For the week ending 25 May 2013 / 15 Sivan 5773

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.


Street Heater

“Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe regarding the Cushite woman that he had married.” (12:1)

Imagine a Native American who has spent all his life on the reserve in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona, finding himself on the East Side of New York City around 29th and Lex. He walks down the street and stops. His attention is riveted on a nearby window. Straddling the window is a rectangular metal box about three feet long by eighteen inches high. It blasts out hot air, chugging away in a relentless mechanical symphony. He lifts his eyes. Brownstone apartments rear upwards to the sky. And in each and every window he sees the same metal boxes. Hundreds of them. All are belching out hot air into the humid Manhattan sky.

He thinks to himself, “These white men must sure love the heat. It must be 102° and they still put these contraptions in their windows to heat the street!”

Sometimes an air conditioner can look like a street heater.

When Miriam found out that Moshe had separated from his wife, she thought that he had become conceited. She thought that Moshe viewed himself as being so close to G-d that he had risen beyond a normal marital relationship. She thought that this self-imposed monasticism was a product of an inflated ego. Of course, what would be considered conceit in Moshe would to us appear humility beyond anything we have ever seen or experienced. We have no parameters to equate our concepts of conceit and humility to Moshe. But, on that exalted level, Miriam thought that Moshe had succumbed to pride.

But how could Miriam have thought that Moshe was acting out of pride? The Torah itself calls Moshe the “humblest of all men.” Surely Miriam knew the Torah’s evaluation of Moshe. How could Miriam have even suspected his motives?

Moshe may have been the humblest of all men, but he wasn’t a shlepper. Being humble doesn’t mean walking around with a hunched back and a miserable look on your face. Moshe knew that he was the king. But he also knew that compared to G-d, he was nothing. His humility lay in understanding, like no man before or since, exactly how small he was compared to G-d. It was because Moshe worked on himself to this point that G-d concretized his awareness by speaking to him ‘face to face.’ Then Moshe’s humility became visceral. He could ‘see’ how small he was.

Humility is not something you can judge from the outside. Sometimes someone may seem very humble, but inside they are watching everyone watching them being humble. They are starring in their own mental movie called: “A Life of Total Humility.” On the other hand, a king may appear to behave in a rather grand fashion, whereas inside he genuinely sees himself as totally unworthy.

Sometimes things aren’t quite the way they seem. Sometimes a cool air conditioner can look like a street heater blasting out its own hot air.

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