FROM THE TORAH
The preceding Sedra Naso concludes with a notice of privileged verbal communication between God and Moses in the Tent of Meeting. The current Sedra Beha’alot’cha opens with another form of such privileged communication, that of a visual image, in this case the Menorah. It moves to another established theme of interest, the Levites’ unique role. Then comes a review of the annual Pesach, which requires the universal participation of Israelites, and a solution to one of the problems that affects universal involvement. Modes of communication with the wider community are described with the cloud over the Tabernacle and silver trumpets, followed by a full description of the order of march, which is signaled by the trumpets. In anticipation of their departure from the Eternal’s mountain, Moses offers to share Israel’s good fortune with his supportive Midianite father-in-law. The Sedra ends with a series of incidents that illustrate the dispiritedness of Israel at this early stage of its journey.
PATTERN OF THE MENORAH
The Eternal charges Moses to instruct Aaron: When you set up (Beha’alot’cha) the seven lamps, let them cast light to the front of the Menorah. Aaron does so, as the Eternal commanded Moses.
The Menorah was made of solid gold as far as its base and as far as its petal. In accordance with the image that the Eternal showed Moses, the Menorah was executed.
INSTALLATION OF THE LEVITES FOR THEIR SERVICE
The Eternal charges Moses to take the Levites from among the Children of Israel and to purify them by sprinkling upon them water of purification from sin, passing a razor over all of their flesh, and washing their clothes. Two bulls shall be taken from the herd, one with its meal offering of fine flour mixed with oil and the other for a sin offering.
Moses should present the Levites before the Tent of Meeting, with all of the congregation of the Children of Israel assembled. As he presents the Levites before the Eternal, let the Children of Israel place their hands upon the Levites. Let Aaron then wave the Levites before the Eternal on behalf of the Children of Israel to perform the service of the Eternal. The Levites, for their part, shall place their hands upon the heads of the bulls: one for the sin offering and the other a burnt offering to the Eternal, to seek atonement for the Levites.
Place the Levites before Aaron and his sons, wave them before the Eternal—thereby do you separate the Levites from the Children of Israel and make them Mine, for service of the Tent of Meeting. The Levites will be entirely Mine in place of all of the firstborn of the Children of Israel, whom I sanctified to be Mine, both man and beast, when I struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt (cf. Numbers 3:13). I have assigned the Levites exclusively to Aaron and his sons to perform the service of the Children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting and to seek atonement for them and to avoid any attack upon them when they approach the Sanctuary.
Moses, Aaron, and all of the congregation of the Children of Israel, carry out all that the Eternal commanded Moses with respect to the Levites. The Levites’ active service of the Tent of Meeting shall be between their ages of twenty-five and fifty years. After that they may serve in supporting roles to assist their fellow Levites in the Tent of Meeting, but not actual service.
On the Journey
PESACH AS PRESCRIBED AND DEFERRED
In the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year of their Exodus from the land of Egypt, the Eternal advises Moses that the Children of Israel should perform the Pesach at its appointed time: on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight. Moses duly advises them, and the Children of Israel observe it in accordance with all that the Eternal had commanded Moses (cf. Exodus 12:1-14).
But there are people who, because of their impurity from contact with a human corpse, cannot perform the Pesach on that day. They ask Moses and Aaron why, because of their impurity, they should be prevented from bringing the offering of the Eternal along with their fellow Israelites at its appointed time. Moses asks them to wait until he learns what the Eternal may command them.
The Eternal charges Moses to communicate to the Children of Israel His answer. Anyone who is impure from contact with a human corpse or who is far away when the time comes to perform the Pesach, both now and in the future, should do it on the fourteenth day at twilight of the second month. Eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, do not let any of it remain until morning, and let no bone of it be broken, in complete accordance with the law of the Pesach.
The soul of anyone ritually pure and not on a journey who fails to perform the Pesach shall be cut off from its people for neglecting to perform the offering of the Eternal at its appointed time. Such a person shall bear his sin.
A non-native sojourning with you who would offer the Pesach to the Eternal must offer it in accordance with every rule of the Pesach. The law is the same for you whether non-native or native of the country.
CLOUD OVER THE TABERNACLE
From the time when the Tabernacle was set up, a cloud would cover it with respect to the Tent of Testimony, and in the evening the cloud would take on the appearance of fire until the morning. When the cloud was lifted from over the Tent, the Children of Israel would journey. Then, wherever the cloud would settle, there the Children of Israel would encamp. Thus the disposition of the cloud signaled the command of the Eternal either to journey or to encamp. Whether encamping for many days or a few, for only a night or even beginning their journey at night, they observed the command of the Eternal through Moses.
The Eternal speaks to Moses: Make for yourself two trumpets of solid silver and use them for assembling the congregation and for dispatching the camps. When both of them are blown, all of the congregation shall assemble before you at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. When only one of them is blown, then there shall assemble before you the chiefs and the heads of thousands of Israel.
Sound teruah to signal the camps to begin their journeys. At the first teruah the camps encamped on the east shall move forward. At the second teruah the camps encamped on the south shall move. But do not use teruah to convoke the congregation. The sons of Aaron the Kohen shall sound the trumpets—an everlasting statute throughout your generations.
When you are at war in your Land against an aggressor, sound teruah on the trumpets and you shall be accounted before the Eternal your God and saved from your enemies.
On your days of rejoicing, both on your Festivals and on your New Moons, sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over your peace sacrifices. They shall be a remembrance for you before your God, I, the Eternal your God.
ORDER OF JOURNEY
In the second year, on the twentieth day of the second month, the cloud is removed from over the Tabernacle of Testimony and the Children of Israel proceed on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. The cloud will come to rest in the wilderness of Paran (cf. Numbers 12:16).
As the Israelites commence their journey, they do so by word of the Eternal through Moses. The first to move is the standard of the camp of the children of Judah, their numbers under the command of Nachshon son of Amminadav (cf. Numbers 1:5 ff.), and the tribe of the children of Issachar under the command of Netanel son of Tsuar, and the tribe of the children of Zebulun under the command of Eliav son of Cheylon.
The Tabernacle is then taken down, and the Gershonites and the Merarites, bearers of the Tabernacle, set out.
Then the standard of the tribe of Reuben in their numbers march under the command of Elitsur ben Shedeyur, and the tribe of the children of Simeon under the command of Shelumiel ben Tsuri Shaddai, and the tribe of the children of Gad under the command of Elyasaf ben Deuel.
Next march the Kohathites, bearers of the Sanctuary, taking up the Tabernacle for the balance of the journey.
The standard of the tribe of the children of Ephraim in their numbers march next under the command of Elishamah son of Ammihud, and the tribe of the children of Manasseh under the command of Gamliel son of Pedah-tsur, and the tribe of the children of Benjamin under the command of Avidan son of Gidoni.
The standard of the tribe of the children of Dan march in their numbers as rearguard of all the other camps under the command of Achiezer son of Ammi Shaddai, and the tribe of the children of Asher under the command of Pagiel son of Ochran, and the tribe of the children of Naphtali under the command of Achirah son of Eynan.
This, then, is the order of marching of the Children of Israel, in their numbers, as they journey.
Moses invites his father-in-law, the Midianite, Chovav son of Reuel (cf. Exodus 2:18; 3:1; Judges 4:11), to join Israel in their journey to the place about which the Eternal promised, “I shall give it to you.” “Come with us,” said Moses, “and we shall be good to you, as the Eternal promised good to Israel.” (Numbers 10:29) Chovav hesitates, expressing his intention to return to his native land. “Please do not leave us,” says Moses; “since you know where to encamp in the wilderness, you can be our guide!” (Numbers 10:31) Moses promises to share with him the good fortune that the Eternal grants to them.
JOURNEY OF ISRAEL AND ARK
They journey from the Eternal’s mountain, a journey of three days, with the Ark of the Eternal’s Covenant going before them, seeking a resting-place. The cloud of the Eternal is above them by day as they journey from the camp.
[“And when the Ark journeys, Moses says, ‘Arise, O Eternal! May Your enemies be scattered! May Your adversaries flee from before You!’ And when it rests, he says, ‘Return, O Eternal! Myriads of thousands of Israel!’”] (Numbers 10:35-36, surrounded by “inverted nuns”)
DISPIRITEDNESS IN THE CAMP
The people turn to wanton complaining in the hearing of the Eternal. As He hears, His anger blazes, and fire of the Eternal burns against them, eating away at the extremity of the camp. The people cries out to Moses, Moses prays to the Eternal, and the fire dies down. The fire of the Eternal is thus memorialized in the name of that place, Taverah (“Burning”).
Meat vs. Manna
Some in its midst (hasafsuf) experience hunger, whereupon the Children of Israel also bewail, “Who will feed us meat?” (Cf. Exodus 16) They call up accompanying memories of fish which they ate freely in Egypt, of cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic, contrasting those delicacies with the manna they see currently. The manna, like coriander seed, has the appearance of bdellium. The people gather it and grind it or pound it, boil it in a pot, and make it into cakes. It has a creamy taste. The manna appears on top of the dew that descends upon the camp at night.
Moses Reaches His Limit
Moses observes the people’s weeping, family by family, each person at the entrance of his tent, the anger of the Eternal, and Moses sees that all of this cannot continue. He, for his part, complains to the Eternal for imposing the burden of the people upon him. Did I conceive or bear all of this people that You should tell me to carry it along as its nursemaid to the land which You promised its fathers? Where can I find the meat that they demand? The burden of this people is too heavy for me. If this is how You treat me, then go ahead and kill me if You care about me, so that I don’t have to put up with my own suffering!
The Eternal responds to Moses: Select for Me Seventy of the people’s Elders and Officers (cf. Exodus 24:1), and bring them with you to the Tent of Meeting. There I shall come down and speak with you and spread the spirit which is upon you, to them. They shall then bear with you the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it alone.
As for the people, instruct them to sanctify themselves for the morrow: you shall eat meat, as you have complained in the Eternal’s hearing that it was good in Egypt, where the Eternal provided you with meat to eat. Now you shall eat meat not just for a day but for many days, until it comes out of your noses and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Eternal, who is in your midst, by crying over your departure from Egypt.
But Moses objects: I have 600,000 men of the people, and you expect me to provide them with meat for a month? Are there enough flocks and herds to be slaughtered to feed them? Could all the fish in the sea be harvested to suffice them? The Eternal responds: If you think I lack the power, just wait and see whether or not My word is sustained.
First, Moses reports the words of the Eternal to the people. He carries out His instructions regarding the Seventy Elders and stations them around the Tent. The Eternal carries out His plan as related to Moses and spreads his spirit over the Seventy Elders. They become prophets for only a moment and do not continue to display their status.
Eldad and Medad
But two of the men, Eldad and Medad, do not move to the Tent with the others; they remain in the camp. The spirit rests upon them as listed among the Elders, and they become prophets in the camp. This event is immediately communicated to Moses by a runner. Joshua son of Nun, by the side of Moses since his youth, urges Moses to arrest them. Moses says to him: Don’t be jealous for my sake; would that all of the Eternal’s people were prophets, that the Eternal would place His spirit upon them! Moses and the Elders of Israel return to the camp.
Then, a wind from the Eternal spreads quails over the camp, a day’s journey on each side, and a couple of cubits deep. The people spend all of that day and night and the following day gathering the quail. The smallest portion gathered is ten chomers, and they are spread out around the entire camp.
At Kivrot Hata’avah
While the meat is still between their teeth, as yet unchewed, the Eternal’s anger blazes against the people and He strikes them down severely. The place is named Kivrot Hata’avah (“Graves of Hunger”) because there they buried the hungering people.
From there the people set out for Chatzerot.
Miriam and Aaron Criticize Moses
Miriam together with Aaron speaks against Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. They also argue that the Eternal has spoken not only with Moses but also with them. The Eternal hears, and the man Moses is most humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth! Immediately, the Eternal summons all three of them to the Tent of Meeting.
The Eternal descends in a pillar of cloud to the entrance of the Tent, and at His order Aaron and Miriam emerge: If I appear to any prophet among you, I would be speaking to him through a dream. But this is not so of My servant Moses; he is trusted through all of My household. I speak with him mouth to mouth, clearly and not in conundrums; he sees the likeness of the Eternal. So why do you not fear speaking against My servant Moses? Angry at them, He departs.
Now the cloud departs from over the Tent. Miriam is stricken with snow-white tsara’at, which Aaron sees when he looks at her. He pleads with Moses not to hold them accountable for their sinful folly: let her not be as one who has died, who emerges from her mother’s womb with her flesh half eaten away. Moses cries out to the Eternal, “Please, God, please heal her” (Numbers 12:13)!
The Eternal answers Moses with the following reasoning: If her father spit in her face for insulting him, would she not be detained for seven days? Let her then certainly for this (more severe crime) be isolated from the camp for seven days at the least. Only then shall she be readmitted.
So Miriam is isolated from the camp for seven days; the people does not resume its journey until Miriam is readmitted. The people depart from Chatzerot, and they encamp in the Wilderness of Paran.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Beha’alot’cha
The Menorah: God’s Eternal Spirit
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Zion,
for I am coming to dwell in your midst,
declares the Eternal!
Many other nations as well
shall attach themselves to the Eternal;
they shall all be My people,
as I dwell in your midst!
The Eternal shall reclaim Judah
as His portion upon the Holy Land,
and He shall choose Jerusalem again!
Let all be silent before the Eternal,
as He is aroused from His holy habitation.
I am shown Joshua the Kohen Gadol (High Priest)
standing before the Angel of the Eternal,
while Satan, to the right of him,
The Eternal defends Joshua
from Satan’s accusation
by calling him
“A brand rescued from fire!”
Joshua’s garments are filthy
as he stands before the Angel.
Remove from him those filthy garments:
See, I shall remove from you your iniquity
and clothe you instead with robes.
Let them place a pure mitre upon his head!
Now the Angel testifies to Joshua
the declaration of the Eternal of Hosts:
If you walk in My ways and keep My charge,
then you shall rule over My House
and I shall grant you access
among those who stand here.
Consider well, O Joshua Kohen Gadol,
that your restoration and your associates’
is a harbinger of My servant, Tzemach (Sprout)!
I put before Joshua on a single stone seven eyes;
thus do I engrave it, says the Eternal of Hosts,
and I shall remove the iniquity of that Land
in a single day!
“On that day, says the Eternal of Hosts,
you shall invite, everyone his neighbor,
under the vine and under the fig tree.”
Now the Angel who was speaking to me
awakens me as out of a sleep
and asks me what I see.
I see a Golden Menorah
with a bowl on top of it,
connected by pipes to its seven lamps,
and an olive tree on either side of it.
As I do not understand their purpose,
the Angel explains to me
that this is the word of the Eternal to Zerubbavel:
“’Not by might, and not by power, but by My Spirit,’
says the Eternal of Hosts!”
Who are you, O mighty mountain,
You shall become a plain,
while he shall bring forth the crowning stone
to jubilations of divine favor!
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Tanchuma ed. Buber Beha’alot’cha 2
Numbers Rabbah 15:2
The Menorah: God Vindicates Israel
“The Eternal’s desire is for His vindication,
that He may magnify Torah
and strengthen it!”
The Prophet here expresses God’s motive
in commanding Moses to create the Menorah:
It is as if the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Explain to Israel that it is not because I need your light that I command you to kindle a lamp, as was said, “He knows what is in the darkness, for light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22), and “Darkness is not too dark for You, and night shines as the day” (Psalms 139:12), but in order to vindicate you. Interpret the Prophet’s words, “for His vindication (tzidko)” as “to vindicate him (tzadko),” that is, to vindicate Israel, and through Israel magnify and strengthen Torah!
Know that I do not need your light from the way that Solomon built the windows of the Temple. Normally, when a house is built, the windows are made narrower on the outside and wider inside, so that, as exterior light enters, it will illuminate the interior. But Solomon made windows of the Temple the other way: narrower on the inside and wider outside, conducting light from the interior to illuminate the exterior, as was said, “He made for the Temple windows of narrowing casements” (I Kings 6:4)!
RASHI s.v. TALMUD MENACHOT 86b: Wide on the outside and narrow on the inside, their opening was narrow and constricting on the inside. Normally, when a window is placed in a stone wall, it is wider on the inside: the thickness of the wall is slanted on each side so that the thickness of the wall does not prevent the light from shining in to all sides. But in the Temple the inside was made narrower and then gradually wider going out so that the light would emerge from the Temple and illuminate the world!
Therefore, when the Eternal says, Beha’alot’cha… (“When you raise up…the Menorah”) (Numbers 8:2), He is also saying, “When the Menorah raises you up…” (Matnot Kehuna, ibid.), as it is the desire of the Eternal “to vindicate him (Israel) and through him (Israel) magnify and strengthen Torah” (Isaiah 42:21)!
Moreover, if you are diligent in kindling the lamps before Me, then I shall cast the greatest of light for you in the future, as the Prophet has promised: “Arise, shine, your light is coming, the magnitude of the Eternal will shine upon you…and it will be seen upon you, so that nations shall walk in your light and kings by your shining radiance” (Isaiah 60:1-3)!
Tanchuma ed. Buber Beha’alot’cha 5
Numbers Rabbah 15:5
Giving and Receiving Light
“When you raise up [beha’alot’cha] the Menorah,
let the seven lamps cast light…”
Those words are explained by:
“For You light My lamp;
the Eternal, my God,
lightens my darkness.”
Said Israel before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the universe, You say that we should cast light before You, but You are the Light of the world! The light dwells with You, as is written, “He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, as the light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22). Yet You say, “Let the seven lamps (that we have lit) cast light…” (Numbers 8:2)?!
Yes, it is “when you light My lamp…!” Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to them: It is not that I need it; rather, you should cast light for Me just as I cast light for you. Why? To raise you before all of the nations, that they should say, “See how Israel gives light to the One who gives light to all!”
To what may this be compared? To two who walk together: one can see and one cannot. The seeing one says to the non-seeing one, “Come, let me guide you home!”—and so he does. When they come to the unlit house of the non-seeing one, the seeing one says to him, “Light a candle for me—in order to provide me light!” The non-seeing one replies, “When we were on the road, you supported me and guided me and accompanied me to my house; now you ask me to light a candle to provide you with light?!” The seeing one explained, “So that you should not feel that I did you a favor for nothing in return!”
The seeing one is the Holy One, blessed be He, of whom it was said, “These seven, the eyes of the Eternal (cf. Zechariah 3:9 in Haftarah), they go about over the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:10). The non-seeing one is Israel, as was said, “We grope for the wall like those with no vision…” (Isaiah 59:10). The Holy One, blessed be He, guided Israel and gave them light, as was said, “The Eternal goes before them by day…to guide them…and by night…to give them light…” (Exodus 13:21).
With the erection of the Tabernacle, the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded Moses: Provide light for Me (the Seeing-One), as was said, “in order to raise you up [beha’alot’cha]” (Numbers 8:2)! For beha’alot’cha can mean either “when you raise up,” as in, “When you raise up the Menorah” (Numbers 8:2), or it can also mean “in order to raise you up.” Here the Midrash interprets the verse to mean the latter, “in order to raise you up”—in conformity with its interpretation of David’s song (Psalms 18:29) : “As you (Israel, the non-seeing one) light My (Seeing Holy One’s) lamp, the Eternal, my God, lightens my darkness!” The Eternal bids us who seek light to light His lamp in order to raise us up before the nations as the bestowers of divine light upon the world!
Numbers Rabbah 15:8
The Menorah: Our Modest Light
The Eternal charged Moses to instruct Aaron:
“…Set up the lamps…”
But why would the Eternal command
the setting up of lamps, considering:
“Even darkness is not too dark for You,
and the night shines as the day;
darkness is as light!”
This may be compared to a king who tells his devoted subject to prepare a private meal between them. The devoted subject arranges his humble couch and table, and his humble lampstand, for the dinner. Then the king approaches with his great entourage encircling him with a lampstand of gold. The devoted but humble subject is embarrassed to have put out his modest accoutrements before all of the grandeur surrounding his king, so quickly he hides away all that he put out.
The king says to him: Did I not tell you that I would come to dine with you? Why have you not prepared? His devoted subject answers: When I beheld all of this grandeur, I was embarrassed so I hid all that I had prepared for you, as my table and couch, and my lampstand, are modest in comparison with yours. Said the king: In that case I am removing all that I brought with me, and because of your devotion I shall use only what belongs to you.
Similarly, although the Holy One blessed be He, is all light, as was said, “The light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22), He said to Israel: Prepare for Me a lampstand and lights. For when He commanded, “Let them make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8), He also said, “You shall make a lampstand…” (ibid. 31), and when they made it, the Shechinah (Divine Presence) entered, and “Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting…because the Presence of the Eternal filled the Tabernacle” (ibid. 40:35). But later, “When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he heard a voice speaking to him” (Numbers 7:89, final verse of preceding sedra). What did the voice say? “The Eternal charged Moses to instruct Aaron…: Set up the lamps…” (ibid. 8:1-2, initial verses of current Sedra)!
Numbers Rabbah 15:9
The Menorah: Our Hope for Happiness
“God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of heaven…
to shine upon the earth…’”
Great is the light of the Holy One, blessed be He, which the sun and the moon cast upon the earth, but what is the source of their light? They snatch flashes of celestial light, as the Prophet described: “Sun and moon, stationed above, conduct Your arrows’ light, the brilliance of Your bow’s flash” (Habakkuk 3:11)! Great is that celestial light, possessed only by One in a million: “He knows what is in the darkness; the light is His alone” (Daniel 2:22)! Therefore He created sun and moon, in order that they should cast light upon you, as was said, “God placed them in the expanse of heaven to shine upon the earth” (Genesis 1:17).
“When you set up the seven lamps,
let them cast light to the front of the Menorah.”
“Send forth Your light and Your truth:
they shall lead me;
they shall cause me to come to Your holy mountain,
the place where You dwell.
I shall come to God’s altar,
to God, my Exultant Happiness…”
“Let them cast light to the front of the Menorah” (Numbers 8:2), where the Holy One, blessed be He, shall dwell with flesh and blood in the lamp’s light.
“The King desires lips of righteousness;
He loves those who speak the truth.”
“In the light in front of the King
there is life!”
Those words of David inspired Rabbi Jacob son of Rabbi Yosi to hope that in the “light to the front of the Menorah,” where “God, my Exultant Happiness,” dwells with flesh and blood, happiness will be taken from the wicked and given instead to Israel.
Yerushalmi Pesachim 4:1
Yerushalmi Ta’anit 4:2
Levites’ Music in Divine Service
“I have assigned the Levites exclusively to Aaron and his sons
from among the Children of Israel
to perform the Service of the Children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting
and to seek Atonement for the Children of Israel
and to avoid any attack upon the Children of Israel
when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary.”
The Eternal, the God of Israel, has given rest to His people
and shall dwell in Jerusalem for ever;
and the Levites will no longer need to carry the Tabernacle
and the vessels for its service.
Now their position shall be alongside the Sons of Aaron
for the Service of the House of the Eternal…
and to be present every morning and evening
to thank and praise the Eternal…”
(I Chronicles 23:25-32)
“David and his officers designated for the Service
the sons of Asaph, Heman and Yeduthun,
to play upon lyres and harps and cymbals…”
(I Chronicles 25:1)
According to a baraitha, Rabban Shimon ben Elazar taught: For an offering to be valid it requires the participation of Kohanim, Levites, Israelites, and Music.
Rabbi Abun in the name of Rabbi Elazar pointed to the consecration of the Temple by King Hezekiah as confirmation: “The Kohanim slaughtered the bulls, the rams, the sheep, and the goats, and purified the Altar with their blood to atone for all of Israel, and King Hezekiah placed the Levites in the House of the Eternal with cymbals and harps and lyres in accordance with David and Gad his Seer and Nathan the Prophet, as the commandment was given by the Eternal through His Prophets…and as the burnt offering upon the Altar began, the Music began…and the Congregation were bowing down and the Music was playing until the burnt offering was consumed…then King Hezekiah and his Officers instructed the Levites to sing praises to the Eternal with the words of David and Asaph the Seer, and they sang praises exultantly…” (II Chronicles 29:20-30).
Rabbi Tanchuma in the name of Rabbi Elazar learned it from the Torah verse (of our Sedra as cited above):
“I have assigned the Levites exclusively to Aaron and his sons
from among the Children of Israel…” —
these words refer explicitly to the participation of the Levites as a requirement!
“…to perform the Service of the Children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting…” —
these words refer to the Service,
for which participation of the Kohanim is a requirement!
“…and to seek Atonement for the Children of Israel…” —
these words refer to the performance of the Music as a requirement!
“…and to avoid any attack upon the Children of Israel
when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary.” —
these words refer explicitly to the participation of the Israelites
as a requirement!
While the inferences for Levites, Kohanim and Israelites, are clear, whence do we infer that Music is called “Atonement?” Chinena, father of Bar Nata, in the name of Rabbi Banaya: The preceding words, “to perform the Service,” would have been sufficient to mean Atonement, but then the following words, “and to seek Atonement,” would imply that something else is “Atonement,” and that would be Music! But then whence do we infer that Music as “Atonement” is required? Rabbi Jacob bar Acha, Rabbi Shimon Senator in the name of Rabbi Chaninah: Just as Atonement is required, so then is Music!
Numbers Rabbah 15:20
Devoted Officers among the Elders
“Gather for Me Seventy Men
from the Elders of Israel
whom you know to be
Elders of the people
and its Officers…”
Were there not already Elders from the past, as in Egypt: “Go and assemble the Elders of Israel…” (Exodus 3:16)?! So why did the Holy One, blessed be He, tell Moses now, “Gather for Me Seventy Men from the Elders of Israel…?” To teach you the following:
When Pharaoh said, “Come, let us deal wisely with them…, and they set over them taskmasters…” (Exodus 1:10-11), he assembled Israel and spoke to them: I would like to ask of you, please, to do me a favor today. That is how the verse, “The Egyptians oppressed the Children of Israel (befarech) with rigor” (Exodus 1:13), can be read instead: The Egyptians oppressed the Children of Israel (befeh rach) with a soft mouth (gently)!
So Pharaoh himself picked up a basket and a trowel. Who could watch Pharaoh thus making bricks and not move himself to help? Thus all of Israel immediately joined the task with enthusiasm and vigor, reflecting their strength and their heroic nature. When it became dark, Pharaoh placed over them taskmasters and said to them: Calculate the number of bricks that they made. Immediately they counted them, and he said to them: Produce the same amount every day!
He appointed Egyptian taskmasters over Israelite Officers, and the Israelite Officers were appointed over the rest of the people. When Pharaoh said, “Do not continue to bring straw to the people” (Exodus 5:7), the taskmasters would still expect the same quota of bricks; and when they found the number of bricks wanting, the taskmasters would beat the Officers, as was said: “The Officers of the Children of Israel were beaten…” (Exodus 5:14)!
In actuality the Israelite Officers allowed themselves to be beaten by their taskmasters, instead of the rest of the people: they did not throw blame upon their fellow Israelites for any deficiency in the number of bricks they produced for Pharaoh. “Better that we should be beaten,” they believed, “than the rest of the people.”
Now when the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “Gather for Me Seventy Men from the Elders of Israel,” Moses asked Him: How can I tell who is worthy and who is not! God’s answer: “…whom you know to be Elders of the people and its Officers…”, and since those “Officers of the Children of Israel” have already borne the burden of being punished to protect the community, therefore: “They shall bear with you the burden of the people, so that you will not have to bear it alone” (Numbers 11:17)! In this way the Holy One, blessed be He, compared the Officers among the Elders to Moses himself!
From this we learn that whoever denies himself and endures suffering for the sake of Israel merits honor and greatness and the Holy Spirit, as did the Elders of the people who were the “Officers of the Children of Israel [who] were beaten…” (Exodus 5:14)!
Pesikta Rabbati 35
Weeping and Rejoicing
“Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Zion,
for I am coming to dwell in your midst—
declares the Eternal!”
Such was said in the Holy Spirit by Solomon:
“If she be a wall,
we shall build upon her
a turret of silver;
and if she be a door,
we shall protect her
with boards of cedar.”
(Song of Songs 8:9)
Solomon said his words regarding the Congregation of Israel (bride) and the Shechinah (Divine Presence) (Bridegroom) which dwelled upon the First Temple. Whereas the prophet Zechariah addressed his words to the “daughter of Zion” in anticipation of the building of the Second Temple.
When the Second Temple was built, the Shechinah did not dwell upon it as it had upon the First Temple. The Holy One, blessed be He, had said: If all of Israel comes up, the Shechinah will take residence; if not, they will benefit only from the Bat Kol (a reflection or echo of the Divine Presence), as was said: “Many of the Kohanim and the Levites and the Elder Chiefs of the Fathers, who had seen the First Temple when it was established—for this (Second) Temple in their eyes they weep loudly….” (Ezra 3:12a), and: “Who is left among you who saw this Temple in its former glory, and what do you see now? Is not such a one as nothing in your eyes” (Haggai 2:3)! Yet the verse of Ezra continues, “…but many shouted joyously at the top of their voices” (Ezra 3:12b)!
Why did some of the people weep while others rejoiced at the sight of the Second Temple? Elders who saw the glory of the First Temple, in which the Shechinah had dwelt, and then saw the Second Temple, in which the Shechinah did not dwell, were the ones who weeped. Their children, who had not seen the glory of the First Temple, but saw the building of the Second Temple, were those who rejoiced.