Beha’alotcha (As You Raise Up) – Numbers 8:1 – 12:15
“And it came to pass, when the ark set forward that Moses said, Rise up Lord, and let your enemies be scattered and let those you hate you flee before you. And when it rested he said Return, Lord, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” Numbers 10:35- 36.
In the Hebrew text, there is an inverted “nun” placed before and after these two verses, a one-of-a-kind symbol in the Scriptures. Clearly, these two verses are meant to be set apart, to draw our attention to something dramatic.
And, in fact, these verses mark a highlight in the experience of the Children of Israel in the desert. Until this point, we have read of the counting of the children ofIsrael, of the dedication of the tabernacle and the procession of the camp, as each tribe gathers around each flag. Revelation at Sinai happened the year before, G-d has forgiven His people after the sin of the golden calf, the tabernacle has been built and dedicated, the priests have been instructed in their duties and the camp is organized and ready to march. And in fact, these two verses signify their marching orders. We have already learned that the camp travels only when the holy cloud is lifted and here, Moses calls upon G-d to rise up, to lift the cloud and the nation will march forward, into the land of Israel.
The journey should only take 11 days. They have already traveled 3 days. (Verse 33).
But with the opening verse of Chapter 11, everything begins to crash. The nation complains repeatedly and is punished. Miriam speaks ill of her brother and his wife and is punished. And then, of course, comes the sin of the spies, resulting in the most severe punishment of all — an entire generation would die in the desert and never see the Promised Land.
These two verses promise what could have been. These two verses echo the trumpets that were about to be sounded and the royal procession that would have brought the nation ofIsraelinto theLandofIsraelwithin weeks. Instead, it would be 38 more years.
The State of Israel was established in 1948 among much fanfare and trumpet-blowing, both the trumpets of war (unfortunately) and the trumpets of G-d’s miracles. Ever since, we have eagerly awaited the completion of the process, the final resting in theLandofIsrael, in peace with our neighbors. But so many things went wrong. So many of our people did not really understand the spiritual significance of these events. We are ready to march forward, but G- d may be putting a hold on the procession for now. Will we have to wait a generation until we proceed? We don’t know. But we must continue reading these verses, calling upon G-d to rise and lead us into the Promised Land, for even if there is a delay, He will surely lead us on to redemption.
Sondra Oster Baras
Director, Israel Office