For the week ending 2 June 2007 / 16 Sivan 5767

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 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 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. 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.


Breaking The Tape

“The rabble that was among them (the Children of Yisrael) cultivated a craving…” (11:4)

Many are those who desire to do something great, but how many succeed?

How many fledgling novelists get past the opening line, let alone the first chapter; and how many would-be concert pianists end up playing nothing more complicated than an iPod?

Why is it that the nearer we get to the end of something, the more difficult it becomes? Anyone who has run a race knows the feeling of coming round the last bend and searching for the tape through sweat-drenched eyes. Your legs feel like lead, your lungs feel like perforated paper bags — and it’s not just natural tiredness. The very act of completion is itself elusive, difficult.


During the same period that the Jewish People lived in Egypt there was a group of Egyptians that separated themselves from idolatry. Originally, Yosef had circumcised them, and for hundreds of years they lived apart in their own cities. At the time of the Exodus they decided to throw in their lot with the Jewish People and left Egypt with them.

Forsaking the security and comfort of Egypt, they followed the People of Israel into the barren wastes of Sinai. However, it was this same group, the eruv rav (“mixed multitude”), who instigated the dissatisfaction with the manna that provoked G-d’s wrath in this week’s Torah portion.

What went wrong?

There’s a verse in tehillim Psalms that says, “Who will ascend the mountain of G-d, and who will stand in His holy place?”

Even after we ascend to a higher level of spirituality there remains the greater challenge of holding fast to our new place.

It’s one thing to be a spiritual tourist; it’s quite another to take up residence.

Despite their good intentions, the eruv rav lacked the staying power to complete their spiritual journey.

The Mishna in Avot says, “Be bold as a leopard, swift as an eagle, run like a deer and strong as a lion to do the will of your Father in Heaven.”

Rabbi Yerucham Lebovitz explained that we need four different qualities to succeed. At the beginning we need boldness to instigate a plan; the faint of heart will never have the temerity to start.

Next we need to be swift as an eagle to achieve “lift-off”. The early stages of a project require alacrity to bring it from the potential to the actual. Then we must run like a deer. Lethargy is the archenemy of success.

And, finally, when the end is in sight, we need the strength of a lion to cross the finish line. The lion is the strongest of all the animals. His is the strength needed for completion.

The Chazon Ish said that the last two pages of a mesechta (volume of Talmud) are the hardest to finish. There exists a negative drive that exerts all its powers to keep us from completion.

It’s at that point that we need the strength of a lion to push out our chests, break the tape and cross the finish line.

  • Source: Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe

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