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The facts are similar enough to warrant our recollection.  On September 15, 1963 three 14-year old girls and one eleven year old girl were killed by a bomb that exploded in the basement of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  Initially, only one person was charged for any crime related to the deaths.  Robert Chambliss was convicted of possession the dynamite used in the hate crime and was fine $100.  Thirty-six years later the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally closed the cased with Chambliss and his surviving Ku Klux Klan accomplices convicted of murder and sent to prison.  The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the eulogy at the funeral of three of the four girls.  His words – with minor revision – apply so aptly to the three 16-year old yeshiva boys kidnapped, murdered, and left in a rocky field near Hebron.

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Near the end of his life and with his people about to enter the land from which he was barred, Moses gathers together the entire people Israel to lecture them.  His description of the journey from Mount Sinai to the east side of the Jordan River is punctuated with some of the memorable and infamous events that occurred along the way.  It was the Israelites’ complaining and lack of faith that resulted in a forty-year’s trek rather than an eleven day’s march.  And in a further expression of Moses’ own disappointment, he adds: “…because of you the Lord was incensed with me, too…” (Deuteronomy 1:37).

Moses blames his inability to reach the Land of Israel on the people, not on his own wrongdoing.  As a Finnish proverb wisely notes: “He who cannot dance puts the blame on the floor.”  Yet the Torah ascribes Moses’ exclusion to the sin of drawing water from the rock by hitting it twice rather than by talking to it as God had commanded (Numbers 20:11-13).  It would seem that even a man as great as Moses is not beyond blaming others for his own failings.

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At the beginning of Chapter 31 in the Book of Numbers, God commands Moses to take vengeance against the Midianites for undermining the ethical and physical existence of the people Israel.  The command is issued in the singular.  This means that from a grammatical construction we learn that Moses himself is commanded to do the avenging.  Yet according to the ensuing narrative, Moses delegates the task of attacking and destroying the Midianites to an army headed by Pinhas and composed of one thousand members of each tribe.  Moses remains behind.  Why Moses fails to follow the Divine commamd is puzzling.

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Words to live by

We’re all so busy chasing the extraordinary that we forget to stop and be grateful for the ordinary.

- Professor Brené Brown