Bemidbar (Numbers)Like the book of Leviticus, Numbers contains little 'narrative.' As its English name suggests, it contains several lists- each census of the Israelites. The Hebrew name comes from the first significant word(s): On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, in the wilderness of Sinai, (bemidbar Sinai)....The Israelites' journey through the desert concludes, and they get ready to enter the Promised land. There are thirty-six chapters, divided into ten parashiyot. The parashiyot of Be-Midbar are: Bemidbar, Naso, Be-haalotecha, Shlach Lecha, Korach, Chukat, Balak, Pinchas, Matot, and Masei.


Korach: Our answer to God's call should be: 'Speak, for Your servant is listening'

In this week's parasha, complaints and rebellions reach a dangerous high, threatening to destroy the unity of the Israelite people. A man named Korach, along with his followers Dattan, Aviram and 250 others, challenge Moses' and Aaron's leadership. Korach has powerful arguments, to which Moses realizes he must respond. Moses sets the next day for a dramatic test. When Korach refuses to stay his rebellion, this test demonstrates that Moses and Aaron are in fact God's choice to lead the people. Korach, Datan, and Aviram, along with their entire families, are swallowed up by the earth, and the 250 other men are consumed by a heavenly fire. Seeing this, a riot breaks out among the people. A plague is sent as a punishment against the rebellious people. Aaron intervenes and stops it, but not before thousands of people perish. At the end of the portion, the duties of the priests and Levites are clarified. Also laws are stated which specify that the first fruits of plants, animals, and human beings are to be dedicated to God.

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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