My notes on Behaalotecha

Parashat Behaalotecha

Numbers 8

8:19          And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary.

Comment: Rashi noted that “the children of Israel” is repeated five times here, out of G-d’s love, and the number five is corresponding to the five Books of Moses. I wonder, how are people (the children of Israel) related to books (the five Books of Moses)?    Gd’s people and Gd’s word are one, they are united like the body and the head of a same person. As the body carries out the decision of the head, Israelites carry out the teachings of the five Books of Moses. Similarly, the new testament regards the Messiah as the incarnation of Gd’ word, and his followers from all nations as Gd’s people, and teaches that they are united as the head and body of a same person (Ephesians 1:20-23).

Another interpretation: ”children of Israel” is repeated 5 times here, corresponding to their 5 camps in the desert, in the middle and in all four directions. No matter where they are, they are all encircling and defending the same ark of covenant, which represents their common Gd-centric value.  No matter where they are, they are all called ”children of Israel” (literally ,”sons of Israel”), and not called children of Abraham or children of Isaac, since descendants of all 12 sons of Israel accepted the 10 commandments at mount Sinai, unlike descendants of Ishmael son of Abraham, or descendants of  Esau son of Isaac who didn’t accept the 10 commandments. 


Numbers 9

9:1          And the LRD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,

Comment: Rashi said here that this verse proves that the Torah is not chronological, since Numbers started describing what happened in the second month of the same year. However, there must be a reason behind the particular ordering of Gd’s words. Here Rashi says that the reason this earlier event of Passover observance was not stated in the beginning of the book, is because of a negative aspect of this earlier event: Israelites only observed Passover once this time, over their forty years in the desert. I noticed a different negative aspect, that this event involves some Israelites missing the initial opportunity of observance of Passover on the fourteenth of the first month, and had to makeup a month later on Fourteenth of the second month, which is later than the census time (first of the second month) described at the beginning of the book of Numbers.

Two questions naturally arise regarding this biblical second Passover: 1. out of so many biblical holidays, why is there only a second Passover, but not a second chance of every other holiday? 2. If people miss Passover due to being “defiled by the dead body of a man” (Numbers 9:7), wouldn’t it be enough to be cleansed by the ash of a red heifer (Rashi on Exodus 15:25) by the end of one week (Numbers 19)? Why wait for a whole month? I say that both questions are leading towards the explanation that this biblical second Passover predicts the Christian concept of the second coming of Christ. To question 1, I say that Passover is the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, not other biblical holidays. Missing Passover, instead of missing other holidays, better alludes to Jews missing acceptance of messiah at his first coming. To question 2, I say that waiting for a month (instead of for a week) is the second chance when the moon is full. It is a concept of both Christians and Jews that the phase of the moon is symbolic of the messiah (“son of David”). David’s name has a Hebrew gematria of 14, equal to the number of days for a new moon to be full. Jesus’ genealogy in the beginning of the book of matthews is recorded in chunks of 14 generations. So waiting for the second Passover in a month, when the moon becomes full again, symbolizes the second coming of the messiah, when Jews will have a second chance of accepting him.


Numbers 10

10:36          And when it rested, he said, Return, O LRD, unto the many thousands of Israel.

Comment: Rashi noted here that Gd’s presence returns to a place with at least 22,000 Israelites, since the Hebrew text says myriads and thousands. I wonder, how is this number 22,000 significant to the Israelites? Actually, 22,000 firstborn Israelites were redeemed by the Levites, in order to be absolved from serving Gd and take mundane professions. Before the sin of worshipping the golden calf, the firstborns acted as the priests in their families. So this current verse alludes to a good wish that the firstborns of Israel will return to their family-based services of Gd. This is a good wish since each family should have its own close relationship to Gd. This seems to be Gd’s original plan, since were it not for the sin of golden calf (to which the Levites didn’t participate), the firstborns of each family would be able to lead service to Gd in the family, or go to serve in Gd’s tabernacle after the tabernacle is built, instead of the Levites who redeemed them.

Currently, many Christians worship Gd only in the church but not at home. They rely on full-time preachers who function like the Levites. Ideally, in addition to the formal community worship at the church, each family should have its own spiritual leader who functions as the firstborn and leads a possibly less formal kind of family-based worship of Gd. In this respect, Christians have a lot to learn from the Jews, who, after the Temples being destroyed, developed a comprehensive family-based worship system. They treat their dinner tables as an altar,  perform home rituals each weekend to remember Gd’s deeds on creation and on exodus from Egypt, talk about words of bible during the meal times, and say grace after meal to thank Gd.

In this chapter at Number 10:1-10, I also was impressed that Moses was taught the first telecommunication system using trumpets, which is very similar to (and in fact more complex than) telegraph and Morse’s code. (There are some interesting coincidences here, regarding the similarity between the two names, and that Morse was also religious and sent the first telegraph with a message to praise Gd.)  Morse’s code uses either dot or bar, but Moses was taught that codes can be either long (blow) or short (alarm), performed on either one or two trumpets.


Numbers 11

11:26          But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

Comment: Rashi explained here that in order to be fair for all the tribes, a lottery was drawn with 72 lots, six people each of the twelve tribes drew a lot. 70 of the 72 lots had “Elder” written on them, and 2 lots had “Lot” written on them. Eldad and Medad drew the lots with “Elder” written on them, but stayed home, feeling of being unworthy. I say that they are rewarded by having their names recorded in the eternal Torah, due to their humility.


Numbers 12

12:14          And the LRD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

Comment: Rashi says here that if father shames daughter for 1 week, then Gd who is more esteemed, would shame His daughter for 2 weeks, but this kind of  “all the more so” derivation doesn’t make things more stringent, so the period of shaming stays at 1 week. I see here that Gd chastises even a leader of His people such as Moses’ sister Miriam, but He still didn’t conceal His affection calling the one being chastised as His daughter. Knowing that the affliction comes from her father and out of love and is therefore limited properly, is a great mercy from the father.