The story of Balaam and his desire to curse the children of Israel is a fabulous one. At the request of Balak, King of Moab, he tries to curse Israel, but at each opportunity, G-d prevents him from doing so. Finally, without a choice, he blesses the nation of Israel in some of the most beautiful verses in the Bible.
The Levite tribe is set aside as a separate tribe in Israel, dedicated to worshipping G-d on behalf of the nation of Israel in the Temple and, therefore, prevented from owning land or receiving their own tribal territory.
Moses sends the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel to check out the land of Israel, to investigate its people and evaluate their strength or weakness, to taste the fruits and crops and determine the fertility of the land.
With the opening verse of Chapter 11, everything begins to crash. The nation complains repeatedly and is punished. Miriam speaks ill of her brother and his wife and is punished. And then, of course, comes the sin of the spies…
To this day, all first-born sons to a Jewish mother are ‘redeemed’ in a special ceremony which represents the divine statement that the Nation of Israel is holy.
The child of a mixed marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew will always be confused, will lack a clear identity and will have trouble relating to God.
The thrust of the chapter is the expectation of holiness in our dealings with our fellow man. For it is through our relationships with our fellow human beings, through acts of compassion and charity, that we can indeed become holy
G-d does not treat gossip lightly. As men and women, created in His image, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and to treat everyone with respect. This includes not maligning them, even in a light, gossipy way.
One of the most tragic events in the Bible takes place in this week’s reading. Leviticus 10 begins with the story of the death of Nadav and Avihu, who brought a “strange fire” before G-d. It is not clear exactly what Nadav and Avihu did that angered G-d.