Numbers

Bemidbar 2:17 – “As they camp, so they shall march, each in position, by their standards.”

  • Harold Kushner in the Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary offers the following insight into this verse. “The verse is interpreted homiletically to teach that one should be the same person at home as away from home, in private as in public.” Clearly, our tradition understood that there is great temptation to act irresponsibly when not subject to the scrutiny of others. Being a person of integrity requires great self-disciple and yirat shamayim, a real sense that God is watching.

Hosea (haftarah) 2:18 – “And in that day you will- declares the Lord- You will call (Me) Ishi, and no more will you call meBaali.”

  • The prophet Hosea sees the relationship of Israel and God as the relationship between husband and wife. The repentant wife, Israel, will be accepted back by God, the forgiving husband. The restored relationship will be one of partners (eesh v’eesha) and not of master (ba’al) and servant.

Naso 6:26 – “…The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace.”

  • According to the Ktav Sofer (Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, 19th Hungarian rabbi), peace be begins in the home, then extends to the community, and finally to the all the world. Here again, we see the Jewish view that decency radiates from inside out and not the outside in.

Behaalotecha 8:2 – “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you mount the lamps give light at the front of the lamp stand.”

  • The light of the menorah pushes back the darkness of the world. The Chanukah menorah sheds light when the world experiences its greatest darkness during the winter solstice. We, as Jews, bear responsibility to shed light on the dark places in our community where injustice and abuse abide.

Shlach 13:32 – “Thus they spread calumnies about the land they had scouted…” 

  • Spreading evil reports about the Land of Israel led to an entire generation’s demise in the desert.Gossip and lashon ha’rah is rightly condemned in our tradition. And yet, our hesitancy to practiceevil speech should not prevent us from following up on suspicions that someone is being abused.Passing on one’s suspicions of mistreatment to a rabbi is the right thing to do!

Korach 16:12 – “Moses send for Dotan and Aviram, sons of Eliav, but they said, “We will not come!”

  • According to Rashi, “From here we derive that one should not persist in dispute because Mosessought them out to conciliate them with peaceful words (b’divrei shalom).” Humility and putting aside ego is an important lesson that we learn from Moses, our Teacher. Perhaps, this played an even more critical role in the life of Moses who was prone to act out on his anger.

Chukkat 20:2-5- “The community was without water, and they joined against Moses…’Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates?There is not even water to drink.’” 

  • Slavery was a trauma that left its mark on the people. Long after slavery ended, the trauma continued. They were more comfortable being the slaves than free people. The victims of abuse also carry with them psychic scars. Leaving an abusive relationship means more than leaving the marital home. Freedom requires a long and brave fight, both internal and external.

Balak 24:5 – “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwelling places, O Israel.”

  • According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 60a), Balaam said these words when he saw that the tents of the Israelites were arranged so that their entrances made it impossible for a family to see inside the tents of others, showing respect for privacy. And yet, Balaam was a pagan prophet whose donkey saw more clearly than he. Perhaps we need to look more carefully than Balaam. What appears on the outside to family purity and modesty might on the inside be filled with violence and abuse.

Pinchas 25:12 – “Say, therefore, I grant him My pact of shalom (briti shalom).”

  • Pinchas, the zealous defender of the faith of Israel and the people of Israel, is given a covenant of peace. Was this a reward for his zealous act or was this an antidote for his destructive impulse?Commentators offer various interpretations. What we can say for sure is that peace is possible even after psychic trauma like abuse. Perhaps that peace is incomplete (hinted at by the broken letter vav in the word “shalom” as it’s written in the Torah scroll), but it is peace nonetheless.

Matot 30:9 – “But if her husband restrains her on the day he learns of it, he thereby annuls her vow…”

  • The view that wives are subservient to their husbands is certainly present and undeniable in Jewish tradition. Even though the Rabbis of the Talmud narrowed the applicability of this law, the man was still dominant in many aspects of halacha. Some men today continue to use this worldview as justification for spousal abuse. Sometimes we do this type thing and we argue that Jewish tradition gives us a justification.

Masei 35:11 – “…you shall provide yourselves with places to serve you as cities of refuge to which a mans layer who has killed a person unintentionally may flee.”

  • If Biblical tradition insists on a city of refuge for a inadvertent killer, how much the more so should we provide places of refuge for the victims of domestic abuse. JCADA helps such victims get the legal, emotional, and physical refuge that they need.