The laws of the para aduma "the red
heifer" are detailed. These laws are for the ritual
purification of one who comes into contact with death.
After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is
buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss
of their water supply which until now has been provided miraculously in
the merit of Miriam's righteousness.
Aharon and Moshe pray for the people's
welfare. G-d commands them to gather the nation
at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water
will flow forth. Distressed by the people's lack of faith, Moshe
hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce
the intended public demonstration of G-d's mastery over
the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely
at Moshe's word. Therefore, G-d
tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not
bring the people into the Land.
Bnai Yisrael resume their travels, but because the King of
Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them
passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to
Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor,
Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested
with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aharon
was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days.
Sichon the Amorite attacks Bnai
Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a
result, Bnai Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon
had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank
of the Jordan River Exodus.
Balak, King of Moav, is in
morbid fear of Bnai Yisrael. He summons a renowned
sorcerer named Bilaam to curse them. First,
speaks to Bilaam and forbids him to go. But, because
Bilaam is so insistent, G-d appears to
him a second time and permits him to go.
While en route, a malach (emissary from G-d)
blocks Bilaam's donkey's path. Unable to contain his
frustration, Bilaam strikes the donkey each time it stops
or tries to detour. Miraculously, the donkey speaks, asking Bilaam
why he is hitting her.
The malach instructs Bilaam regarding what
he is permitted to say and what he is forbidden to say regarding the
Jewish People. When Bilaam arrives, King Balak
makes elaborate preparations, hoping that Bilaam will
succeed in the curse. Three times Bilaam attempts to
curse and three times a blessing issues instead. Balak,
seeing that Bilaam has failed, sends him home in disgrace.
Bnai Yisrael begin sinning with the Moabite
women and worshipping the Moabite idols, and they are
punished with a plague. One of the Jewish leaders brazenly brings
a Midianite princess into his tent, in full view of Moshe
and the people. Pinchas, a grandson of Aharon,
grabs a spear and kills both evildoers. This halts the plague, but
not before 24,000 have died.