Parashat B’ha’alotcha (In Your Arranging)

The Parsha for this week is B’ha’alotcha (in your arranging) Numbers 8:1 to 12:16 where God commands the Levites through Moses regarding the lighting of the Menorah, the lampstand that should be arranged so that it illuminates the whole area around the Tabernacle. Much of Numbers is a repeat of instructions in Exodus previously studied in Parshat Terumah.

The separation of the Levites is also revisited. The Levites were to shave their bodies, wash in water and present two young bulls as sin and burnt offerings. Then Aaron is to present the Levites to the other Israelites who lay hands on them before they commence their duties in the Tabernacle.

Pesach (Passover) recounts the Exodus studied in Parshat Bo. The constant reminder to celebrate Pesach is a measure of its importance to God.

A cloud covered the camp when the Israelites stayed in one place.  The cloud appeared as a pillar of fire at night.  Whenever the cloud moved it was time to break camp and move with it. God told Moses to make two silver trumpets which were to be sounded when it was time to break camp. The trumpets were also to be used as a call to battle when facing an enemy and to signal to rejoice at a festival or new moon celebration.

The Israelites left the Sinai desert in the second year after leaving Egypt. The people marched out in order under the banner of each tribe. The order was Judah, Issachar and Zebulon, then the Gershonites and Merarites who dismantled and carried the Mishkan (the Tabernacle). Following on was Reuben Simeon and Gad followed by the Kohathites carrying the Holy objects of the Mishkan and finally Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and Dan in the rear guard.

Moses persuades his Midianite brother-in-law Hobab to go with them since he knew the terrain well.

The prayer for when the Ark was taken up and put down on arrival at the next camp is still used in Synagogue today before and after Kiriath HaTorah (the reading of the Law).

On opening the Ark in Synagogue the following is said

קוּמָה יְהוָה, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ.

Kumah Adonai vayafutsi oyvecha vayanusu misanecha lefanecha 

Rise up, Lord!
May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you. (Numbers 10:35)

And after replacing the Sepher Torah scroll in the ark after reading from it.

שׁוּבָה יְהוָה, רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Shuva Adonai r’vavot alphai yisrael

Return, Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel.(Numbers 10:36)

Quail

Our ancestors grumble about the menu. Nothing but manna every day. They remember the fruit and fresh vegetables they got in Egypt but not the slavery. Even Moses complains to God about having to deal with the complaints. God provides seventy men and fills them with the Holy Spirit to assist in the work of administration.

Two of the newly appointed leaders Eldad and Medad were not in the tent of meeting when the Spirit fell but remained in the camp and yet still prophesied. A young Joshua said they should be stopped but Moses replies that he wished all God’s people were prophets.

God sends a flock of quail in response to their request for meat, but the gluttony of the people causes a plague to follow.

Complaints against Moses 

Moses in addition to Zipporah, his first wife, marries a woman from Africa. Miriam and Aaron complain.

A cloud comes down from heaven and a God speaks endorsing the position of Moses as a prophet.

God causes Miriam’s hand to become infected with a skin disease that made her flesh go white.

Moses prays to the LORD for her healing and God heals her but commands she must be excluded from the camp for seven days.

Haftarat b’ha’alotchah                                           הפטרת בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ

The Haftarah portion is Zechariah 2:10 to 4:7.  The Masoretic text numbering is slightly different and starts at Zechariah 2:14. The link with the Parsha is the Menorah the Lampstand and the two olive trees beside it prompting the answer to Zerubbabel’s question

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” Zechariah 4:6.

Messianic Message

The idea that comes across most clearly is God’s training programme for the Israelites and we can see God’s discipline in our own personal spiritual journey.

The Israelites who left Egypt as a throng are being formed into some kind of order. They have to wait for God to move before they move and when He says “Go!” they go. They have to move in the right order of tribes. God was also teaching them to be content with that which was provided and not to complain.

An organized body needs to be responsive and submissive to God’s appointed leaders. God’s love for His people is not a sloppy love that gives everything they wish for. It is a love which is training the people to be sons and heirs and joint rulers with Messiah.

This is why we are constrained to endure hardship as sons and rejoice in times of hardship.

In our fraught journey, we focus on the destination.

However, as it is written:

‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’[a] –
the things God has prepared for those who love him – (1 Corinthians 2 9)

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website, June 16, 2022, and reposted with permission.