A People can rise to the heights of spirituality and existence and yet descend to the abyss of depravity and ingratitude.
This week’s Perasha shows us this sharp contradiction between that which elevates us and that which brings us down. As the name Beha’alotekha infers, Aharon the Kohen rises and lights up the Menorah. The Perasha describes several holy proceedings that uplift spiritually the People of Israel: the sanctification of the Levites for Temple service, the celebration of Pesah and the ‘Second Pesah’ Offering, as well as the journeying of Bene Israel with the Ark in their midst. As the Divine Cloud traveled, they traveled with It, as It rested, they encamped; the presence of Hashem accompanied them.
In contradiction to the holy sojourning, are those human frailties which plague us until today. Bene Yisrael become dissatisfied with the Manna and begin to complain, demonstrating their ingratitude for a bread that they didn’t work hard to prepare and didn’t sweat to harvest. They subsequently satisfied their desire for meat with an over indulgence of quail, and lastly as careless they were, with what entered their mouth, they were with what came out of it; the incident of Miriam who speaks about her brother Moshe. These are all transgressions which continue to haunt humankind until today; our over indulgence of physical desires, our ingratitude to someone who benefited us and our uncontrollable urge to speak about others.
Moshe finds himself weighed down and alone with his responsibilities. Hashem recommends that Moshe gathers 70 men to share in the governing of Bene Yisrael. As Moshe gathers them, the spirit of G-d rested upon them and they were able to carry the load with Moshe. Despite the many shortcomings of Bene Yisrael and even Hashem’s wrath, they were never abandoned and we will never be abandoned by Hashem; He is always in our midst.
Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.