THISSHABBAT: Pray a little, sing a lot, study even more

Candle lighting this Shabbat, June 16, is at

8:11 p.m. DST

Shabbat ends  Saturday, with Havdalah at 9:15 p.m. DST

The incident of the scouts and their evil report regarding the land of Canaan, with its implicit lack of faith in God, has sentenced the first generation of the Exodus to wander in the desert for the next 39 years. Only the second generation will enter the Land of Promise. Rather than serve as a warning to Israel not to challenge God further, however, this week;s parashah begins with two rebellions supposedly directed against Moshe and Aharon, which are put down forcefully by God. That only angers the people even more, and yet another rebellion follows. To download this week's Shabbat booklet, click here.

THIS SHABBAT: Rosh Chodesh

Parashat Korach

B'midbar 16.1-18.32, pages 860-875

In addition: B'midbar 28.9-15, pages 930-931

First Aliyah: Verse 16.3 is translated as Moshe being told "you have gone too far"? Is this how Korach challenged Moshe, or is "rav lach" mistranslated?

Third Aliyah: After the deaths caused by the firepans, the people attack Moshe and Aharon, blaming them for the deaths which supposedly came from heaven, without their involvement. How could they make such an accusation?

The haftarah, Yishayahu 66.1-24,

begins on Page 1220.

NEXT SHABBAT: Parashat Chukat

B'midbar 19.1-122.1, pages 880-893

First Aliyah: What color is the red calf used in the purification ritual—and why is this NOT a trick question, but an essential one for the future?

Third Aliyah: The first time around, Moshe was told to take his staff and strike the rock to get water. This time, striking the rock with Aharon's staff seems to be part of his sin. If so, why? What made this situation different from the last time?

The haftarah, Shof'tim 11.1-33,

begins on Page 910.





Exceptionally unusual in the rebellions in our parashah is how the story ends. Moshe initially proposed a simple test of the firepans, for God to signal whom He has chosen. Before this could happen, however, Moshe found himself unbearably provoked by the Reuvenites. Sensing the situation might be getting out of control, he sought an immediate and dramatic resolution: If the ground opened up and swallowed alive the Reuvenite rebels, then "you shall know that these men have spurned Hashem."

No sooner had he finished speaking, than the miracle Moshe had hoped for happened. By any narrative convention, heaven had answered his call in the most dramatic way and that should have ended the story.

Instead, we have a powerful example of what makes the Torah so challenging, its message so unexpected. Rather than ending the revolt, it exacerbates it: "The next day, the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moshe and Aharon. 'You have killed Hashem's people,' they said."

This time, God himself intervenes, resulting in Aharon's staff—a piece of dead wood—sprouting, budding, blossoming, and bearing almonds. Only then did the rebellion end.

This is an astonishing denouement—and what it tells us is profound. The use of force never ends a conflict. It merely adds grievance to injury. What ended the conflict was not the ground opening up, but the gentle miracle of the dead wood that came to life again. This miracle anticipates the words of Sefer Mishlei [the book of Proverbs] about the Torah: "It is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed." (3.18)

This episode teaches us there are two ways of resolving conflict: by force and by persuasion. The first negates your opponent. The second enlists your opponent, taking his/her challenge seriously and addressing it. Force never ends conflict—not even when the force is miraculous.

That is conflict resolution in Judaism—not by force, but by pleasantness and peace.

—Adapted from the writings of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks