- God speaks to Moses, describing the menorah for the Tent of Meeting. The Levites are appointed to serve as assistants under Aaron and his sons. (8:1-26)
- Those who are unable to celebrate Passover during Nisan are given a time in the month of Sivan to observe a "second Passover." (9:1-14)
- A cloud by day and fire by night show God's Presence over the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifts from the Tabernacle, the people leave Sinai, setting out on their journey, tribe by tribe. (9:15-10:36)
- The Israelites complain about the lack of meat, and Moses becomes frustrated. God tells him to appoint a council of elders. God provides the people with meat and then strikes them with a very severe plague. (11:1-34)
- Miriam and Aaron talk about the "Cushite woman" whom Moses has married. In addition, they complain that God speaks not only through Moses but also through them. Miriam is struck with leprosy, and Moses begs God to heal her. After her recovery, the people resume their journey. (12:1-16)
by Arthur C. Greenfield
This D'var Torah is not intended to follow the exact order of events as laid out in the Tanakh, but rather, to give my impression of some of the chapters contained in the parashah.
Be-ha'alotecha is a very busy Parashah describing many aspects of the life of the Israelites two years after their exodus from Egypt.
The Lord instructs Moses on a wide list of subjects and defines what he must do and which tasks he must tell Aaron to carry out, which included placing the seven lamps in the Tent of Meeting so their light will be thrown on the front of the Menorah and establishing the position the Levites will hold. It describes what will be required of them and their place within the society. He instructs Moses to produce two silver trumpets of hammered work. The trumpets will be used to summon the community and set the divisions into motion. They will also be used to communicate what actions are to be taken depending on the number of blasts and whether the blasts are short or long. Could this have been an early version of Morse code?
The Lord instructs that Passover will be held at its set time, and then describes what should occur if someone is defiled by touching a corpse or is on a long journey. They are instructed to make their offering in the second month on the 14th day at twilight.
This Parashah made me envision the circumstances that may have been present during these times. The general view of the Exodus is that there was an orderly stream of people trudging from Egypt through the Sea of Reeds and into the wilderness. The truth may have been very different. The number of Israelites involved has been estimated to be 600,000 men—I don't know if that was supposed to include women and children. It is hard to believe that so many people were very placid or organized. When we consider what was occurring it must have been an insane horde—pushing, pulling, screaming and trampling over one another to get to the front of the pack.
My impression is that the Lord is bringing order out of chaos. The people are tired and complain bitterly. They wail "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melon, the leaks, the onions and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all. Nothing but this manna to look to!" The Lord was incensed.
Moses heard the people weeping. the Lord was very angry and Moses was distressed. He asked the Lord "Why have You dealt ill with Your servant, and why have I not enjoyed Your favor, that You have laid the burden of all this people upon me?" Did I conceive all these people, did I bear them, that you should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,' to the land that You have promised on oath to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people, when they whine before me and say, 'Give us meat to eat!' I cannot carry all this people by myself, for it is too much for me. If you would deal thus with me, kill me rather, I beg You, and let me see no more of my wretchedness!"
First let me say, I understand the frustration of the Israelites. They were uprooted from their homes in Egypt; yes they were enslaved and were required to do very hard work, but there is a certain comfort in the familiar, even under those conditions. At first they must have been elated at being free but when the ether wore off and the reality of their conditions became evident, I imagine they must have been thinking—"what have we done?"
The Lord provided manna to eat but after a couple of years of the husband saying "What's for dinner dear?" and she replying "oh, I thought we'd have manna tonight"! it must have been difficult, so it's not hard to imagine that the community would have been a little cranky, and not surprising that even Moses is pleading for help.
Bringing the focus back to the present, we don't have to look very far to see people whining and sometimes rioting for things they think should be theirs. Too often it escalates to include people looting and damaging both public and private property.
Perhaps just another example of some things never change?
Definitely not a calm period but an illustration of how people can learn to live together under stressful situations, something we can all learn from.