Gathering Sources: Mattot-Masei

Some thoughts and resources for exploring the double Torah portion Matot-Masei. Matot — also spelled Mattot, sometimes Mattoth or Matos — is composed of Numbers 30:2- 32:48 and is usually read along with Masei — also spelled — Numbers 33:1-26:13. In some leap years, but not all, the two portions are read separately.

The double portion is next read in most of the Diaspora and beginning with minchah on July 27 and concluding with on Shabbat morning August 3, 2019. (At Temple Micah in Washington, DC — which follows an idiosyncratic schedule — the two portions are read separately, putting the congregation’s reading schedule back in synch with the rest of the Jewish world with August 10 reading of Devarim.)

Matot A Path to Follow: What’s the Beef with Midian?

Matot Something to Notice: Kashering utensils

Masei Great Source: Ahad Ha-am on the prophet



See also:

Prayer Link: Seeing You in 42 Familiar Places

Dvar Torah: You Didn’t Have to Be There

Dvar Torah in memory of Max Ticktin (z”l): Heavy Tongue, or the House of Cards theory of bible study


This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”

Resources on Psalms

I’ve been collecting resources on individual psalms for study on a monthly basis. (Local to DC? Check out Temple Micah, third Tuesdays of the month, 1:30 – 3 p.m.) Here are the materials so far (last updated 7/17/19 — here is the stable page where more will be added.)

Psalm 1 Resources (PDF)

Psalm 92 Resources (PDF)

Psalm 8 Resources(PDF)

Psalm 22 Resources (PDF)

Coming soon, a few notes, by request, on Ugaritic and the Psalms, and more resources related to individual psalms as they are gathered.

Gathering Sources: Pinchas

Some thoughts and resources for exploring the weekly Torah portion, Pinchas — also sometimes spelled “Pinechas” or “Pinhas” or “Pin’has” — Numbers 25:10-30:1. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”

Language and Translation: “zeal” or “jealousy,” “wrath” or “passion”
A Path to Follow: Father of the daughters of Zelophehad
Something to Notice: Serah bat Asher
Great Sources: Rosh Chodesh

See also
The Time That We Get Shabbat: Pinchas Prayer Links
Dvar Torah: Pinchas and the Scary Friend
and More on Mouse
Pinchas’ Sword, Plowshares, and Musical Instruments

Gathering Sources: Behaalotekha

Some thoughts and resources for exploring the Torah portion Behaalotekha — also spelled Behaalotecha, Beha’alotecha, or Beha’alothekha; sometimes: Behaaloscha– Number 8:1-12:6. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”

Language and Translation: “If there be a prophet

Great Source: The Cushite Woman and Blank Ink

A Path to Follow: Elders and Siblings

Something to Notice: The inverted nuns

For those attempting to follow Gathering Sources weekly postings, note that this one is appearing out of order, after schedule got off-track with Shavuot. Apologies. Nearly caught up.

Lights for Liberty: An Intention

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Rabbi Yose son of Judah taught: Two ministering angels, one good and one evil, accompany a person home on the Sabbath eve. If a lamp is burning, table set, and seating arranged, the good angel says, “May it be thus on the next Sabbath,” and the evil angel unwillingly answers “amen.” If not, the evil angel says, “May it be thus on the next Sabbath,” and the good angel unwillingly answers “amen.” (based on B. Shabbat 119b)

For too many Sabbaths, our national home has been devoid of safety, nourishment, and comfort for those seeking refuge and asylum, and for many others in our midst. Each week of these conditions reinforces toleration of the same next week, with our good angels, however unwillingly, answering “amen.” This Friday, we gather for a turning point, calling forth new and better angels.

In the spirit of “Lights for Liberty,” in Washington DC and beyond, a prayer:

Holy One, wherever lamps are burning,
tables set, and seating arranged on Sabbath Eve,
nurture those gatherings;
inspire all who experience this sanctuary in time
to renewed effort toward safety, nourishment, and comfort for all.

Hear this, too, Holy One —
wherever light is lacking,
food sparse, and conditions rough this week,
accept no prayer — angel or human — on our behalf for a continuation of suffering.
Let no appearance of indifference, helplessness, or political confusion
be understood as a plea in our name for the perpetuation of evil.

Holy One, we welcome the Sabbath
in gratitude for its peace and blessing
and we dedicate ourselves, and beg Your help,
to extend that peace and blessing to those most in need.
Help us, as we work to end the horrors perpetuated in our name.
May this week’s lamps and tables and seating persist and multiply. And we all say: Amen

For study passages and another prayer, visit Jews United for Justice resource page. Here is a PDF of this kavanah with Talmudic introduction (not shared on the JUFJ website).

Visit http://www.lightsforliberty.org for details of July 12 anti-Concentration Camp gatherings around the country.

Visit https://jufj.org for details about DC- and Baltimore-area Jewish justice efforts.

Visit https://www.neveragainaction.com/ for national Jewish responses.

Gathering Sources: Balak

Some thoughts and resources for exploring the Torah portion, Balak (rarely spelled differently, sometimes: Balaq), Numbers 22:2-25:9. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book.”

Balak is next read in most of the Diaspora the week of Shabbat July 20, beginning with mincha July 13.

Something to Notice: Seeing and Gazing

A Path to Follow: Moabites and Ammonites

Great Source: “Opening the Tent

Language and Translation: Theme, Parable, Rhapsode

Michel Wolgemut, Wilhelm Pleydenwurff
– Bil’am et l’Ange Balaam, the Angel and the Ass;
Woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle

See also

Balak, Dead50, and Frederick Douglass

” The Tents and Dwellings and YOURS (and they’re plural)”

Gathering Sources: Naso

Some thoughts and resources for exploring the Torah portion, Naso — sometimes spelled Nasso — Numbers 4:21-7:89. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book”:

A Path to Follow: Cherubim

Something to Notice: Priestly Blessing and Peace

Great Source(s): Bob Dylan and Mystery Midrash

Language and Translation: the offense

See also: Naso: Prayer Links on their own gifts

God’s Shadow: Naso Prayer Links

For those attempting to follow Gathering Sources weekly postings, note that this one is appearing out of order, after schedule got off-track with Shavuot. Apologies. Nearly caught up.

Gathering Sources: Bamidbar

Thoughts and resources for exploring the Torah portion, Bamidbar — sometimes: Bemidbar or B’midbar — Numbers 1:1-4:20. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book”:

A Path to Follow: From One Month

Something to Notice: God Grieves

Great Source: The Biography of Ancient Israel

See also: Bamidbar: Prayer Links

Note to those trying to follow the Gathering Sources series: Postings lagged following Shavuot. Sorry. Catching up.

Gathering Sources: Chukat

Some thoughts on the Torah portion, Chukat — also spelled: Chukkat, Chukkas, and Hukat — Numbers 19:1-22:1. This is part of a series of weekly “gathering sources” posts, collecting previous material on the weekly Torah portion, most originally part of a 2010 series called “Opening the Book”:

Great Source(s): Miriam’s Well

Language and translation: Bards? Rhapsodes?

A Path to Follow: Rise Up, O Well

Something to Notice: A Very Big White Space

See also: Then Israel Sang

Note to those trying to follow the Gathering Sources series: posting went off schedule with Shavuot. Sorry. This post comes in advance of the reading of Chukat, in most of the Diaspora on July 13, Shabbat, beginning on mincha July 6, and missing posts will appear soon.

Hebrew Poetry: Idiosyncratic Resources, Part 2

“What does it mean to be authentic?” asked a younger Israeli poet of Iraqi heritage, Almog Behar:

To write poems about Erez Bitton
And hope that one day I’ll run down Dizengoff, shouting
Ana min Baghdad, ana min Baghdad
[I am from Baghdad, I am from Baghdad]
— “Homer of Lod: The Indespensibility of Erez Bitton,” Matti Friedman, Jewish Review of Books Spring 2017

What do you mean to be authentic?
To run along Dizengoff Street, shouing:
Ana min al-Maghrib. Ana min al-Maghrib.”
[“I am from the Atlas Mountains”]
— Erez Biton. “Summary of a Conversation” (2009)
IN You Who Crossed My Path (2015 Hebrew-English collection)

In 2013, Israeli poet Adi Keissar founded Ars Poetica; seeking a way to express herself, she explains in a 2017 interview, she launched a movement promoting Mizrachi culture in Israel. (See 2015 Forward opinion, 2018 Jerusalem Post story; 2018 poetry translation post; and/or visit Ars Poetica Facebook page.)

Poet Erez Biton (also spelled: Bitton), won The Israel Prize in Literature in 2015. He was the first Mizrachi winner in the history of the prize, which was first awarded in 1953.

In 2016, Biton headed a committee that produced a number of recommendations for increasing content about Mizrachi Jews in Israeli school curricula (NIF story; Ynet story). Recommendations include teaching the poetry of Keissar, Roy Hasan, and others.

Hebrew Poetry: Idiosyncratic Resources,” posted in January 2019, included some notes on Medieval Hebrew and Africana poetry as well as a link to a set of resource pages. Since then, that Poetry Resources page has been expanded and now includes Mizrachi poets Shimon Adaf, Maya Bejerano, and Ronny Someck, as well as those mentioned/linked above. Some of the resources cited are in print, but many are also available on-line and free-of-charge.


On a related topic:

…Also related to “authentic” topic in Jewish poetry, although neither Israeli nor written in Hebrew: Sephardic Jew Vanessa Hidary’s The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega.