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Massei

Forty Two Journeys to the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

These are the journeys of the children of Israel… (Numbers 33:1) When G-d brought the Jews out from Egypt, He brought them out with the mystery of the 42-letter name, just as He created heaven and earth… (Zohar Chadash) The forty-two "stations" from Egypt to the Promised Land are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as his soul journeys from its descent to earth at birth to its return to its Source. (Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov) Torah portion Massei (Num. 33-35) recalls forty-two journeys of the Children of Israel in the Sinai desert after the Exodus from Egypt.  This is not the first time the concept of forty-two journeys appears in the Torah.  Commenting on the Biblical verse, “And God said, ‘Behold, I Will Cause to Rain Bread from Heaven for You,’” (Ex. 25:5) the Midrash [...]

Witnesses – See and be Seen

עַל פִּי שְׁנַיִם עֵדִים אוֹ שְׁלֹשָׁה עֵדִים יוּמַת הַמֵּת לֹא יוּמַת עַל פִּי עֵד אֶחָד: By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall the one liable to death be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 17:6) Earlier this summer, I wrote about witnesses in the post imaginatively called Witnesses. As Deuteronomy, restates many mitzvoth (commandments) introduced earlier, which is why it is also called Mishneh Torah – the repetition of Torah – the parshah Shoftim, which we read yesterday in Synagogues, restates the law of witnesses first introduced in in the book of Bamidbar-Numbers, parshat Massei. So we shall revisit this fascinating subject. The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: "He is Guilty!" (1892 painting by Nikolai Ge) I.     An accused criminal and a Schrödinger cat Most criminals are convicted [...]

Witnesses

Massei -- Bamidbar-Numbers 35 Whoever kills a person, based on the testimony of witnesses, he shall slay the murderer. A single witness may not testify against a person so that he should die. Bamidbar-Numbers 35:30 In this verse, the Torah states that a murderer can only be convicted based on testimony of live witnesses. Contrary to common law jurisprudence in the US and the UK, and civil law jurisprudence of most other western countries, circumstantial evidence cannot be used alone to convict according to the Torah law. (It may, however, be used to interrogate witnesses in order to ascertain their truthfulness or to acquit the accused.) The only basis for a Torah conviction is eye-witness testimony. This seems strange, though. Why, for example, may fingerprints or DNA evidence, which is, surely, incontrovertible, not be used to [...]