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Beha'alotcha 8:1 - 12:16

Dear Friends,

As is true for many of parshiot in Bamidbar, (in the wilderness) or, as it is known in English, Numbers, a great deal is going on. This week’s Torah portion Beha’alotcha, (Numbers 8:1 -12:16) ranges from the lighting of the seven branched menorah, the consecration of the priests (how appropriate for this season of graduations), the description of the necessary elements of the Passover sacrifice, the journey through the wilderness with details about the marching order, and the way the Divine’s presence was made manifest.

We have the riffraff complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt where they had the best fruits and vegetables available instead of the manna that tastes like coriander, which leads to a revolt. The situation culminates with a moment in which Moses complains to God. "And Moses said 'Adonai, why have You dealt ill with Your servant, and why have I not enjoyed Your favor, that You have laid the burden of all this people upon me? Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,’ to the land that You have promised on oath to their fathers?” This exchange ends with Moses complaining even further about the burden of leadership. Moses is then told that the burden will be shared with the seventy elders, even as the people are punished for their complaining.

The Torah portion ends with the well-known story of Aaron and Miriam talking to one another about Moses being favored, which leads to Miriam (who is credited with doing most of the talking) to be stricken with scales – a skin disease. There is a great deal of talking throughout this parasha, but at this moment, when Miriam is stricken, the speech becomes simple and direct. These are the words we use as a community when we pray for healing in Hebrew, “El na r’fa na lah” (“O God, pray heal her!”).

After his long diatribe about how he is overwhelmed by the burden of caring for the people, Moses utters five words -- eleven letters in Hebrew. His words come from a place deep within, with each word other than God’s name ending in a vowel. It is a cry coming from deep within his soul. These words are true supplication. One could imagine that each word is punctuated with an exclamation point – “God! Please! Heal! Please! Her!” The central idea of this prayer is clearly visible when written this way. It is clearly a plea for help, for intervention, for relief. It is a plea for action.

This is where we are at this moment. Words will no longer suffice. The action, the intervention, the relief that we are asking for is on us. We need healing and our world needs healing. Although we may ask the Source of All for strength at this moment, the work is on us. May we begin the journey of healing our broken world together.

With blessings and wishing you all,

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Wed, January 27 2021 14 Shevat 5781