Beginning in medieval times, modern Jews have understood the Torah to be monotheistic, testifying that only one God exists. But it might be more accurate to say that the Torah is monolatrous -- that multiple Gods exist, but we choose to worship only one of them.
Rahav, who is specifically called a whore in the opening lines, stands among various outsider and transgressive women in the Hebrew Bible who play a decisive, if unexpected, role in bringing healing and redemption to their people.
We all know how hard it is to refrain from gossip, particularly in moments of anger, pain, frustration or exhaustion. But our Torah reading reminds us that we need to be vigilant in monitoring our own speech and helping others do the same.
We walked through the wilderness with eyes wide shut. Instead of neglecting the lessons of Bemidbar, perhaps -- in an age of questionable leadership -- we need to read it more slowly and carefully and pay better attention to the landscape.
One of the many disturbing things about the Penn State abuse scandal is that sports, like religious ritual, is supposed to offer an effective means to sublimate violence. In this case, violence and power were allowed to grow wildly without proper ethical oversight.
"Pinchas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest has calmed my anger," God tells Moses. "Through his violent and vengeful zealotry, he has saved the Children of Israel. For this I give him my covenant of peace. And for endless days will he be a priest."
Religious leadership isn't easy. Just ask any of the rabbis who attempt to address controversial issues within their institutions, take on the challenge of moral leadership and manage relationships with members. Or ask the prophet Balaam, the unexpected hero of this week's Torah portion.
Every child, every person, is indeed special -- in fact, utterly unique. But this is not an assertion of entitlement or privilege. It is an affirmation of radical responsibility and redemptive possibility.
"Send scouts, one from each tribe, distinguished leaders all of them, to explore Canaan," God tells Moses. So Moses selects Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hosea (aka Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Gemalli, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel.
One year, one month and one day after the Exodus. God speaks to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the desert at Sinai, telling him: Take a census of the Children of Israel. Count their names. All the men, 20 years of age or older.