When the priests light the Menorah (which was made out of a single piece of beaten gold) the lights should face center and forward
Inauguration of the Levites included representatives of the Israelites “laying of hands” on the heads of representatives of the Levites
Levitical service begins at the age of 25; retirement from the work force is at age 50
Passover offering in the desert
A person ritually unclean or on a long journey during Passover can bring the Passover offering a month later on the fourteenth day of Adar(Pesach Shainy)
Cloud covering’s protective and travel roles during in the day; appearance of fire at night. When the clouds rose the Israelites would set out on the march; they would then camp wherever the cloud halted
Two long, narrow silver clarions were to be made and blown by the priests to…
o Assemble the entire community (long note on both)
o Assemble the tribal princes (long note on only one)
o Begin the march (series of short notes)
o Go to war against an attacking enemy in the Land of Israel (staccato notes)
o Celebrate the bringing of burnt and peace offerings on festivals
During the first journey from Sinai to the Paran Desert (and in all subsequent desert travels) …
o The tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zevulun marched first
o Descendants of Gershon and Merari (Levites) who dismantled and carried the Tabernacle marched next and were followed by…
o The tribes of Reuven, Shimon, and Gad followed by…
o The Kehosites who carried the Ark and the other sacred furniture [which would be placed in the Tabernacle once the destination was reached and the Tabernacle would have been set up by descendants of Gershon and Merari who arrived first]
o Next marched the tribes of Efraim, Manasshe and Binyamin
o The tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali brought up the rear
Chovev (Yisro), Moshe’s father-in-law declines Moshe’s invitation to join the Israelites on their journey
“The Ark of God’s covenant traveled three days ahead of them in order to find them a place to settle.” Rashi’s view is that there were two Arks and this one contained the broken tablets. Others maintain that there was only one Ark and that it was only during this first trek that an exception was made for the Ark to precede the nation.
The Invocation prayer “Vayehe B’nsoa Ha’aron” still recited today in the synagogue when the Holy Ark is opened and the Torah removed
God becomes enraged when some people act like complainers (dissatisfied with the difficulties of the journey) and causes a fire to burn these fringe elements to death
A mob of Egyptian converts who left Egypt with the Israelites stirs up dissatisfaction by complaining about the lack of meat to eat
Moshe complains about the Israelites behavior saying it is too hard for him to bear and asking God to kill him so that he does not have to see his misfortune
Instead, God assembles seventy Elders around the Tent and places some prophetic spirit on them, thus enabling them to share in the leadership responsibility
Yehoshua appears to be jealous of Eldad and Medad, two of the nominated Elders, who maintained their prophesy in the camp
God provides quails spread all over the camp, to satisfy the people’s desire for meat-- then brings on a deadly plague. The location then is named Kivros Hata’ava (graves of craving)
Miriam(and Aharon?) criticize Moshe…God reminds them of Moshe’s uniqueness …Miriam is afflicted with tzara’as and needs to be quarantined outside the camp for seven days…the people refuse to travel until Miriam returns.
Telling It like It Is
“The Torah is at pains to present both sides of Biblical heroes, not concealing their but human faults. Even Moses is not described as the perfect man, but we see him in his moments of impatience and weakness.”(Nechama Leibowitz). Torah records for us the history of our people and our unique relationship with God. Through this we can study human behavior and psychology and recognize the ways that our internal conflicts influence our behavior.
Perhaps it is for us to take a mirror to ourselves and, armed with understanding of (or at least recognition of) our emotions, confront and re-channel our energies towards living the Torah’s ethical and moral values.
The Parsha begins with the Priestly responsibility to light the Menorah. Rashi attributes the proximity of this topic to the earlier description of the leaders of the Tribes and their offerings to Aharon’s disappointment, dismay (jealousy?) that neither he nor the Kohanim would be part of the dedication of the Mishkan ceremony. God responds by promising him the more important (and permanent) job of attending to the Menorah.
“Vayehe B’nsoa Ha'aron”
“Whenever the Ark set out Moshe would say, ‘Arise O God, may your enemies be scattered and may those who hate You flee from You’. When it came to rest he would say ‘Return O God the myriads of thousands of Israel.’ ”
This special two-verse unit, which is enclosed by two inverted letter Nuns, is believed by some Sages to constitute a separate Book of the Torah (meaning that the Book of Bemidbar is really three books). The inverted Nuuns suggest to others that the verses originally appeared elsewhere.
Nechama Leibowitz helps us understand the meaning of these words:
Here it appears that it was Moshe who determined the journeys and resting places of the nation when in fact, as we are told elsewhere, it was God’s decision (“At the commandment of God they rested and at the commandment of God they travelled”).The Midrash resolves this seeming contradiction by characterizing the closeness between Moshe and God as being comparable to the friendship of a human King who decides that he will not do anything without the consent of his closest friend. Rav S.R. Hirsch notes that the immediacy of Moshe’s words to “rise up” after the act has been fulfilled accords with Rabban Gamliel’s dictum in Perkei Avos to “Make His will thy will”.
The enemies of God are defined by the Midrash as being synonymous with the enemies of Israel. The Torah’s call for holiness would arouse both hatred from, and aggression by, world tyrants who perceive this ethic as a threat to their own agendas (Rav Hirsch).
The Hebrew phrase ‘Return O God the myriads of thousands of Israel’ can mean…
“Return O God to the myriads of thousands of Israel” or
“Bring back O God the myriads of thousands of Israel” or
“Give rest to O God the myriads of thousands of Israel” [Ibn Ezra] or
“O God Let Your Presence rest in the midst of the myriads of thousands of Israel” [Sforno]
Rabbi Menachem Leibtag points out that the first ten chapters of the Book of Bemidbar deal with the Israelites’ preparation to enter the Land of Canaan. These last two verses of chapter ten act as a divider between these chapters and the remaining sixteen chapters which detail the actual journey and the reasons the trek turned out to last some forty years.
Rabbi Leibtag thinks that these two verses are more than a buffer. Rather, they describe the ideal, what “could have been”; the way the Israelites should have journeyed to the Land of Canaan. To emphasize the contrast to what actually took place, “the Torah intentionally delimits these two psukim with upside down nuns”.
On the verse “…and they travelled from God’s mountain…” the Midrash comments that the nation was “Like a child leaving school-running away…” The people failed to internalize the spirit of the laws presented at Mt. Sinai. Lacking the proper attitude, they were bound to sin.
It’s possible that the “Vayehe B’nsoa Ha'aron” was instituted to be said when the congregation takes out the Torah from the Ark as a way of reminding us always of the reality and the ideal. The reality is that the original Ark had poles that remained attached because the Torah was portable and throughout history the Jewish people and our Torah often were forced to leave our homes and community at a moment’s notice. The ideal is something to be aware of and to strive for—a deep closeness to God Who scatters His (i.e., the Jewish people’s) enemies and returns to be among His people.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds that within every Jew there exists a spark of Moshe, a spirit of resilience and dedication, which enables him/her to “take out” the Torah values and apply them to one’s everyday life. Once awakened, the spark fosters growth of our observance and positive behavior (“Arise, O God”) and blunts our temptation to sin (“may your enemies be scattered”).
The Deeper Meaning Of A Complaint
The Israelites arrive in the Paran desert from the Sinai desert on their way to the land of Canaan. Following are three unrelated incidents that raise seemingly legitimate complaints but, upon further analysis, turn out to have deeper psychological roots.
• “We Demand Meat” say the Israelites… reminiscing how in Egypt “…we ate fish chinam (for free)” and how tired they are of the same old Manna (food gift from God).
Ramban’s explanation is that the Jews were given small fish caught in the nets that had no value; a kind of “freebie” for the Pharaoh’s slaves.
Ibn Ezra says fish were plentiful and incredibly cheap
Either way, the Israelites’ selective memory made them forget the price they paid for this “wonderful” fish and vegetable treat: slavery, suffering, persecution.
The Sages explained the word chinam not as “free of charge” but “free from God’s commandments”. The Hebrews longed to return to a Society (like Egypt) that allowed them to avoid the yoke of civilization and self-discipline demanded by the Torah. The food issue was but a pretext.
Rabbi David Fohrman sees a parallel to the Garden of Eden Saga. First Man and now the Israelites rebel against total dependence of God. In both there is the desire to assert control. Here the Israelites found the need to create dissatisfaction and reject God’s gift. They complained that they prefer the undersea/close-to-the-ground-growing foods that they ate in Egypt (i.e., fish, leeks, and onions) to God’s heavenly Manna. And when they received the Manna, which was prepared bread ready to be eaten, they still found it necessary to exert control by processing it (i.e., grind in a mill, crush in a mortar, cook in a pot or make into cakes). The keruvim, which blocked Man’s return to the Garden after sinning, reappear here on the Holy Ark and, but for the rebellion, should have served as a protective force for the nation. Both Man and the Israelite nation were in an embryonic state, and like the human fetus, were dependent on God for nurturing and development. In both instances premature withdrawal of this Divine care resulted in death.
• Yehoshua Ben Nun Exhorts Moshe to Stop Eldad and Medad from Continuing Their Prophetic Pronouncements. In response to his request for lightening his leadership burden, God instructs Moshe to assemble seventy of the Elders and grants them prophecy. Most of them stand together except for Eldad and Medad, who separate themselves and remain in the camp. Upon learning of their behavior Yehoshua urges Moshe to stop the two of them. He seems to be trying to protect Moshe, fearing that Moshe’s honor and authority would now be reduced. But Moshe’s noble response suggests that it was jealousy that drove Yehoshua, not altruism “…Are you jealous for my sake?” asks Moshe, “I wish all of God’s people were Prophets and that God would endow them with His Spirit.”
• Miriam (and Aharon?) speaks out against their brother Moshe. Their complaint is that Moshe engaged in inappropriate behavior by taking a Cushite woman for a wife (Zipporah) and then divorcing her while they, who were also Prophets, presumably always did the correct and appropriate thing. They were defending the honor of Zipporah from whom Moshe withdrew physically once he became a Prophet. (Others maintain that the Cushite woman was not Zipporah but an Ethiopian woman he took for a second wife.)
Nechama Leibowitz notes that the Torah does not explicitly state what it was that Miriam said to make the point that any talk disparaging another person is prohibited
“Vayishma Hashem… Vayayred Hashem” i.e., God “heard” -- understood what was really going on -- and He “descended”. The term Vayayred Hashem is used to mean an investigation into, a delving into, the deeper underlying motives and their implications. This was about sibling rivalry and jealousy.
Bahaya Ben Asher, author of Chovot Halevavot, insightfully explains that small-minded people who fail to achieve greatness resort to belittling others to bolster their own self-esteem. For “blackening” Moshe’s name, Miriam (presumably the main culprit) was afflicted with the whiteness of tzara'as.
The ever-noble Moshe described as “Anav M’od”(very humble) and uniquely granted the ability to interact with God “Pe El Pe”(face to face), responds to his maligners’ begging for intervention to God with just five poignant and elegant words: “Kayl R’fah Na LaH”(“I beg of you God to heal her now”).
Rabbi B.S. Jacobson offers some insights into the nature of prophecy.
In describing the Holy Spirit that is partly shifted from Moshe onto the Seventy Elders, the Torah employs the word “hisnabu”.Rav Hirsch interprets this form of the root-word to mean a lower degree prophetic state that emanated from the superior prophetic state of Moshe, rather than one that comes directly from God. This spiritual ecstasy was to admonish and to teach but did not include predicting the future.
Although the Seventy Elders were instructed to go to the Tent, Eldad and Medad performed their prophetic activities in the camp, a point repeated three times in the text. This behavior prompted Yehoshua to ask Moshe to “shut them in” for their apparent offense. In reality, according to the Talmud, the two felt they were unworthy of being a part of the chosen Seventy. Their humility prompted God to give them an even higher level of prophecy. Ramban opines that the two committed an act of insubordination by not joining the other Elders. Moshe’s response to Yehoshua’s request is “would that all God’s people were prophets, that God would put his Spirit upon them.” His wish is that all the people receive prophecy emanating directly from God (like Eldad and Medad) instead of receiving the one-step removed variety emanating from Moshe.
Joseph Albo thinks that the prophecy that emanates from a prophet (and not directly from God) can be experienced by a person not worthy of it or by one not prepared for it. After Miriam makes her derogatory comments about Moshe, she and both her brothers are summoned to the Tent where God descends in a pillar of cloud. Though both Miriam and Aaron were worthy, they needed Moshe’s presence to be prepared for the meeting with God.
With the exception of Moshe (who experienced God “Pe El Pe”, face-to-face) prophets experience their prophecy in a dream state. Abrabanel asks how one who is sleeping can distinguish between dreams that reflect his imagination, wishes and worries (often unconscious) and those that are prophetic in nature. His opinion is that the intensity of the sensation experienced in a prophetic dream is more distinct and clearer than the sensation of an ordinary dream.(Note: the painful sensation that Yaakov experienced after waking from a dream in which he wrestles with a “Man” suggests the prophetic nature of that dream.)
“V’haish Moshe Anav M’od”
The idea that a leader is humble was a radical one. Leaders of the ancient nations were egotistical and self-centered who had temples built in their honor. They thought of themselves as majestic; demanded honor and humility from subjects; and inscribed triumphant odes about themselves for posterity.
Not so Moshe who is described as being “extremely humble, more than any person on the face of the Earth”. His humility derived from his unique relationship with God that enabled him to understand Who and What He is (as best can be understand by Man).This insight gave him the most meaningful perspective of his insignificant position vis-à-vis God and the universe(s) He created.
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin thinks that anav means one’s ability to understand the implication of behavior and developments in the Grand Scheme of things.
Rabbi J.H. Hertz adds that God’s statement that “he is trusted in My entire house” means that Moshe communicated statutes and laws meant for all time. This contrasts with other prophets who warned about their current generation and comforted them with blessings that were to occur sometime in the distant future.
“The people did not travel until Miriam was brought back.”
Writes the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “Without Miriam the nation was stalled. Our people cannot move forward… without active participation of our Jewish women in the work of spreading Torah and mitzvos in the daily life. In every branch of Jewish life, especially in the field of offering an uncompromising Jewish education, Jewish women and girls must fulfill the task which Divine Providence has bestowed upon them.”