Published Date: June 15, 2018
In this Shabbat’s weekly Torah portion Chukat Numbers 19:1 – 22:1, Moses is taught the laws of the red heifer, whose ashes purify a person who has been contaminated by contact with a dead body.
After forty years of journeying through the desert, the people of Israel arrive in the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies, and the people thirst for water. God tells Moses to speak to a rock and command it to give water. Moses gets angry at the rebellious Israelites and strikes the stone. Water issues forth, but Moses is told by God that neither he nor Aaron will enter the Promised Land.
In this week’s Haftara Prophets reading Judges 11:1 – 11:33, describes how the people of Israel were attacked by the nation of Ammon. The Israelites engaged Jephtah to lead them in battle against this military threat. Jephtah first sent a missive to Ammon, declaring his peaceful intentions. In his message, he also discussed the Israelites’ conquest of the lands of Sichon and Og, victories which are related in this week’s Torah reading.
Jephtah the Gileadite was the son of a harlot. He was sent away from his home by his half-siblings, and settled in the land of Tob where he became a great warrior. When the nation of Ammon attacked the people of Israel, Jephtah was called upon to lead the Israelites in battle. Jephtah agreed, on one condition: “If you bring me back to fight with the children of Ammon, and God delivers them before me, I will become your head.” The Israelites accepted his terms.