Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parshat Beha'alotecha,

Moshe's Leadership

A number of challenges are posed to Moshe's leadership in this week's parsha. Interestingly enough, some of those challenges are posed by Moshe himself. "Moshe said to the Lord, 'Why have You treated Your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in Your eyes that You place the burden of this entire people upon me?'" (Bemidbar 11:11).

God's response to Moshe is an acceptance of his leadership limitations. God tells Moshe to gather seventy people to act as elder and says "they will bear the burden of the people with you so that you need not bear it alone" (ibid 17).

Furthermore God even imbues them with his (unclear if Moshe's or God's) spirit: "The Lord descended in a cloud and spoke to him, and He increased some of the spirit that was on him and bestowed it on the seventy elders" (ibid 25).

These elders begin prophesying. Two men, Eldad and Medad prophesied among the people to such an extent that Moshe's aids saw it as a challenge to his leadership. Yehoshua begs Moshe to "imprison" (or even "execute") them (see ibid 27-29). Once again, Moshe allows this challenge to go unopposed.

Is it then surprising that a further challenge arises, this time from Moshe's own siblings. Miriam and Aharon both said: "Has the Lord spoken only to Moses? Hasn't He spoken to us too? (ibid 12:2).

Once again, Moshe does not respond to this challenge. The Torah explains that: "Moshe was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth" (ibid 3), which also explains why he allowed Eldad and Medad's challenge to go unopposed.

Under these circumstances. God intervenes to restore Moshe's unequivocal standing and explained that with Moshe: "I speak mouth to mouth; in a vision and not in riddles, and he beholds the image of the Lord. So why were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moshe?" (ibid 8).
He then punishes Miriam by making her a leper and Aharon is forced to eat humble pie by asking Moshe to pray for her. By this action, Aharon admits that he was not a great enough prophet to intervene on her behalf.

Through this incident, God restores to Moshe his leadership dignity and the march towards Canaan could continue.Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Beha'alotecha, entitled: "The Incident at Tav'era" appears at

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