Behaalotcha

“Parsha and Purpose” – Beha’alotcha 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Terror, Civil Unrest and Antisemitism: What the Parsha’s Trumpets Reveal About Our Current Crises”

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Parshat Behaalotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

“Terror, Civil Unrest and Antisemitism: What the Parsha’s Trumpets Reveal About Our Current Crises”

The past few weeks of terrorist rocket-fire, civil unrest in Israel and a spike in antisemitic acts in the United States and Europe have put the Jewish world on edge.

How do we react to these multiple existential issues?

The answer to this question will tell us a lot about who we are as inidividuals, as a community and as a nation. 

I’d like to share with you an important  lesson for this moment that is found in our Torah portion, Beha’alot’cha.

In the parsha, we are introduced to the mitzvah of crafting trumpets – chatzotzrot – which are to be sounded on various occasions. (Numbers 10:1-10)

Amongst the occasions, times of community challenge: war, famine or distress, in which the blowing of the trumpets is a clarion call to the Jewish people to galvanize and respond to the crisis.

In contrast, other occasions include times of communal joy; on our holidays, Rosh Chodesh, or specific occasions to call the Jewish people in celebration.

As we are all aware, there is also another instrument mandated by the Torah that is still used today to galvanize the Jewish people together and with which we are all familiar: the shofar.

As we know, the shofar is sounded on Rosh HaShanah (Numbers 29:1), and, according to widespread custom, during the month of Elul to call us to re-engage with God, to do teshuva, in advance of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Rema, Orach Chayyim, 581:1).

Why are two different instruments needed?

Why are we commanded to use the chatzotzrot, the trumpets, in certain contexts, but the shofar, the ram’s horn, in the context of teshuva?

The answer can be found in the crucial difference between how each instrument is made.

The shofar, the ram’s horn, comes entirely from the world of nature, with minimal human involvement.

Conversely, the chatzotzrot, the trumpets, are painstakingly-fashioned out of silver by people.

Why is it that the instrument that is used to call us do teshuva must be found in nature? Why must the instrument that is used to call us together in times of joy or challenge be fashioned by human beings?

It is because when it comes to teshuva, what is critically important is for us to recognize the all-encompassing aspect of our relationship with God.

That God’s presence can be found in every aspect of our lives and everywhere in the world around us.

So in our effort to renew our relationship to God, we use an instrument that represents the notion that God visits blessings upon us, his creations, every moment of every day.

In contrast, the instruments used to gather us in times of joy and in times of challenge must be fashioned by people because, ultimately, how we react to the crises and joys that we experience, is largely dependent upon people: ourselves and others.

The Torah commands us to sound the human-crafted trumpets in times of crisis because it is human behavior, intelligence and initiative – with God’s help – that can transform crises into redemptive and uplifting moments.

As we face the crises of terror and civil unrest in Israel, and a threatening resurgence of acts of antisemitism throughout the world, we can hear both the shofar AND the trumpets being sounded from Above.

This is a time to do teshuva and to gather together as a people to respond, together, to the common threats we face.

Please God, may we succeed in taking the steps needed to repair our relationship with God and to transform these crises to celebrations in our lives, in the lives of our people and in society at large.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Daniel Epstein

Parshat Beha’alotcha: Realistic Recollections and Moving Forward A graduate of OTS’s Straus-Amiel Emissary Program, Rabbi Daniel Epstein is one half of the senior Rabbinic team at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London’s West End, together with his wife, Rebbetzin Ilana Epstein   Transitions are challenging. If the Book of Numbers had a theme, this …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Behaalotcha 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Song Doesn’t Remain the Same: How Each Generation Connects with God Differently”

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The Song Doesn’t Remain the Same: How Each Generation Connects with God Differently

One of the vessels that we’re introduced to in this week’s parsha is the trumpets. 

The trumpets have a unique quality to them. You see, every other vessel that Moshe forges, with the help of others, can be used for all generations: the candelabra, the menora, the aron, the ark. However, the chatzotzrot, the trumpets – which call the Jewish people together in times of joy and in times of challenge, such as warfare – the law is that those trumpets have to be fashioned anew in every single generation.  Menachot 28b

Why is that? Why is it that all the other vessels in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, were for generations, but the trumpets were only for one generation, and then they had to be remade, refashioned, redone? 

I believe that there’s an important message in this for us: that every generation has its own music, its own connection to God.

My music is not the same music as my children’s, and is not the same music as my parents’. 

My connection to God is also different, and therefore the chatzotzrot – the trumpets that call the Jewish people together, and symbolize this ‘music of the moment’ – cannot be fossilized. It has to be relevant. It has to speak to us in our generation. 

And therefore, etched within the laws of the trumpets is the recognition of the fact that the Holy Ark is eternal, the candelabra, the menora, is eternal, the lechem hapanim where the showbread is put is eternal. 

But the trumpets, the music that allows a generation to march to a relationship with God, is renewed, recast, in every generation. 

What’s our music?

What’s the way we connect?

It can’t be the same way our parents connected, and it’s different from the way our children connect. We have to find a space for our children to create their own music. We have to give them that space, and we have to make sure that we’re always searching for our own music to connect with God. 

B’ezrat Hashem, we’ll understand the message, “utekatem bachatzotzrot”, to blast those trumpets, to create our own music, to find a way in which we truly can connect in this generation to God, and to make sure Judaism is meaningful and purposeful; not just a relic of the past but rather something that leads us to the future.

Shabbat Shalom

This week’s parsha commentary has been sponsoredby the Charif family of Sydney, Australia in memory of Bryna (Bertha) bat Nottel Noteh Charif whose yartzheit is on 21 Sivan Shabbat Shalom: Behaalotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel – “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the …

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Rabbi Nechemia Krakover

Parashat Behaalotcha: At God’s Command They Shall Travel God tests the desert generation in a way that underscores the importance of commitment and the power of divine truth – travelling and camping at His command. Rabbi Nechemia Krakover, Principal of Neveh Channah High School, Named in Memory of Anna Ehrman Can any of us say …

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Rav Boaz Pash

Parshat Behaalotcha: The Structure of the Menorah and the Structure of the Torah Rabbi Boaz Pash is the Rosh Kollel of the Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary‘s Torat Yosef Kollel At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, we read the following: “Hashem spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him, “When …

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Shabbat Shalom: Behaalotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:16) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “And it came to pass, when the Ark traveled forward, that Moses said, “Rise up O God, and scatter Your enemies; and let them that hate You flee before You.” And when it rested he said, “Return O God, unto the myriads [literally ten …

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Parshat Behaalotcha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16) Rabbi David Stav The Jewish People had encamped adjacent to Mount Sinai, and is now beginning its march toward the Promised Land. But before heading out, Moses turns to his father-in-law, Yitro, and proposes that he join them for the journey. Yitro responds: “We are traveling to the place about …

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Parshat Behaalotcha (Numbers 8:1 – 12:16) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “The nation was ‘kvetching’ evilly in the ears of the Lord, and the Lord heard, and His anger inflamed” [Num. 11:1]. Why is there a marked difference between God’s reaction to the complaints recorded here in the Book of Numbers compared to His reaction …

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