For the week ending 11 June 2011 / 8 Sivan 5771

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.


Over The Shoulder

“And when the aron traveled…” (10:35)

Every person who believes in G-d faces times in his or her life when their belief is challenged.

Something happens that makes us feel that G-d has deserted us; that He's not there anymore or we've done something to cut ourselves off from Him.

If you look at this week's Torah portion in a Sefer Torah you'll find a message of hope for all of us who have ever felt like that.

Even if you can’t read Hebrew you’ll notice that there is a small passage separated from the rest of the text by two upside down letters. Nowhere else in the Torah will you find inverted letters. What is the hidden message of this anomaly?

The inverted letters are “noons. Noon is the first letter of the word “nafila” which means “fall.”

“And when the aron traveled…”

When we go against the Will of the G-d, we fall spiritually. G-d then distances Himself from us: Our withdrawal provokes his withdrawal. He “travels” away from us. The traveling of the Ark symbolizes G-d ‘traveling’ away from the Jewish People when they sin.

When you invert a letter, it points in the opposite direction. It looks back. In the The Song of Songs, G-d is compared to a deer: “My Beloved is like a deer. (1:9)

When a deer runs away, it always turns to look back. When G-d “runs away” from us, He, like the deer, is always “looking back” to see how we are. He is always looking out for us even as He distances Himself from us.

This is the symbolism of the backward-facing noons. Even in a time of nefila, of spiritual decline, G-d is looking backward “over his shoulder” watching out for us.

Similarly it says in the Song of Songs that “G-d is watching us from the windows, peeking out at us from between the cracks.” (1:9) When someone watches you from a window, not only can they see you, but you can see them. When they look at you from between the cracks you don’t see them.

There are times when we can’t see G‑d in our lives, when we feel that He has “run away”. However, we should know that He is still peeking out from between the cracks of this world, watching and guarding our every move.

  • Sources: Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshutz in Ahavat Yonatan as heard from Rabbi C. Z. Senter

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