Blog Beha’alotecha 19 Sivan 5778 בלוג בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ, י”ט תשע”ח
In Numbers 10: 34-36 in this portion Beha’alotecha, there is a prayer which lies in between an inverted Hebrew letter “nun – נ” written twice. We recite it every Shabbat as we walk around with the Torah. It is a promise that our enemies would be scattered and flee from before Israel. We wonder why this didn’t happen at that time. Moshe Rabeinu was at his wit’s end with these people. He complained to the Creator, “I’m not their mother” and truly wanted to quit. At the incident of the egel zahav, the golden calf, Moshe had prayed that the Creator would not destroy Israel but now that they were only a stone’s throw away of entering the Promised Land, he was completely fed up. Why was Moshe was reacting this way now? This is not the first time that the people had complained but now their complaints were so bitter, filled with such anguish and they were lamenting that they would have been better off in Egypt. They were tired of the manna and wanted meat. Moshe was exhausted from trying to lead these defeated people who didn’t want his leadership.
Many people who appear to be religious on the exterior are really very pagan deep within their souls. They follow a “way of life” but live outside the realm of the Creator. They care little about His principles and morality. Despite having the Creator with them at all times, and despite having the wonderful leadership of Moshe Rabeinu, the people of Israel were still hooked to the paganism of Egypt. There was very little change in them and even after they had lived 38 years in the desert, the second generation continued with their failures. The rabbis love to blame the erev rav (mixed multitude) for Israel’s behavior. it is so easy to blame others rather than owning up to our own responsibility for our wrong attitudes. How many of us are more worried about what others say about us than who we really are within? How many of us accept the behaviors of others because it is the fashion to do so rather than hearing what the Creator Himself has to say about these behaviors? We are not called to judge people, but we don’t need to condone their behavior or values which they are imposing upon us. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and they alone will have to accept the consequences. Today morality and values have gone from bad to worse in light of the Torah and we are being forced to accept that these values are the norm. This is what Moshe was dealing with. The people were unable to see what the Creator was doing for them and preferred to return to the ways they had known in Egypt.
In Numbers 10: 29-32 we read about Moshe inviting his Midianite brother in-law, Hobab to travel with them and that he would share in whatever blessings the Creator would give them…’We are journeying to the place of which the LORD said: I will give it to you; come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has spoken good concerning Israel.’ When any of the non-native-born Israelites wanted to be with our people, they needed to follow the ways that the Creator set down for us and they would also come under His protection. This is a beautiful promise for Gentiles who want to join our people in doing what is right and living the life of Torah. Many people come here saying that they want to be part of us however they want to do it their way, imposing their own ideas upon us. This only creates confusion and division. Moshe was desperate about this with his own people.
Finally, after all their complaints, the Creator gave the people so much quail that it came out of their nostrils and so many died of gluttony. Here is a picture of the destruction that decadence in society causes. There is no respect for others nor self-control. Moshe knew he could not force the people to do what was right since they were still hooked to the ways of this world and not to the Creator. They had received the Ten Commandments and they said “all that He said we will do and obey” Ex. 24:8. What is holding you and I back? What are our true values? Do we follow the world, or do we follow the Almighty? The wailing of the Israelites was so deep, crying out that they didn’t have what they wanted. How many of us do the same, crying for what we want but don’t really need? How many of us prefer to live by appearance? How many of us follow the fashion of the day, desiring what others have? The Creator wants us to follow Him, not man. That is why Moshe lost the heart to go on. The Creator then brought him 70 men who were given the same spirit he had, to help lead the people. One of them was Joshua, a man who was totally loyal to Moshe. Joshua ran to Moshe telling him to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying outside the place that the other men were called but Moshe replied how much he wished that all Israel would be prophets. That is what all Israel needs to be – ohr l’goyim, a light to the nations. Don’t be jealous of others who share the Word of God or are doing well in their lives. Be glad! You are not the only one to hold the Truth and there is nothing more beautiful than sharing it with others.
The portion ends with Miriam being inflicted with tsaarat because of lashon harah, for speaking against her brother Moshe. The Torah is teaching us that spiritual leprosy is far worse than physical leprosy. It is a silent enemy that causes us to progressively lose our sensitivity to the pain in ourselves and others. It is a picture of the loss of morality and values. Our society is once again rapidly moving from immorality to amorality. When we speak against each other we are contributing to the destruction of the moral fabric of our communities. The portion began with the picture of Aaron setting up the lampstands. This pictures each of us having been imbued with His divine spark; we are each made to be a menorah to light up our corner of the world. May we each be a lampstand lighting up all those we meet as we await the coming of Mashiach ben David.
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