Parashat Korah Torah Reading: Numbers 16:1-18:32
The catalyst for a very dramatic passage in this week's Torah reading is the challenge to Moshe's authority by Korach, a man from Moshe's own tribe of Levi. Korach and his followers contend that Moshe has elevated himself inappropriately over the rest of the people because all of Israel is considered a holy people. Moshe's response is unexpected: he throws himself face down on the ground.
Scholars tell us that this gesture of Moshe's is ancient middle-eastern body language for submission. In effect, Moshe is removing himself from the confrontation and letting God and Korah "duke it out."
Another way of looking at Moshe's response is to posit that he is taking a "time out" to consider his response to Korach in order to avoid an ill-judged response that is fueled by anger or self-defensiveness instead of wisdom and perspective.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman (also known as the Ba'al HaTanya after his most important book) challenges us to follow Moshe's example by first reflecting on our own actions in any situation of conflict or anger. In effect, this midrash says to us: even Moshe had to consider the possibility that Korah had a valid point, or at least that his accusations contained some kernel of truth.
While we may, none of us, wish to resort to Moshe's dramatic body language, we can still learn much from his methodology. When someone approaches us with anger, or confrontation, we can seize the opportunity to learn something valuable and grow in spirit by asking ourselves first, "what has happened, what has this person experienced, that is driving this person to express such anger or hostility? Have I made a mistake, or has something I've said or done been been misunderstood?" A few moment's reflection may open us up to offering an unexpected response that will bring healing and mutual regard to everyone concerned.
Parashat Shlah Torah Reading: Numbers 13:1-15:41
The headlines scream condemnation of Israel for attacking humanitarian activists on a peaceful mission to bring essential goods to the beleaguered residents of Gaza. I believe that facts are the best response to vitriol. So here are some facts:
Food and supplies are shipped from Israel to Gaza six days a week. These items were channeled through aid organizations or via Gaza's private sector.
Large quantities of essential food items like baby formula, wheat, meat, dairy products and other perishables are transferred daily and weekly to Gaza. Fertilizers that cannot be used to make explosives are shipped into the Strip regularly, as are potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees, and equipment for the flower industry.
The medical corridor
No Palestinian is denied medical care in Israel. However, if the Hamas regime does not grant permits for medical care, the Israeli government can do nothing to help the patient. Israel will facilitate all cases of medical treatments from Gaza, unless the patient is a known perpetrator of terror.
In 2009 alone, 10,544 patients and their companions left the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Moreover, there were 382 emergency evacuations from Gaza for medical purposes.
On 24 May 2010 Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to 97 trucks loaded with aid and goods, including six trucks holding 250 tons of cement and one truck loaded with five tons of iron for projects executed and operated by UNRWA.
According to the UN report of May 2010, 120 megawatts (over 70%) of the Strip's electricity supply comes from the Israeli electric grid, while 17 MWs come from Egypt and 30 MWs are produced by the Gaza city power station.
During 2009, 7.5 million tons of flowers and 54 tons of strawberries were exported from Gaza with Israeli cooperation.
In 2009, 1.1 billion shekels (about $250 million) were transferred to the Gaza Strip for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers.
Palestinian families receive the same subsidized healthcare as Israelis, about 10% of the cost for the same treatment in the United States.
Israel transfers school equipment supplied by UNRWA including notebooks, school bags, writing implements and textbooks. Israel is currently coordinating the transfer of 200,000 laptops for Gaza schoolchildren and the shipment of 74 maritime containers for conversion into Gaza classrooms.
Despite the inherent dangers involved, Israel permits Gazans and visitors to travel between Gaza and Israel, from Gaza to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), and even abroad for medical treatment, religious pilgrimages, and business trips. Whenever possible Israel allows for diplomatic activities and trade and commerce with the Gaza Strip.
During the Christmas holiday, approximately 400 permits were given to visit Bethlehem from Gaza as well 100 permits to travel abroad. In addition, 257 permits were given to businessmen from Gaza to facilitate business operations.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.