Hebraic Studies - Parashat Beha’alotecha

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Parashat Beha’alotecha
Manna from Heaven

The True “Essence” of our Faith, one that does not Change

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham

 

 

There is no doubt that B’Nai Yisroel has had a long journey through the wilderness of history. Moving from one country to another; be it due to anti-Semitism or because of personal choice. But through our movements we have come in contact with countless other people and their cultures. As per our spiritual leaders, there countless teachers (rabbis) who at large have made valiant efforts to help Jewish individuals and families preserve their identity and maintain contact with our Hebrew teaching.

Many of us maintain this contact at various levels and in different ways. However, at the heart of it all there is that “Hebrew Essence” which is the real key to our spiritual identity, and for those who uphold the Shabbat, they will have become very familiar with the lighting of the Shabbat light on erev Shabbat. Of course this blessing originates from the lighting of the menorah located in the “Mishkan” the “Tabernacle” and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.

In Parashat Beha’alotecha we read:

“And spoke to Moshe saying, saying: ‘Speak unto Acharon - Aaron, and say unto him’: “When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the menorah”. And Acharon did so: he lighted the lamps thereof so as to give light in front of the menorah as commanded Moshe. And this was the work of the menorah, beaten work of gold; unto the base thereof, and unto the flowers thereof, it was beaten work; according unto the pattern which had shown Moshe, so he made the menorah” Bamidbar - Numbers 8:1-4 (JPS version of the Torah).

A gold copy of the Jerusalem Temple Menorah in my home

As we have seen, this Parashat begins with instructions for the lighting of the menorah. The menorah is the candelabra located in the Mishkan the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The menorah is composed of a central candlestick. From the central candlestick extend six branches. Three branches extend from each side. The above translation corresponds with the understanding of the instructions given by Elohim, blessed be He. Acharon is told that the lights located on the six branches are to shed their light towards the central candlestick.

told Acharon as the High Priest, that he would have the honour of lighting the menorah each day.

Acharon was entrusted with a variety of responsibilities in the Mishkan and he was the only one who was permitted to execute his responsibility, as only Acharon or a future “Kohen Gadol” - a “High Priest” could perform these services in the Mishkan and those in the “Holy of Holies” - “Qodesh Ha-Qadashim” being the innermost and most sacred area of the Mishkan on Yom Kippur.

How is the above relative today?

These days we light the Shabbat lights on erev Shabbat (Friday late afternoon) as these lights brings the very “Essence” of being Jewish into our homes!

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the (YHVH) Elohim, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” Shemos - Exodus 20:7-10 (JPS), in other versions it is in verses 8 to 11.

Of course the Shabbat is certainly another example of that unchangeable “Essence” of our Jewish faith! For some, Shabbat observance is either very dedicated and kept as a holy day unto Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name. But for some it may be a more minimal Shabbat. However, the power of the Shabbat is such that by even observing a part of this wonderful Seventh Day, it goes a very long way when it comes to our Jewish lives. Elohim willing, it may come to the point where the feeling of that wonderful and a blessed Shabbat may blossom in your lives, and this wonderful day will become a major feature of your week and will be a true day of rest, reflection, peace and inspiration. The Shabbat can really be a day that provides you not just with rest but will also provide you energy and a sense of purpose to the working days of the week ahead! Also you may well find that you will love keeping the day holy unto our beloved Creator, as He has asked us to do, and this will provide the greatest enhancement in our lives!

Shabbos is not merely the abstention of Elohim’s creative process. We read in the Torah something, which somehow seems redundant, it states; “Elohim completed His work … Elohim rested”. I wonder, doesn’t the first statement that “Elohim completed His work” teach that He rested? If so, for what reason do we need the additional phrase “Elohim rested?” I believe this is to teach that His Shabbat was not merely an abstention from creation. Our loving Creator wanted to teach us that His Shabbat is actually a “positive institution”, the intentional withdrawal from the physical and not just the mere cessation from labour. Shabbos has a positive, real quality and the status of being a day whose definition is not just a break from work, but primarily “a day dedicated to the involvement in things spiritual”. It is such a blessing to attend the Synagogue and spend the day devoted to Torah study in awe of our Creator.

Our inactivity on Shabbos also demonstrates our true belief in the ability for Elohim to sustain us. This explains why we do not make request for material needs in the prayers on Shabbos. This also ties in with the concept that the ‘manna’ in the desert did not fall on the Shabbat, to teach us that they should have complete confidence in Elohim’s word that He would sustain them. On the six weekdays, “manna” fell each day, and there was enough for that day. Any manna that was kept for the following day, demonstrated their disbelief that it would fall again tomorrow, and as Elohim has said; leftover manna would become wormy and rot for the purpose of forcing us to believe in Elohim’s word. However on the Friday, we were commanded to gather enough for that day, when they did this, they found that the manna in their homes had miraculously doubled in size, to sustain them on Shabbos as well. This is the reason why we have two loaves of bread on Shabbat, commemorating the double portion in the wilderness on the Friday!

“And it shall come to pass on the sixth day that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather dailyShemos - Exodus. 16:5 (JPS).

This miracle was enacted by Elohim to engender the Hebrews’ faith in His word, that He would and will sustain them. Similarly, our abstinence from labour on the Sabbath demonstrates this concept today.

The lesson found in Parashat Beha’alotecha gives us another example of a kind of “Essence.” This is the Manna which came from heaven, the miraculous food which sustained Israel during their forty year journey through the wilderness.

It is interesting that although some people complained about the manna, but it was still there for them. For Moshe, Acharon, Miriam and many others of Israel in the wilderness, the manna was something exquisite and holy. Yet there were others who had a much more materialistic and simplistic view of it. In fact they were fed up with eating this manna every single day, and they wanted a change and sadly there are those today who also demand change, but we already have the best, His love and His provision!

Despite their rebellion, the Manna continued to come. After the inundation of quails described in Parashat Beha’alotecha, eventually everyone went back to eating manna which sustained them until they reached the “Land of Milk and Honey.” In the manna was the breath of heaven for Elohim had given it to us. This quality relates to the “Essence,” it does not change or disappear, even when it is eaten by someone who complains against it, or who in some other way is behaving in a negative way.

The manna, the blessed Shabbat and yes the Torah itself, all have the quality of the “Essence.” These concepts help’s us Jews to preserve his or her essence through Israel’s long journey through time, looking forward towards the time Messiah - Mashiach comes, when the “Essence” of goodness and holiness, instead of being hidden as it is now, will be fully revealed!

Come Mashiach, come soon!

It is so wonderful to light the Sabbath lights, and I encourage you to set an example for, not just yourself, but also for your loved ones, for you are Jewish!

Visit Light the Sabbath Candles - This is a guide for those who wish to start upholding the blessed Shabbat, and lighting the Sabbath lights (Candles), this page is complete with relevant prayers, etc.

Wishing you and your Mishpachah or Mesbucha (family) “Shabbat Shalom”, may the Peace of the Almighty fill you, your family and your home!

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

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Please Note: On this page I will show the four letter blessed *“Memorial Name” of the Almighty in Ivrit - - Y-H-V-H, which we usually pronounce as “Adonai” or “HaShem”. At all times treat the most blessed Name with sanctity and when we even see the Name, we should say “blessed be His Sanctified Name.”

 

*This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” Shemoth - Exodus 3:15.

 

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