Parshat Behaalotcha: Burying Moshe’s Trumpets & Crafting our Own

Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander is President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone

RKB head shot e1683463889951

When a group of people is held together through shared identity, common goals, norms and mores, they demonstrate community by physically assembling in their moments of triumph and trouble, sorrow and joy. 

In Parshat Beha’alotcha, God instructs Moshe to craft the Chatzotzrot, the two silver trumpets, which would be sounded at important moments. During the journey of the Jewish people through the wilderness, the trumpets began to play an important role, indicating when they would halt and when they would carry on traveling. Yet the Torah already in our parsha dictates the significant role the trumpets would ultimately play in the future— gathering the people in times of war and at moments of celebration. Thus, the stated view of the Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvot, Positive Commandments, #59) is that the fashioning and use of the Chatzotzrot were not limited to the forty years in the desert, but rather constitute an eternal positive mitzva, applicable in all generations. 

In light of the timelessness of the trumpets, like all the other vessels used first in the Mishkan and when appropriate then used in the  Beit HaMikdash, it is striking that the Talmud (Menachot 28a-b) states that Moshe was commanded not to pass on the trumpets to the next generation. Rather, he was instructed to ensure that Yehoshua and the generations that followed would craft their own. Each generation was to make their own trumpets. Carefully noting that the phrase “aseh lecha,” ‘make for yourself [two silver trumpets]’ appears twice by the trumpets, the Talmud derives that Moshe was instructed to make them only ‘for himself’ – for his generation and not for those that would follow.  The midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:15) goes so far as to state that the trumpets were placed in genizah, suggesting perhaps that they were buried. 

If the trumpets are meant to be used in every generation, why can’t Moshe hand off the ones he designed himself – just as he did for all the other vessels in the Tabernacle and eventually for use in the Temple? Why is it important that each generation fashion their own trumpets to gather the community together in times of joy and tribulation?

So much of what the Mishkan and its vessels represent – God’s presence, the Torah, and the covenant— are constants. The connection between God and the Jewish people is unwavering and eternal. There is no need, during the hand off from Moshe to Yehoshua, to fashion a new Ark, or menorah (candelabra), or a new altar. Our worship, our fealty to the mitzvot stay the same from one generation to the next.

But the needs of our community are always in flux. Our interaction with one another shifts as we adapt to new circumstances and as we encounter different realities in times of war and of peace; in times of challenge and times of celebration.  And although our connection with God is constant, its nature fluctuates as well depending on each generation’s circumstances and experiences. It is for this reason that the unity of God is not in conflict with the recognition that God is known by many names – based on circumstances God is perceived and reckoned with differently. 

These changes are constantly making new demands for us to maintain communal cohesion and renewed and refreshed rendezvous with God as a community. The music, the tone of our engagement with others and with God changes. What holds us and our relationship with God together most certainly changes from one time and place to another. Furthermore, we mortal beings who form a community with one another are consistently outlived by the very community, “the community never perishes” (T’mura 15b). The community is always repopulated by the next generation, individuals who are often attracted to a different type of meaning and religious experience. Each generation seeks spiritual melodies with different cadences than those of the past.  

This is why the trumpets, which represent our ingathering, our points of reflection in times of joy and challenge, can’t be reused. Rather, we need to  fashion them again and again, in each and every generation, to ensure that the spiritual music being produced is responding to the call of the hour in facing the current needs of our people and our evolving relationship with God.

In a moment when the Jewish people face new opportunities and emerging challenges, we cannot rely on the ballads of the past to know what will bring us together and engage us. We need the sounds of modern trumpets.  What was once the status quo can’t be presumed to be what is best for our communal cohesion under new circumstances. Moshe’s trumpets played the music that enabled his generation to come together, at a time when we were seeking freedom from slavery, transforming from nomadic tribes to a nation with a destiny. We need trumpets that produce music based on the challenges and joys we face in a modern context. These include maintaining optimism and courage in a prolonged war with tragic mounting casualties, hostages still in captivity and citizens displaced from their homes. We live in a world in which antisemitism makes it difficult to walk on  global college campuses; yet at the same time, we have a world in which real leadership is found within our youth on the battlefield and homefront, and the State of Israel continues to flourish. We need trumpets that produce sounds that will enable us to elicit Divine connection and communal cohesion now, in the world we live in.

Perhaps the question that we must ask ourselves is what spiritual symbols, chords, pitches and rhythms must we produce to enable our growth as a people and a Divine nation?


Latest posts

Join our Mailing List

Get weekly divrei Torah, news, and updates directly in your inbox from Ohr Torah Stone.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
.pf-primary-img{display:none !important;}