Chukat by Rabbi Patrick Beaulier

Parshah Chukat

Numbers 19:1-22:1

Why do the same things keep happening to us over and over again? Why do we fall into the same relationships, same types of jobs, etc. etc. Sometimes life feels like a gigantic rerun that you can’t escape: a constant Bill Murray-style Groundhog Day.

Just like all the other Torah portions in Bamidbar, the same predictable plot happens:

1) The Hebrews wander the desert

2) The Hebrews get angry that they are wandering in the desert

3) G-d gets pissed off and performs a miracle

This time, we have snakes on fire, which to me sounds like a stoner metal band. At any rate, these venomous snakes bite the ankles of the Hebrews, and naturally they freak out.
So G-d says, “build a bronze altar with a snake on a pole. Stare at it, and you’ll be healed.”

Yay. Miracle. But pretty anti-climactic.

I guess you could say, “well, it all worked out for the Hebrews. They built a shrine to the snake and G-d healed them. Some lesson, huh?” But you have to remember that idolatry is a sin. G-d’s not letting them off the hook, G-d’s forcing them to do something that’s completely against their culture. It’s like a dog that pees on the carpet, and you turn around and rub their nose in it.

There’s a reason why life for the Hebrews stays the same: they keep doing the same things! It seems like a no-brainer, but perhaps if they adjusted their attitude a little bit, they wouldn’t be wandering around in the desert!

This is the way life works: you’re fat because you keep eating, you’re single because you keep going out with losers, and you’re an alcoholic because you keep drinking. It’s like my dad says, “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

Maybe it’s all the motivational posters at my gym, but I see this week’s Torah portion as an inspiration to quit whining and do something! Maybe then the snakes that are biting your ankles (bill collectors, a crappy boss, whatever) will leave you alone.


Rabbi Patrick Beaulier is a religious, but non-traditional, spiritual seeker and facilitator. Here you will find a little about him, his approach to Judaism, speaking engagements and services.

He is the rabbi for Bonay Kodesh, an independent (Reform/Reconstructionist in practice) Jewish community born south of the James River but serving all of Richmond, VA. He is a member of the Richmond Rabbinical Association.

He was ordained by RSI, a progressive rabbinical program in Manhattan, founded by the late Rabbi Joseph Gelberman. Additionally, he is a Prepare Enrich certified premarital and relationship coach as well as a Psychological First Aid provider, and has recently completed a certificate in Spirituality, Health and Healing through Clayton State University as well as mandated reporter training in Georgia and Virginia.

He has had the pleasure of writing/editing several books including Ahavah Rabbah, PunkTorah: The First Anthology and the New Kosher Vegan Cookbook, as well as countless articles for blogs such as PunkTorah and My Jewish Learning.

He has been featured in three books, The New Reform Judaism: Challenges and Reflections, Contemporary American Judaism: Transformation and Renewal, Oy Oy Oy Gevalt!: Jews and Punk, as well as the Times of Israel, the Atlanta Jewish Times, and several other Jewish newspapers, magazines and blogs.

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