Current Newsletter
for the week of:
July 19th, 2017

Sholem aleichem!

Today is the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, 5777.   Today is the 28th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz.  Rosh Chodesh Av, the new month of Av, begins this Monday.
Rosh Chodesh Av begins a period in the Jewish calendar know as "the nine days," the days which culminate in Tisha b'Av, the 9th day of Av, when we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples and so many other casualties that have befallen our People in the course of history.  Have you heard of this fast day on our calendar?  Here's the Wikipedia article about the Nine Days:

The Nine Days - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Nine Days - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Nine Days is a religious observance in Judaism that takes place during the first nine days of the Jewish month of Av (corresponding to July/August). The Nine Da...
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Shabbat on St Croix this week begins at 6:38 pm.


Laura has been hard at work recreating our STXJCC website, and it's fabulous, and getting better all the time!  Check it out (!  Thank you, Laura!


This week's Torah portion is another double one: Matot-Mas'ei, Numbers 30:2-33:13.

In Parshat Matot, the special rules concerning women's vows are given. Whereas a man may not break a vow or an oath which he makes to God, a woman's vow may be annulled by her father or her husband on the day she makes it.  Vows made by widows or divorced women, however, are binding.
God commands Moses to take revenge upon the Midianite people.  One thousand men are picked from each tribe to battle the Midianites under the leadership of Pinchas.  All the male Midianites are slain in the campaign, including the five kings of the region and the prophet Bil'am.  Their women and children are taken captive, the towns and encampments are burned, and all the booty is brought to Moses and Eleazar at Moab near Jericho.
Moses is angry with the leaders of the battle for sparing the women who were responsible for drawing the Israelites into sin at Shittim.  He orders them slain along with every male child.  Eleazar instructs the troops concerning cleansing themselves and the distribution of the booty collected.  After cleansing, the booty is divided equally among the troops and the rest of the Israelites, with a share being withheld as an offering to God.  
The tribes of Reuben and Gad speak to Moses.  They desire to settle east of the Jordan River in the lands of Jazer and Gilead, as these lands are suitable for their cattle.  Moses permits them to establish their homes there, provided that all the men then join the rest of the Israelites in the battles to be waged west of the Jordan.  So the Reubeinites, Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh establish fortified cities on the east side of the Jordan River.  

In Parshat Mas'ei, the route taken by the Israelites from Egypt to the steppes of Moab and the major events that occurred along the way are recounted.  At Moab, God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites about settling the land across the Jordan.  They are to dispossess all its inhabitants, destroy their gods, and apportion the land among the tribes by lot.
The boundaries of the land are: Edom to the south, the Mediterranean to the west, along a line drawn from Mount Hor to Hazer-enan in the north, and from Hazer-enan to Shepham, and then inward to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea on the east.
The Israelites are to assign, out of their holdings, towns and pasture-lands to the Levites.  There are to be a total of forty-eight towns, six of which are to be Cities of Refuge to which a person who has killed another unintentionally may flee.  It is the responsibility of the next-of-kin, however (the "blood-avenger"), to put a deliberate murderer to death.
Laws are given citing the circumstances and manner in which murder (intentional) and what we would today call manslaughter (unintentional) is to be judged and punished.  
The descendants of Manasseh appeal to Moses and the elders concerning the case of the Daughters of Tzelofchad.  They allege that if the daughters marry men from another tribe, their land holdings will be added to those of the tribe into which they marry, thus diminishing the the size of the lands of Manasseh.  Moses therefore rules that the daughters of Tzelofchad must marry within their father's tribe.  This is based on the general statement that no tribe's inheritance may pass to another tribe.

The Book of Numbers concludes with the statement: "These are the commandments and regulations that the Eternal enjoined upon the Israelites through Moses on the steppes of Moab, at the Jordan near Jericho."

[Adapted from Teaching Torah: A Treasury of Insights and Activites, by Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden.]


As we conclude this year's reading of the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar / Numbers, we say: 
                                                                                            חזק  חזק  ונתחזק!                                                                                         
Chazak chazak v'nitchazek!

Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!

Rabbi Marna Sapsowitz