This week we are reading the epic parshah of Behaalotecha; it features plenty of laws, facts and stories!

The Parshah actually starts off with the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah (Bamidbar 8:1-4). We left off last week with the leader of each tribe bringing sacrifices during twelve consecutive days. However the only tribe that did not bring an offering was the leader of the tribe of Levi, a tribe that the Kohen Gadol came from, Aharon.

Hashem gave Aharon the honor of kindling the menorah, a mitzvah he very much cherished. The Kohanim had the mitzvah of every morning kindling the menorah. In fact this mitzvah lasted forever as Aharon’s descendants, the Chashmonaim, instituted the permanent mitzvah of lighting Chanukah lamps (Rosh Hashana 24b).

The Menorah had 7 branches, three on the right, three on the left and a centre branch. The three sides on one side represent the Torah learning Jews, dedicating their time studying Torah and the other three branches symbolize the Jews that go out to work, with part of that intention in connection to helping support the Torah scholars! As both are very important!

The Parshah then progresses to relate how the Levi’im were initiated into service (Bamidbar 8:5- 26), after being assigned their tasks as we learned in Bamidbar and Nasso. The Levites between the ages of 30 – 50 were to do the main work, however the Levites aged between 25 – 30 would go through a training process every day. Rashi teaches us that from this we learn that one should spend five years of their lives learning Torah and giving yourself a chance to succeed in it!

The Parshah then relates the mitzvah of ‘Pesach Sheni.’ On the 14th of Nissan the Jews would have to perform the service of the Korban Pesach, although if they were in an impure state they could not. However, they were awarded another chance if they were in that state, on the 14th of Iyar (Pesachim 92-93), they could perform the service (Bamidbar 9: 6-14). The impure people in the first year of the wilderness were the carriers of Yosef’s coffin (Succah 25), as we learned in the chapter that he was buried in Parshat Beshalach!

The parshah then relates information on the ‘Clouds of glory’ that escorted the Jews in the wilderness! The Jews followed these clouds whenever they were lifted and moved (Bamidbar 9:17).

We then learn the mitzvah of the sounding of Moshe’s trumpets (Bamidbar 10:1-10). When the trumpets are blown they remind Hashem of the merit of the forefathers (Bamidbar 10:9). In the wilderness they were sounded whenever the people were to depart from the place they encamped, when they or their leaders had to assemble.  At a time of a calamity,  and in the Temple, the Kohanim sounded the trumpets on a daily basis while the communal Tamid sacrifices were offered. We learn about the Tamid offering in the book of Vayikra and as we see in this week’s parshah the use of the shofar as trumpets (Rosh Hashana 26-27).

The Parshah then dedicates several verses about the great convert, Yitro (Bamidbar 10:29-32). After helping formulate a court structure system for the Jews and learning Torah at Mount Sinai. Yitro was ready to go back to his home land, Midian; in order to do major Kiruv (outreach) work on his family and later bring them to Israel. Moshe argued against his decision, saying how important he was to the Jews and that his disappearance could lead to people thinking he did not want to go into Israel. Yitro, a man that loved Torah would base his decision for the sake of Hashem (Zevachim 116a). The Torah doesn’t relate if Yitro listened to Moshe and stayed or not. However, we learn his sons and descendants entered Israel and became famous Torah scholars, living in Yericho.

The Parshah then relates how the Jews, after learning Torah for a year, moved away from Mount Sinai and moved to another part of the wilderness, in what was to be a three day journey (Bamidbar 10:33-34). This was a big criticism on behalf of the Children of Israel, as they appeared to be in hurry to leave the area where they received the Torah and strived to get away from being awarded more mitzvot (Ramban), this in turn lead to the being eager for meat as we see later in the Parshah (Taanit 29a).

We then see two verses in the Parshah, that relates Moshe’s prayer whenever the people set out on a journey and when they were about to encamp. Whenever Moshe said this prayer, the ark (Aron) began to sway back and forth, as if to indicate its readiness for traveling. These two verses actually comprise a ‘book’ of the Torah; in the book of Mishlei (proverbs) it states ‘she has hewn out seven pillars’ (Mishlei 9:1), This verse indicates that just as there are seven heavens, seven regions of the world, seven days in a week – there are also seven book of the Torah!

Once the Jews were in the heart of the Wilderness, they started craving to eat meat, while spending the years in the wilderness; they ate the delicious heavenly bread food, the ‘Mann' (Yoma 75a). However over time they got bored of it and craved meat! Also they started complaining to Hashem saying that ‘since we left Egypt we have tasted no cucumber, melon, leek, onion or garlic (Bamidbar 11:5) but only ‘Mann.’

The Jews showed a lack of gratitude to Hashem, for all the kindness and miracles he performed and was performing; they were selfish in their desires. In turn, the Medrash says, Hashem rained fire down from heaven and devoured many of the major complainers, including among the casualties, were the ‘Sanhedrin.’ As judges and leaders they should have calmed the people down and stopped the complaints, so they were among the causalities. Moshe quickly prayed for the fire to stop, Hashem accepted his prayers and gave them another chance. However, they all continued complaining, Moshe could not take leading them any more on his own and requested seventy sages to assist him in leadership, a new Sanhedrin.

Moshe was to select seventy sages out of the seventy two candidates (Yoma 28b), six candidates each coming from a different tribe. Among these leaders were two great men of the names, Eldad and Maidad. They humbly refused to take part as they knew that two of these great men out of the seventy two would not be selected, in their humility in order to spare potential embarrassment of others, they wanted the other seventy to be appointed whereas they would forsake this future great position (Sanhedrin 17a). As a reward, Hashem gave them superior prophecy and named them in the Torah. They prophesized that Joshua would lead the Jews in Israel and they also prophesized on the wars that are to happen during the time of the emergence of Mashiach (Sanhedrin 17a).

After the new Sanhedrin were selected, Hashem decided to provide a huge abundance of meat, where a sea breeze brought swarms of Slav (quails) (Bamidbar 11:31-32). So much was rained down, that many of the wicked people got killed or were stricken with leprosy when touching it or suffered from stomach aches and diarrhea after eating it (Yoma 75a). It was to teach them a lesson to not complain so much for no reason. In life the people that complain most tend to have the fewest friends as others can’t stand to be around these people.

The Parshah concludes relating an incident where Miriam spoke Lashon Hara about her brother, Moshe (Bamidbar 12:1-2). While Aharon listened to it and accepted it, they were both stricken with leprosy, Aharon only suffered with Tzarat for a few moments; however Miriam suffered from this for a whole week (Shabbat 97a). The Jews stopped and waited for her for a week in the wilderness, as she had major merits, including saving many of the Hebrew new born babies in Egypt as we learn in Parshat Shemot (Sota 11b). After a week, Hashem healed her and they continued on their journey. This incident teaches us how bad Lashon Hara is. If people as great as Aharon and Miriam can be punished from it, how much more we could be for this major transgression!!

The Haftorah for this week’s reading comes from the book of ‘Zecharia’ chapters 2- 4 – The Haftorah speaks of the vision of a menorah and an angel’s prophetic interpretation of the vision (Zecharia 2:14 - 4:7).

This weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to the refuah shelaima of Yosef Ben Edna.