This week, parshat Behalotecha will be ushered in Brooklyn at 8:05 PM with candle lighting, which is 18 minutes before sunset. On the Chabad.org web site, you can look up the time Shabbat begins in your city. You can also look up the time Shabbat ends (after nightfall )on Saturday night. There are also worthwhile articles that can be printed out Aish.com.
Chabad.org has an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman about the time in the desert when Moshe asked to share the burden of leadership with other leaders. It was in this parsha that many in the nation of Israel complained about the commandments and restrictions being imposed upon them as a result of the giving of the Torah.
Aish.com has an article about text books in Holland and elsewhere in which Israel’s history is presented with such bias and distortion that it rises to the level of incitement. All too often test book producers use their mandate to educate children to instead indoctrinate them.
Aish also has a video by Lori Palatnik about Israel’s ongoing struggle with prejudices within the Jewish people. Israel is, of course, a mix of European Jews, Sephardim, Jews from Arab countries and other subgroups. Ms. Palatnik puts this evolution in a personal and a Torah perspective.
What I most enjoy about this week’s parsha is the allusions to the Jews encamping in the desert with their respective tribes. The idea that unity does not equal homogeneity is an important one. Unity does not mean being alike. It means being yourself, and contributing your abilities to the common good. It also means respecting the contributions of others. In the days when we had tribes, Yissachar was scholarly and Zevulun was more oriented towards business. Yehuda was the tribe of royalty and Levi gave rise to the priesthood. Anyone who can visualise a doctor calling a plumber or an accountant calling a lawyer can reflect upon such interactions and recognise our interdependence on a practical level.
Part of preparing for the gathering in of the exiles will involve recognising our interdependency, and being grateful for our diversity as a source of strength.
One feature of this week’s parsha is “Pesach Sheni”, a one day holiday known as the second Passover. During the time when Jews still brought sacrifices, it was a second chance to bring the Passover offering. Today, we eat a bit of Passover matzo and reflect upon the holiday, which remains as a commemoration of second chances.
In this holiday, some of the Jews complained about the manna (mon) despite the fact that it could assume almost any taste one might want. In the complaints recorded in this week’s parsha, some of the Jews (most of them the mixed multitude) actually wanted to go back to Egypt. It is easy to see in our own lives and in this parsha that attitude towards what one has matters almost more than what one has. Additionally, liberation demands growth, It is a challenge as much as it is a release from limitations. Not only in the desert over 3000 years ago, but in each and every generation, this is a challenge that faces us as individuals and as a people.