Weekly Reading Insights:  Beha'alotcha

Overview of the Weekly Reading

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

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.


"When you light the lamps." (8:2)
This week's reading starts with the word "behaalotcha," which is translated as "when you light," but which literally means, "when you raise up." Rashi explains that one must kindle the light until the flame "goes up" by itself. Thus, when one lights up the soul of another Jew and brings them closer to their heritage, one must do it in such a way that the person can keep the flame going by himself, and no longer needs the influence of the "lighter." Although this command was given to Aaron the Priest concerning the lights of the Sanctuary specifically, it is applicable to every single Jew. Every person is responsible to involve him/herself in the work of "lighting" up the soul of other Jews.
(Likutei Sichot)

"This was the form of the menora: hammered work of gold, from its base to its flower it was hammered work; according to the form that the Lord had shown Moses, so did he construct the menora." (8:4)
"Beaten work of gold," explains Rashi, means that the menora was to be made of a single piece of gold, beaten or pounded with a hammer and other tools, until it assumed the proper shape. Likewise, a person who desires to transform himself into a "menora," to kindle his G-dly spark and be illuminated with the light of Torah, should also do the same to himself - striking away at his negative qualities and working on his character until he, too, assumes the proper form.

The base of the menora symbolizes the lowest level of Jews; the flowers, those on the highest spiritual plane. The Torah demands that the menora be made out of one piece of gold, just as the Jewish people is but one entity. Every Jew is incomplete by himself, without the rest of the Jewish nation, just as in the human body, the foot needs the head to function no less than the head requires the foot for mobility.
(Likutei Torah)

"This is the workmanship of the menora--beaten work of gold." (8:4)
The menora was to be made of a single piece of gold, beaten or pounded with a hammer and other tools, until it assumed the proper shape. Likewise, a person who desires to transform himself into a "menora," to kindle his G-dly spark and be illuminated with the light of Torah, should also do the same to himself--striking away at his negative qualities and working on his character until he, too, assumes the proper form.
(Likutei Torah)

"That there be no plague among the Children of Israel, when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary" (Num. 8:19)
There are, unfortunately, those who only reach out to G-d after a misfortune has befallen them. Our aim should be, however, to approach G-d not only through suffering and sorrow, but with joy and happiness.
(Imrai Noam)

"....And there will be no Divine Wrath when the Jewish people will approach the sanctuary" [8:19]
As a rule when does a Jew turn to "the sanctuary"? At a time when he feels the Divine Wrath. And this is our request: a Jew should approach the sanctuary not because of Divine Wrath or suffering, but from contentment and joy.
(Imrei Noam - translated from Sichat HaShavuah 180)

"If you go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets." (10:9)
Unlike the sound of the shofar which arouses fear, the sound of the trumpet elicits a feeling of joy. The Torah teaches that when one approaches "the enemy that oppresses you" with joy (including the acceptance of suffering with love), "hatzar" ("the enemy") will be transformed from "tzara" ("woe") to "tzohar" (a window for illumination"). [These three Hebrew words are each composed of the same three letters: tzadik, hei and reish.]
(Baal Shem Tov - from L'chaim #372)

"When you go out to war against an enemy [in Hebrew, ha'tzar], sound a stacatto on the trumpets." [10:9]
For the sound of a stacatto arouses joy, the opposite of the sound of the shofar, which arouses fear. This means that by accepting the pangs of battles with joy, the suffering - tzarah - is transformed into Divine grace - ratzah [Both Hebrew words are each composed of the same three letters: tzadik, hei and reish]. By binding the harsh judgments some element of kindness to which the judgment can be attributed, the harsh judgment is mitigated at its source in kindness, and is revealed to be indeed kindness.
(Toldoth Yaakov Yoseph, Noah #3 - as on //baalshemtov.com)

"The camp of the Children of Dan gathered for all of the camps." [10:25]
Rashi explains, "The tribe of Dan traveled in the rear; if anyone lost anything they returned it to him." There exist Jews who have lost their connection to and love for G-d Al-mighty. This is the work of Dan: he sacrifices his own personal good and travels at the back in order to return to every Jew his "loss."
(Likutei Sichot - translated from Sichat HaShavuah #335)

"And you shall be to us as eyes." (10:31)
Moses informed Yitro, his father-in-law, that he would be held up as a shining example to the rest of the Jewish people. For if Yitro, a convert to Judaism, could willingly abandon his family, his homeland and his elevated social status to worship the G-d of Israel, how much more so must Jews from birth serve G-d with all their heart!
(Kli Yakar)

"G-d became very angry and in the eyes of Moshe it was evil." [11:10]
"G-d became angry" because "in the eyes of Moshe was evil." In other words, G-d became angry because this time Moshe did not rise to request mercy for the Jewish people, as he did all the previous times they angered G-d.
(Berditchover Rebbe - translated from Sichat HaShavuah #335)

"Moshe was more humble than any other man" [12:3]
The Midrash relates that Moshe saw the Book of Adam HaRishon ["the first man"], in which was written each and every generation and its sages and leaders. Among other things, he saw there that the generation before the coming of Mashiach would be a generation of lowly souls, to whom Torah learning and service of G-d will be of no account, yet even so they will live according to the Torah with actual self-sacrifice,despite the difficulties they would encounter, and by doing so they will cause great pleasure Above.
Moshe was very impressed by these souls and thought himself to be less worthy than them. This is the meaning of "..than any other man"-even including the last generation before the coming of Mashiach.
(Sefer Maamarim 5710 - translated from Sichat HaShavuah 131)

"And the man Moshe was more humble than any other human" [12:3]
It is explained in Kabbalah and Chassidut that Moshe Rabeinu's soul is from the sphere called "chochma" (wisdom). Because of this he excelled in humility, since the profound understanding of the greatness of G-d brings a person to total self-nullification in relationship to G-d, and this expresses itself also in one's attitude to other human-beings.
(Likutei Torah - translated from Sichat HaShavuah 231)

"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for behold I come, and I will dwell in your midst, says the L-rd." (from the haftorah, Zech. 2:14)
Our Sages taught that the Divine Presence only rests upon someone who is joyful. G-d therefore advises the Jewish people to rejoice, as preparation for His presence among them.
(Tzavarei Shalal)



"The men said to him, "We are defiled by the dead body of a man. Why should we be kept back?" (Num. 9:7)
We do not find in the Torah any other instance where a mitzva (commandment) that must be done at a specific time can be completed at a later date. Only the Passover sacrifice is permitted to be fulfilled one month later. Why is this case special? There were many Jews who tried or wanted to bring the sacrifice at the correct time but for various reasons could not. They pleaded not to be excluded. In the merit of their requests, a later date was given to them. The future Redemption will also come about in the same manner. If we will stubbornly do all in our mean to end our own exile, and beg and plead with G-d with all our heart and soul, the Redemption will come.
(Rabbi Shlomo Cohen of Radomsk)
[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

"I am in the midst of the people, six hundred thousand men on foot." (Num. 11:21)
This verse intimates the mystical principle that there is a spark or part of Moses in every Jew. Because Moses was connected with every Jew, he was therefore able to be the "faithful shepherd" of Israel and redeem them from Egypt. Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov taught that every Jew has a spark of the soul of Moshiach within him - the very core of which he is to unveil and release to govern his life. Each Jew will thus redeem himself, which in turn will bring about the national redemption for all of Israel. Because Moshiach is intimately connected with every Jew, he therefore has the power to be able to redeem the entire Jewish nation.
(Peninei HaGeula - from L'chaim 1024)

"The man Moshe was very humble, more so than any human on the face of the earth." (Num. 12:3).
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi derives from the strong emphasis used: "more than any human on the face of the earth," that Moses felt humble also in respect to our generation, the generation of "the heels of Mashiach" that will end the exile, more even than compared to the previous generations. Why?
Moshe saw - with his supernatural vision - the dense spiritual darkness that would pervade the world at the end of the exile, and he saw that in spite of this the Jewish people with great self-sacrifice would follow the Torah teachings and keep the commandments. And this made him feel humble. Indeed, this generation, with all its faults, shall merit to witness the redemption, even if only for its stubbornness to keep the spark of Judaism alive in the difficult days at the end of exile.
(Pninei HaGeulah)

The man Moshe was very humble, more so than any human on the face of the earth." (Num. 12:3).
Concerning Moshiach, Isaiah prophesizes, "With equity shall he rebuke the meek of the earth."(Isaiah 11:4) A personal obligation rests upon every individual Jew to arouse his fellow to the practice of good deeds. When instead a person adopts an attitude of humility and argues, "Who am I to arouse my fellow? What kind of a spokesman am I?" -- he deserves to be sternly rebuked. These "meek of the earth" will be rebuked by Mashiach, though here too he will find extenuating circumstances.
(Likutei Diburim Vol. II, p. 289)

"Be silent, all flesh, before G-d, for He will rouse Himself from His holy dwelling place, the heavens, to punish His enemies."
(from this week's Haftora: Zacharia 2:17)
Zacharia predicts G-d's punishment of the Babylonians in the era of Mashiach, together with all the other rasha'im (wicked people). G-d will then "rouse Himself" from His apparent sleep.
During the dark days of our exile, His constant concern and care for the Jewish people are not easily discerned, perceived instead as the "natural" course of history. But we will perceive them at the final redemption.
(Bereishit Rabba, as published in "The Midrash Says on The Weekly Haftaros")

"For behold, I will bring My servant Tzemach." (literally "Branch") (from the haftorah, Zech. 3:8)
Why is Mashiach referred to by this name? To emphasize that even though it may seem as if the branches of the royal House of David have been cut off, the "root" still exists, and when the proper time arrives, Mashiach, a descendent of King David, will be revealed. In the same way that a root can lie dormant and concealed for many years, yet germinate and develop into an entire tree under the right conditions, so too will Mashiach arise to redeem the Jewish people when G-d determines the right time has come.
(Malbim - from LChaim #672)



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