• Daily Aliya for Shelach, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: This Aliya continues with the rules of the sacrifice accompaniments — detailing the quantities of wine, flour and oil to be brought with various species of livestock.

     In previous Aliyot we’ve angered G-d, been punished, and now we’re finding out how G-d likes His sacrifices, so that we may appease him, presumably. Then the Passuk says that converts should be treated like anyone else, which would otherwise seem superfluous and out of place, but in the context of the Parsha it actually makes more sense. A convert wasn’t part of the nation when we angered G-d, and some might wonder if the sacrifices apply to them. The Aliya dispels that notion. Sacrifices (animal, money or behavioral) are ways to get closer to G-d, regardless of one’s past.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The details of the punishment are now revealed. The Israelites will wander in the desert for forty years. During that time, all males over the age of twenty — with the exception of Joshua and Caleb — would perish. The next generation would enter the Promised Land. The ten scouts who brought back the frightful report died immediately. When the Jews were informed of G‑d’s decision, they lamented and grieved. A group of people awoke the next day and decide to “go it alone,” and enter the Land of Israel — this despite Moses’ warning that their plan would not succeed for it was not sanctioned by G‑d. This group is cut down and massacred by the Amalekites and Canaanites.

    What bothered G-d the most about the spies’ report and subsequent Israelites’ fear was the lack of trust they had in Him after all he’s done. G-d felt that they alienated Him, abandoned Him, which is why it was only appropriate that they then became unworthy of the Land of Israel. In fact, the Midrash equates this mistrust to the sin of the Golden Calf, and G-d waited until this happened before finally punishing those between 20 and 60, not allowing them into His land. If there’s any good news in this Aliya, is that after these events the nation “mourned greatly”, presumably realizing their mistaken in not trusting in G-d and/or appreciating what they had (Passuk 39). Better late than never, I guess.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The Jewish people rejected the pleas of Joshua and Caleb, and decided to stone them. G‑d intervened, His glory appearing over the Tabernacle. G‑d informs Moshe of His decision to instantaneously wipe out the Israelites in a massive plague due to their persistent lack of faith. Moshe successfully invoked G‑d’s mercy and pointed out that this mass execution will cause a mammoth desecration of G‑d’s name. “People will assume that G‑d lacked the power to defeat the Canaanites in battle, so He instead slaughtered His people,” Moses argued. Although G‑d agreed not to immediately wipe out the Israelites, that generation would not enter the Land. G‑d instructs the Jews to reverse course, and to head back to the desert.

    So Moshe and G-d take turns giving up on the Israelites. This time Moshe saves the day with his quick thinking arguments. It’s always amazing when Moshe is able to hold sway with G-d, appeasing Him with logic that He undoubtedly already knew. It must be that there was a benefit to 1) manually going through the arguments, and 2) recording those arguments for us to learn from. It could be similar to the concept of Vidui, or verbally admitting one’s sins. There’s a benefit to arguing for what you believe in!

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The scouts spent forty days reconnoitering the land. They returned to the Israelite encampment with specimens of Canaan’s produce, and with an ominous report. They conceded that the land flowed with milk and honey, but they warned that its population was mighty and the cities well fortified and impossible to conquer. Only Caleb and Joshua, the scouts representing the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, dissented. They argued that the land was magnificent, and there was no reason for concern because G‑d could surely bring the Israelites victory in battle. The Jewish people spent that entire night wailing, expressing their preference to return to Egypt rather than be defeated in battle by the Canaanites.

    This was the ultimate test of the glass half empty/half full. While most of the spies saw negatives, the righteous ones saw those very same things as positive. For the tribal leaders to falter so mightily is staggering, but what made matters worse is that the Israelites believed the negative and ignored the truth. Is it because they trusted their leaders, and most of those leaders lead them toward the half empty side? Or was there something much worse causing all this dissension? The punishment leads one to think the latter is true.

  • Daily Aliya for Shelach, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: General Overview: Moses sends scouts to Canaan and all of them — except Joshua and Caleb — bring back frightening reports. The people react fearfully and rebelliously. G‑d decrees a forty year delay until the Israelites will enter Canaan, during which time all males between the ages of twenty and sixty will perish. Many Israelites then attempt to unilaterally proceed to Canaan, but are cut down by the Canaanites. Various laws are discussed: libations, giving part of the dough (“challah“) to a Kohain (Priest), certain sin sacrifices, and the mitzvah of tzitzit. A Jew is found desecrating the Shabbat and is executed.

    G‑d allows Moses to send scouts to reconnoiter the land of Canaan in preparation for their anticipated invasion of the land. One member of every tribe — with the exception of the tribe of Levi — was chosen for this task. Moses instructed the scouts to bring back a report regarding the nature of the land; its strengths and weaknesses. He also instructed them to bring back samples of the land’s produce.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotecha, Shvi’i (7th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: G‑d causes a wind to sweep in huge numbers of quail from the sea. The people gathered piles of quail and started enjoying meat. Those who ate gluttonously died in a plague. Miriam, Moses’ sister, spoke negatively of Moses’ decision to become celibate. G‑d was highly displeased by this talk against His servant, and Miriam was stricken with tzara’at (“leprosy”) for one week.

    Once again we see actions personally justified that were wrong. Miriam spoke negatively about her brother, and while she felt justified, her actions/words were inappropriate, and she was punished. There’s a step between thought and action that seems to be the theme of this and the last Aliya. The thought might be true and accurate, but there needs to be a clear and objective thought process that leads to any action. If you feel Moshe is doing something wrong, think about how to best deal with that. Although her actions correlated to her thought, it was inappropriate. So she learned her lesson, as did the Jews, as should we. When we feel strongly about something, the actions caused by that idea or ideal needs to be objectively correlated and proper.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotecha, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: No sooner than the Jews start traveling, and they start complaining. First they complain about the “arduous” journey. Then they grumble about the manna, expressing their desire for meat. Moses turns to G‑d and insists that he cannot bear his leadership role any longer. G‑d tells Moses to gather seventy elders who will assist him in his leadership duties. He also promises to provide the Jews with an abundance of meat — “until it will come out of their noses…” Moses gathers seventy elders and brings them to the Tabernacle where his holy spirit is imparted upon them. Two additional elders, Eldad and Medad, remain in the camp, and the holy spirit descends upon them, too, and they prophesy as well. Joshua is displeased by this, and Moses placates him.

    This Aliya is especially troublesome because it contains the Jews’ unfounded complaints to G-d. They complained that they didn’t have meat (although they had plenty of cattle), they suddenly had the urge for some cucumbers, watermelons, leeks, onions and garlic. How random were these sudden urges, and where did they come from? Sifri explains that these vegetables were thought to be bad for nursing mothers, so the Manna that could taste like anything they wanted did not taste like any of these. And why the sudden complaints? This shows the power of reality, of how we can create our own issues and then blame someone else for it. The Jews were looking for something to complain about, and found these silly things. Are we any different? Do we complain about things in our lives (to whomever will listen)? Maybe reading a story like this will make us realize just how silly some complaints really are.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotecha, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: Nearly one year after the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai, the cloud rises from the Tabernacle, signaling their impending departure. The Tabernacle was dismantled and they traveled in formation as outlined on last week’s Torah reading. Moses pleads with his father-in-law Jethro to join them on their journey to the Land of Israel.

    This is a very exciting Aliya because it’s the first time that the nation actually moved in the formation described previously. Everyone had their role, from Yehuda leading the way, to the Levi’im taking apart the Mishkan and putting it back together as soon as they got to where they were going. And even the tribe bringing up the rear, Dan, had a job. As the Talmud explains, their job was to pickup lost objects from the ground and return it to those that lost it. Even being a Lost and Found is an important task!

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotecha, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: From the day the Tabernacle was erected, it was covered by a cloud during the day, and a fire by night. When the cloud lifted, this signaled G‑d’s wish that the Jews should journey onwards — following the cloud until it came to rest in a new location of G‑d’s choosing. In some cases the Jews only stayed overnight in a particular location before the sign came for them to depart again, and on other occasions they would stay in one place for many years. This section then discusses Moses’ two silver trumpets. These trumpets were used for several purposes: 1) To assemble the nation or its leaders. 2) To signal the beginning of a journey. 3) The trumpets were blown when the Jews went to battle. 4) The trumpets were sounded when certain communal sacrifices were offered in the Tabernacle.

    Silver trumpets, that’s a twist! Besides understanding the different sounds representing different instructions for the Jews (set up camp, pack up camp, meeting with Moshe, etc), which itself is curious and probably has deeper meanings, there’s the overarching question of trumpets in the first place. Luckily the Torah gives us a hint to the answer right away, as the very next instruction is for when the Jews go into battle, that they blow the same trumpets, and will thereby be successful. It could be that the trumpets conjure up memories of G-d taking care of us, and memories of us following instructions for so many years in the desert. The merits of both might help put things in perspective right before going out in battle.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotecha, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: On the first anniversary of the Exodus, the Jews are instructed to bring the Pesach Offering. Certain individuals, however, couldn’t participate because they were ritually impure. These people lodged a complaint, which Moses then transmitted to G‑d. G‑d responds by designating a “Second Passover” to be observed exactly one month later. Anyone who could not offer the Pesach Offering in its proper time must do so on the Second Passover. G‑d then informs Moses the laws of the Second Passover.

    Typically the Torah introduces things by saying “G-d spoke to Moshe to relay the following…”. However, in this instance the Torah relates that some people came to “complain” that they were unclean and couldn’t offer the Pesach offering, and didn’t want to be excluded. So Moshe asked G-d what to do, and G-d implemented the Second Pesach. The Sifri explains that it was in the merit of those who felt cheated that they were mentioned in the Torah, because they felt neglected for not being able to perform a single Mitzvah. Obviously great desire to emulate.

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