For the week ending 22 June 2024 / 16 Sivan 5784

Parshat Beha'alotcha

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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Aharon is taught the method for kindling the Menorah. Moshe sanctifies the levi'im to work in the Mishkan. They replace the firstborn, who were disqualified after sinning through the golden calf. The levi'im are commanded that after five years of training they are to serve in the Mishkan from ages 30 to 50. Afterwards, they are to engage in less strenuous work.

One year after the Exodus from Egypt, Hashem commands Moshe concerning the korban Pesach. Those ineligible for this offering request a remedy, and the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini — allowing them a "second chance" to offer the korban Pesach, one month later — is detailed. Miraculous clouds that hover near the Mishkan signal when to travel and when to camp. Two silver trumpets summon the princes or the entire nation for announcements. The trumpets also signal travel plans, war or festivals. The order in which the tribes march is specified.

Moshe invites his father-in-law, Yitro, to join the Jewish People, but Yitro returns to Midian. At the instigation of the eruv rav — the mixed Egyptian multitude who joined the Jewish People in the Exodus — some people complain about the manna. Moshe protests that he is unable to govern the nation alone. Hashem tells him to select 70 elders, the first Sanhedrin, to assist him, and informs him that the people will be given meat until they will be sickened by it. Two candidates for the group of elders prophesy beyond their mandate, foretelling that Yehoshua instead of Moshe will bring the people to Canaan. Some protest, including Yehoshua, but Moshe is pleased that others have become prophets. Hashem sends an incessant supply of quail for those who complained that they lacked meat. A plague punishes those who complained.

Miriam tries to make a constructive remark to Aharon, which also implies that Moshe is only like other prophets. Hashem explains that Moshe's prophecy is superior to that of any other prophet and punishes Miriam with tzara'at, as if she had gossiped about her brother. (Because Miriam is so righteous, she is held to an incredibly high standard.) Moshe prays for Miriam to be healed, and the nation waits until she is cured before traveling.


For the Sake of Heaven

“…When you kindle the lamps, the seven lights shall cast light toward the face of the Menorah.”

In the name of Heaven, it seems that almost as much blood as rain has soaked the earth.

Self-righteous fanatics from the Spanish Inquisition to modern day terrorists have invoked the name of Heaven to justify their atrocities. The Nazis believed that their obscene horror-show was the Divine Will. In 1646, after the Civil War in England, Mathew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed "Witchfinder General" led a terrifying purge that relied on testimony extorted by means of “ordeal.” This featured torture of the most horrific nature including hot pincers and the thumbscrew.

All in the name of Heaven.

“…When you kindle the lamps, the seven lights shall cast light toward the face of the Menorah.”

Rashi tells us: “The face of the Menorah” means the ner ma’aravi, the middle of the seven lights. The wicks of the three flames on either side of the ner ma’aravi must incline and “cast light” toward this central light. If so, why does the Torah say, “the seven lights shall cast light”? It should say,” the six lights shall cast light toward the face of the Menorah” – the ner ma’aravi.

Six represents the mundane and the workaday. Seven represents Shabbat; Shabbat is not so much the end of the week as the week’s end — its goal and purpose. The six lights pointing toward the central flame teach us to orient all our actions towards the center, towards Heaven.

When the Torah says that all seven lights should cast light on the center, it means that even the center must face the center. It’s all too easy to justify anything and everything “in the name of Heaven.” We must be sure that the things that we do in the name of Heaven should truly be worthy to bear Heaven’s name.

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