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Behaalotcha – Living with the Torah’s Weekly Portion


B’ha’alotcha: Sunday: Love of Israel

Speak to Aaron and you shall say to him, When you light the candles before the menorah, the seven candles shall give light…And this is the work of the menorah, a solid piece of gold until it base, until its flower, it is one solid piece…” The seven branches of the menorah allude to the different types of souls of Israel. Aaron the Priest lights them all. Aaron “loves peace and pursues peace, loves people and brings them close to Torah.” In the same manner, he lights the flame of love in the hearts of all Israel, “until the flame ascends by itself”.

What is love? To where do the flames ascend? On a simple level, they ascend upward, with love of G-d, as is written, “And you shall love Havayah your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your being.” (The numerical value of בכל /לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך  with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your being equals Shalhevet/flame!).

The candles face each other: “Opposite the face of the menorah, shall the seven candles illuminate.” The three branches to the east face west and the three branches to the west face east. In other words, this forms one great flame of love of Israel. All shine their faces to each other.

This is also the inner meaning of the emphasis on the fact that the menorah is made of one solid piece of gold – all of Israel are one piece of solid gold. “…until it base, until its flower” – both the lofty souls of the masters of Torah and service of G-d who float (pore’ach, cognate to perach, flower) on high and the lowly souls that are likened to legs (the word for “base” in this verse, yarcha, also means ‘thigh’). The phrase עד ירכה עד פרחה/ until it base, until its flower equals 26 (G-d’s Name, Havayah) squared. The average value of each word in the phrase equals ehad/one or ahavah/love squared.


B’ha’alotcha: Monday: The Service

“On three things does the world stand, on the Torah, and on the service and on acts of lovingkindness”. The “service” is the service in the Temple (and while the Temple is not built, “service of the heart is prayer”). This concept appears specifically in association with the sons of Levi, as in our Torah portion, “And from fifty years old he shall return from the ranks of service and he shall not serve more”.

Acts of lovingkindness are part of the trait of chesed/lovingkindness and love, while service is part of the trait of judgement and might. The trait of lovingkindness is abundance that descends from above to below. G-d showers His abundance on everything and people follow His example and perform acts of lovingkindness. On the other hand, the trait of might belongs to contraction and judgement, an aspect of G-d’s Name, Elokim. When a person clings to this trait, he turns upward, serving Elokim. In Hebrew, ha’avodah /“the service”, equals Elokim.

The word ha’avodah appears in the Torah ten times. Here, it appears for the tenth (“the tenth will be holy”). The word appears an additional three times in the Bible. In all, it appears 13 times. 13 is the numerical value of echad/one. Since ha’avodah, equals Elokim, the equation is echad/one (numerical value = 13) times Elokim. This equals 1118, the numerical value of  Shema Yisrael Havayah Elokeinu Havayah Echad”.

B’ha’alotcha: Tuesday: Nothing is Lost

If a person is impure by reason of a dead body or is far away, for you or for your generations, and he shall make Pesach for G-d. In the second month, on the fourteenth day, in the afternoon they shall do it”. The message of Pesach Sheni is that “nothing is a lost case”. Those who have missed Pesach receive a second opportunity to rectify that. As in the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, “Believe that you can rectify.”

This portion begins with the month of Nissan in the second year after the exodus from Egypt: G-d commands Moses to make Pesach, the Children of Israel make Pesach and all those who are ritually impure receive a second chance on Pesach Sheni. The Book of Numbers opens with a date: “On the first of the second month in the second year,which is Rosh Chodesh Iyar. This is one of the important sources for the foundational rule: “There is no earlier or later in the Torah.” In other words, the Torah is not necessarily arranged in chronological order.

The rule “There is no earlier or later in the Torah” beautifully dovetails with the message of Pesach Sheni. There is the regular order, in which everything must take place stage by stage, without shortcuts or skipping steps. Whatever we missed cannot be made up, we must ensure chronological order and “if its time has passed, its offering is nullified”. But there is also the service of ba’alei teshuva, Jews who have returned to G-d. They can rearrange the order, skip over stages, make up for missing pieces, pre-empt what should have come later and postpone what should have come earlier.

In general, our generation is a generation of ba’alei teshuva (including those who merited a Torah-observant background). It is good to keep life in order. But if you feel that you have missed the boat, know that “There is no earlier or later in the Torah.” Nothing is ever lost.

B’ha’alotcha: Wednesday: Half a Form

“Make for you two trumpets, of one piece you shall make them.” The two trumpets are identical, as our Sages say that they must be “identical in appearance, in height and in workmanship,” like identical twins. Moreover, the Maggid of Mezeritch explained: Trumpets, chatzotzrot in Hebrew, is an acronym for chatza’ei tzurot/half forms. In other words, not only are they two identical vessels, but they are two halves within one state of completeness.

The two halves are a nice example of the relationship between husband and wife. When alone, each of them is only half a form – half a person. It is only when they join together that they are called Adam, Hebrew for ‘human being’: “Male and female He created them and He called their name Adam,” (specifically male and female together). There is tremendous magnetic energy between the two halves. This is the secret of the kesef/silver from which the trumpets are made, Kesef is cognate to kisufim/longing and love. Recognizing this attraction is the proper recipe for achieving peace in the home. True to form, the gematria of chatzotzrot/trumpets = shlom bayit/peace in the home.

The trumpets are made of “one piece”, of one large sliver block, as Rashi explains, “From a block of silver (eshet) you shall make them, with blows of the hammer.” Accordingly, the two half-forms ‘remember’ their one source in the primal silver block, as is alluded to in the gematria: eshet/block (of silver) = shnei chatza’ei tzurah/two half-forms.

A married couple has one single source. At their soul root, they are one. They split, however, and lost each other. Now, they are reunited, “And he shall cling to his wife and they shall be of one flesh.” This feeling is especially potent in a bride and groom, with their first, pure love, when each feels that he has found his lost second half and that now the Shechinah dwells between them: In gematria, shnei chatza’ei tzurah/two half forms = 2X Shechinah!

Nevertheless, that feeling does not always exist. There are many couples who have endured much in their lives. Now they are building a home together, but without the euphoria of “the one and only”. This type of marriage can certainly be successful, full of love and blessing. This is exactly what the halacha says about the trumpets: If he made them from used pieces, they are kosher”. In other words, the trumpets are kosher even if they were not made of one block, but rather from used pieces of silver. Even people who feel “second hand” can build a faithful, blossoming home. But there is one thing that cannot be left out: Trumpets that are not made of silver, are not valid. Silver/kesef – longing and love – are prerequisite!

B’ha’alotcha: Thursday: Returning Lost Souls

“And the flag of the camp of the sons of Dan went forward, the rear gatherer of all the camps, according to their hosts.” Rashi explains, “Because the tribe of Dan was abundantly populated, it would travel at the rear, and everyone who had lost something, they would return it to him.” The Hezkuni explains that the tribe of Dan would also take care of people who had gotten lost, returning them to their proper place.

On an inner level, the tribe of Dan returns all those who have gotten lost spiritually to their places, “all those who lag behind”.  “The rear gatherer of all the camps, according to their hosts.” They gather all the camps and restore them to their hosts (tzivotam) – to their true color (tzivyonam).

What is unique about Dan that makes him capable of returning those who are lost? The tribe of Dan represents the simple Jew, those who have no special family lineage or other lofty attribute (“the lowest of the tribes”). It is specifically the simple Jews who help those lost Jews to find their way back. The wise, talented, “blue-blooded” Jews are liable to fall into complications with themselves and to leave the straight path. Until the simple Jew, who walks with simple sincerity and reliability – without  pretense – comes along and returns the confused wise man to the beaten path.

Dan had one son, Chushim. Chushim was a simple Jew, a zealot, who didn’t make calculations and didn’t understand what the problem was (as in the story of the burial of Jacob, when Chushim didn’t agree to accept the delay that Esau was attempting to impose, and killed him). חשים/Chusim is a permutation of משיח /Mashiach. The arrival of Mashiach and the complete redemption depend upon returning all the lost souls of the Nation of Israel. “And the lost in the land of Assyira shall come”.

B’ha’alotcha: Friday: Three Books

And when the ark travelled and Moses said, Arise Havayah and Your enemies will be scattered and Your haters will flee before You. And when it rested he said, Return Havayah, the tens of thousands of the thousands of Israel.” This small portion – delineated in the Torah scroll by an inverted nun before and after it – is considered a separate book. From the size of this book, we learn the minimal size of what is considered a book in Jewish law. (In the laws of Shabbat, it is permissible to save a Torah scroll that has 85 letters remaining – the number of letters in this book – from a blaze). Accordingly, our Sages say that instead of the five books of the Torah, we can count seven books, as this portion divides the book of Numbers into three books.

The concept “Three Books” is very significant in Kaballah, as is written in the beginning of the Book of Formation: “He created His world with three books, with sofer/counter, sefer/ book and sipur/story.” (This sentence has many deep explanations). In our context: The first part of the Book of Numbers contains many numbers. This is the sofer/counter. (As our Sages say that the sofrim/scribes were called such because they would count the letters of the Torah). The verses here are a sefer/book, the source of the minimal size of a book. The rest of the Book of Numbers is a sipur/story – replete with the accounts of events that happened while the Children of Israel were in the desert.

The concept of “three books” is more well-known in the words of the Talmud, “Three books are opened on Rosh Hashanah: The book of the righteous, the book of the intermediates and the book of the wicked”. In our context: The beginning of the Book of Numbers is the “book of the righteous”. There are as yet no sins and the Children of Israel are counted like shining stars (sofer/counter). Our two verses, the sefer/book, are the “book of the intermediates”. It is between the righteous and the wicked and it is a ‘guidebook’ for the intermediates –for everyone – for everyone must strive to be on the level of an intermediate (like the book of Tanya, which is called “The Book of Intermediates” and is considered the Written Torah of Chassidut). The rest of the Book of Numbers is the “book of the wicked,” with accounts of sins and descents. Every wicked person is a ‘story’ that must be dealt with.

B’ha’alotcha: Shabbat: A Kushi Woman

“And Miriam and Aaron spoke about Moses on the matter of the Kushite woman who he took, for he had taken a Kushite woman”. According to Rashi, the Kushite woman is Tzipporah, for she was יפת מראה  (beautiful), which is the numerical value of Kushite, and Moses separated from her. Miriam and Aaron claimed: We are also prophets and nonetheless, we maintain a regular married life. But G-d said to them that Moses separated from his wife according to an explicit commandment from G-d after the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (“And you here, stand with Me”), for Moses had to be ready for prophecy at any given time.

On a deeper plane we can explain according to what is explained in Chassidut: Miriam and Aaron know that Moses separated from his wife as per G-d’s commandment, but they also know that this situation is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to reach the level of Mashiach, who will be a great prophet but will not separate from his wife. He will simultaneously be in constant contact with the Divine while maintaining his ordinary physical reality. As such, Miriam and Aaron are telling Moses: You must advance toward the level of Mashiach. You must be Mashiach! Do not suffice yourself with your current level. You must understand that this commandment is not the final step. The person who takes up the cause of the woman is a woman, Miriam the Prophetess (the chief speaker), from whom David and Mashiach ben David descend.

This touches upon Moses’ relation to ordinary Jews, in general. In this and the coming Torah portions, the sinners, complainers and conflict-mongers are severely punished, burned and buried. Not everyone can keep themselves attuned to the level of Moses and thus, many ordinary Jews do not merit the redemption. This is the way that G-d interacts with the generation of the desert. But Miriam and Aaron know that the interaction with the generation of Mashiach is different. The ordinary Jews are not left behind. Everyone merits redemption!

Moses is the “Attendant of the King”. He represents G-d and the Divine truth from above. But Aaron is the “Attendant of the Queen”. He raises the souls of Israel up from below, an aspect of the bride, Knesset Yisrael. Miriam is the bride, herself, Knesset Yisrael (This is the secret of the Well of Miriam, “Ascend, well”). Thus, Aaron joins with her in the petition to remember and raise up the woman – all the souls of Israel. In the terms of Chassidut, the man and woman are essence and reality, respectively. The essence must rectify reality. (In the terms of Kaballah, the Name Ma”h rectifies the Name Ba”n).

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