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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Numbers / Beha'alotcah - 101
Posted June, 2000
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Therefore: I am the free God Who sets bounds and limits for everything, Who alone is sufficient for all with My free almighty sovereignty, conduct yourself, do not allow your conduct to be determined by outside influences but only by your own free-willed self-determination. Do not "go," but "conduct yourself," and do so "before My Countenance." Let My Countenance be before you everywhere and at all times; decide and conduct your every move before My Countenance and be "whole."

Collected Writings of Rabbi Samsom Raphael Hirsch
Volume III, page 68

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Parashat Beha'alotcha begins in Bamidbar (Numbers) at Perek Chet (Chapter 7) and runs through Perek Yud-Bet (Chapter 12). This Parashah begins where Nasso left off with more instructions to the Levi'im or Levites and their conduct then and when serving the Beit HaMikdash (Temple or Sanctuary), and their term of service. Following this are the commandments concerning Pesach (Passover) including when and how it is to be observed and some details concerning people who are away during Pesach. Following this, there is some discussion concerning the creation of the two Teruot (bugles) used in announcing movements of the camp as well as instructions for striking and reassembling the people in their movements, and the description of such a movement of three days away from Har Sinai (Mount Sinai).

Following this, there is a minor outcry by the people concerning their limited diet - the mahn (manna) and how things were better in Egypt as there they had fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, and garlic. Needless to say, such statements were not well received by God. At this point, it is clear that Moshe is a bit overwhelmed from the nursemaid part of his job as he says in Perek Yud-Aleph, pasuk yud-daled (Chapter 11, verse 14):

14. I alone cannot carry this entire nation, for it is too heavy for me:

As God did previously with the appointment of the Sanhedrin, the seventy elders to provide assistance, Hashem now decides to expand their duties:

16. Hashem said to Moses, "Gather to Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and its officers; take them to the Tent of Meeting and have them stand there with you:

17. I will descend and speak with you there, and I will increase some of the spirit that is upon you and place it upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, and you shall not bear alone:

After a discussion concerning what is to be said to the people and God's deciding that expanding the diet might be a good thing, we get to the essence of the expanded duties of the Sanhedrin:

24. Moses left and spoke the words of Hashem to the people; and he gathered seventy men from among the elders of the people and had them stand around the Tent:

25. Hashem descended in a cloud and spoke to him, and He increased some of the spirit that was upon him and gave it to the seventy men, the elders; when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but did not do so again:

26. Two men remained behind in the camp, the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Medad, and the spirit rested upon them; they had been among the recorded ones, but they had not gone out to the Tent, and they prophesied in the camp:

27. The youth ran and told Moses, and he said, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.":

28. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of Moses since his youth, spoke up and said, "My lord Moses, incarcerate them!":

29. Moses said to him, "Are you being zealous for my sake? Would that the entire people of Hashem could be prophets, if Hashem would but place His spirit upon them!":

The commentaries around this incident with Eldad and Medad are very interesting. Although lengthy, the comments bear repeating in their entirety. To quote from Rav Hirsch's Pentateuch Translation and Commentary:

This behavior of Eldad and Medad at the moment when the elders were called to form the first Sanhedrin, and Moshe's remarks thereon are of the deepest importance for all the successors of this Jewish "Institute of Elders" for all time. It proclaims that by the appointment of the highest intellectual and spiritual authority in Israel, no monopoly in intellectuality or spirituality is to be formed, that the spiritual gifts of God are in no way dependent on office or profession, and that the lowest in the nation could be considered as equally worthy of the spirit of God as the first official in the highest office. But Moshe's answer to Yehoshuah (Joshua) remains for all teachers and leaders as the brilliant example they should keep before their eyes as the highest ideal aim of their work, viz., to make themselves superfluous, that the people of all classes and ranks reach such a spiritual level that they no longer require teachers and leaders. And indeed the successors of these "elders" have well inherited the spirit of the Moshe, have recognized their highest mission . . . to make the knowledge of the Torah the broadest foundation of life in the people and have proclaimed "establish many learners" as the first maxim for all spiritual leaders of their people. With Moshe's "are you zealous for me"?, Moshe has broken down the dividing wall between "intellectuals" and the "lower classes," between clergy and laity, for ever in Israel.

In [Mesechta/Talmud Tractate] Sanhedrin 17a, various opinions are given as to what the prophecy of Eldad and Medad proclaimed. According to one it was concerning the coming event of the quails. Another says it was that Moshe will die and Yehoshuah will bring the Israel into the Land, and finally a third opinion declares that they prophesied about the last war of Gog and Magog, which, according Yechezkal (Ezekial) and Zekrahya (Zechariah), will form the final development of the history of the ages. Gog of whom Yechezkal says in 38:17, "Art thou he of whom I have spoken already in the days of yore, through my servants the prophets of Yisrael, who in those days prophesied that in years to come I would bring thee against them?" These men, who at the same time prophesied about years to come, would then refer to Eldad and Medad. Elsewhere we have developed the thought that Gog and Magog represent the "roof principle," the principle of a dictator at the summit, the concentration of all leadership in one supreme "head" in its most absolute consistency, and therefore, after the defeat of Gog, the city of the opposing principle of democracy will be called Ha Monah, the "City of the Masses." (Yechezkel 39:16). If there is any truth in this thought it would be of no small significance that the prophecy of Eldad and Medad is taken to refer to that distance final victory of the principle of democracy over that of Gog and Magog, or to the nearer event of the death of Moshe and the leadership of Yehoshuah. Then it would be just the mouths of the most modest men, who, out of modesty kept back from a recognized most influential official post and preferred to remain amongst the people, which were deemed worthy of proclaiming the most ideal democratic future, where the centre-point of the social well-being of the world will be focused not in the [elite] but in the [masses], not in Gog and Magog, but in the [people]. Or they proclaimed a fact that, as the death of Moshe and the completion of the national destiny through Yehoshuah made clear, no man, not even Moshe may consider himself, or be considered by his contemporaries, as indispensable. Moshe dies -- and the destiny of the nation still gets fulfilled.

The essential points of this are three-fold. There is a clear declaration that, according to Halachah (Jewish law), no one person is superior to another - no matter their knowledge, spirituality or office. Second, there are the prophecies concerning the World to Come and the time of the Moshiach (Jewish Messiah) - when there will be universal peace. Third, and most important, there is the clear statement that this universal peace will result with, and maybe from, all of us respecting each other to the utmost and recognizing each other's values as human beings and children of Hashem.


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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