Weekly Reading Insights:
Beha'alotcha 5778

Overview of the Weekly Reading

To be read on Shabbat Beha'alotcha - 19 Sivan 5778 /June 2

Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:16
Haftorah: Zachariah 2:14-4:7 (The vision of the Menorah)
Pirkei Avot:  Chapter 2

Beha'alotcha is the 3rd Reading out of 10 in Numbers and it contains 7055 letters, in 1840 words, in 136 verses

Overview: Beha’alotecha opens with the command to Aharon to light the menorah, followed by the inauguration and qualifications of the Levites’ Divine service. Then, G-d’s command to the Jews to observe Passover. Those who were impure through contact with a dead body (and therefore forbidden to offer the Passover sacrifice) were granted another chance to offer the Pascal lamb exactly one month after Passover. This day is known as ‘Pesach Sheni’—second Passover. The next section describes how a cloud resided above the Tabernacle and signaled when the Jews were to journey and when to encamp. The marching order of the tribes in the Jews’ desert journeys is described. At this point, Chovev (a.k.a. Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law) leaves the Jews and goes back to his homeland to bring his relatives to Judaism. Next, we encounter the famous verse we recite each time we take out the Torah from the ark, about how the ark with tablets would go forth before the Jews during their desert travels. Then, the Jews began complaining about G-d. The first time, G-d punishes them with a fire which consumes many Jews until Moshe prays for the fire to stop. Then, the Jews complain that they miss foods they had in Egypt and about the mannah. To this, G-d promises an over-abundance of meat, but when it comes and the camp is covered with quail, those who complained were punished and died whilst consuming their improper desire. The parsha ends with Miriam speaking slightly negatively of Moshe to their brother, Aharon. Subsequently, they were rebuked by G-d, and Miriam was stricken with tzara’as (“leprosy”). The Jews wait for her to heal and only then journey forward.


An essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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This week's Torah portion, Beha'alotcha- which means 'when you raise up', begins with the commandment to Aharon the High Priest to light the Menorah, the candelabrum holding the oil lamps in the Tabernacle, "tell Aharon… When you raise up (beha'alotcha) the candles…". The Torah immediately continues with a verse about the making of the Menorah, "This is how you make the Menorah, a block of gold, from its base until its flower, one block of gold." Why does the Torah include a verse about the making of the Menorah when this was already described in depth in the book of Shmot with all the other vessels and instruments that were used in the tabernacle?

To answer this question we have to preface with another question. One of the 3 verses that describe the commandment of lighting the Menorah says, "towards the center of the Menorah should the seven candle be lit". this suggests that all the wicks of the 7 candles must face the center of the Menorah, towards the middle arm.

The inner reason that the menorah had 7 arms is that it represents 'Knesset Yisrael' the spiritual source of the Jewish people. In 'Knesset Yisrael' there are 7 different types of Jewish souls. Each candle (and its arm of the Menorah) represents a different type of spiritual style. On a human level, one person is generous. One person is judgmental etc…

Why do all the candles have to point to the center? If you need unity, light one candle. If you want a variety of expressions, have different candles. Why require all the different candles to point to the center?
We find our answer in the verse mentioned above, that the Menorah was made from one solid block of gold. The seven arms were not different and separate from each other. The all came from one source. And the Torah goes farther. 'Until its base, until its flower', one piece of gold. Even the lowest part of the Menorah, all the smallest details all come from the same place.

And when do the different arms fulfil their purpose? When they shine, when they light up the surroundings each in their individual way.

It is true that there are differences with in the Jewish people, different ways to serve and connect to God, different ways that we lead our lives. Nothing could be clearer, everyone has their own style that are not always easy to relate to or compatible with us. Nevertheless, from their most inner root, they all come from one solid block. All the souls of the Jewish people come from one source, from G-d Himself, one Father for all of us. Any differences are external only. On the inside we are all one existence like the menorah, one complete piece, pure gold with no impurities. All we have to do is look.

And as the verse says, even the Jews that come from the lowest level, from the base, are all part of this one system, are also make out of pure gold. Each of us is Gd's handiwork. No matter how far off one might appear to be.

Gershon Kitover was the brother in law of the Grand Rabbi, Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov (Besht in short) as well as an ardent chassid-follower. When he merited to go up to Israel, to join the Jewish community there, the Besht instructed him, while on his journey, to stay with a particular Jew. The Besht described this Jew as, 'truly G-d fearing', on an especially high spiritual level. As he was told R' Gershon found this person and stayed with him in his home. He was surprised, even shocked at the types of people who were the neighbors of this Jew, people with terrible personal traits and actions that were clearly bad and inappropriate. R' Gershon turned to his host and asked him, how can you be around people who behave so poorly?

The man answered honestly, with no deceit of any kind, "When I know how full I am of negative traits that I have not yet succeeded in repairing, why would I look for lackings in others?

Jewish tradition (Ethics of our fathers, chapter 4) tells us what is a good way that we should attach ourselves to? One of the answers is, 'a good neighbor'. Most often people pick a place to live, rarely can we choose our neighbors. Chassidim say that when the Torah refers to a good neighbor it is not talking about the people who live close to us, it is talking about us! We should be the good neighbor.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul


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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


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Chasidic Masters


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By Binyomin Adilman, based on the teachings of Rabbi Avraham of Slonim

The Torah describes the manna again here, a year after it's initial appearance in parashat Beshalach, The Beit Avraham of Slonim comments that the manna is the symbol of a stable livelihood. Manna came from heaven and each individual of the Jewish nation received a divinely allotted portion, as does one's livelihood.

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