Parashat Beha’alotcha / פרשת בהעלתך (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16 and Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7)
YHWH tells Mosheh to instruct Aharon as tot he proper method of lightening the lamps of the Menorah, so that all the seven lights focused to one point. The candlestick was fashioned according to the pattern which Elohim had caused Mosheh to envision. Then the Leviyim were made ritually clean, and consecrated tot he service of YHWH, to assist the Kohanim – those between the ages of twenty-five and fifty performing the actual duties in the Tabernacle.
On the first anniversary of the exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt) – towards evening on the 14th of Nissan, the Paschal-lamb was made ready, and Pesach (Passover) observed.
The law of Pesach Sheni was instituted, whereby individuals who were ritually unclean or who could not be near the Temple on Pesach, were enabled to observe Pesach with all its regulations one month later – towards the evening on the 14th of Iyyar.
The Torah portion then describes the signs whereby Yisrael encamped or traveled during the forty years in the wilderness. A cloud covered the Tabernacle by day, and a fiery vision by night. When the cloud lifted, the camp journeyed, but as long as the cloud remained in place, the congregation did not travel.
Mosheh was instructed to fashion two trumpets, on which the Kohanim were to blow certain signals for assembly, marching, and alarm – and also to be used with the various festivals and New Moons.
On the 20th of Iyyar, the cloud was raised from the Tabernacle, and Yisrael set forward from the wilderness of Sinai on the protracted journey to the Promised Land, marching in a prescribed and orderly array, each tribe under its standard (banner).
The Yisraelites, incited by the mixed multitude which had accompanied them from Mitzaryim, complained about the monotony of the heavenly manna, and longed for the foods of the land of bondage. Mosheh couldn’t stand any more of their grumbling, and pleaded with Elohim to take the burden from his shoulders.
Elohim then caused a spirit of holiness which He had given to Mosheh to rest upon seventy elders of Yisrael, so that they might assist Mosheh. Eldad and Medad, two additional sages, had remained in the camp not coming to the Tabernacle, and they were also given Divine inspiration, so that they prophesied concerning the future.
Then Elohim caused a strong wind to drive thousands of quails from the sea to the camp, so that the Yisraelites had the flesh for which they had rebelled. Their greediness provoked the wrath of Elohim, Who struck them with a grievous plague.
After this incident, Miriam and Aharon were guilty of Loshon ha’Rah, against Mosheh, and Miriam was punished by being stricken with leprosy. Mosheh prayed to YHWH to heal his sister, and his entreaties were answered; but Miriam had remained in isolation for a week, after which time the Yisraelites continued their journeys, arriving at the wilderness of Paran.
The Haftarah for today beings with the 14th verse of chapter 2 of the Book of Zechariah, and continues through the 9th verse of chapter 4. The prophet tells of the cleansing of Yisrael of its sins through observance of YHWH’s Mitzvoth (Commandments). And he sees a golden, seven-branched candlestick (which, incidentally, affords the analogy with the Torah portion), the significance of which is explained by his statement – ‘Not by might, nor by power – but by My spirit, says YHWH of Hosts’ – will Yisrael prevail. The presence of Elohim remains with those who are saintly in character.
(Adapted by Rabbi Saul Katz from You That Thirst, Torah Commentaries 1940)