For the week ending 3 June 2023 / 14 Sivan 5783

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 work in the Mishkan. They replace the firstborn, who were disqualified after sinning through 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, Hashem commands Moshe concerning the korban Pesach. Those ineligible for this offering request a remedy, and the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini — allowing them 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. Hashem 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 prophesy 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. Hashem 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. Hashem 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 Miriam to be healed, and the nation waits until she is cured before traveling.


“Rabbi” Bob Dylan

When you kindle the lamps...” (8:2)

It is the late 1800’s.

We're a stiff-necked people. It says so in the Torah. When I think back over many of the non-observant Jews I have met in my life, I see how their youthful questioning was often met by a “Shut up and just do it” attitude that turned them into unwilling atheists. I’ve often thought that the highest paid teachers in the Jewish educational system should be the first grade rebbes. A child’s entire future spirituality may rest in their sometimes-incapable hands. Who cares if the Rosh Yeshiva novel idea gets shot down five minutes into his mind-twisting hermeneutical exegesis? But if a young child’s question, “How we know that there is Hashem?” is met by red-faced lathering and a scream of “Apikorus,” that response may lead the child to believe that there is no answer.

How many super-talented Jews are so over-represented in the arts and the sciences! And how many of them might have used those talents to sanctify the name of Heaven had they been given the right answer and the right encouragement at the right time.

Jerry Wexler (January 10, 1917 – August 15, 2008) was a major player in the music business from the fifties to the eighties. Think Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers, Chris Connor, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Wilson Pickett, Dire Straits, Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan. He coined the term "Rhythm and Blues," changing the title from “Race Music.”

In 1979, Wexler agreed to produce an album by Bob Dylan. He was unaware of the nature of the material that awaited him. "Naturally, I wanted to do the album in Muscle Shoals, as Bob did, but we decided to ‘prep’ it in L.A. where Bob lived," recalled Wexler. "That's when I learned what the songs were about: born-again Christians in the old corral. ... I like the irony of Bob coming to me, the Wandering Jew, to get the Jesus feel ... But I had no idea he was on this born-again Christian trip until he started to evangelize me. I said, 'Bob, you're dealing with a sixty-two-year-old confirmed Jewish atheist. I'm hopeless. Let's just make an album.'"

“When you kindle the lamps...” The word ‘to kindle’ here is ‘Behaalotecha,’ which comes from the root l’a’lot, which means to go up. The Menorah represents the spirituality of the Jewish soul. It’s not enough to just wave a match in the general direction of a child’s spirituality, you have to hold that match there long enough and carefully enough until the flame can ascend by itself.

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