure success. You will do a good job, Joshua.” Moses closed his eyes. “I see you defeating the Canaanite kings and setting the borders of the tribes. There will remain pockets of resistance. The whole land will not be conquered in your day. No, that will only occur long in the future. But the Children of Israel shall follow God all the days of your life.”

“You comfort me, my teacher.”

“Let me do more than comfort you. Let me show you. Take my arm.”

Joshua clasped the right forearm of Moses. Moses’ hand wrapped around Joshua’s forearm. They both closed their eyes.

Joshua saw images flash across his closed eyelids. The walls of a fortified city tumbling down. Giants slain by Caleb. An entire platoon of soldiers abandoning a fortified city and caught by an Israelite ambush. King after king and city after city falling to the Israelite onslaught. The lords of Canaan fell before the Israelite tribes like wheat under the scythe.

Moses let go of Joshua’s forearm. Their eyelids fluttered open.

“You will do well, Joshua. Remain strong and valiant and you will succeed. Are you ready?” Moses asked, looking deep within Joshua’s eyes for a hint of any weakness, any hesitancy; any clue that Joshua was less than God’s new chosen leader.

But Joshua’s eyes reflected the steely resolve that Moses knew was there all along.

“I am ready.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Deuteronomy Chapter 31

 

1 And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel. 2 And he said unto them: ‘I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in; and the Lord hath said unto me: Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. 3 The Lord thy God, He will go over before thee; He will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt dispossess them; and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath spoken. 4 And the Lord will do unto them as He did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom He destroyed. 5 And the Lord will deliver them up before you, and ye shall do unto them according unto all the commandment which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them; for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.’ 7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt go with this people into the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. 8 And the Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.’

Notes:

Joshua’s resistance and hesitancy to the appointment mirrors that of Moses himself and God’s anger in the beginning of Exodus.

The objection of Moses against handing leadership to priests relates to that eventual occurrence in the Hasmonean dynasty where the priestly line also took over kingship with disastrous results.

Caleb is of the Judean royal tribe and we do see more of him down the line.

Delusional Blessings

Tzvi Ilan ben Gita update: Recuperation continues. Ilan is able to speak in full sentences. He is able to walk with a cane or walker. He is eating solid food and we hope that his trach will be removed tomorrow.

Deuteronomy Hizkuni: Nitzavim

Delusional Blessings

Humans are the only creatures that can make things up. This has given rise to art and literature, poetry and prose, architecture, technology and all the advances the human race has benefited from. However, there is a self-destructive side to imagination as well. Humans are also the only creatures that can deny reality.

All other creatures, when confronted with danger, instinctively react. Man has somehow neutralized this primordial instinct in itself.

“Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the Lord our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood; and it come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying: ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart–that the watered be swept away with the dry’; the Lord will not be willing to pardon him, but then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy shall be kindled against that man, and all the curse that is written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.” Deuteronomy 29:17-19

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) explains that when the stubborn man hears the word of God, hears the warnings, hears the punishments, he blesses himself and says “it won’t happen to me.” He thinks perhaps others may fall victim to the consequences of their actions, others will feel the wrath of God. But for some egocentric reason, he will be spared. He will be the lucky one who is immune to God’s judgment, who will escape the consequences of his actions.

But it is exactly that man (or woman, or family, or tribe) that will receive the harshest punishment of all. They will receive ALL the curses. To top it off, they will receive the curse we only lay on our worst enemies – their name will be erased from existence.

In this period of repentance we need to wake up from our self-delusions. We need to honestly confront ourselves. That way lays the path to forgiveness, redemption and blessing.

May we all successfully prepare ourselves for a New and Sweet Year.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the young women who have come to Jerusalem for a year, to study Torah together with the Arts. By combining these two areas they are making healthy, rooted use of their imaginations. Hatzlacha Rabbah.

Nation vs. Religion

Tzvi Ilan ben Gita update: Thank God, we are seeing consistent progress. He is able to speak more and remembers and follows more of what’s going on. He is also moving more, though he cannot walk yet unaided. He has just started eating real food.

Deuteronomy Hizkuni: Ki Tavoh

Nation vs. Religion

Everyone has got it wrong. And it is this error that has created confusion. People think of and define Jewishness as a religion. In this, they are mistaken. Jews are a Nation.

In a related way, people are making a fatal mistake about Islam as well. When the Jihadists start spilling Christian blood in the streets of Europe, people may realize their mistake – or then again, perhaps not – or maybe we’ll see the resurgence of the Crusaders.

It may not be politically correct, but by calling these Nations “religions” politicians and the media make believe that it is just a matter of spiritual beliefs or ritual practice. They don’t understand that we are talking about National allegiance to a people, a cause and a geopolitical reality. The current nation-states are merely a backdrop to these conflicts.

Nations on the other hand are classically defined as a collection of people within a certain geographic area and/or with a certain common genealogy. Judaism gives great value to both geographic connections (namely the Land of Israel) and genealogy (how many peoples trace their ancestry back thousands of years?). But that is not nearly the whole picture.

“On this day you have become a Nation.”

Deuteronomy 27:9

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach makes a very simple statement on this verse. When the Israelites accepted the Torah – that is when they became a Nation. What defines the Jewish Nation are not borders or genetics – it is the allegiance to the Torah – to God’s word and mission for us on Earth.

That is what unites us. It is not the language or the geography or even the common ancestry, though we may share many of those things. It is the commitment to the principles, laws and details of the Torah. The Torah and the Jewish Nation have transcended empires, continents and time itself. Jews individually and through their ethical teachings have served as a beacon of light to civilization and history. That’s a Nation I’m proud to be a part of.

May we always be united in our nationhood and call a spade a spade.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To the Rebbe of the Shomer Emunim. He has been preaching some of the above for many years now. Especially the doom and gloom bits of the coming global clash between Islam and Christianity – over Israel. Don’t say you weren’t warned…

Angelic Paramour Assassin in Training

Deuteronomy Fiction: Ki Tetzeh

Angelic Paramour Assassin in Training

If a man be found lying with a woman married to a husband, then they shall both of them die, the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so shalt thou put away the evil from Israel.” Deuteronomy 22:22

Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, and how that they lay with the women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting.” I Samuel 2:22

“When an earthly court cannot find the sinner guilty, the heavenly court metes out the correct punishment.” Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 37b, Sotah 8b, Ketubot 30a,b).

“I always start with a leaf,” Mitael said as he floated above a white mare and wagon. “It’s become my trademark. Other angels have joined me to watch as I mete out a death sentence, but you’re the first apprentice I’ve had since the ascension of Eli the Priest.”

“I’m honored,” Lomael replied floating nearby beside a large oak. The morning sun shone brightly through him on the reds, yellows and greens of the majestic tree. “I heard the workload increased and the heavenly tribunal ordered additional assassins.”

“Here we go,” Mitael pointed below. A squat blacksmith walked across the dirt courtyard of the large stone house. The house was the largest on the outskirts of Shiloh. The blacksmith carried three heavy mallets of different sizes. “Watch the master at work, Lomael. Each act we do has to be simple, delicate, and undetectable.”

Mitael gestured to a yellow leaf on the oak tree. The leaf descended to the ground, zigzagging gently. Mitael orchestrated the movement of the leaf with his hands. The leaf touched ground exactly under the right foot of the blacksmith as he was stepping down. The blacksmith slipped, sending his three mallets flying. Mitael conducted the heaviest mallet towards the wheel of the parked wagon. The blacksmith fell on his rump. The lightest mallet bounced on his head. The heavy mallet slammed into the wheel of the wagon, knocking out two of the four bolts holding the wheel in place. The mare neighed.

The blacksmith rubbed his head, looked at the offensive leaf, picked up his mallets and continued to a work shed on the other side of the courtyard.

“You always require proper preparation,” Mitael explained. “That is the key to success. It is much harder to improvise all the elements. You must study your subjects, know their surroundings and disturb as little as possible. Our success is measured by leaving doubt. Humans have to fear, but there must always remain the element of doubt.”

Lomael nodded repeatedly as Mitael lectured.

“Now we get to see our subjects in their final act,” Mitael said.

A tall, beautiful woman with lustrous short black hair walked out of the house. A small red silky cloth wrapped her hair, revealing more than it concealed. A light purple dress clung closely to the curves of her body. She walked purposely to the wagon, mounted the open wooden carriage and took hold of the long reins.

“I’ll meet you in Shiloh,” she called to the house, snapped the loose reins and quickly trotted away.

“Maralin,” a deep voice called from the house. “Wait. Let us ride together.”

Maralin was already out of earshot.

“You see, Lomael,” Mitael pointed at the departing Maralin. “She has no patience for her husband. Why is she in such a hurry?”

A brawny man on a brown stallion waited on the right side of the road. As Maralin approached he smiled and matched speeds with her wagon.

“That is the Adulterer,” Mitael pointed. “See how close to her he rides? See how he keeps looking at her body? See how she keeps smiling at him, welcoming his attentions?”

The Husband, a thin man with soft curls, left his house on a grey mare. He spotted Maralin in the distance and galloped to catch up. Maralin and the Adulterer approached the gates of Shiloh.

“Let me demonstrate her immodesty,” Mitael turned his wrist toward her. A sudden gust of wind blew her skirt up. The Adulterer stared at her long legs with a wolfish grin. Maralin smiled back and slowly pushed her dress down. The right wheel of the wagon wobbled. The long reins swayed.

“Soon we will need to improvise,” Mitael said. “The punishment for adultery is strangulation. However no earthly court will find them guilty. The Husband suspects something and rumors have started to flow, but not enough to dissuade Maralin or the Adulterer.”

“So you will cause them to choke?” Lomael asked, rubbing his hands together.

“It will be close enough. Burning and stoning are much easier punishments to cause. Decapitation is the hardest. Decapitation is the biggest challenge.”

Maralin and her paramour entered the city gates. The hooves of their horses clanked loudly on the worn cobblestones. Merchants, artisans and farmers walked across the large plaza buying, selling and carrying their wares. The Husband trotted rapidly through the gates, just a few paces behind Maralin and the Adulterer. The Husband called out: “Maralin! Wait for me!”

“Now’s our chance,” Mitael pointed. An old brick-mason was crossing the plaza ahead of Maralin. He carried half a dozen heavy clay bricks and walked gingerly, favoring his left side. Mitael snapped his fingers and a gust blew. The small red cloth unraveled from Maralin’s hair and flew away in the breeze.

“My head covering!” Maralin exclaimed as she reached out, uselessly clawing at empty air.

A young scribe walking from the opposite direction looked at the red cloth and at Maralin. He did not notice the brick-mason approaching. The scribe bumped shoulders with the brick-mason. The brick-mason was captivated by Maralin’s plight and he didn’t discern the brick sliding from his pile. He kept walking and only a few steps later realized his load was lighter.

Maralin and the Adulterer kept trotting forward. The wheel of Maralin’s wagon hit the brick. The wheel slid off the axle of the wagon. The wagon collapsed to the right sending Maralin, still holding the reins, flying in the air, while her white horse crashed into the Adulterer’s.

Mitael pointed at the confusion of the horses. The reins enwrapped Maralin’s neck. Maralin knocked into the Adulterer. He caught her while still riding and tried to untangle her, but he too became entangled. The end of the rein got caught in the bit of the Adulterer’s horse. The pair fell off the brown horse and held onto each other. They dangled by their necks, knees dragging on the cobblestones between their galloping horses. A mass of brown, white and purple careened through the plaza. They left a thin trail of red from their bleeding knees. The horses, panicking, tried to separate from each other, pulling tighter on the reins around the couple’s necks.

Screams and shrieks filled the stone plaza. Maralin and the Adulterer writhed and convulsed as they tried to claw the suffocating reins off their necks. Finally, when the struggling of the couple stopped, the Adulterer’s horse released its hold upon the reins. Maralin’s horse stopped, free of the pull of the Adulterer’s horse, though still weighed down by the couple on his reins. The pair fell, lying on the floor, enwrapped in one another’s arms.

The Husband jumped off his grey mare and ran to lean over Maralin. A crowd surrounded the trio on the worn cobblestones.

“Maralin! What happened?” the Husband cried as dark red contrasted with Maralin’s purple dress.

“You?” Maralin coughed blood. “You were not worthy of me.”

“What?” the Husband asked with a wild look in his eyes. “But I love you. I always have.”

“I know,” Maralin looked at the Adulterer lying dead in her embrace. “But I don’t love you, and now I die with my lover.” Maralin smiled and then coughed more blood. The smile vanished, replaced by a grimace. And that was how she died.

“Incredible!” Lomael exclaimed. “How did they fall together and confess?”

“I only planned the strangulation,” Mitael coughed. “Their dying in each other’s arms and the confession were unexpected.”

“I don’t understand. How could that happen?” Lomael asked.

“Occasionally God takes a direct interest.”

“I thought that was our job?”

“It is. But sometimes God adds His own details.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know. It’s a great mystery. I think He just likes a good story.”

* * * * * *

Names:

“Mar” = bitter and “Alin” = I will cause someone to lie

“ael” is common angelic suffix.

“Mita” = Death

“Lom” from Lomed = Learner

Competitive Comparisons

Tzvi Ilan ben Gita Update: Fantastic progress! He’s walking (with assistance) and talking (with some difficulty). He is doing intensive rehabilitation and we look forward to more progress every day. Keep the prayers going.

Deuteronomy Hizkuni: Ki Tetze

Competitive Comparisons

There is something healthy about pitting oneself against an opponent, striving, pushing to reach one’s potential, and via the competition reaching new heights of personal performance.

On the other hand, there is always the danger of comparisons, of feeling better or worse than someone as a result of the competition. The Bible repeatedly compares the performance of people (see Kings, where each descendent of King David is held to his standard of devotion). However the Torah does seem to draw the line when there is a major difference between who is being compared.

Amongst the plethora of commandments in Deuteronomy, there is at least one that looks out for inter-species relationships and potential competition:

“Thou shalt not plow with an ox and a donkey together.”

Deuteronomy 22:10

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) gives a number of reasons as to why God should care and legislate such a particular commandment.

One of Hizkuni’s reasons is that God wants to spare the feelings of the donkey. One cannot compare the strength of an ox to the strength of a donkey. To have them work side by side, doing the same work, plowing the same field, would embarrass the donkey. In order to spare the feelings of the donkey or any other weaker animal, the Rabbis legislated that animals of different species shall not plow, pull or otherwise work together.

The Torah recognizes that not all animals are created equal and situations which highlight the difference to the detriment of one of the parties need to be avoided. For creatures that just don’t have the inborn capability to compete with each other, it is plainly unfair to stand them side by side.

However in areas where we are equal or closely so, it seems it is fair game to ask, “If he can do it, why can’t I?”

May we only engage in healthy competition – and win.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bentzi

Dedication

To my children starting their school year. Go get ‘em.