• Dvar for Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:17)

    Chapter 11 of the book of Bemidbar marks a sharp turning point in the trajectory of the story.  The previous chapters emphasized the holiness of the Israelite camp and their closeness to G-d, but chapter 11 begins a series of sins that will lead to a distancing from G-d and 40 years of wandering in the desert.  This transition begins with the verse, “the people were ke’mitoninim (like mitoninim), evil in the ears of G-d.” The word mitoninim is very unusual, and the commentators grapple both with what it means as well as why the people are described as “like” mitoninim as opposed to actually being mitoninim.

    The Ramban explains that mitoninim comes from a root word that means suffering; the Jews began complaining as if they were suffering greatly, despite the fact that G-d was providing all their needs (literally, manna from heaven). The Abarbanel believes that the proper root word is one that means to find a pretext; the people were trying to find a pretext in order to speak against G-d.  Still, why does it say “like trying to find a pretext” as opposed to simply “trying to find a pretext”?

    He explains that the people’s challenges and statements against G-d were never stated in an outright fashion but instead were expressed through jokes and snide comments.  The “ke” (“like”) illustrates an important reality.  Offhanded comments can be as corrosive as outright attacks, and are arguably more dangerous because they are more acceptable to say.  If a child constantly hears negative comments about a person, institution or G-d himself, even if they are ostensibly jokes, it will almost certainly erode their respect for the subject of the jokes.  The jokes are likely to have a similar effect on the speaker as well. This teaches us how careful we must be to avoid even joking speech that will be damaging, and instead use words that will be rewarding.

  • Dvar for Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:17)

    Chapter 11 of the book of Bemidbar marks a sharp turning point in the trajectory of the story.  The previous chapters emphasized the holiness of the Israelite camp and their closeness to G-d, but chapter 11 begins a series of sins that will lead to a distancing from G-d and 40 years of wandering in the desert.  This transition begins with the verse, “the people were k’mitoninim (like mitoninim), evil in the ears of G-d.” The word mitoninim is very unusual, and the commentators grapple both with what it means as well as why the people are described as “like” mitoninim as opposed to actually being mitoninim.

    The Ramban explains that mitoninim comes from a root word that means suffering; the Jews began complaining as if they were suffering greatly, despite the fact that G-d was providing all their needs (literally, manna from heaven). The Abarbanel believes that the proper root word is one that means to find a pretext; the people were trying to find a pretext in order to speak against G-d.  Still, why does it say “like trying to find a pretext” as opposed to simply “trying to find a pretext”?

    He explains that the people’s challenges and statements against G-d were never stated in an outright fashion but instead were expressed through jokes and snide comments.  The “ke” (“like”) illustrates an important reality.  Offhanded comments can be as corrosive as outright attacks, and are arguably more dangerous because they are more acceptable to say.  If a child constantly hears negative comments about a person, institution or G-d himself, even if they are ostensibly jokes, it will almost certainly erode their respect for the subject of the jokes.  The jokes are likely to have a similar effect on the speaker as well. This teaches us how careful we must be to avoid even joking speech that will be damaging, and instead use words that will be rewarding.

  • Dvar for Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:17)

    Chapter 11 of the book of Bemidbar marks a sharp turning point in the trajectory of the story.  The previous chapters emphasized the holiness of the Israelite camp and their closeness to G-d, but chapter 11 begins a series of sins that will lead to a distancing from G-d and 40 years of wandering in the desert.  This transition begins with the verse, “the people were k’mitoninim (like mitoninim), evil in the ears of G-d.” The word mitoninim is very unusual, and the commentators grapple both with what it means as well as why the people are described as “like” mitoninim as opposed to actually being mitoninim.

    The Ramban explains that mitoninim comes from a root word that means suffering; the Jews began complaining as if they were suffering greatly, despite the fact that G-d was providing all their needs (literally, manna from heaven). The Abarbanel believes that the proper root word is one that means to find a pretext; the people were trying to find a pretext in order to speak against G-d.  Still, why does it say “like trying to find a pretext” as opposed to simply “trying to find a pretext”?

    He explains that the people’s challenges and statements against G-d were never stated in an outright fashion but instead were expressed through jokes and snide comments.  The “ke” (“like”) illustrates an important reality.  Offhanded comments can be as corrosive as outright attacks, and are arguably more dangerous because they are more acceptable to say.  If a child constantly hears negative comments about a person, institution or G-d himself, even if they are ostensibly jokes, it will almost certainly erode their respect for the subject of the jokes.  The jokes are likely to have a similar effect on the speaker as well. This teaches us how careful we must be to avoid even joking speech that will be damaging, and instead use words that will be rewarding.

  • Dvar for Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:17)

    Chapter 11 of the book of Bemidbar marks a sharp turning point in the trajectory of the story.  The previous chapters emphasized the holiness of the Israelite camp and their closeness to G-d, but chapter 11 begins a series of sins that will lead to a distancing from G-d and 40 years of wandering in the desert.  This transition begins with the verse, “the people were k’mitoninim (like mitoninim), evil in the ears of G-d.” The word mitoninim is very unusual, and the commentators grapple both with what it means as well as why the people are described as “like” mitoninim as opposed to actually being mitoninim.

    The Ramban explains that mitoninim comes from a root word that means suffering; the Jews began complaining as if they were suffering greatly, despite the fact that G-d was providing all their needs (literally, manna from heaven). The Abarbanel believes that the proper root word is one that means to find a pretext; the people were trying to find a pretext in order to speak against G-d.  Still, why does it say “like trying to find a pretext” as opposed to simply “trying to find a pretext”?

    He explains that the people’s challenges and statements against G-d were never stated in an outright fashion but instead were expressed through jokes and snide comments.  The “ke” (“like”) illustrates an important reality.  Offhanded comments can be as corrosive as outright attacks, and  are arguably more dangerous because they are more acceptable to say.  If a child constantly hears negative comments about a person, institution or G-d himself, even if they are ostensibly jokes, it will almost certainly erode their respect for the subject of the jokes.  The jokes are likely to have a similar effect on the speaker as well. This teaches us how careful we must be to avoid even
    joking speech that will be damaging, and instead use words that will be rewarding.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotcha, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: 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, Mosh’s sister, spoke negatively of Moshe’s 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.

    Moshe offers a short but eloquent prayer on behalf of his sister. The People delay their travels for the week of Miriam’s isolation. (81 years previously, Miriam had stood by the Nile protectively watching over her baby brother Moshe in the basket. Her “reward-in-kind” is this 7-day delay. The Mishna points out that good deeds are thusly rewarded.)

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

    Aliya Summary: 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. Moshe turns to G‑d and insists that he cannot bear his leadership role any longer. G‑d tells Moshe 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…” Moshe 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 Moshe placates him.

    Eighteen times in the Tanach, it says “And G-d got angry with…” Yisrael or Bnei Yisrael, or His people. When the People complained about the Manna, etc., the Torah says that G-d got very angry. Why? Kedushat Levi explains that usually when G-d got angry at the People, Moshe would rise to their defense and pursuade G-d, so to speak, not to punish them. This time the Torah says that “and in Moshe’s eyes it was bad”. Moshe was more upset with the people than usual, and this “angered” G-d all the more.

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

    Aliya Summary: 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. Moshe pleads with his father-in-law Yitro to join them on their journey to the Land of Israel.

    At this point in the Torah, we are 13 months out of Egypt and neither the people nor Moshe have done what later caused them to be barred from entry into Israel. After Moshe talks to Yitro, it was supposed to be a three-day trip (condensed into one day) to bring us WITH Moshe, into the Land of Israel. But then things started going wrong…

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotcha, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: 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 Aliya then discusses Moshe’s 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.

    The above-mentioned purposes of the trumpets applied to the generation of the wilderness only, but the mitzva for future generations concerning the trumpets is as follows: When the People enter the Land of Israel, the trumpets are to be used during times of troubles and on festive occasions during Temple service.

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

    Aliya Summary: On the first anniversary of the Exodus, the Jews are instructed to bring the Paschal Offering. Certain individuals, however, couldn’t participate because they were ritually impure. These people lodged a complaint, which Moshe 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 Paschal Offering in its proper time must do so on the Second Passover. G‑d then informs Moshe the laws of the Second Passover.

    This Pesach Sheni episode occurred before the counting of the People as recorded in the opening Parsha of Bamidbar. It was not placed at the beginning of the book because it is embarrassing to the People of Israel that they (we) only brought one Korban Pesach in the entire Wilderness period.

  • Daily Aliya for Beha’alotcha, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The exact prescribed initiation procedure is followed, and the Levites are consecrated to G‑d — in stead of the firstborn who lost their hallowed status when they participated in the sin of the Golden Calf. Towards the end of this Aliya we learn the Levite service age-requirements and retirement age.

    From age 25 until 50, the Levi was eligible for Mishkan service. From 25-30 the Levi studied and trained for Temple service, at 30 he began serving. Age 50 was the retirement age for the “carrying chores”, but the singing and guarding functions of the Levi continued beyond that age.

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