For the week ending 14 June 2008 / 11 Sivan 5768

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.


The Top of the Tree

“And the man Moshe was extremely humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.” (12:03)

Beryl was a Jewish accountant who had fallen on tough times.

Although the title “Count” forms part of the word “accountant”, Beryl’s means were far from princely.

Beryl was at his wits’ end. Try as he might he could not make ends meet. One day while passing the local zoo he saw a sign that Butch, the famous gorilla, had swung his last, and had passed on to the great gorilla cage in the sky. Butch was by far the zoo’s greatest attraction, and the children of the town were very upset by his demise. So much so that until Butch could be replaced, the zoo was looking for a stand-in. They were advertising for someone to dress up in a gorilla suit and sit in Butch’s cage.

Beryl read the ad a couple of times; then he heard a distant rumbling. It was his stomach. He hadn’t eaten a square meal since last Shabbat. He searched his pockets and they were as empty as his stomach. He couldn’t even rustle up couple of dollars for a latte and a cheese Danish. Thrusting his hands into his empty pockets, Beryl entered the zoo.

After an hour or so, the gorilla suit really didn’t feel so uncomfortable after all. Beryl sat at the back of the cage, trying to look inconspicuous, when a child threw him a banana. Beryl looked at the banana and heard that distant rumbling again. He loped over to the banana, picked it up, and with a quiet blessing ate the banana with somewhat more delicacy than the previous inhabitant of the cage. The child threw him another banana.

After four bananas, Beryl started to feel a little fuller, picked up the fifth banana, and threw it back to the child. The child loved this and lobbed it back to Beryl. Beryl threw it back again and climbed on to a low branch. Beryl started to really get into the part, and climbed higher and higher up the tree until, forgetting that he was a middle-aged Jewish accountant in a gorilla suit, Beryl climbed right up to the top of the tree, lost his footing and plummeted into the neighboring cage. He hit the ground with an enormous thump, and found himself face to face with the lion.

“Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokenu, Hashem Echad…” screamed Beryl at the top of his voice.

Equally terrified, the lion screamed back, “Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuto L’olam Va’ed!”

At which the point, the bear in the next cage shouted, “If you guys don’t keep your voices down, we’re all going to get fired!”

When you climb too high in life, you can find yourself back down to earth with a bump.

“And the man Moshe was extremely humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.”

Humility has a bad rep in the literature of the world. I well remember reading Dickens’ description of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. The unctuous wringing of the hands and the obsequious fawning to win approval stuck in my schoolboy’s mind as being synonymous with humility.

Because someone is humble doesn’t mean he or she has to be pushover. Moshe was not afraid to stand up to Pharaoh, the greatest living king of the time, nor was he shy about giving rebuke to the entire Jewish people when needed. His humility did not deter him from doing what was unpopular or dangerous when the need arose. Moshe was the most humble man who ever lived because he understood, as no human before or since, that there is no privilege without responsibility. G-d had favored him above all other men and made him equal to the entire Jewish People.

The greater one’s ability, the greater the responsibility.

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