This week’s reading prepares the visitor to enter the holiest site in Judaism – the Temple Mount. Originally a ritual to allow access to the desert sanctuary, the ashes of a red-brown cow, hyssop grass and sprinkled water readied the worshipper to attend the sanctum of Solomon’s, and later, Ezra’s Temple. Tradition states the very ritual which purified the entrant worshipper made the purifier impure, symbolising the willingness we should have to help others, even if we risk becoming sullied by association.
Miriam dies and the people thirst for water. God tells Moses and Aaron to speak to a rock for water. Instead, Moses hits the rock, disobedience that earns Moses and Aaron a ban on entry into the Promised Land.
Aaron is instructed to ascend Mount Hor, pass the mantle of his priesthood to his son Elazar and die there. Discouraged and upset, the people complain and are punished with an attack of serpents. Moses fashions a copper snake and those who were bitten are cured.
They thank God with the Song of Israel, which centres on the digging of wells by the princes of Israel and the stations of their journey up to the borders of Moab on the East Bank of the Jordan.
It is there that the Israelites defeat Sihon the Emorite king and take the lands he had conquered from the
Moabites. When Og, King of Bashan, then comes to fight, he too is similarly vanquished.
- Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew
Congregation and is Padre to HM Armed Forces
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