This week, parshat Behalotecha will be ushered in Brooklyn at 8:13 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 about a young woman’s struggle to find meaning in prayer. Her father shows up very well in the story as a man who was able to answer with wisdom and compassion when his daughter told him that she felt no connection to prayer. So many things fell into place for this woman when she went through stressful teenage year in which her grandparents passed away.
Aish.com has an article with an overview of Jews in England throughout Jewish history. It is a sobering reminder that the tolerance of religious differences that is so ingrained in western thinking was not always a feature of life in Britain and in Europe.
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 is most enlightening 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.