Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

My Photo
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.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Parshat Beha'alotecha

Moshe's Response to the Complaints

Just as Israel is about to being their march toward the Promised Land, the complaints begin.

"The multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat? (Bemidbar 11:4).

This is not the first time that Israel erred. We see a number of cases in the book of Shemot, including the infamous Golden Calf.

What is different here is Moshe's reaction.

Throughout Shemot, Moshe struggles with God and works with Israel to try and make things better. The climax of this idea is Moshe shattering the Two Tablets and his threat to God: "If You forgive their sin But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written" (Shemot 32:32).

However, in our parsha, Moshe seems to give up at the first sign of trouble:

"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? Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them, that You say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom as the nurse carries the suckling,' to the Land You promised their forefathers? Where can I get meat to give all these people?" (Bemidbar 11:11-13).

God's response to Moshe is ok, you are fired: "Assemble for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the people's elders and officers, and you shall take them to the Tent of Meeting, and they shall stand there with You" (ibid 11:16). God then said that He "will increase the spirit that is upon you and bestow it upon them. Then they will bear the burden of the people with you so that you need not bear it alone" (ibid 17).

This challenge is so great to Moshe's authority that Yehoshua wants two of the elders reprimanded: "The lad ran and told Moshe, saying, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!" Yehoshua the son of Nun, Moshe's servant from his youth, answered and said, Moshe, my master, imprison them!" (ibid 27-28).

It is difficult to understand how the strong and resolute Moshe from Sefer Shemot, turns into the panicky and irresolute character he portrays in Sefer Bemidbar.

I think that the answer to this problem lies in the type of problems Moshe faced in Shemot to the type he faced in Bemidbar.

In Shemot he comes up against the Golden Calf - this is a spiritual and religious issue. Moshe, who has just spent forty days and night on Sinai with God, knows how to handle this issue. However, in Bemidbar, Moshe faces a materialistic issue. The people who have enough Manna as nourishment, want something different meat.

The same Moshe who "remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water" (Devarim 9:10) has difficulty understanding the issue.

"Where can I get meat to give all these people? For they are crying on me, saying, 'Give us meat to eat'" (Bemidbar 11:13). Moshe sees his leadership role as a religious and spiritual role, not as a supplier of meat. He has no patience for this issue and asks for help, for others to be concerned with these practical problems.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Beha'alotecha, entitled: "Moshe's Leadership" appears at

Another Sedra Short on Parshat Beha'alotecha, entitled: "The Incident at Tav'era" appears at

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home