Parashat Behalotecha begins with the instructions that the light of the menorah was to be structured in such a way as to shine toward the people. The Torah teaches us that GOD uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary tasks and that they are judged by their hearts and given specific roles. We read that our Creator gave roles to the Levites, to Aaron, Moshe and every major character in the Torah, and in the same way, He gave you and me a role and when we find it and step into it with all our hearts, we can shine. Israel was formed to be a light to all the nations.

For the first half of my life, I tried to shine “my” light or the light of “my” understanding, but the results were empty. All the religions and ideologies I delved into taught me their truths and it was easy to believe their wonderful promises but over time, they didn’t fill the void in me. I certainly wasn’t being a light to anyone. That story changed after I turned my life over to the GOD of Israel and His principles.  I experienced one miracle after another just like the story of our people. His principles do stand the test of time and these stories show us that He always keeps His promises. When we change His Words, we are only hurting ourselves.  For example, this portion shows us that His Commandments were not meant just for the Hebrews. In chapter 9:14, GOD said, “There shall be one chukkah for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.”  Later, chapter 15 will confirm that there is one Torah for both.

Last Sunday, we received the terrible news that 12 IDF soldiers in two separate tanks lost their lives in this horrible war. I listened to Caroline Glick who says things as they are and doesn’t beat around the bush or try to please people. She said that these brave soldiers were in positions where they should not have been, that they were like sitting ducks and that government leaders are making decisions that are putting them in harm’s way. She also said that there was a lot of intel passed down to them before the October 7th massacre, but one man and I won’t mention his name, who sat in on those intel meetings decided to keep it from the Prime Minister and from those in the army who could have taken steps to prevent it. It’s easy for us to cast blame and everyone is looking to do that, not only in Israel but around the world. I am sure many are asking, as they did after the Holocaust, “Where was GOD in all this?” We can’t trust the media today so I look to our Scriptures for some answers.

GOD told Moshe in Numbers 10:9: When you are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets, that you may be remembered before your GOD יהוה and be delivered from your enemies.”  Where are the trumpets today that GOD told us to blast so that we may be remembered before Him?

Psalm 44 tells us: 2 We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the times of old. 3  With your hand you planted them displacing nations; You afflicted people and cast them out.4 For they did not get the land in possession by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your Presence, because you favourably accepted them. 5 You are my King, O GOD, command deliverance for Jacob. 6 Through you we will push down our enemies; through your name, we will trample down those who rise up against us. 7 For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. 8 But you have saved us from our enemies and have put to shame those who hate us.

Can you imagine if the Israeli government stopped bowing to the pressures put on them by enemy governments and started trusting the GOD who created us, how different the outcome would be?  I can picture the trumpeters marching in front of our IDF forces sounding the trumpets announcing that GOD is with us. Our enemies would quake like they did when we marched through the desert on our way to the Promised Land.

We hear a lot about Jewish pride these days but  Jewish pride means nothing to GOD if we are not obedient to His Torah. Pride didn’t keep Pharaoh safe and it won’t keep us safe. It won’t stop anti-Semitism.  Anti-Semitism is really being anti-GOD.

In stark contrast with pride is humility and in chapter 10, we read that Moshe was the humblest of men but even he had to learn how to trust the ONE who chose him for his role. Here we read that he urged Hovav, his father-in-law’s son to remain with them as they travelled.  He said, “…for you know where to camp and you can be our guide”.

But didn’t we just read in chapter 9:22-23, Whether it was two days or a month or a year—however long the cloud lingered over the Tabernacle—the Israelites remained encamped and did not set out; only when it lifted, did they break camp. On a sign from יהוה, they made camp and on a sign from יהוה they broke camp; they observed the LORD’s command at the LORD’s bidding through Moses.”?

If Moshe, who spoke face to face with GOD, who knew that He would lead them, who saw the physical sign of the cloud…if he still asked a person, and not even an Israelite, to guide them, how much more do we struggle with trusting Him? The beauty of walking with GOD is that we are all given the same opportunities to learn to trust Him.  Joshua, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam all failed, but GOD never abandoned them, even though they suffered the results of their lack of trust, He always gave them another chance and He does that with us. That’s what keeps us humble.

Another principle, expanding upon the lack of trust, is “do not complain.” Chapter 11:1 says, “The people took to complaining bitterly before יהוה who heard and was incensed: a fire of יהוה broke out against them, ravaging the outskirts of the camp.”  Moses prayed and the fire died down. Then in verse 4, it says, “The ‘assafsouf,  the rabble-rousers in their midst felt a gluttonous craving, and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat!”   What were they talking about? They left Egypt with a lot of cattle.  They also had the manna provided for them daily except on Shabbat. GOD said you want meat, I’ll give you meat for “a whole month until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes disgusting to you. For you have rejected יהוה who is among you, by whining and saying, ‘Oh, why did we ever leave Egypt!’” The meat was still between their teeth, not yet chewed when the anger of יהוהblazed forth against the people and יהוה struck the people with a very severe plague.”  We always cry out “Where is GOD”, when we need to ask, “Where are we”?

After this, even Moshe complained to GOD in chapter 11:14, “I cannot carry all these people by myself, for it is too much for me.”   Where would he get the idea that GOD wouldn’t be there with him every step of the way?

So, to lift some of the burden from his shoulders, GOD chose seventy elders and put some of the ruach, the spirit that He had placed on Moshe on them. It’s extremely hard for us to understand what that means. Did GOD physically remove some of His Spirit from Moshe?

Let’s look at it a little more practically. Luke said that the more that is given to us, the more is required. Moshe was given a very great commission but by complaining and not trusting, he was diminishing the value of his role of leading these people, therefore the less of the spirit within him would be needed. I don’t believe we can measure the amount of spiritual essence within us and we can’t boast of having more than others. As it says in Jeremiah 9:24,But let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am GOD, who exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on the earth– for I delight in these things, declares GOD.”

I think that we all begin with the same amount of spirit, but when we say a resounding YES to GOD and are willing to learn to trust Him no matter how great the challenge, GOD will be present with us in ways that are indescribable and His essence can shine forth. It doesn’t mean that we won’t fail at times. On the other hand, every time we say NO to GOD by refusing to step into something that He is asking us to do, we diminish His blessings in our lives and the less we shine.

Joshua also complained to Moshe about two men, Medad and Eldad who didn’t come down to the Tent of Meeting with the other seventy elders but they prophesied from where they were.  Again, we don’t know exactly what that looked like, but we don’t hear about them again before or after, which shows us that the attention was not to be placed on them but on their words. Moshe simply replied to Joshua that he wished all the people would be prophets.  When I get frustrated and think, ‘Who am I to speak GOD’s words’ or ‘Why would anyone listen to me’, am I not complaining and not trusting the call on my life?

Next, we read about the complaints of Moshe’s sister, Miriam. Her pride as a prophetess caused her to speak behind Moshe’s back to Aaron in a derogatory way saying, “Aren’t we also GOD’s prophets?” This is lashon harah, the evil tongue, resulting in her affliction of tzaraat. It’s important enough to be the Ninth Commandment.  Miriam and Aaron were reminded that GOD spoke to prophets in dreams but to Moshe, He spoke face to face. Aaron had already been humbled by his failure with the incident of the Golden Calf so he begged Moshe not to allow their sister to be like the walking dead.  Moshe, who was on the receiving end of this gossip, could have enjoyed revenge but instead, he begged GOD to heal her. Now that’s true humility.  It takes a lot to get to that place in our lives and the battle between pride and humility is a constant.

The world is heating up and it’s our fault. The first step to healing ourselves and the world is to acknowledge our part in it and that takes humility not pride. I think that the ruach within each of us is connected to the ruach in all of us. Judaism has that understanding… “to save one life is like saving the world”.  When each of us breaks a commandment or doesn’t trust GOD in some way, we add to the global spiritual darkness. There is only One GOD and one connected humanity.  When we say no to Him, preferring to do things our way, He turns His face from us and does not protect us from evil. When we complain instead of being grateful for His provision, we suffer the plagues that ensue. When we exercise humility over pride, we win.

Can you imagine what this world would be like if we stopped complaining, if we were thankful for who we are and for what we have, and simply said YES to our Creator – “I will do and I will obey”?

Shabbat Shalom

Peggy Pardo