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Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster [1899], at


LV. (1) And the children of Israel went up from the sea, and they came to the wilderness. While they were journeying in the wilderness a quarrel broke out between Korah and Moses. A certain woman had a ewe-lamb which she fed from her bread and gave to drink from her own cup, so that it was as a daughter to her. When she one day sheared the wool of her lamb, Aaron the priest came and took the wool away. Going immediately to Korah, she said to him, 'O my lord, I am exceedingly poor, my whole possession being but one ewe-lamb. When I sheared its wool for the purpose of clothing myself, for I am naked, Aaron the priest came up and took it away by force.' (2) Korah then went up to Aaron and said to him, 'Hast thou not sufficient with the tithes and heave-offerings of the Israelites, that thou must needs take away the wool of this poor woman, who is esteemed as a dead person?' But Aaron retorted, 'Thou shalt not die in the natural way. I shall not annul, for thy sake, one letter of the law. It is written

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therein, "The first of the shearing of thy flock shall be given to me."' In three months’ time the ewe bore a lamb, and Aaron came and took it away. The woman immediately went again to Korah and complained, 'O my lord, behold Aaron has no compassion on me, for but yesterday he took away the wool, and to-day he has taken the firstborn.' And he replied, 'The law says that every male firstborn of thy cattle and of thy sheep shall be dedicated to the Lord thy God.' (3) The woman then went forth and slew the ewe, and Aaron immediately came and took the shoulder, the jaws and the maw. Seeing this, the woman, sorely troubled, cried, saying, 'Thou hast all the flesh.' 'I take all the flesh,' added Aaron, it has now become our portion, as it is said, "The flesh of everything that is dedicated belongs to thee."'

(4) The woman, going to Korah, related all that had happened, and Korah, exceedingly enraged, said to Aaron, 'What claim hast thou upon this poor woman? Thou didst first take the wool, then the firstborn, and now the whole ewe itself.' 'I shall not transgress one letter of the law on account of thy anger, for it is said, "All the flesh shall be the priest's."' (5) Korah was then filled with wrath, and when God commanded Moses to tell the children of Israel to make for themselves fringes, Korah arose in the night, and weaving 400 garments of blue, put them on 400 men. Then, standing before Moses, he said to him, 'Do these garments require fringes, as they are now made wholly of the ### (blue)? Moses replied, 'Korah, does a house full of holy books require a Mezuzah.' 'Yes,' said Korah. 'So also do these garments require fringes.'

(6) Thus the jealousy (envy) between them grew to such an extent that God said to Moses, 'Take the Levites, and thus thou shalt do to purify them.' He then made four decrees concerning the Levites, two of which they accepted and two-of which they did not accept. They then said to Moses, 'Sprinkle upon us the water of the sin-offering, and we shall also wash oar clothes, but to the heaving and the razor we shall not submit.' (7) Moses then forcibly lifted

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them up from the ground against their will. When it came to the decree of the shaving their bodies, Moses was not able to attend to them alone, so he said to the Israelites, 'A decree has been issued concerning the Levites to pass the razor over their flesh, and they have refused to submit.' Thereupon, all the Israelites stood up, laid hold of the Levites by force, and made them submit.

(8) At that time the wife of Korah said to her husband, 'The King of Life makes both you and Moses subservient to Him, but now, having passed the razor over your own flesh and over your beards, you will be a reproach and a shame to all. It is surely preferable to die than to live.' Concerning this Scripture says, 'The wisdom of woman buildeth her house, but the hands of the foolish one overthrow it.' (9) 'The wisdom of woman buildeth her house.' This refers to the wife of On, the son of Peleth, who, when she saw that the quarrel was coming to a head, said to her husband, 'My lord, hearken to my counsel: whether Korah is the prince and thou art the pupil, or Moses is the prince and thou art the pupil, what avails thee this quarrel? It is surely better to free thy soul from the punishment.' 'But what shall I do now,' he answered, 'since I have already sworn to Korah that I shall abide by his counsel?' 'Thy oath will be fulfilled,' she replied, 'if thou sidest with Moses, since all the Israelites are holy.' 'May I trust thee?' said he. She answered: 'Yes.' Thereupon, on the day of visitation, she killed a lamb, and gave him to eat and to drink until he was drunk. She then put him to bed, and while he slept she sat at the street-door and uncovered her head, and combed her hair; and whoever came to call for On, the son of Peleth, saw his wife. with uncovered head, and being shamed, turned away until the time passed, and On was thus saved. With reference to this the text says, 'Hide thyself for a moment until the anger has passed away.'

'But the foolish woman overthroweth it (her house) with her hands.' This alludes to the wife of Korah, who wickedly counselled her husband to quarrel with Moses, and thus he

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perished from this world and from the next also, as it is said, 'And they perished from the midst of the congregation.'

(10) The sages say that through the deep counsel of Balaam the Israelites were diminished, for the sons of Moab and Midian took counsel together, and, gathering all the beautiful women of their land, they made tents for them and placed them therein close by the camp of the Israelites. And the women dwelling within the tents were decked with all conceivable kinds of ornaments and had every kind of saleable garment. At the door of the tent stood an old woman holding a garment for sale. Whenever any Israelite passed by and asked the old woman the price, she placed a very high value upon it, but said, 'Step inside the tent, and there you can choose what you desire at a low price.' As soon as he entered a beautiful maiden would stand up, beautifully decked and sprayed with scent, and, looking at him, say, 'I will sell thee these ornaments at a very low price; and if thou desirest, I will give thee these others for nothing.' Before her was placed excellent strong wine. She would then say to him, 'Drink this cup of wine for my love, and I will present thee with any precious ornament thou mayest wish.' At this time the wine of the heathen was not yet a prohibited thing. He therefore would accept the offer and drink the wine, and as soon as he had finished it he would be very drunk. She then would take hold of him and begin kissing him, so that the evil inclination should burn within him, and he would lie with her. For the great love that sprang up between them, she would not leave him until at length she would say to him, 'Worship this idol for the love you bare me;' and he would worship it.

(11) Thus the Israelites sinned through fornication as it is said, 'And the people began to commit fornication with the daughters of Moab, who enticed the people to sacrifice to their god; and the people ate of their sacrifices and bowed down to their gods.' The Lord was therefore angry with Israel, so that there died by a plague 24,000 men. (12) And all the Israelites, and all the princes, and Eleazar, and Pineḥas, seeing the angel of destruction among

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the people, sat down and wept, and did not know how to act. Pineḥas saw Zimri publicly going with a Midianite woman, and, burning with zeal, he snatched the spear from Moses. Some say that, raising his spear, he ran after him from behind, and pierced them both, so that it entered the stomach of the woman. On account of this God gave him and his sons the maw of the animals as his reward, and strengthened his arm. He fixed the spear in the ground, and both were found on the top of it, one above the other. Then Pineḥas smote the young men of Israel without remorse, and dragged them, scourging them all the while, through the whole camp of Israel, that all should see and fear. R. Eleazar of Modâi relates that Pineḥas cast the ban of excommunication upon all Israel by means of the secret of the Ineffable Name as written upon the tables of the law—the terrestrial and celestial Tribunal sanctioned an excommunication prohibiting every man of Israel to drink of the wine of the heathen.

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