Beha'alotecha – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

After the momentous events at Sinai almost a year had passed, and we are about to move on. Aaron sets up the light in the Sanctuary and the Levites are initiated into service. Last minute problems are addressed. Those who were unable to celebrate Pesach by being impure at the stated time were granted a “Pesach Sheni”, a second chance.

The journey would not be a regular and predictable one. The cloud and fire over the Mishkan meant we halted along the way, and this could be very variable.

Whether it was for two days, a month or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Mishkan, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they travelled.

Trumpets would sound when it was time to move on.

Make two trumpets of silver; make them of hammered work. They shall serve you to summon the congregation and cause the camps to journey.

We were a congregation banded together for protection and we were a congregation with a vision that we had just experienced. However, we were also in separate camps. When we were not actually travelling, we had time to complain!

We were hungry and we were bored. At times like these all of us, have experienced the same emotions. We moan:

If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote:

it is not so much the strain of lengthy wanderings as the patient endurance of the lengthy stops which seem to be stressed as the real task.

It is easy to forget a mission. We were at the beginning of a journey which we continue today; some 3500 years on. Even Moses seems to despair.

What we still had was, and still remains, the light in the Sanctuary. In the Haftorah Zechariah reminds us:

לֹ֚א בְחַ֙יִל֙ וְלֹ֣א בְכֹ֔חַ כִּ֣י אִם־בְּרוּחִ֔י אָמַ֖ר יְהֹוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת:
'Not by military force and not by physical strength, but by My spirit,' says the Lord of Hosts

Somehow that has been our guide and comfort through the years. It has been a difficult year but we are still here.

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