Shemini means “on the 8th day” deals with the end of the priests’ consecration period. After this, they can then make expiation for all of Israel. Unfortunately however, two of Aaron’s sons pay the ultimate price for not ministering properly to the people. The portion then ends with the “kosher list” of what can and cannot be eaten, a perfect segue into our Renewed Covenant reading which also discusses kosher food. Keep Reeding
Vayishlach means “and he sent” and once again the ‘he’ is Jacob sending messengers ahead with gifts in an attempt to reconcile with Esau, and what follows is for me, bar none, the greatest apology EVER given in Scripture. After that we get the tragic story of Dinah and Shechem where he rapes her and, even though he later wishes to make it right by marrying her, the sons of Israel exact revenge anyway.
Re’eh means “see” and it begins with that great summary of the covenant: I set aside two ways for you, blessing and cursing, life and death. Shortly afterwards, a number of regulations about the place for Abba YHWH’s Name—Jerusalem though no one other than Abba YHWH knows that yet — are given. Some kosher regulations are restated or clarified and the law of the shemittah is given and explained. The portion wraps up with a restatement of the Hebrew festivals.
“Chukkat” means “statute” and the portion opens with the requirements of the famous red heifer, that perfect red young cow that is so sacred, nothing else will do to inaugurate the entire sacrificial infrastructure. Not surprisingly then, the requirements for finding and then preparing for such a massively important sacrifice are detailed and intricate. Other purity laws follow after which we are confronted with the sad news of Moshe’s sister Miriam dying. Ironically, instead of Moshe getting compassion from the Israelites on this occasion they immediately rise in rebellion against him once more!
In response to this latest threat, Abba YHWH assembles all of Israel and tells Moshe He will cause water to come from a rock that Moshe will strike with his staff. The problem is of course Moshe doesn’t wait for the official command to do so and impulsively strikes the rock twice. The waters come out and Israel is refreshed, but Moshe and Aaron are punished for not being more patient. Abba YHWH tells them plainly that neither of them will enter into the Promised Land.
After these events, the Israelites ask permission to pass through the lands of their Edomite cousins, but their king refuses. This time though, Abba YHWH does not punish the Edomites because He is primarily incensed with Israel, so He simply orders them around Edom to a place called Mount Hor. It is there that Abba YHWH exacts the first part of His punishment against Moshe and Aaron, by having Aaron die on that mountain. The final full chapter (21) ends as the first one in this portion did. Israel asks for deliverance—this time from the Canaanites, Abba YHWH delivers and then Israel complains again, resulting in punishment. Are we learning yet?
The climax of the entire book of Genesis comes down to this. Jacob is finally well settled in Goshen and dies peacefully while Joseph and his brothers continue their efforts to honor their father’s legacy and reconcile everything for all time. But looming large in the prophetic distance is a future time that Joseph sees when all of them will have to get up out of Egypt and go back to Canaan, taking Joseph’s body with them. Exodus is just around the corner!
It’s Moshe’s Greatest Hits (On the Ground that is)! This week Moshe really bares his soul and in an unprecedented display of candor (or a lack of patience, you be the judge), Moshe reveals how he really felt as a disaster was unfolding all around him. Perhaps at the time he did not have a moment to care about how hurt he was, but now he reveals all to the new generation of Israelites and some of those revelations are truly shocking!