This Week’s Torah Portion: Beha’alotcha

quail, desert, behaalotcha

Name: Beha’alotcha

Reading: Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7

Parsha Summary – Beha’alotcha

Purifying the Levites:

God tells Moses to command Aaron to light the menorah, a beaten gold candelabra decorated with flowers in a pattern that God had shown Moses. God tells Moses to purify the Levites. To do this, they must be sprinkled with purifying water, shave their whole bodies, wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves. They must make offer a young bull with a meal offering, and a sin-offering of another young bull. The Levites must be presented before the congregation at the Sanctuary, so that the Israelites can touch them. Aaron will make a wave offering for them, as well as the two bulls. God has chosen the Levites instead of the firstborns: the Levites are God’s, and they will serve in the Sanctuary from ages 25 – 50.

The Israelites Keep Passover

In the second year after the Exodus, God tells Moses that the Israelites must keep Passover on the 14th day of the month. God allows even those who are impure from contact with a dead body to keep Passover and bring the Passover offering, which must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Strangers in the land should also make a Passover offering.

The Cloud of God

During the day, a cloud covers the Sanctuary. At night, it is surrounded by the appearance of fire. When the cloud lifts, the Israelites travel. When it remains over the Sanctuary, the people remained encamp. Sometimes the cloud stays for just a day, and sometimes for a year, but the people always remain when it is there and travel when it lifts.

God commands the Israelites to make two trumpets from beaten silver and use them as beacons for travel and war, and to welcome the new moon. The Israelites make camp in the Paran wilderness.

Quails: Meat in the Desert

The Israelites complain and this angers God. He sets a fire in the uppermost part of the camp and destroys it. Moses prays to God to end the fire, and He does. The Israelites complain about the food in the desert. They long for meat and remember the fish, fruit, and vegetables that they ate in Egypt, and dislike the manna that God gives them. God is angered.

Moses asks God why the burden of thousands of angry Israelites falls on him. He has no meat to give the people and can no longer carry the nation alone. God tells him to gather 70 elders of Israel to the Sanctuary; these people will help Moses lead the people. God will talk to Moses directly, and the elders will instruct the nation.

God tells Moses that he will give the people so much meat to eat that it will come from their nostrils and they will be sick of it. A wind brings quails to the people. There are so many quails that the area around the camp is filled two cubits high with the birds. The people start eating and God smites those lusting for meat with a plague.

Miriam Contracts Leprosy

Miriam and Aaron talk about the Cushite woman Moses married. They are jealous of Moses’s relationship with God, and this angers Him. He calls all three into the Sanctuary and tells them that while other prophets may have dreams and visions, Moses is the only one with whom He speaks directly, face to face. God gives Miriam leprosy. Moses and Aaron pray for her, but she is sent outside the camp like any other leper for a week.