MOS 5-Point Parasha - Chukat 5779


Here is our weekly "5-Point Parasha", a short list of what we are enjoying or pondering, as it relates to life and Torah.

What Rabbi Sherril is learning this Shabbat…

Parashat Chukkat – Shabbat 10 Tammuz 5779/July 13, 2019

Moses’ sister Miriam was a prophetess. She had a profound connection to water throughout her whole life. In recognition of her good deeds, G*d had given Miriam a well that provided the Israelites in the wilderness with fresh water to drink wherever they traveled.

Our tradition teaches us that these living waters were Divine, with the power to heal and renew. The fresh waters of Miriam’s well sustained the people as they were transformed from a generation shaped by slavery into a free nation.

In this week’s Torah reading, Miriam dies. And all of a sudden the water stops flowing, and the well dries up. Thirsty and afraid, the Israelites cry out. Not only do they have no access now to water to nourish their bodies, but their concrete connection to G*d, Whose essence sustained the living waters, is cut off as well.

Their thirst drains them of strength for the journey and fills them with despair. They complain to Miriam’s brothers Moses and Aaron, who ask G*d for help. G*d tells the grieving brothers to speak to the rock before the assembled community, promising that it will yield enough water for everyone. But instead of speaking to the rock, Moses strikes it with his staff.

Following the loss of his beloved sister, Moses is running on automatic pilot, like most mourners. In his grief, he speaks sharply to the thirsty community, and then hits the rock in anger rather than speak to it. Moses is not listening to G*d’s instructions.

In return for Moses’ disobedience, the Israelites get mey merivah - the water of struggle, bitter water - it allows them to them survive, but it doesn’t nourish them.

It’s no coincidence that we read this story in the month of Tammuz. According to Kabbalah, Tammuz can be a heavy and challenging time. The heat we experience this month is not just physical – it is also emotional and spiritual. We need to be mindful of emotional intensity this month. Though passion adds vitality to life, as we saw with Moses’ actions, it can also be destructive if not channeled and expressed appropriately.

The month of Tammuz in the Jewish calendar shakes up our world a little bit. There is something very unsettling about this time of year. There has been much tragedy in the month of Tammuz in the history of our people, and there continues to be much unrest in the world. Many of us feel that sadness and despair. Spiritually and emotionally, the energy is not exactly in harmony with what we normally think of as “summer energy”.

According to the Jewish mystics, every month has an area or an energy for healing. For the month of Tammuz, the area for healing is seeing. Like Moses, our challenges in seeing clearly may cause problems for us. What we see reflects what we think. We often see only our own projections, and make judgments or assumptions. Becoming more aware of how we see may enable us to see through appearances to the root of things.

This month, let’s try to make time to see inward – to observe, reflect on, and refine how we think, how we love, and how we work, play and pray. Because how we see things impacts tremendously how we interact with the world. Taking time for self-reflection is a radical, spiritual act of self-care.

I want to bless us all with the vision and clear sight to see the goodness in ourselves and others. May this goodness lift us and hold us and support us all in these challenging times during the month of Tammuz and beyond. Shabbat shalom.

~ With inspiration from Melinda Ribner, Kabbalah Month By Month

Cantor Heather shares a teaching from Rebbe Nachman about singing that she taught at the amazing musical retreat last Shabbat in Lanaudiere:

The Hebrew word "זמר, zemer" means both harvest and song.

For the pdf of the complete teaching click here.

For retreat photos click here.

Cantor Heather shares the source of her "Brmm" technique:

On our retreat and during Shabbat morning services, Cantor Heather has introduced us to the the "Brmm" technique developed by Cantor Joey Weisenberg. For those who would like to learn more about Cantor Joey, click here.

Rabbi Schachar shares a musical prayer that emerged from the retreat:

During our delightful retreat so many talented and inspiring musicians graced us with their offerings. We are grateful to the Moishe House and especially Rabbi(nical Student) Dvir Cahana for helping to make it all happen. We had an experimental/traditional Shabbat morning service and during it this "Eternal Love" musical chant to Tehillim/Psalms 136 spontaneously arose. People shared something for which they were grateful and then we all came in on the refrain "ki l'olam chasdo, Your love is eternal." Thanks to Stephen Mitchell for the English renderings in this recorded version.

A quote Rabbi Schachar is pondering:

When we view the Bible as giving expression to aspects of the self, then we must claim Cain as part of the self and see that if we are Cain, we are also Abel. And the self, our self, that contains Cain and Abel also contains Adam and Eve. We learn that we are always confronting otherness — the otherness that is creative and fruitful and the otherness that is destructive and deadly.

Carol Ochs in Song of the Self

Upcoming @ MOS:

Tickets now available on our website.

Stay tuned for an upcoming launch of "Hebrew through Torah" with Rabbi Schachar and a pre-High Holiday Urban Retreat Day in September.