Behaalotchamain postsNumbers - Bamidbar

From the Torah portion of B’ha’alotcha

וְזֶ֨ה מַעֲשֵׂ֤ה הַמְּנֹרָה֙ מִקְשָׁ֣ה זָהָ֔ב עַד יְרֵכָ֥הּ עַד פִּרְחָ֖הּ מִקְשָׁ֣ה הִ֑וא כַּמַּרְאֶ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֶרְאָ֤ה י־הוה֙ אֶת מֹשֶׁ֔ה כֵּ֥ן עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת הַמְּנֹרָֽה (במדבר ח, ד)

“This was the making of the Menorah: a hammered work of gold… according to the form that God had shown Moses, so did he construct the Menorah.” (Numbers 8:4)

First Reading: Our Bodies, Our Souls, and the Menorah

What makes the golden Menorah of the Temple such a well-known and beloved Jewish symbol? First, the Menorah truly is beautiful. Its design, described in detail in the Torah and embellished with decorations such as cups, knobs, and flowers, emphasizes its aesthetic appeal. The Torah dedicates special attention to the Menorah, particularly in the opening verses of our parashah. Additionally, the prophecy of Zechariah features the Menorah prominently.[1]

Your Role is Greater than Theirs

The Midrash recounts that after the dedication of the kings of the Tribes, Aaron the High Priest felt disheartened for not participating. God reassured him, stating, "Your role is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the candles [of the Menorah]."[2] The Ramban interprets this as an allusion to Chanukah, when the Menorah’s candles miraculously burned beyond the limits of time. The Chanukah candles perpetuate the Menorah’s light, in every place and in every era. The Menorah symbolizes the "eternal light of Israel" and hence is a distinctly Jewish symbol.

Let us examine the verses in the first reading of our parashah: "When you light the candles, the seven candles shall cast their light toward the face of the Menorah…This was the making of the Menorah: a hammered work of gold…according to the form that God had shown Moses, so did he construct the Menorah."

These verses include four topics: 1) The actual elevation/lighting of the candles. 2) The positioning of the candles so that they face the front of the Menorah, meaning that they point toward the Menorah’s central shaft (according to Rashi). 3) The Menorah is made of hammered work (i.e., it is hammered out of a single chunk of gold and not pieced together). 4) The Menorah was made after the vision that God showed Moses.

Body and Soul

Let us start with the body of the Menorah, "This was the making of the Menorah: a hammered work of gold." The entire Menorah was fashioned out of a single chunk of gold serving as a common source out of which all the parts of the Menorah were cast as one body. The parts were never detached but were hammered or sculpted out of that one original chunk. Likewise, the people of Israel share a single, fundamental common source, referred to as the Jewish body. We are used to talking about the Jewish soul, but the inner dimension of the Torah teaches that God chooses the body of the Jew, although seemingly there is no difference between the body of a Jew and that of a non-Jew.

The sages say that Moses found the making of the Menorah difficult—the words for “difficult” (התקשה) and “one piece” (מקשה) are cognate to one another—until God showed him the vision of a "Menorah of fire." Likewise, seeing the special virtue of the Jewish body is indeed difficult—only God can show this. One might say that the special virtue of the Jewish “body” can be identified as also related to the word that means “one piece” (מקשה), i.e., to the hardness, stubbornness, and hard-headedness in its belief in God.

Thus, "the making of the Menorah" illustrates the unity of Israel. We are all (stubborn) Jews—another good reason to choose the Menorah as a symbol. This explanation of the symbol of the Menorah corresponds to the lower World of Action and the lower hei of God’s essential Name, Havayah.

From the body we move to the candles, the dynamic part of the Menorah. The seven candles correspond to the souls of Israel, which can be primarily divided into seven types, corresponding to the seven emotional attributes of the soul. Every soul has its unique luminance, as described in various sources: there are souls that belong to loving-kindness, others that belong to might, etc. In contradistinction, the body of the Jewish people is one, equally shared by all.

Aaron the High Priest lights the candles, which the Torah describes as “elevating the candles.” Likewise, the tzaddik helps each person find his special color and light. From the Torah’s choice of wording that the candles should be “elevated,” we learn that the candles must be lit "until the flame rises by itself." The tzaddik indeed assists and directs, but each person must do his own personal work himself. The seven candles demonstrate the unity of Israel, but this time a unity in which many shades are seen. This explanation of the Menorah corresponds to the World of Formation, where there is diversity and different directions (and to the vav of God’s essential Name, Havayah).

One Purpose and a Spark of Moses

All the candles’ flames point in the same direction, "toward the face of the Menorah." Since the seven candles are all types of souls of Israel, each with its unique mode of service, then the fact that they all face the same direction shows that in the end we all have one common goal—to illuminate the world with the light of Torah and holiness, until we become "a light unto the nations." This is another level of unity. Not just "we are all Jews" (one piece), not just different styles united, but one common goal. This explanation of the Menorah corresponds to the intellectual World of Creation, the sefirah of understanding, and the first hei in God’s essential Name, Havayah.

Finally, the Menorah was fashioned according to "the vision that God showed Moses"—a Menorah of fire. So far, we have pursued higher and higher meanings surrounding the Menorah—meanings that we can fathom and relate to by increasing our comprehension. But there is a level of understanding of the making of the Menorah that comes entirely from above. The Torah relates that Moses sees reality through his unique level of prophecy,[3] described by the sages as looking “through a transparent pane.” The Alter Rebbe explains that this means that Moses sees reality from God's point of view.[4]

Still, in every Jew there is a spark of Moses, and thus each of us sees a piece of the Menorah of fire, and thus we all unite at our root with God. This explanation corresponds to the World of Emanation—where there is only Divine consciousness—and to the yud in God’s essential Name, Havayah.



וְנָסַ֗ע דֶּ֚גֶל מַחֲנֵ֣ה בְנֵי־דָ֔ן מְאַסֵּ֥ף לְכָל־הַֽמַּחֲנֹ֖ת לְצִבְאֹתָ֑ם (בהעלתך י, כה)

“Then, the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan set out, the rear guard for all the camps, each according to their troops…” (Numbers 10:25)

Fifth Reading: Returning Lost Souls

“Then, the standard of the camp of the sons of Dan set out, the rear guard for all the camps, each according to their troops….”[5] (וְנָסַע דֶּגֶל מַחֲנֵה בְנֵי דָן מְאַסֵּף לְכָל הַמַּחֲנֹת לְצִבְאֹתָם).

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 Chizkuni explains that the tribe of Dan would also take care of people who had gotten lost, returning them to their proper place.

From the perspective of the Torah’s inner dimension, the tribe of Dan not only helps those who have lost their way physically, but also those who have lost their way spiritually. These are the individuals who in the war with Amalek were the ones who were attacked first, “Remember what Amalek did to you… he cut down all the stragglers in your rear.”[6] Thus, the word translated as, “each according to its troops” suggests that the stragglers who had lost their spiritual way, were returned to “their troops” (לְצִבְאֹתָם), meaning to their “true nature” (צִבְיוֹנָם).

What is unique about Dan that makes him capable of returning those who are lost? The tribe of Dan represents the simple and earnest Jews, those who have no special pedigree or other lofty attribute. The tribe of Dan is described as, “one of the lowest of the tribes”[7] (מִן הַיְרוּדִין שֶׁבַּשְּׁבָטִים). It is specifically the simple Jews who help those who have lost their way to find a path back to Yiddishkeit. In fact, it is usually those individuals who are wise, talented, and of high pedigree that are liable to falter because of inextricable questions and dilemmas and eventually leave the straight path of Torah. Until the simple Jew, who walks with simple sincerity and earnestness, without pretense, comes along and returns the bewildered onto the path.

Dan had one son, Chushim. Chushim—whose name literally means “senses,” even though he was deaf and mute—was a simple Jew, an earnestly committed individual, who did not entertain any machinations. He saw things clearly and without complication. One story about him stands out. When the 12 children of Jacob came to bury him in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Esau appeared and claimed that the burial plot belonged to him. The tribes sent Naphtali running back to Egypt to recover the contract which Esau had signed, handing over an additional plot to Jacob. However, Chushim could not understand what was delaying his grandfather’s funeral and used his blade to cut off Esau’s head.[8]

Chushim (חֻשִׁים) is also a permutation of “Mashiach” (מָשִׁיחַ), suggesting that the arrival of Mashiach and the complete redemption depend upon returning all the lost souls of the people of Israel, as stated in the prophets: “And the strayed who are in the land of Assyira… shall return and worship God on the holy mount, in Jerusalem.”[9]



וַיָּ֣רָץ הַנַּ֔עַר וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לְמֹשֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֶלְדָּ֣ד וּמֵידָ֔ד מִֽתְנַבְּאִ֖ים בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה (בהעלתך יא, כז)

“The young man ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Meidad are prophesizing in the camp!”” (Numbers 11:27)

Sixth Reading: Torah and Science, Eldad and Meidad

Our reading recounts that Moses gathered seventy wise men around the Tent of Meeting, endowed them with his spirit, and they began to prophesy. Yet, two men named Eldad and Meidad, who were not among the seventy and did not gather around the tent, suddenly began to prophesy as well:

Two of the participants, one named Eldad and the other Meidad, had remained in camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent—and they spoke from prophecy in the camp.

The young man ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Meidad are prophesizing in the camp!”

And Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant from his youth, spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!”

But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all of God’s people were prophets, that God put spirit upon them!”[10]

The Story of Eldad and Meidad

What is going on? The sages relate that Moses had a problem: he had to choose seventy elders from twelve tribes, but the number 70 does not divide evenly by 12. Therefore, Moses asked each tribe to appoint six distinguished elders, except for two tribes that would appoint only five, thus bringing the total count to seventy-two. Since no tribe was willing to appoint only five, Moses told them all to appoint six, and he conducted a lottery: on seventy slips he wrote "Elder" and left two slips blank. Eldad and Meidad were among those who drew a slip with "Elder" on it (this is the meaning of the phrase "and they were among those written"), indicating that they were divinely chosen to be among the seventy. However, they ultimately chose to forgo the honor, saying, "We are not worthy of this greatness," and in their place, the two elders who drew the blank slips were appointed.[11] Another detail provided by the Midrash is that Eldad and Meidad were none other than the brothers of Moses, sons of Yocheved from her second husband.[12]

Now, because they were not only initially worthy of prophecy but also endowed with extraordinary humility, despite forgoing the honor of being among the seventy elders, the spirit of prophecy rested upon Eldad and Meidad. Moreover, their prophecy was unique and superior to that which rested upon the elders: Eldad and Meidad prophesied "in the camp," meaning in the public spaces and among the people, not in the sacred Tent of Meeting. Their prophecy was one that does not pass through the 'official' channel of the central Tent of Meeting but rather emerges on the periphery, among the simple people. Additionally, their prophecy concerned the entry into the Land of Israel and the fate of Moses and Joshua: "Moses will die, and Joshua will bring Israel into the Land."

Initially, this prophecy seems to threaten the existing order of authority, so Joshua seeks to imprison these 'rebellious' prophets. But Moses stops him, saying, "Are you zealous for my sake? Would it be that all of God’s people were prophets, that God would put His spirit upon them!" Indeed, while the prophecy of the elders is described in the past tense, "and they prophesied," it is said of Eldad and Meidad that they are "prophesizing," from which the Talmud learns that they "continue to prophesy forever"—their prophecy is eternal.

The Inside Story

According to Kabbalah, while the seventy elders represent the 'mind' or the 'heart' of the Torah, hidden within, Eldad (אלדד) and Meidad (מידד), as their names suggest (both names end with a suffix דד), represent the Torah’s two 'breasts' (דדים) that convey abundance from the interior to the exterior[13] (as hinted in the verse, "A lovely deer, a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times"[14]).

Eldad and Meidad are usually mentioned together, and no distinction is noted between them. The Talmud even states that they prophesied "the same prophecy in one simultaneously."[15] However, the analogy to breasts reveals a difference: Eldad is identified with the right breast, representing the descent of abundance from above to below, while Meidad is identified with the left breast, representing the ascent of abundance from below to above.[16] Although their prophecy is one, it draws from two opposite sources: Eldad brings down prophecies from the Heavens, while Meidad draws them from the mundane.

These two movements—from above to below and from below to above—precisely parallel the movements of the upper and lower waters, which serve as the Torah’s basic model for the original division between Divine wisdom and mundane wisdom. The higher waters that are above the firmament, created on the second day of Creation, draw abundance down, while the lower waters that lie beneath the firmament elevate the mundane knowledge collected by mankind from Nature. Thus, Eldad and Meidad can be seen as embodying, respectively, Torah (from above to below) and science (from below to above) when they operate in harmony and unity. Eldad brings the wisdom of God, the Torah, below, and Meidad brings the wisdom of science, above.

Interestingly, an ancient Jewish custom[17] suggests beginning nursing on the left side, another hint that when Torah and science are to be unified, science comes first in the order of consideration.

Conclusions Regarding Unifying Torah and Science

This interpretation of the account regarding Eldad and Meidad sheds new light on the vision of uniting Torah and science. First, it teaches us that this endeavor does not begin in the "Tent of Meeting," referring to the traditional yeshivah world, which serves as the tent of Torah, but rather "in the camp," outside the yeshivot. On the other hand, it does not emerge from ordinary practical people, referring to the scientists in universities, since Eldad and Meidad were about to be among the seventy elders, meaning the rabbis in a yeshivah.

Rather, the task of unifying Torah and science is the fruit of the thoughts of individuals who are 'outsiders' from both directions, who, due to their interest in science, do not feel entirely at home in the yeshivah, and due to being men and women of Torah, do not feel at home in the university. Eldad and Meidad embody a unique combination of the lowliness and humility of Torah scholars (hinted at by the modesty of the breasts) and the breaking out to prophesy in the camp (like exposing the breast for nursing, implying pioneering). This combination grants them the merit to bring new prophecies into the world, connecting the wisdom of heaven and earth, Torah and science.

It is no coincidence that their prophecy centered on the entry into the Land of Israel, which was still in the future at the time, specifically on the change of leadership it would require—the death of Moses and Joshua taking his place. Their message is tied to the redemption of Israel and to the connection of their spiritual Torah given to them in the wilderness with the practical life embodied in the Land of Israel. This necessitates a change of leadership, a change of 'mindset.'

Halachah instructs that one entering the Beit Midrash should say, "May it be Your will, Havayah my God, that no mishap occur through me, and that I do not stumble in any matter of halachah": in the study and teaching of Torah, one must be very cautious of errors. What about Eldad and Meidad, who make the opposite movement, from the Beit Midrash outward? What prayer do they offer upon their departure? The answer is hidden in the conclusion of the verse we cited earlier, "A lovely deer, a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times, be infatuated with her love always."[18]

The expression "be infatuated with her love always" can also be interpreted as a blessing to make mistakes[19] in the study of Torah and thereby learn, just as science progresses through trial and error. In light of this, we can surmise that Eldad and Meidad's prayer is exactly the opposite of the yeshiva student's prayer: in the spirit of science, they pray to merit making mistakes and errors, knowing that through this they will reach the highest understandings, the wisdom of the Land of Israel.

[1]. Zechariah 4:1-14.

[2]. Midrash Tanchuma, Behaalotcha 5

[3]. Deuteronomy 34:10.

[4]. The Chasidic interpretation of the phrase, “He beholds God’s image” (וּתְמֻנַת י-הוה יַבִּיט), which appears in the sixth reading of our parashah (Numbers 12:8).

[5]. Numbers 10:25.

[6]. Deuteronomy 25:17-18.

[7]. Rashi on Exodus 35:34.

[8]. Sotah 13a.

[9]. Isaiah 27:13.

[10]. Numbers 11:26-29.

[11]. Rashi on v. 26.

[12]. Targum Yonatan Ibid.

[13]. Sha’ar HaHakdamot 41:2. Sha’ar HaPesukim, Beha’alotcha 8.

[14]. Proverbs 5:19.

[15]. Sanhedrin 17a.

[16]. Arizal’s Likkutei Torah, Beha’alotcha.

[17]. Tzava’at Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid.

[18]. Proverbs 5:19.

[19]. See Metzudat Tziyon on Ibid. See also Raavad on Hilchot Teshuvah 10:6.

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