Parshat Beha’alotecha

Beha’alotecha begins with the final preparations for the Israelites’ journey from the Sinai desert to the Promised Land. There are instructions for Aaron, the High Priest, to tend to the light of the Menorah, and for consecrating the Levites into their special role as guardians of the sacred.

Before setting out, the Israelites celebrate Passover, one year after the Exodus itself, and provisions are made for those who are unable to celebrate it at its proper time to do so a month later. Details are given about the cloud that signals when to encamp and when to move on. Moses is commanded to make two silver trumpets to summon the people.

The narrative now changes tone. The Israelites set out after their long stay in the Sinai desert, but almost immediately there are problems, protests, and complaints. Moses suffers his deepest emotional crisis. He prays to God to die. God tells him to gather seventy elders who will help him with the burdens of leadership.

In the last scene of the parsha, Moses’ own sister and brother speak against him. Miriam is punished. Moses, here described as the humblest of men, prays on her behalf. After a week’s wait for Miriam to be healed, the people move on.