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II THE PURPOSE OF THE MISHKAN - Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and...

II THE PURPOSE OF THE MISHKAN



Examining these issues leads us to a larger question - what was the purpose of the Mishkan? Keeping in mind that the original Divine plan - as outlined in our Parashah - was to complete the stand at Sinai (with the construction and dedication of the Mishkan) and then to move immediately to Eretz Yisra'el. At that point, the people would conquer the land until such time that the proper "final destination" of the Shekhinah would be found - later revealed to be Yerushalayim. Why was there a need for a temporary Mishkan, with all of its appurtenances and vessels?

As Ramban explains (in his introduction to Parashat Terumah), the Mishkan was intended to be a continuation of the Sinai experience - with the incense substituting for the cloud, the altar on the outside taking the place of the altar at the foot of the mountain etc. In other words, the Mishkan was a vehicle for continuing the revelation of God's Word - the place where Man encounters the Divine.

It is entirely fitting, therefore, that God's Word was revealed from that place where the two K'ruvim were set, made of one gold piece, on top of the Aron ha'Edut (the Ark of the Testimony). Just as these two angelic/childlike images face each other - *uPh'neihem Ish El Achiv* - reflecting a mutually respectful and interdependent relationship, so it is with God's Word - revealed to Mosheh *Panim El Panim* - face to face.

The Mishkan was the place of encounter, as we find that, symbolically, not only the central figures in the Holy of Holies faced each other - but many other elements of the Mishkan were set up in symmetrical form, facing their partners (e.g. the rings of the tent-covers).

III THE MENORAH - SYMBOL OF WISDOM



As the Netziv points out (in his commentary at the beginning of our Parashah), the Menorah symbolizes all forms of wisdom. This is why it must be made from one solid piece of gold - not welded together - because all wisdom has one elemental Source. He goes on to explain that the middle stem of the Menorah represents the wisdom of Torah, where the three branches on each side represent other forms of wisdom which are, essentially, included in the wisdom of the Torah. The three wicks on each side must face the center - just as all other intellectual disciplines must serve the wisdom of Torah and its study.

We need one more piece of information to explain the need for a "front" of the Menorah. Besides the Menorah, there are two other vessels in the Sanctuary: the Mizbach haK'toret (Incense Altar) and the Shulhan (Table). Whereas the Mizbach haK'toret was further back and in the middle of the Sanctuary, the Shulhan was near the front, just like the Menorah - and on the opposite side of the Sanctuary from the Menorah. In other words, the Shulhan and the Menorah were somewhat matched in the Sanctuary.

What was on the Shulhan? "And you shall set Lechem haPanim ("Showbread") on the table before me Tamid (always)". (Sh'mot 25:30)

The purpose of the Shulhan was to house the *Lechem haPanim* - bread that has a "face" or a "front" - and that bread was to be on the Shulhan at all times - *Tamid*. (See BT Menahot 99b).

We now look across the Sanctuary to the Menorah - which was to house the everlasting flame - the Ner Tamid - and the association is clear. In order to complete the symmetry, the Torah commands Aharon to make a "Panim" for the Menorah - such that the "Panim" of the bread and the "Panim" of the Menorah face each other, creating an outside analogue to the K'ruvim.

IV SUSTENANCE AND WISDOM



If the Menorah represents Wisdom, what is represented by the Shulhan and its attendant Lechem haPanim?

As Ramban (Sh'mot 25:30) points out, the Lechem haPanim was the source of God's blessings of sustenance - the symbolism is pretty straightforward, considering that bread is usually associated with physical existence and nourishment.

So - we have two vessels, facing each other in the Sanctuary - with their focal components consistently present ("Tamid"). What are we to make of this phenomenon?

The Rabbis already taught us: "If there is no flour (bread), there is no Torah; and if there is no Torah, there is no bread". (Avot 3:17)

In other words, while the Torah distances itself in no uncertain terms from hedonism, asceticism is also not the ideal. We must balance our physical needs and material pursuits with our pursuit of wisdom - and Torah. We must note that the Shulhan and the Menorah face each other and are mutually interdependent.

All of this notwithstanding, we must remember that the Shulhan is low and has a crown underneath; whereas the Menorah is elevated (hence the opening line in our Parashah) and carries the flames which move ever up. Even though sustenance and wisdom serve each other, we must always remember which is elevated and which drags - and that, ultimately, we live in order to gain wisdom and not the reverse.

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7 - HAR ETZION (V

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A) INTRODUCTION TO PARSHAT HASHEVUAH



Remembering Miriam's Sin



I. The Cushite Woman - Black is Beautiful



Throughout their travels in the desert, the Israelites often complained and criticized Moses' leadership. These expressions of dissatisfaction usually originated from the masses or from a specific interest group. By contrast, at the conclusion of our parasha, the Torah tells of a different assault on Moses. This time, it is not the masses who assail Moses, but his very own siblings, Miriam and Aaron! As you read the following verses, pay attention to any textual difficulties requiring clarification.

"When they were in Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married: 'for he had married a Cushite woman.' They said, 'Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?'" (Numbers 12:1,2)

The following are some of the questions which arise in the verses cited above:

1) What is the meaning of the word "Cushite"?

2) Who is this Cushite woman?

3) Why does the Torah repeat 'for he had married a Cushite woman.'?

4) What is the content of Miriam and Aaron's criticism of Moses?

5) What is the connection between Miriam and Aaron's words in the second verse : "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses..." and the complaint regarding the Cushite woman in the first verse?

With these questions in mind, let us begin our analysis. Miriam and Aaron's criticism of Moses focuses on the Cushite woman whom he had married. Although the first question regarding the meaning of the word Cushite is a seemingly simple question of definition, it has far reaching consequences for the understanding of our narrative and the answers to the aforementioned questions.

The commentators offer different interpretations of the word Cushite. There are those who interpret "Cushite" as an adjective describing the external appearance of Moses' wife, and those who interpret it as a description of nationality.

Our sages understand Cushite to mean "beautiful." This is also the position adopted by the Targum Onkelus (Aramaic translation, 2nd century) and many of the classical commentators including Rasag (Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon, Persia, 892- 942) and Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak, France, 1040-1105). According to this line of interpretation, the woman referred to is Tzippora, Yitro's daughter, whom Moses married while dwelling in the land of Midyan, before the exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 2:21). What, then, was the content of Miriam and Aaron's critique of Moses? Rashi cites the following surprising answer of our sages:

"Now how did Miriam know that Moses had separated himself from his wife? Rabbi Natan says: Miriam was at the side of Zipporah at the time when it was told to Moses (11:27), 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.' When Zipporah heard [this], she said: 'Woe unto the wives of these men, if they [the husbands] are required to prophesy, for they will separate themselves from their wives just as my husband separated himself from me.' Hence Miriam knew and she told [it] to Aaron."

Our chapter follows both the designation of the seventy elders appointed to help Moses lead the people, and the incident of Eldad and Medad's prophesying in the camp (see 11:24-26). Miriam coincidentally overhears Tzipporah's acrimonious comment relating to the wives of prophets whose family life is hampered by their husbands' prophesying. Upon hearing this, Miriam complains to Aaron about Moses' separating himself from Tzipporah and no longer having sexual relations with her. She critiques Moses for concentrating solely on his leadership responsibilities and neglecting his wife and family.

What is the textual source of this homiletical interpretation? Where does the Torah intimate that this is the focus of Miriam and Aaron's complaint?

The first textual source is the repetition of the clause "for he married a Cushite woman" at the end of verse one. The Torah states that Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses "because of the Cushite woman he had married FOR HE HAD MARRIED A CUSHITE WOMAN". What is the purpose of this repetition?

Our sages infer from it that Moses had taken a wife but later divorced her. The repetition and the passive tense of the clause, "had married" emphasizes that Moses was previously married even though he had since separated from his wife.

A second textual source is verse two: "They [Miriam and Aaron] said, has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?" How is this verse connected to the Cushite woman mentioned in the preceding verse? What does revelation have to do with Moses' wife? Rabbi Hirsch (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Germany, 1808-1888) offers the following elaboration:

"When we look through the whole of the Torah for some relation between marital conditions and prophecy the only case we find is in Exodus 19:15 where the people who are to be deemed worthy of receiving the Word of God directly from Him, as a preparation for that were to abstain completely from sexual intercourse with their wives. As a matter of fact tradition also explains that the condemnatory remarks of Miriam and Aaron were solely referring to Moses abstaining from sexual intercourse with his wife, a fact which only became known to them on the occasion of the prophecy of the appointed elders. The complaint was entirely in the interest of the wife, for they found it wrong and thought it was nothing about which Moses had been commanded, as they themselves and the Patriarchs before them had been considered worthy to receive the Word of God without thereby having to suffer interruption in their conjugal lives. They overlooked the difference between the stage Moses had reached and their own, and did not know that, when at the conclusion of the Revelation on Sinai the people were told 'Return to your tents' (Deut. 5:27) to return to family life and conjugal intimacy, Moses was commanded to remain separated and given the duty with the words 'But you remain here with Me.'"

Miriam and Aaron claim that prophecy is no excuse for neglecting family duties and abstaining from sexual relations. After all, they too are prophets and yet did not find it necessary to divorce! They failed to appreciate the difference between Moses' prophecy and their own.

The Ibn Ezra (Rabbi Avraham ben Ezra, Spain, 1092-1167) and the Chizkuni (Rabbi Chizkiya ben Manoach, France, mid- thirteenth century) interpret the word Cushite differently. They agree that Cushite, here, is used as an adjective describing the external appearance of Moses' wife. However, amazingly, they interpret the word to mean UGLY, the exact opposite of our sages' interpretation! Accordingly, they have a different understanding of Miriam and Aaron's critique of Moses. Miriam thought Moses divorced Tzipporah not as a consequence of prophecy but rather as a consequence of Tzipporah's homeliness! She thought Moses no longer found Tzipporah attractive and therefore divorced her! This interpretation is, in my opinion, difficult since it seems unlikely that Miriam and Aaron would suspect Moses of divorcing for such a reason.

[One might ask how it is that the commentators offer such diametrically opposed interpretations of the word Cushite. The source of the word Cushite stems from the word Cush, one of the sons of Ham (see Genesis 10:6). It refers to a people of a darker skin complexion descending from Cush. The commentators cited so far interpret the word Cushite in our verse as an adjective describing the appearance of Tzipporah. The difference in interpretations might stem from differences in esthetic tastes. It is possible that in the period and location of our sages (approximately 50 B.C.E.- 550 C.E., Israel and Babylonia) dark skin was considered attractive while during the period of the classical European commentators (11th to 13th centuries) it was considered uncomely.]

In contrast to the two interpretations cited so far, the Rashbam (Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir, France, 1080-1160) interprets the word Cushite as a designation of nationality:

"A Cushite" - "from the family of Ham as is written in the Chronicles of Moses that Moses ruled forty years in the land of Cush and took the queen of Cush for a wife...For if the Torah were referring to Tzipporah, why would it state that Moses had married a Cushite woman since we already know that Tzipporah is a Midianite [and therefore the Torah's informing us of her nationality is superfluous]. Moreover she [Tzipporah] was not a Cushite for Cush is the son of Ham and Midian is the son of Ketorah, and of the children of Abraham!"

The Rashbam, in his unrelenting pursuit of the 'peshat' - the "simple" non-homiletical meaning of scripture, rejects the traditional approach of identifying the Cushite woman as Tzipporah. Cushite is not an adjective but a designation of nationality. The Rashbam rejects the possibility that the Torah is referring to Tzipporah on two grounds. One, were the Torah referring in our verse to Tzipporah, it would be redundant to inform us of her nationality since it is already known to us. Two, Tzipporah is not a Cushite but rather a Midianite. [The Ibn Ezra grapples with this point by claiming that although Tzipporah was a Midianite, the Midianites were tent-dwellers and dark-skinned, and were also referred to as Cushites.] The Rashbam therefore concludes that our verse is referring to a different wife of Moses and not Tzipporah. Hence, the repetition in verse one, "FOR HE MARRIED A CUSHITE WOMAN," informing us that Moses had indeed married a second woman, a fact not previously recounted by the Torah.

According to this interpretation, what is Miriam and Aaron's complaint against Moses? The Rashbam does not elaborate. Perhaps it is a critique of Moses' taking a second wife? Although a common practice in the time of the Torah, Miriam and Aaron may have found this to be objectionable and unbefitting of a great spiritual leader such as Moses.

How does the Rashbam explain the connection between the first two verses in our chapter, between the complaint about the Cushite woman and Miriam and Aaron's words, "Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?"? We saw that according to Rabbi Hirsch the connection between the verses is that Moses separated from Tzipporah due to his prophetic revelations. By contrast, the Rashbam sees no connection between the two verses. They are two separate and independent critiques of Moses. The first relates to Moses' taking a Cushite woman and the second is a questioning of the superiority of Moses.

Rabbi Bechor Schor (Rabbi Yoseph Ben Yitzchak Bechor Shor, France, 12 century) who agrees with the Rashbam that the word "Cushite" in our verse designates nationality and that the Torah is not referring here to Tzipporah but to another woman, suggests a different explanation of the content of Miriam and Aaron's complaint:

"They [Miriam and Aaron] said: 'Could not Moses have found an Israelite woman to marry, that he had to marry a Cushite gentile. Is it because God speaks to him that he becomes arrogant and does not wish to marry an Israelite but rather a woman from afar?"

According to Rabbi Bechor Schor, Aaron and Miriam's critique of Moses is an assault on intermarriage. Their critique is not, as stated by our sages, over Moses' separating from his wife, but rather the opposite, over wedding a woman of another nation. They simply can not understand how Moses could marry a non-Jewish woman. In contrast to the Rashbam, Rabbi Bechor Schor does see a connection between the first two verses. Continuing his line of interpretation, he explains that Miriam and Aaron buttress their critique of Moses' taking a gentile wife by claiming that although they are also prophets, they nevertheless did not consider marrying a non-Jew. Why then should Moses behave any differently?

As we can see, the commentators offer very different explanations of Miriam and Aaron's critque of Moses. Our sages explain that the critique relates to Moses' separation from Tzipporah due to divine revelation. According to the Ibn Ezra and the Chizkuni, Miriam and Aaron assailed Moses for separating from Tzipporah after no longer finding her attractive. By contrast, the Rashbam and the Bechor Schor do not think that the Torah is refering to Tzipporah but rather to a different woman, and the Bechor Schor explains that the critique was over Moses' marrying a non-Jewish woman from Cush. The reason for this uncertainty and the many different possibilities raised by the commentators in discussing the substance of Miriam and Aaron's critique is the Torah's curtness in describing the episode. One might ask why the Torah didn't provide a more elaborate and detailed exposition of their critique? That would have certainly minimized the obscurity of the narrative!

Nechama Leibovitch (Israel, 1905-1997) suggests that the answer to this question lies in the sensitive nature of the narrative. The Torah is not interested in dwelling on Miriam and Aaron's critique of Moses. The critique is unjustified to begin with and there is therefore no reason to linger on it. Had the Torah elaborated on the complaint, that would be tantamount to spreading slander about Moses. The Torah's terseness is a lesson on the importance of not exacerbating the spread of slander and defamation.

B) SICHOT ROSH YESHIVA



Harav Yehuda Amital

FLESH AND SPIRIT



Flesh and spirit - these are two mutually opposing worlds, and yet they appear in our parasha in close proximity to one another. Following the dedication of the altar, a moment which represents one of the pinnacles of the nation's spirituality, and prior to the parasha which describes the bestowing of God's spirit on the elders, the Torah recounts the story of the rebels who desired meat.

"'He who loves silver will not be content with silver, nor he who loves abundance with increase' - ...Our Rabbis taught that this refers to talmidei chakhamim (Torah scholars) who love the words of Torah... R. Nachman said: He who loves Torah is not satiated with Torah... R. Yitzchak said: Someone who loves [to perform] the mitzvot is never satisfied with the mitzvot [which he has performed]." (Devarim Rabba 2:18)

The truth is that in their interpretation of the verse from Kohelet (5:9), our Sages have not deviated from the simple understanding of the text. If a certain person has a strong desire for silver - a lust for materialism and physical commodities - then we should seek and analyze the roots of this desire. A person's innermost desire can sometimes be redirected and diverted from its original object. The thirst for spirituality and for Torah exists in the heart of every individual; sometimes, though, this thirst and desire are expressed in a most negative way - through the lust for the fleshpots.

There are two types of desire, and Moshe was faced with both of them. There is the desire for flesh, and there is the desire for desire itself: "They lusted after lust" (Bemidbar 11:4) - this indicates those who were satisfied and were now hungry for a desire to arise within themselves.

This idea finds expression in Chazal's two explanations for Moshe's response (11:22): "Shall enough sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them...?" R. Akiva understood this literally: "Who will provide for them sufficiently?" (Tosefta Sota 6:4) - can any meat be found in the world that will satisfy them? The provision of the physical demands of their cravings will not solve the problem. The material demand requires a more profound solution - the filling of their spiritual void.

R. Shimon, on the other hand, addresses himself to the other sort of desire - "Shall sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them - in order that they be killed?!" (ibid.) - i.e. if You supply their physical needs, You will be killing them by doing so. Not only does this not represent a solution, but - on the contrary - it makes the problem much worse. The fulfillment of all one's desires and lusts brings in its wake the lust after lust itself; the need to fill the void left in a life devoid of purpose and challenge.

It is in response to Moshe's assertion that Bnei Yisrael's complaints indicate nothing more than a spiritual void, expressed through their material demands, that God rests His spirit on the elders of the nation.

C) INDEPTH PARSHAT SHEVUAH



by Rav Kenny Waxman

I

About midway through this week's parasha, Parashat Beha'alotkha, the plot of Sefer Bemidbar undergoes a wrenching shift. So far in the sefer, the narrative has been primarily concerned with PREPARATIONS for travel, such as the census (1:1-47), the organization of the camp (2:1-34), the unique status, counting, encampment organization and transporting- role of the levi'im (3:5-4:49), the nesi'im's provision of the means for transporting the mishkan and their subsequent sacrifices (7:1-89), the travel instructions of following the cloud (9:15-23), and finally the method of signaling the breaking of camp and coordinating movement (10:1-10). At this point the twenty day preparation ends (see 1:1 and 10:11) and a shift occurs. The Torah tells us that "...on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, the cloud rose from the tabernacle. Then the Jews traveled from the wilderness of Sinai, till the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran." (10:11-12)

From this junction and on, Sefer Bemidbar is concerned with movement instead of arrangement, location rather than organization. Throughout the remainder of the sefer, the fundamental motifs include "nas'u" (traveling), and "vayachanu be-" (encamping - 11:35, 12:15, 20:22 etc.). Almost an entire chapter (33:1-49) is dedicated to listing the masa'ot, the forty years worth of journeys in the desert. While the sefer begins at Sinai (1:1), it ends in Arvot Moav (36:13), forty years and numerous destinations later. While Sefer Bemidbar, is rightfully known by Chazal as Sefer Pekudim, the book of counting, the latter part might well have been known as "sefer masa'ot" the book of travels. (See Abarbanel's commentary on chapter one.)

The latter half of Parashat Beha'alotkha not only presents a fundamental change in theme, but a notable shift in narrative tone and pace as well. While most of the text preceding 10:11 might best be classified formally as narrative rather than halakha, even those sections (see the sections discussed above) nevertheless possess the tone and tempo normally associated with the halakhic portions of the Torah. Put simply: things or events do not happen quickly. Better yet, things or events don't seem to really "happen" at all. Long sections of God's command of "hilkhot ha-machaneh," the laws of organization and preparation are followed by short accounts of fulfillment. Alternatively, short commands of "hilkhot ha-machaneh" are followed by long accounts of their fulfillment.

All of this changes as of the first "masa." From here on out the Torah presents a near dizzying array of occurrences and events, following one on the heels of the other. The action moves quickly through the following clearly distinct events throughout the remainder of Beha'alotkha:

It is of course insufficient to just note the thematic and stylistic differences between pre-first masa and post- first masa Bemidbar or more pertinently pre-first masa and post-first masa Beha'alotkha. Having come upon the quickly moving "group" of events that closes out Beha'alotkha, we must examine their interrelationship as well - to paraphrase Chazal, the question of "ma inyan zeh eitzel zeh"?

One strategy is just to avoid the question. We might be tempted to claim that the linkage principle of post-first masa Beha'alotkha is nothing more than pure chronology. The Torah simply reports events in the order of their occurrence (see Ibn Ezra 11:1). However this seems inadequate in this case. A closer examination of the text indicates that a lot more is going on. Let us begin by first reorganizing the post-masa section into a structure rather than a laundry list of events. (It is advisable to read the text at this point). The text might be organized as follows:

Granted the division above, there are quite a few textual and thematic links between the apparently separate sections 2.0 and 3.0. In what we termed the second section the Torah describes God's reaction both to the mit'onenim and the demand for meat with some form of the phrase "vayechar af," symbolic of great anger (11:1,11:10 and 11:33). Likewise in section 3.0, in summation of God's conversation with Miryam and Aharon and as a preface to her punishment, the Torah utilizes the phrase "vayechar af"(12:9). Similarly, throughout section 2.0, a key term, the stem "ASF" (gather), appears numerous times. >From the "asafsuf"(11:4), the erev rav / mixed multitude gathered in from Egypt, (see Rashi, Rashban, Ibn Ezra) to the twice gathered "slav" (11:32), the term appears seven times (11:4,16,22,24,30,32). Like the mixed multitude, the elders and the slav all gathered into, towards or around the "machaneh," Miryam of section 3.0 is also twice described as "gathered" (ASF) into the "machaneh" (12:14-15).

Furthermore, there appears to be a certain connection between the sins of the second and third sections. "Vayehi ha- am ke-mit'onenim...." (11:1). Whether one reads like Ramban, "And the people murmured of their suffering and pain.." or Rashi, "And the people sought to complain...", the sin involves some sort of speech. Whether actual bitter murmurings or just the desire to complain the sin involves the inchoate, or not fully verbalized level of speech. The second sin, the desire for meat, the rejection of the man, and the lament for the delicacies of Egypt (4-10) also involves speech. The Torah uses the term "vayivku," meaning crying, to describe their complaint (11:4,10,13). The speech sin is here no longer pre- verbal but rather post-verbal. Nevertheless, it is the crying lament of a child, a rudimentary form of speech, a point Moshe emphasizes with his analogy of birthing and nursing an infant (11:12). The sin of Miryam and Aharon, section three, constitutes the continuation of this progression. Their sin is of course lashon hara, slanderous speech, "Va-tedaber Miryam ve-Aharon..."(12:1). Here the speech-sin/complaint is fully verbal. It is full-fledged dibur, the speech of a prophet against another.

The speech act level progression helps reveal another developmental element. The sin begins at the "ketzei ha- machaneh," the edges of the encampment(11:1). It continues with the "asafsuf asher be-kirbo," the outsiders amidst them (11:4) and progresses quickly to "ha-am bokheh lemishpechotav ish le-petach ahalo," the entire nation organized as families crying at their tents (11:10). But it appears now that the contagion of speech-sin/complaint spreads even deeper than from the edge/outsiders to the encampment/families of Israel. The disease reaches the highest echelons and in section three infects even the leaders of Israel, those who camp near the mishkan.

In parallel to the links between sections two and three outlined above, their appears to be a critical textual link between the apparently separate sections one and two. In section 1.1, the recap of Moshe's dialogue with Chovev at the moment of masa, the term "tov," good, appears five times. Moshe invites Chovev to join "and it will be good for you, since God has spoken good for Israel, "diber tov al yisrael" (10:29). After Chovev's first refusal, Moshe presses him and as an enticement offers "the good that God will do good unto us, so too we shall do good for you" (10:32). The fivefold "tov" of section 1.1 stands in direct contrast to one of the primary motifs of section two. The people are "kemit'onenim ra be-aznei Hashem" (11:1). Even translating as most commentaries do, "complaining/murmuring AND it was evil in the ears of God" (see Rashi, Ramban), the contrast of "tov" in 1.1 and "ra" in 2.0 is obvious. Furthermore, as Rashbam and Ramban both point out (11:1), they are complaining about the "bad" conditions, the pain and difficulty of the journey, the "ra" God has provided them.

In further contrast to section 1.1, Moshe views the situation of the people complaining at the doors of their tents as "ra," evil or illegitimate (11:10), and twice accuses God of having done "ra" to him by saddling him with the leadership of the Bnei Yisrael (11:11,15).

In sum, section one outlines the "good journey," founded in the "diber tov al yisrael" of God and embodied in the talk of good and vision of good that Moshe proposes to Chovev. Sections two and three constitute a reversal of this theme. Where as God had spoken "tov" of Israel, and Moshe "tov" of the journey/destination, the members of Israel, those peripheral and even eventually those central, speak "ra" of either the journey and by implication the destination and God, or of Moshe his servant. Whereas before Moshe had spoken of and seen nothing but "tov," now Moshe sees nothing but "ra" (11:11,16).

Finally, section one is not only attached to section three through the intermediary of section two as outlined above, but also through the issue of location. Section 1.0, in the second verse, (10:12) states that the cloud rested in "midbar paran," thereby implying that this was the stopping point of the first "masa." Later on in section 2.0 the Israelites are located in "Tav'eira" (11:3), "Kivrot Hata'ava"(11:33-34) and then "Chatserot"(11:35,12:16). Shockingly, the last verse of section three finds them once again in "midbar paran" (12:16). Most commentaries (see Ibn Ezra, Ramban 12:16) maintain that "midbar paran" is a general term covering a large area and the two usages of "midbar paran" refer to different locales within "midbar paran." Nevertheless it is striking that on the literary level, section three winds up the action in the same place that section one begins it, thereby framing the latter half of Beha'alotkha as one literary unit.

Alternatively, I would like to suggest that there is in fact only one place called "midbar paran." The Torah might be following a traditional klal u'prat, heading and details structure. First, (10:11-12) we are told the heading, that the first journey was to "midbar paran." Everything that follows, (10:13-12:16), and the eventual arrival in "midbar paran," are the details of that one conceptually linked first journey and its deterioration from "tov" to "ra." The latter half of Beha'alotkha is really but one extended first "masa."

II

So far, we have examined the literary and thematic unity of the latter part of Beha'alotkha, what I have maintained should be considered the real "First Masa." As pointed out above, the themes of the section involve the deterioration and failure of the "First Masa"(see Rashi 11:1, Ramban 10:35), the inability of the people to see and speak "tov," and the spread of the speech-sin/complaint contagion. However, at this point, at least two, if not many more difficulties remain.

I have always been bothered by the inclusion of the Eldad- Meidad story (11:26-29), dubbed above as section 2.1. The immediately preceding verses, the Torah's report of the prophecy of the seventy elders (11:24-5), constitutes a response to Moshe's lament of not being able to go on alone (11:14). But this should be sufficient to make the point that God responded to Moshe and to explicate the method of God's response. What is added by telling us that Eldad and Meidad remained behind and prophesied in the camp? The fact that the event occurred chronologically right after, if not simultaneously with the prophecy of the seventy elders is seemingly an insufficient rationale to include the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad. Not everything that occurs is mentioned in the Torah.

Secondly, on a more troubling note, throughout much of our expanded "First Masa," the statements, responses and actions of Moshe seem, for lack of a better term, out of character. Let us take a careful look at Moshe's lament to God (11:11-15) upon seeing the people crying at the doors of their tents. The section is perfectly balanced. Moshe begins by asking why (i) God has done evil ("harei'ota) to his servant; (ii) why Moshe has not found favor in God's eyes ("matzati chein be-einekha"); and (iii) then complains of the burden, ("masa") that God has placed upon him. In concluding his complaint Moshe reverses the order and pleads for the negation of each statement. Moshe states (i) that he cannot bear the burden ("laseit") of the people; and (ii) then pleads for death if he has found favor in God's eyes. Finally he closes with a plea not to see the evil that has befallen him ("al er'eh be-ra'ati"). In contrast to the perfect balance of his poetry, Moshe's mood seems one of anguish and despair. Moshe laments his evil lot, complains he has not found favor in God's eyes, claims he cannot bear leading the people anymore and most strikingly requests his own death.

The problem is that this is not the Moshe we are familiar with from Sefer Shemot. For example, just a year previously, when the people complained of the desert conditions and of leaving Egypt (Shemot, 17:1-7), Moshe responded forcefully to the people, reproving them for striving with him ("ma terivun imadi"), and for testing God, ("tenaseh et Hashem"). In Beha'alotkha, Moshe never speaks to the people, rather he stands and watches, "u-be'einei Moshe ra" (11:10) and then laments his fate to God. Similarly, in the aftermath of the cheit ha'egel (Shemot 32:30-32) Moshe offers a stringent reprove to the people, that they have sinned a great sin, and then returns to his conversation with God. At that point, Moshe demands forgiveness for the Jewish people, and if not, demands that God take his life ("mecheini na misifrekha"). Moshe puts his life on the line on behalf of the Jewish people. In Beha'alotkha, Moshe invites death not on behalf of the Jewish people but to escape having anything to do with them (11:15). What has happened to Moshe?

Let us return to section 1.1, Moshe's invitation to Chovev (10:29-31). Most commentaries (see Rashi, Rashbam, Ramban) identify Chovev as Yitro. After all, the Torah refers to him as "choten Moshe," the father in law of Moshe. Furthermore, as Ibn Ezra points out, this interpretation receives support from the fact that Chovev "knew the encampment in the desert" (10:31) and Yitro had found Israel encamped in the desert (Shemot, 18:5). Finally, Moshe tells Chovev "vehayita lanu le-einayim" (10:31). Rashbam (see Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ramban in contrast) interprets "vehayita" as referring to some past service and le-einayim, as eyes, as referring to perceptive advice. The phrase in fact refers to the second half of the Yitro narrative (18:13-27) in which Yitro perceptively advises Moshe not to bear the burdens of judging the people by himself, for it is to heavy, "ki kaved mimkha ha-davar lo tukhal as'hu l'vadekha" (18:18). As is well known, Yitro suggests the appointment of officers and judges who will help Moshe bear the burden. In Yitro's words "venas'u itakh," and they will carry/bear with you (18:22). Hence the fact that both Chovev and Yitro are perceptive advisors further supports the Chovev-Yitro identification.

Granted that Chovev-Yitro refuses Moshe's invitation and returns to his birthplace (see Shemot, 18:27), Moshe's lament (11:11- 15) appears in a whole new light. He complains of the "masa," burden of the people(11:11), utilizes the nursing/carrying image of "sa'eihu becheikekha ka'asher yisa ha'omen" (11:12) and concludes that "lo ukhal anokhi levadi la'seit et kol ha-am hazeh ki kaved mimeni," I cannot carry the people alone since they are too heavy (11:14), a near exact parallel to what Yitro had warned of (Shemot 18:18). The exact issues of heaviness, burden, leadership capability and aloneness that Yitro had raised now dominate Moshe's thinking. We might suggest that the loss of his father in-law, his perceptive political advisor and leadership mentor has borne a heavy toll on Moshe. Once again he feels himself incapable of leading the people. Metaphorically, he stands once again at the burning bush, where Moshe had stated "who am I...." (Shemot, 3:11).

In addition, in analyzing the transition from section 1.1 to section 2.0 and the anguished Moshe of section 2.0, there is more to it than just noting Moshe's personal loss of Yitro and the triggering of Moshe's feelings of leadership inadequacy. As pointed out above, the move from 1.1 to 2.0 involves the failure of the "good journey," the move from the "diber tov al yisrael" of God and the talk of "tov" and vision of "tov" that Moshe presents to Chovev-Yitro, to the perception of "ra" and speech-sin by the people. Already in the very first verse of section two (11:1), the people complain and God's wrath burns against them. From Moshe's perspective, this pattern should have already been left far behind, back in Sefer Shemot, before the revelation at Sinai, before the forgiveness for the cheit ha-egel, before the hashra'at ha-shekhina embodied in the mishkan. The "good journey" in, which the people march quickly into the land, begins to fail immediately and quickly metastasizes into an all too ominous pattern of failure, sin and punishment. So too Moshe's vision of good and talk of good, his confident optimism, quickly evaporates. Given the failure of his hopes and expectations, he sees nothing but "ra" (11:10,11,15) and laments his leadership and very existence (11:11-15).

This intra-"First Masa" picture of the persona of Moshe, of his susceptibility to the loss of his personal advisor and of his hopes, of his all too human frailties, develops further as the narrative progresses. In response to God's plan to provide the "am" with a months worth of meat, Moshe states that there are six hundred thousand people and "ha-tzon u- bakar yishachet lahem u-matza lahem..." (11:21-22). While Moshe's comment may be read as an expression of amazement at God's plan (Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Ramban), Rashi quotes the position of Akiva that interprets the verse as an expression of disbelief on Moshe's part and a querying of God's capabilities. It seems that perhaps the anguished and despairing Moshe of the "First Masa" is not completely immune to the spread of the speech-sin disease.

The prophecy of the seventy elders (11:24-25) furthers the development regards Moshe. From the beginning of Shemot and on, the Torah rarely attributes prophecy to anyone but Moshe (see Vayikra 10:8 for a notable exception). But suddenly, there are seventy new prophets in Israel. While intended to help bolster Moshe's morale and to ease the burdens of leadership (11:16-17), the new prophets might well have the effect of undercutting Moshe's status as the leader, as the one granted the unique privilege of hearing the voice of God. In the context of the "First Masa" and perhaps in the eyes of the people, Moshe seems all too human and his talent for prophecy all too common.

This is of course the exact perception embodied in Miryam and Aharon's speech against Moshe (12:1-2). Miryam speaks ill of Moshe "al odot ha-isha kushit," regards some human foible of Moshe's concerning the Kushite woman he had married. From Miryam's perspective, Moshe cannot hide behind his unique status as a prophet. After all "halo gam banu diber," "God has spoken with us as well" (12:2).

Reading the "First Masa" as a kind of extended discourse on Moshe's humanity and the status of his leadership brings us full circle to the perplexing prophecy of Eldad and Meidad. The text informs us of nothing more than that "they prophesied in the camp" (11:26). They had not gathered around the tent like the other elders. What so disturbed Yehoshua and aroused his zealousness? The answer is in fact quite obvious. As Ramban (11:26) points out even if one assumes that the content of their prophecy was itself harmless, the very act of not gathering around the tent as Moshe had ordered, of prophesying not under the supervision and tutelage of "the father of prophets," constitutes an undercutting of Moshe's unique status and leadership. It is a statement of independence and equality. Yehoshua was zealous for the honor, status and leadership of his teacher.

But here Moshe's reaction is unique. Rather than mirror Yehoshua's zealousness, Moshe is humble and self-effacing. Rather than demanding the silence of Eldad and Meidad, Moshe offers the wistful hope that all the people could be prophets, with the spirit of God resting upon them (11:29). Moshe is unconcerned with personal status and personal honor. Simply put, Moshe is unique.

Seen this way, the story of Eldad and Meidad, constitutes a turning point. Until now the "First Masa" has portrayed Moshe as subject to human personality traits and described situations that might undercut his unique status and leadership. From this point on, the Torah counters and emphasizes the uniqueness of Moshe. Like his reaction to the prophecy of Eldad and Meidad, his reaction to the speech of Miryam and Aharon is unique. As the Torah succinctly states "And the man Moshe was humbler than all other men" (12:3). Although a man, he is different than others. Finally, God himself in chastising Miryam and Aharon states that although many are prophets, there are no prophets like Moshe, "peh el peh adaber bo" (12:7). With Moshe, God speaks directly, without intermediaries, in intimate relation.

III

The latter half of Beha'alotkha, the "First Masa," is not only an account of that first journey, the speech- sin/complaint of the people, its spread, the inability of the people to see and speak "tov," the failure of the journey etc., but is also a story about Moshe, his humanity, his despair and anguish, his humbleness and his prophecy. The same Moshe who spent forty days on the mountain with God, the same Moshe whose face shone with the light of divine spirituality (Shemot, 34:29), this same Moshe suffers despair from the loss of Yitro and the dissolution of his vision of the journey. This same "frail" Moshe is humbler than all men and uniquely intimate with God. Moshe's humanity and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. In fact it seems that perhaps the "First Masa" teaches us that Moshe's type of humanity lies at the heart of his spirituality.

To conclude, I have tried to show that the latter half of Beha'alotkha constitutes a coherent single unit, the "First Masa." As such, it stands at a unique juncture in Sefer Bemidbar and has much to teach us about the rest of "sefer masa'ot" and by implication the forty years of travel in the desert. It constitutes a kind of typology of "masa." After all, are not other parts of Bemidbar the story of the people's inability to see "tov" and their complaints against God? Are not other parts of Bemidbar about the power of speech- sin/complaint?

Finally, and most importantly, when we think of the years in the desert and the events of the remainder of Bemidbar, we must think of Moshe Rabeinu, his unique humanity and yet, his incandescent spirituality.

Note: While the analysis of Moshe is my own, it draws deeply from sichot heard over the years from mori ve-rabi Harav Aharon Lichtenstein. Likewise, while the textual analysis is my own, it draws deeply from the method learnt from my first teacher in Tanakh, R. Menachem Leibtag.

Questions for Further Study.



1) Commenting on the "simaniyot," the inverted "nun"s that bracket the verses regards the first journey of "And when the ark traveled..." (10:35- 36), the Gemara (Shabbat 116) maintains that these verses constitute a separate sefer. How might this relate to this shiur?

2) Compare the complaints of the people in our parasha with Shemot 15:22-17:7. Are they similar or different?

3) Take a careful look at Shemot 12:38. How does this interrelate with our parasha? See Rashi and Ramban Beha'alotkha.

4) If Chovev is not Yitro, who is he? Take a look at Ibn Ezra. What is the role of section 1.1 according to Ibn Ezra?

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHh

8 - TANACH STUDY CENTER

(M. Leibtag)

A) PARSHAT SHEVUAH



According to one opinion in Chazal Sefer Bamidbar could be considered THREE books! In fact, this opinion claims that two very popular psukim -"va'yhi bin'so'ah ha'aron..." & "u'v'nucha..." (10:35-36/ which we recite when we take out the Sefer Torah) constitute a entire "sefer" on their own. [See Shabbat 116a.]

Part I of this week's shiur explains why.

[Part II of this week's shiur discusses the first Rashi.]

2010-07-19 18:44 Читать похожую статью
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