Torah Weekly

For the week ending 15 June 2019 / 12 Sivan 5779

Parshat Beha'alotcha

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Aharon is taught the method for kindling the Menorah. Moshe sanctifies the Levi'im to serve in the Mishkan. They replace the first-born, who were disqualified after sinning at the golden calf. The Levi'im are commanded that after five years of training they are to serve in the Mishkan from ages 30 to 50. Afterwards they are to engage in less strenuous work.

One year after the Exodus from Egypt, G-d commands Moshe concerning the korban Pesach. Those ineligible for this offering request a remedy, and the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini, allowing a "second chance" to offer the korban Pesach one month later, is detailed. Miraculous clouds that hover near the Mishkan signal when to travel and when to camp. Two silver trumpets summon the princes or the entire nation for announcements. The trumpets also signal travel plans, war or festivals. The order in which the tribes march is specified.

Moshe invites his father-in-law, Yitro, to join the Jewish People, but Yitro returns to Midian. At the instigation of the eruv rav — the mixed Egyptian multitude who joined the Jewish People in the Exodus — some people complain about the manna. Moshe protests that he is unable to govern the nation alone. G-d tells him to select 70 elders, the first Sanhedrin, to assist him, and informs him that the people will be given meat until they will be sickened by it. Two candidates for the group of elders relate prophecy beyond their mandate, foretelling that Yehoshua instead of Moshe will bring the people to Canaan. Some protest, including Yehoshua, but Moshe is pleased that others have become prophets. G-d sends an incessant supply of quail for those who complained that they lacked meat. A plague punishes those who complained.

Miriam tries to make a constructive remark to Aharon, which also implies that Moshe is only like other prophets. G-d explains that Moshe's prophecy is superior to that of any other prophet, and punishes Miriam with tzara'at as if she had gossiped about her brother. (Because Miriam is so righteous she is held to an incredibly high standard.) Moshe prays for her and the nation waits until she is cured before traveling.


Skill Sets

“When you kindle the Menorah, towards the face of the Menorah the seven lamps will cast light.” (1:2)

Sometimes you have something looking at you in the face and you don’t even see it. I have a degree in English, which helped me acquire the skill to write passably, baruch Hashem, and for many years I have written “Torah Weekly,” a publication of Ohr Somayach of insights based on the weekly Torah portion. I also have a degree in Drama, Radio, Film and Television, which gave me experience on both sides of the camera. I had a successful career as a music producer so I understand something about music and sound recording. I was always a keen photographer. (A few years ago Ohr Somayach published “Seasons of the Moon,” an adventure in fine art black and white photography, poetry and Torah essays, and now sold out.) But I never put it all together until very recently. One day the penny dropped.

I had a bunch of lighting equipment left over from the heyday of my photographic obsession: a backdrop, a good camera that shot video as well as stills, over twenty-five years of short essays on the parsha and the realization that the Internet was the new frontier in Jewish outreach. Why not make short parsha videos with music and visuals? One of the things that kept me back was that I wanted the narration to be very precise and smooth. To memorize the monologue just wasn’t in the cards. And then I found an inexpensive teleprompter that allowed me to read the script or the notes while still looking straight into the camera. Bingo! The last piece of the puzzle.

“G-d said to Moshe, ‘One leader each day, one leader each day, shall they bring their offering for the dedication of the Altar.’” (Bam. 7:11)

After this verse the Torah goes on to list the offerings of each of the leaders of the tribes. They are all identical. Why did the Torah need to repeat over and over again the exact same list of offerings? Why didn’t it suffice to list the offerings once and then say that each leader brought exactly the same thing?

We all have skill sets that G-d gives us. We look at what we can do and say, “Well that’s me. That’s what I can do. This is my box.” Even though all those offerings were identical — they all came from the same box — each one of the leaders, however, put his own imprint on his Divine Service. Each one used those pieces in a different and unique way.

We see the same idea in this week’s Torah portion.

“When you kindle the Menorah, towards the face of the Menorah the seven lamps will cast light.” (Bam. 1:2)

The light that came from each of those wicks would constantly wax and wane. The light that emanated from the Menorah was a continuously changing blend of seven different lights. Each one of those wicks had only one job: to shine its light on the center. But the combination was continually changing. Seven different lights, seven different identities, seven different skill sets — all constantly blending in different ways.

With a little bit of imagination maybe we could look at the lights in our own box of skills and put them together in a slightly different way, coming up with something new and exciting that might energize ourselves and be good for the Jewish People and for all of Mankind? Just maybe...

Shameless plug: Please see Ohr Somayach’s Torah articles and audio/video selections at for this week’s offering!

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