Parshat Beha'alotecha - Bamidbar (Numbers) 8:1 - 12:16
Any Complaint Will Do
One of the greatest lessons learned from this parsha is the extent of HaShem’s mercy and loving patience toward His people, particularly in the face of their constant complaints, bickering and in-fighting.
It has been a little over a year since they encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. The Tabernacle has been completed, the duties of the tribal leaders, the Levites, Aharon and his sons the kohanim (priests) have been spelled out in intricate detail.
The first part of the Laws of HaShem for His people have been given from the mountain to Moshe and delivered to the people. Israel has witnessed the continued presence of HaShem in their midst via the column of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
HaShem has miraculously been feeding them six days a week with manna (the bread from heaven).
After all this, as well as their supernatural delivery out of Egypt a little over a year earlier, you might think the people would begin to settle into their role as a covenant people of HaShem, recognize their special and unique relationship with Him and one another … but…no!
The complaints of the people only increase. They grow tired of the manna and crave meat; so HaShem provides them meat for a full month in the form of quail until it causes them to vomit and they grow sick of it.
Aharon and his sons grow jealous of the tribal leaders after witnessing the bounty of gifts they dedicate to the inauguration of the Tabernacle; so HaShem sets them apart for the specialized task of making and lighting the Menorah in The Holy Place of the Tabernacle to make them feel more worthy of their calling.
Then those who were unable to bring their offering for the very first Pesach (Passover) festival in the wilderness due to their contamination from coming into contact with a human corpse complain about missing the offering at the appointed time; so HaShem designates a second Pesach period for them.
The complaints continued relentlessly to the point that some of the people started yearning to return to Egypt completely forgetting how untenable their situation was as slaves under Pharaoh’s rule.
Then the final blow comes to Moshe as his own brother, Aharon and his sister Miriam turn on him.
For reassurance Moshe turns to his father-in-law Jethro (aka Hobad) who has been a source of comfort and wise counsel for him in the past and asks (almost pleads) with him to stay and join him and go into the Promised Land which was only a three day journey from their present location. However, Jethro declines the offer and returns to his home in Midian. Our sages do tell us that his daughter Zipporah, Moshe’s wife, remains with Moshe along with some of Jethro’s kin.
With the departure of Jethro, Moshe has nearly reached his breaking point. The constant rebellion and complaints from the people causes him to cry out to HaShem:
“Why have you done evil to Your servant; why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You place the burden of this entire people upon me? Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it, that You say to me,” ‘Carry them in in your bosom as a nurse carries a suckling,’ “to their Land that You swore to its fathers? Where shall I get meat to give to this entire people, when they weep to me saying," ‘Give us meat that we may eat?’ “I alone cannot carry this entire nation, for it is too heavy for me! And if this is how You deal with me then kill me now, If I have found favor in Your eyes, and let me not see my evil!”
HaShem responds to Moshe by telling him to chose seventy men from the elders of Israel and He will take some of the spirit that fills Moshe and place a portion on each elder without causing any diminishing upon Moshe.
HaShem said, “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.”
Thus was born The Great Sanhedrin [SEE: Mishnah - Sanhedrin 2a]
In next week’s parsha the three day journey into the Land of Promise turns into a forty year sojourn in the wilderness.
Until then — Shalom!