“Provide for yourself intelligent men who are wise.”
~ Deuteronomy 1:13
Moses gave specific criteria for choosing judges.
What did he add by saying they should be wise if they’re already intelligent?
It’s the difference between the rich and the enterprising: the rich are secure enough to relax when business is slow, while the enterprising go and make things happen.
Intelligent people know plenty but they’re often complacent in their knowledge. The wise, however, always seek to understand that which they don’t yet know.
Great judgment needs a combination of both.
“Elazar the Kohen said…‘This is the Torah decree which God commanded Moses.”
~ Numbers 31:21
He’s called ‘Moses our teacher’ because he taught us all of the Torah. Of the hundreds of laws, he said all but two.
Why did Elazar teach this specific one?
Because Moses forgot it.
He was in a temper about something and the law simply escaped him, even though he was right. Like inebriation, anger numbs the senses, reduces alertness and causes temporary amnesia.
When driving, we avoid both drunkenness and rage. Should the rest of life be any different?
“Take for yourself Joshua.”
~ Numbers 27:18
Knowing his tenure was almost over, Moses asked for a replacement.
Why did God use the word ‘take’, Joshua’s not an object?
Whenever ‘take’ is used in relation to people, it means take them with words, convince and persuade them. Apparently, Joshua needed to hear about the reward.
But why, isn’t leadership a great honour?
Taking responsibility is not a vacation. On the contrary, it’s fraught with challenges and difficulty. So, even the greatest need some sweet-talking to accept it.
“Spend the night here and I’ll respond when God tells me.”
~ Numbers 21:27
Balak the Moabite King sent messengers to the evil prophet Bilaam, asking him to curse and thereby destroy the Jews.
Why did Bilaam tell the messengers to spend the night?
Because God only communicates with wicked prophets clandestinely at night, Bilaam couldn’t respond immediately. Therefore he was forced to behave like a man secretively sneaking out to visit his concubine.
Healthy spirituality may be personal and even private, but it has nothing to hide. If it does, it’s probably rotten.
“Therefore the poets say: Come to Cheshbon, let it be built and established.”
~ Numbers 13:32
The Torah poetically records Israel’s battles as they journeyed towards the Promised Land. Beyond the historical record, there’s a deeper interpretation:
The Hebrew word ‘poet’ also means ‘ruler’ and the city’s name ‘Cheshbon’ literally means ‘an accounting’.
The Sages explain: to build yourself in this world and establish a place in the world to come, you must regularly make a spiritual accounting.
To build our business we set goals, take stock and balance bank-accounts. Should our spirituality be any different?
“Everything that is set aside from the offerings that the Children of Israel give to Me, I have given to you…as an eternal portion, an everlasting covenant of salt”
~ Numbers 18:19
As a reward for their unique service, God commands us to give a portion of our offerings to the priests.
Why compare this agreement to salt?
As a non-decaying mineral, salt not only preserves food, it also enhances its flavour.
Many agreements people make are self-serving and, as a result, are short-lived.
Real commitments are like salt: they don’t go bad, they maintain the connection and most importantly, they bring out the best qualities of each side in the relationship.
“A land which devours those who dwell in it.”
~ Numbers 13:32
Before entering Israel, Moses sent a reconnaissance mission to spy it out. One of their findings was how tough life was there.
Is God sadistic – why make life in the Promised Land difficult?
The purpose of Israel is spiritual growth. In both Hebrew and English, the word ‘dwell’ also means to remain in one place. Those who don’t grow deteriorate, and are ‘devoured’.
Life in Israel is like running up an escalator: if you standing still spiritually, you’re going down.