web analytics
April 19, 2015 / 30 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Gift Of Opportunity Is Not Limitless

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

A glimpse at the narrative in the book of Numbers reveals an almost parallel pattern of events to that which occurred to the Jews after their leaving Egypt.

In Numbers, the Jews began to murmur that they did not have meat to eat (Numbers 11:4). This corresponds to the longing of the Jews “for the fleshpots” in Egypt, resulting in the giving of the manna (Exodus 16:3).

Also, the Numbers narrative states that after the Jews complained that they lacked water, Moshe hit instead of spoke to the rock, and water came forth (Numbers 20:2, 3, 8, 11). So too in the Exodus story did Moshe hit the rock after the Jews militated for water (Exodus 17:2, 6).

And the Numbers narrative includes several challenges the Jews faced from nations like Edom (Numbers 20:14-21). This is much like the battle the Jews fought with Amalek after they departed Egypt (Exodus 17:8-16).

Finally, the story of the spies that highlights this week’s portion is viewed as an episode revealing the Jews’ basic lack of faith in God (Numbers 13, 14). This, of course, is similar in underlying theme to the Golden Calf story that seems to describe the Jews’ lack of faith (Exodus 32, 33).

So similar are the stories in these two narratives that the Bekhor Shor (a medieval French commentator) insists that the water stories are one and the same. The latter is a more detailed account of the former.

But a closer look reveals an interesting pattern. In each of the narratives the consequences escalate in their seriousness in the Book of Numbers.

Unlike the manna story in Exodus, the request for meat in the Book of Numbers resulted in the Lord “smit[ing] the people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:33). Also, only after Moshe hits the rock in the Book of Numbers is he given the severe punishment of not being allowed to enter Israel (Numbers 20:12). And while Amalek was defeated with no mention of Jewish losses in Exodus, many Jews died when they were forced to go around the land of Edom (Numbers 21:4, 6). Finally, only after the spy incident – not after the episode of the Golden Calf – does God decree that the generation that left Egypt must die in the desert (Numbers 14:29).

Why are the consequences greater in the Book of Numbers, when the transgressions seem so similar? First, the events in the Book of Exodus occur either prior to Sinai or (according to Rashi) in the case of the Golden Calf, prior to the construction of the sanctuary. With the Sinaitic teachings and the Tabernacle construction in place the Jews should have known better than to falter again.

Second, to err once is forgivable and even sometimes understandable. The same transgression committed again deserves to be treated much more harshly.

So the patterns of the narratives may be similar but the message is clear: God understands that we will fall. But we must take the lessons we learn in our mistakes and redeem ourselves. God gives us opportunities for repentance, but we cannot address those opportunities as unlimited. Sometimes one is given just so many chances.

About the Author: Rabbi Avi Weiss is founder and president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Gift Of Opportunity Is Not Limitless”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reviews details of a "bad deal" with Iran.
Netanyahu Warns of Increased Iran Aggression in Middle East
Latest Judaism Stories
Hertzberg-041715

Lincoln was not a perfect man. But he rose above his imperfections to do what he thought was right not matter the obstacles.

Arch of Titus

Adon Olam: An Erev Shabbat Musical Interlude Courtesy of David Herman

Daf-Yomi-logo

Oh My, It’s Copper!
‘…And One Who Is A Coppersmith’
(Kethubboth 77a)

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

The omer sacrifice of loose barley flour was more fitting for animal consumption than human consumption and symbolizes the depths to which the Jewish slaves had sunk.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

When Chazal call not eating treif food a chok, that refers to how it functions.

His mother called “Yoni, Yoni!” Her eyes, a moment earlier dark with pain, shone with joy and hope

Kashrut reminds us that in the end, God is the arbiter of right and wrong.

In a cab with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach & Rav Elayshiv discussing if/when to say tefillas haderech

The successful student listens more than speaks out; wants his ideas critiqued, not just appreciated

Why would it not be sufficient to simply state lehoros from which we derive that in such a state one may not issue any psak?

What do we learn about overcoming loss from the argument between Moses and Aaron’s remaining 2 sons?

Each of the unique roles attributed to Moshe share the common theme that they require of and grant higher sanctity to the individual filling the role.

Because of the way the piece of my finger had been severed, the doctors at the hospital were not able to reattach it. They told me I’d have to see a specialist.

“The problem is that the sum total is listed is $17,000. However, when you add the sums mentioned, it is clear that the total of $17,000 is an error. Thus, Mr. Broyer owes me $18,000, not $17,000.”

More Articles from Rabbi Avi Weiss
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Kashrut reminds us that in the end, God is the arbiter of right and wrong.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Unless ritual is introduced, the Shoah will be remembered as a footnote in history in 100 years

Dayenu is not a song of complaint; it is rather a song of thanksgiving to God.

Often people in important positions separate from everyday people & tasks-NOT the Kohen Gadol

“Adam” speaks to the universal dimension of the Temple. He is the parent of all humankind.

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of human creativity in the Torah is the building of the Mishkan

In holy places it’s important to maintain a level of silence permitting people to dialogue with God

A 3rd option: No demarcation between bein adam laMakom & bein adam lechaveiro; they’re complementary

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/the-gift-of-opportunity-is-not-limitless/2014/06/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: