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Shalom Bait



Numbers 19:1 - 22:1

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 burnt 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. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. G-d decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.

Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled 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 (instead of speaking to it) 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 G-d to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of G-d, repent and live.

The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us.


When the Israelites wanted to pass through the land of the Amorites, they sought permission. The Torah states:

"And Israel sent messengers to Sichon, King of the Amorites, saying ..." (Numbers 21:21).

The Midrash says that there are many commandments that the Torah requires us to fulfill when the opportunity arises, but the Torah does not require us to actively pursue the particular situation. However, you are obligated to pursue peace as it is written, "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34). Therefore, Israel sent messengers to Sichon to seek peace (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:16). Hillel said, "Be a disciple of Aharon: love peace and pursue peace, love people and draw them near to the Torah (Pirke Avos 1:12).

All the more so in a marriage.  " 'Giving in' is not about being selfless, but about being sensible. You can be right or you can be happy. You can't always be both." A man once shared with me that he stopped trying to win every discussion with his wife when he realized that if he won that meant that his wife lost -- and he didn't want to be married to a loser!

Three Secrets for a Happy Marriage: 1) Give, 2) Give more, 3) Give in. 

Its our job to keep shalom bait (peace at home). The shalom in our home also means shalom in our hearts/minds.

Stop blaming people.

We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Ovadiah Tank


Online Learning

Rabbi Tank is a professor at the American Jewish College of New York where he teaches classes on Talmud, Chassidism, Jewish History, Contemporary Jewish Law and Jewish Music. Rabbi Tank is dedicated to finding modern usefulness and meaning in ancient wisdom texts, providing spiritual, cultural, social and educational programming for communities around the world.

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The wise man seizes the opportunity to do mitzvot" (King Solomon). The lazy person says -- someday I'll do it.

Thu, August 5 2021 27 Av 5781