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Be-ha-ah-lo-t-cha

Parshat Behaalotcha. Things fall apart. So, we’ve got some more rules and regulations, about the menorah, about the Levites and their service, etc. Essentially, it starts as a continuation of the rules that characterized Naso and Bamidbar. It’s God’s rules for an orderly military camp. You had the census of fighting aged men, you had the formations and marching orders under banners, etc. Basically, the Israelites had been camping at Sinai for a year and now they are leaving, days away from their invasion of the Promised Land. As much is said by verse 33. Then we have verse 35 and 36, bracketed off by Nuns (what are they doing there?), which the Sages call its own book of the Torah. What’s the significance of the bracketed verses? Well, what comes before is basically marching orders for the military camp. What comes after is complaining. The Israelites are complaining about the manna from heaven. They have a desire. They desire a desire. They want meat. They want to be normal people again, like in Egypt, growing their own food. They want cukes and watermelons and other food from the ground. They don’t like the feeling of total reliance on God, on having all of their food provided for them from heaven. They are a big boy. They want to do things themselves. Now, let’s look at verses 35 and 36, the bracketed verses:

“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say:

Advance, O יהוה !

May Your enemies be scattered,

And may Your foes flee before You!

And when it halted, he would say:

Return, O יהוה,

You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!”

Basically, this verse is saying that God is going to do all the fighting for the Israelites. Their enemies will be fleeing before the battle even begins on account of God. This is where the bubble bursts. They had been excited, finally leaving Sinai, getting into military shape, ready to conquer. Now they find out that their formations are really all about the Ark of the Covenant, that it’s really God’s presence which will cause their enemies to flee, not them. They feel utterly impotent. They feel set up by God. This is when the murmurings against God’s Providence begin, starting with general mumblings and advancing to the manna.



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