Bamidbar: Posthumous Fame

By: Susan Moger

A few weeks ago Alan introduced us to a D’var Torah written by artificial intelligence of ChatGPT. There is also a Jewish artificial intelligence website called Kosher.chat. It is described as being according to halacha and screens for antisemitic remarks. Here is a Dvar Torah written by Kosher.chat on Parshah Bamidbar.

In Parshah Bamidbar, we learn about the counting of the Jewish people in the desert and the journey of the Jewish people through the deserts. This journey was not an easy one, as they faced many challenges along the way. One of the most difficult challenges was death. Death is a natural part of life, and yet it can be hard to accept when it happens to someone we love.

As Jews, we believe that death is not the end.  It is merely a transition from this world to the next. We also believe in the importance of mourning and honoring those who has passed away. In Bamidbar we see how the Jewish people mourned for Aaron, their beloved high priest, after he passed away.

Hashem commands Moshe to take a census of the Levites who are responsible for transporting the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its vessels. The age range for this census is from 30 to 50 years old. After the age of 50, they were no longer allowed to participate in this service. This limitation on age teaches us an important lesson about death. Death is inevitable for all of us and it is not something that we can control. It reminds us that our time on this earth is limited and we must use it wisely. Just as the Levites were allotted a specific time period for their service, we too have a finite amount of time to fulfill our purpose in life. Fortunately, today we don’t age out on counting in minyans or being able to participate and to be of service.

Furthermore, the fact that the Levites were only able to serve until the age of 50 shows us that while our physical abilities may decline as we age, our spiritual potential can continue to grow. We should focus on developing our spirituality and connection to G-d throughout our lives even as our bodies age.

As we reflect on the lessons of Bamidbar, let us remember the importance of valuing life, cherishing our loved ones, and honoring those who have passed away. May we all strive to live meaningful lives and make a positive impact on the world around us. This limitation on age teaches us an important lesson about death. Death is inevitable for all of us, and it is not something that we can control. It reminds us that our time on this earth is limited, and we must use it wisely.

But that is not all for today. I would also like to tell you the story of my Uncle Freddy’s posthumous YouTube fame. My Uncle Freddy was born in Essen Germany and emigrated to the US with his parents in the 1930s. He was in the army in post WWII and, since he knew German, he worked with military intelligence interrogating high ranking prisoners of war. After the war, he married my Mum’s youngest sister Betty and was a VP of a meat packing company.

Uncle Freddy and Aunt Betty lived on Long Island. Eventually, as many do, they began to split their time between a condo in Boca Raton and their house on Long Island, until they finally decided to live year-round in Boca. When I visited Uncle Freddy, he showed me a certificate from the synagogue. He was so proud that he was a minyanaire: one who attended minyan regularly for several years. This is what he saw as his big accomplishment in life. When Uncle Freddy passed away, his body was transported to New Jersey where he was to be buried. Aunt Betty was not able to make the trip to the funeral so my niece Stephie, who lived in NYC, went to the funeral and recorded it. She posted it on YouTube as Freddy V.’s funeral, just using the last initial of his name. This allowed Aunt Betty and the residents of their condo to view the funeral from afar. After the funeral, my cousin Katie began following the YouTube posting. First there were 100 views, then 1,000 views, then 6,000 views. My niece Stephie went on YouTube and posted a comment stating this was her great uncle’s funeral and asking why so many people were viewing it. She got a reply from the family of a man named Freddy Fender. They said he went by Freddy V and asked her to change the name of Uncle Freddy’s funeral on YouTube. Of course she didn’t. The views continued to increase, reaching 60,000 over time. Then the movie Bohemian Rhapsody was released—the story of Freddie Mercury. Somehow, peoples’ searches for Freddy Mercury were bringing them to the video of Uncle Freddy’s funeral. When last I checked, the views had reached 683,814. The comments are fun to read, including the replies to my niece, Stephie’s question, which include comments like, “Thank your great uncle for his service,” and “Your uncle was a great musician.” My family believes that Uncle Freddy would be quite amused with his posthumous fame. At a minimum he is having an interesting transition from one world to the next.

Upon reflection, I think that not many Divrei Torahs include both artificial intelligence and military intelligence references, but we can Goggle that to confirm. I have include the link to Uncle Freddy’s funeral video below, for those who are curious. Uncle Freddy was proud to be a minyanaire and would probably be proud to have an extraordinarily popular YouTube video as well. Rest in peace, Uncle Freddy. May your memory be a blessing and give us an occasional laugh.

[Editor’s note: A Google search located a Wikipedia entry for Freddy Fender, an American-Tejano singer-songwriter, who served briefly in the Marine Corps (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Fender). There is no mention in the article of Freddy Fender ever being called Freddy V. but the Google pop-up box labelled “people often search for” did suggest Freddy Mercury as an alternative search. A separate Google search for the name “Freddy V.” revealed that two musicians use that name professionally today: Fred Vigdor, an American saxophonist (http://www.freddyvmusic.com/about), and Frederico Vassallo, a Thai hip-hop singer & rapper (https://bk.asia-city.com/events/article/interview-southside). A YouTube query for the name “Freddy V.” located albums/performances from both Vigdor and Vassallo ((https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=freddy+v.), but not Freddy Fender. Freddy Fender’s albums can be found on YouTube, by typing “Freddy Fender” into the search box.]

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