Behaalotechah – “In Your Setting Up”

This week our parasha is Behaalotechah, which translates to “In your setting up” and covers Numbers 8:1-12:16. This parasha contains the separation of Levi, the second Passover, and our people leaving Sinai. But this morning we will be focusing on Numbers 11-12:16, which record three different rebellions against the Lord.

Chapter 11 begins with the first rebellion. Our people complained about every misfortune they had experienced, and the Lord heard their grumbling. This took place soon after leaving Sinai and the Lord responded by beginning to destroy with fire our people. Our people asked Moses to intercede on our behalf before God, and when Moses prayed the Lord relented.

Immediately following this disastrous event, the Torah records another rebellion among the people. Israel longed for something to eat other than the miraculous Manna the Lord provided from Heaven. This is a case where it was NOT enough for them! They longed for meat, vegetables, and fruit, which they had back in Egypt. But they conveniently ignored the slavery of Egypt and the saving hand of Adonai.

This rebellious attitude was severe and widespread enough that it caused Moses to despair and adopt a slightly rebellious attitude of his own. He distanced himself from the people, laying the blame for this insurrection on the Lord. He also despaired of the burden of leading our people. His distress was so great that he asked the Lord to end his life if this situation did not resolve.

Dealing with these rebellions caused Moses to lose perspective. In this moment He had forgotten how Adonai had rescued us from bondage in Egypt, provided for us, taught us His ways, and established a covenant with us, a promise to be our God and for us to be His people.

The Lord responded to the people’s rebellion and the lament of Moses. He told Moses to gather 70 elders, who would help him to administer the people and would share with Moses the blessing of the Holy Spirit. This group of 70 elders plus Moses is the basis for the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court we see later in Scripture. The Lord also told our people to prepare themselves for quail meat and an important lesson. They would have enough for a whole month until they were disgusted by the meat.

The 70 elders receive the Holy Spirit and begin to prophesize. Two elders are reported prophesying in the camp to Moses. Joshua is jealous that their standing is becoming closer to Moses and wants them to stop. But this was not the right response. Moses rebukes Joshua and says he wants everyone to have the Holy Spirit. We, like Joshua, can also become jealous of how God blesses others and works through them. But we should instead have Moses’s attitude and rejoice in their blessing.

After this episode, the Lord made good on His promise to Moses, and an awe-inspiring number of Quails were given to be eaten. But the Torah records that the people who demanded meat were judged for their rebellion. With the first bite still in their mouths the Lord struck them dead with plague, passing judgment on their ingratitude. Those who chose to rebel against God for meat died in their sin. This serious passage reminds us that the wage of sin is truly death.

Moving to chapter 12, the parasha concludes with a third rebellion, this time by Miriam and Aaron. They decided they should have equal authority to Moses. While both Aaron and Miriam did have great standing, they were not the appointed leaders of our people. Moses was our leader because of the Lord’s authority alone. This rebellion was not just against Moses but the Lord who had appointed Him.

In response, the Lord calls all three to the tent of meeting. The Lord affirms the faithfulness of Moses, stating that He talks to Moses directly, unlike other prophets of the Lord. Adonai tells Miriam and Aaron they should never have rebelled. The Lord punishes Miriam with leprosy for a week, forcing her outside the camp as a punishment for her sin. With this rebellion, we end the parasha.

Throughout the Torah, it seems the history of our people is “one step forward, two steps back.” It is not long after leaving Mount Sinai and the inauguration of the covenant that our people are complaining, including the leadership! It is easy for us to say we would do better but think of how often we complain and become jealous today.

In this parasha, we see how focusing too much on ourselves and too little on the Lord creates conflict and suffering. This is the root problem of each situation I just explained. Our selfishness and fear so easily creep up and poison the good things in our lives and the blessings the Lord gives to us.  Messiah Yeshua taught this truth as well in the Parable of the Sower. He described the Good News, the ultimate blessing, as seeds falling on different soil. Each soil represented a type of person. He explains one type in Mark 4:18-19, “The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.” These three categories, life worries, desiring wealth, and desiring other Earthly things, cover every situation in our parasha this week.

So, if these are the problems what is the solution? It is focusing more on Adonai and less on everything we cannot control. This week in the Bible Study, Rabbi Glenn taught Psalm 16. In verse 11 we find this solution as well, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” If we want to experience boundless joy, we must keep our eyes fixed on Adonai, through the Holy Spirit, given by Messiah Yeshua. The solution is simple but implementing it requires sustained effort and the boundless power of God.

May the Lord enable each of us to experience the full joy of His presence. May we focus more often on the things above and not the things below. May we all rejoice in what the Lord is accomplishing in our lives and His community.