Thoughts on Parashat Beha’alotecha

As usual, there are a number of aspects that we could look at in this week’s Parasha, Numbers 8:1 – 12:16,[i] Beha’alotecha (when you set up), beginning with the setup of the golden menorah. Continuing in the Parasha, we find the regulations concerning Pesach Sheni, which was only for those who were “unclean from [contact with] the dead, or were on a distant journey” (8.10). Not observing the Passover for any other reason caused the individual to be “cut off from his people” (8.13). In other words, provision was made for specific extenuating circumstances, but not for just any whim of the imagination.

Next, in chapter 9, the Presence of the LORD is portrayed as a cloud by day and fire by night. When the Presence moved, Bnei Yisrael packed-up and moved. When the Presence remained in one spot, so did Bnei Yisrael. Sometimes the Presence would remain in place for just a short time, sometimes for up to a year. In any event, they only moved when the Presence of the LORD led them, “At Adonai’s word they would encamp, and at the mouth of Adonai they set out. They obeyed Adonai’s order by Moses’s hand” (9.23; cf. Exodus 13.21). The lesson to be learned here is that we are not only to follow Hashem’s leading but His resting as well. The Psalmist reminds us

From Adonai a man’s steps are made firm,
when He delights in his way.
(Psalm 39.23)

Getting ahead of the LORD, or, for that matter, lagging behind, only gets us into trouble. The best place to be is, as the song says, “In Your Presence” for “that’s where I am strong … that’s where I belong.”

Finally, the Parasha infers that we (all of us) should beware of nostalgia or wishing for the “good ole days”. In chapter 10, Bnei Yisrael started out for the first time since their encounter with the LORD in the Sinai wilderness. Immediately following this, we read the record of Bnei Yisrael’s slightly skewed view of their own history which led to their wishing for the “good ole days.”

We remember the fish that we used to eat in Egypt, for free—the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic! But now we have no appetite. We never see anything but this manna. (Numbers 11.5-6)

This is a far cry from, “Now behold, the cry of Bnei Yisrael has come to Me. Moreover, I have seen the oppression that the Egyptians have inflicted on them” (Exodus 3.9), or as recorded earlier

So, they set slave masters over them to afflict them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Raamses as storage cities for Pharaoh. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread. So, the Egyptians dreaded the presence of Bnei-Yisrael. They worked them harshly, and made their lives bitter with hard labor with mortar and brick, doing all sorts of work in the fields. In all their labors they worked them with cruelty. (Exodus 1.11-14).

At times, even in the midst of following the LORD, or maybe especially in the midst of following the LORD, life will get tough. At times, like Israel, we look back on our past situations, and they “seem” to be so much better than our present situation. And in truth, in the physical, they might even have been better than our current situation. However, in such situations, we should remember the admonition of the writer of the book of Hebrews,

Let us run the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua the initiator and perfector (or completer) of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame; and He has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12.1b-2)

Yeshua did not promise us, His talmidim (disciples), a soft, easy road. In fact, He said,

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have shalom, In the world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world! (John 16.33)

Not only is there no guarantee of freedom from trouble as a believer, there is, in fact, a guarantee that we will have trouble. But just as sure as the LORD spoke through Moshe to Bnei Yisrael

Chazak! Be courageous! Do not be afraid or tremble before them. For Adonai your God—He is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31.6)

…so the LORD speaks to us today, again through the book of Hebrews,

For God Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you,’ so that with confidence we say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What will man do to me?’ (Hebrews 13.5b-6)

This week’s Haftarah, Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7, is connected to the Parasha by the vision of the “solid gold menorah” in 4.2-3. Interestingly, when the angel asked Zerubbabel if he understood the vision of the menorah and the accompanying olive trees (the source of the oil for the lamps), Zerubbabel said he did not understand or know their meaning. The angel’s response seems cryptic, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Ruach!’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot” (4.5). The key is the context of the whole passage, that of the LORD’s redemption and restoration of Jerusalem as the city of the Great King; not by Judah or Israel’s hand or prowess, but by the Ruach of Hashem alone. The prophet Hosea repeats this future assurance

But on the house of Judah I will have compassion and deliver them by Adonai, their God, yet not by bow, sword or battle, nor by horses and horsemen. (Hosea 1.7)

The LORD will, in compassion, return to His people, restoring and redeeming them by His own power, by the power of the Ruach which He promised. Throughout this week’s reading, we are assured that the LORD is with us, even if things appear to be bad or troublesome, and that He will be with us through all the trials and struggles of this life. Therefore, Chazak! Be courageous!

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.