Shabbat Hukat

Candles June 14th at 8:10pm
Havdalah June 15th at 9:05pm

Aaron died in the fortieth year after coming out of Egypt and he was buried on the mountain called Hor. But not long later when Moshe dies the Torah specifies “ Moshe the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-Peor; but no man knows his grave till this day.”

What was the difference between Aaron’s burial place and Moshe’s? We don’t know where either was buried. On the other hand the Cave of Machpela where Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov were buried is recorded and we believe we know where it is even now. What is the difference? One answer is that because Moshe and Aaron were buried outside the Land of Israel God did want us to go on pilgrimages beyond our borders.

But there’s another lesson. Our tradition says that God did not want people to know where Moshe was buried so that people would not worship him or his grave. How different from nowadays when we seem to have a very fetish of going to the graves of dead rabbis. If we were not supposed to go to Moshe’s grave how much more so should we not go to lesser beings?

So is the difference that Moshe was so much greater or is the difference that in Moshe’s case it was Torah he brought to us that was the crucial issue and nothing should detract from our reverence for Torah rather than the human vehicle who brought it to us? That would also explain the difference between Aaron and Moshe. We don’t know where Aaron was buried either. Sure it was up a specific mountain but that’s a huge area and very difficult to get to. But Aaron was not associated with giving the Torah to the same degree as Moshe. We do not call it the Torah of Aaron. Moshe on the other hand was buried in a valley. Easily accessible. That’s why we were not told where it was , so as not to go looking.

So really the Torah gives us two different ways of relating to the dead. Some prefer to visit the graves of their loved ones and some do not. Some know where to go or how to find where their parents are buried. And some nowadays would be unable to go because their parents graves are in hostile territory.

What matters is not the grave but whether and how we keep the memory alive within ourselves and in the way we honor our parents and follow the good examples they gave us as human beings and as Jews.


Shabbat Korah

Shabbat Rosh Hodesh Tammuz
Candles Friday 7th 8:05pm. Havdalah 8th at 9:00pm

The rebellion against Moshe’s authority by Korah and his co-conspirators was the most serious challenge to his leadership in the Bible. It came after the 10 spies had revealed deep insecurity within the Children of Israel. This was followed by Miriam and Aharon showing how Moshe’s own family was challenging him. Then Korah, a close relative, one of the Levites, tried to overthrow him and then all the discontents rallied to his banner. This apparent collapse of Moshe’s support within the top echelons of the people mirrors the collapse of trust in God.

There are in my view two lessons. One is that one tragedy is often followed by another. Once ones physical body loses its strength, then other illnesses tend to follow. The body becomes weaker and it is harder to fight back and regain strength. That’s true personally and nationally.

Similarly when we experience reverses in our personal lives, business or career, we often lose a measure of confidence and we might feel sorry for ourselves and sink into depression or develop an exaggerated sense of failure.

Moshe’ reaction to the reverses run’s the gamut of dignified detachment, anger, denial and self- doubt. Yet somehow he managed to fight back, to regain his confidence and re-assert his leadership which remained unchallenged then until his death. It helped that God was on his side. But it required his own inner strength and character to harness that support.