The Weekly Torah portion in synagogues on Shabbat, Saturday, 10 Tamuz, 5778—June 23, 2018
“Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly . . . .” (Numbers 20:11.)
God told Moses and Aaron to instruct the Israelites the ritual law of the red cow (Hebrew "parah aduma") used to create water of lustration. The cow had to be without blemish, have no defect, and not have borne a yoke. Eleazar the priest was to take it outside the camp, observe its slaughter, and take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the Tabernacle. The cow was to be burned in its entirety along with cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson stuff. The priest and the one whom burned the cow were both to wash their garments, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening. The ashes of the cow were to be used to create the water of lustration. One who touched the corpse of any human being was to be unclean for seven days. On the third and seventh days, the person who had touched the corpse was to cleanse with the water of lustration and then be clean. One who failed to do so would remain unclean, would defile the Tabernacle, and would be cut off from Israel. When a person died in a tent, whoever entered the tent was to be unclean seven days, and every open vessel in the tent was to be unclean. In the open, anyone who touched a corpse, bone, or a grave was to be unclean seven days. A person who was clean was to add fresh water to ashes of the red cow, dip hyssop it in the water, and sprinkle the water on the tent, the vessels, and people who had become unclean. The person who sprinkled the water was then to wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be clean at nightfall. Anyone who became unclean and failed to cleanse himself was to be cut off from the congregation. The person who sprinkled the water of lustration was to wash his clothes, and whoever touched the water of lustration, whatever he touched, and whoever touched him were to be unclean until evening.
a red cow (painting “The World Cow” by Franz Marc)
The Israelites arrived at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, and Miriam died and was buried there.
The people were without water, and they complained against Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron fell on their faces at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of God appeared to them, telling them to take the rod and order the rock to yield its water. Moses took the rod, assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and said to them: “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses struck the rock twice with his rod, out came water, and the community and their animals drank. But God told Moses and Aaron: “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.”
Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom asking him to allow the Israelites to cross Edom, without passing through fields or vineyards, and without drinking water from wells. But the Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through, and turned out in heavy force to block their way, and the Israelites turned away.
At Mount Hor, God told Moses and Aaron: “Let Aaron be gathered to his kin: he is not to enter the land that I have assigned to the Israelite people, because you disobeyed my command about the waters of Meribah.” Moses took Aaron and his son Eleazar up on Mount Hor, and there he stripped Aaron of his vestments and put them on Eleazar, and Aaron died there. The Israelites mourned Aaron 30 days.
The king of Arad engaged the Israelites in battle and took some of them captive. The Israelites vowed that if God gave them victory, they would destroy Arad. God delivered up the Canaanites, and the Israelites killed them and destroyed their cities, calling the place Hormah.
The people grew restive and spoke against God and Moses, so God sent serpents that killed many of the Israelites. The people came to Moses, admitted their sin by speaking against God, and asked Moses to intercede with God to take away the serpents, and Moses did so. God told Moses to mount a serpent figure on a standard, saying: “If anyone who is bitten looks at it, he shall recover.”
The Israelites traveled on, and sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, asking that he allow them to pass through his country, without entering the fields or vineyards, and without drinking water from wells. But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory and engaged the Israelites in battle. The Israelites defeated the Amorites and took possession of their land and towns.
Then the Israelites marched on, and King Og of Bashan engaged them in battle. The Israelites defeated his forces and took possession of his country. The Israelites then marched to the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan River from Jericho.
Hebrew and English text
Hear the parshah chanted
Commentary from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University (Conservative)
Commentaries from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (Conservative)
Commentary by the Union for Reform Judaism (Reform)
Commentaries from Project Genesis (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Chabad.org (Orthodox)
Commentaries from Aish HaTorah (Orthodox)
Commentaries from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation (Reconstructionist)
Commentaries from My Jewish Learning (trans-denominational)