From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bhaalotcha
B’haalot’cha (בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ — Hebrew for “When You Raise [the Lamps]“) – 8:1−12:16
The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand.'” – Numbers 8:1-2
- God speaks to Moses, describing the menorah for the Tent of Meeting. The Levites are appointed to serve as assistants under Aaron and his sons. (8:1-26)
- Those who are unable to celebrate Passover during Nisan are given a time in the month of Sivan to observe a “second Passover.” (9:1-14)
- A cloud by day and fire by night show God’s Presence over the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifts from the Tabernacle, the people leave Sinai, setting out on their journey, tribe by tribe. (9:15-10:36)
- The Israelites complain about the lack of meat, and Moses becomes frustrated. God tells him to appoint a council of elders. God provides the people with meat and then strikes them with a very severe plague. (11:1-34)
- Miriam and Aaron talk about the “Cushite woman” whom Moses has married. In addition, they complain that God speaks not only through Moses but also through them. Miriam is struck with leprosy, and Moses begs God to heal her. After her recovery, the people resume their journey. (12:1-16)
From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/bhaalotcha
By: Beth Ellen Young
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH and REFLECTION
You can read this week’s Torah Portion at https://www.sefaria.org/Numbers.8.1-12.16
From “The Torah / A Women’s Commentary” edited by Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea L. Weiss, Ph.D.
בהעלתך B’haalot’cha – Numbers 8:1–12:16
The Journey from Sinai Begins by Masha Turner, pp. 843-44
PARASHAT B’HAALOT’CHA (“when you bring up”) chronicles, in three major units, the start of the Israelites’ journey from Mount Sinai toward the Promised Land. The first unit (8:1–9:14) concerns the Tabernacle: its rituals, special laws regarding the Levites who serve in it, and the laws concerning the passover offering. It includes the purification and consecration of the Levites. It also addresses the situation of those who, because of being ritually impure, are unable to observe the passover offering at the right time; it institutes a substitute “second Passover” (pesach sheni), observed a month after the original due time of the passover offering (9:9–13).
The second unit (9:15–10:36) concentrates on the instructions for the traveling of the Israelites: the signals for moving ahead in the right direction and for making camp (the cloud and the trumpets). It concludes with the description of the first stage of the journey after leaving Sinai.
The third unit (Numbers 11–12) dramatically illustrates the discontent of certain Israelites who begin to challenge Moses (and, less directly, God) by their complaints on this first leg of the journey, and the divine punishments that follow as a consequence. An outstanding example is when, nostalgic for the plentitude left behind in Egypt, the people complain harshly about the lack of meat. Moses reacts with deep despair–to the point of asking to die rather than bear the burden of leadership. In response to his petition concerning the burden of bearing the people all by himself, God instructs him to gather representative elders of Israel and bestow some of his spirit upon them. This approach both shares the burden and demonstrates Moses’ spiritual superiority. Paradoxically, however, Moses’ authority is challenged by two of those elders (11:26–29) and then by his own siblings, Miriam and Aaron (12:1–2). In each of these episodes, Moses appears as a patient, caring, and extremely modest leader. While the narrator emphasizes his greatness and nobility, the people are presented as rebellious and ungrateful.
With regard to women, the parashah includes the enigmatic and disturbing story about Miriam. Moses’ sibling complains against Moses’ and his (new?) marriage to a “dark-skinned” (or “Cushite”) woman (12:1). In her challenge, Miriam–together with her brother Aaron–attempts to claim equal footing with Moses as a prophet (12:2). God punishes Miriam–not Aaron–with a skin disease because of her complaints, and she recovers only due to Moses’ intercessory prayer. Feminist interpreters often understand this story as an intended rebuke of a woman who aspires to a leadership role equal to a man’s, reading it as prejudicial to women on a number of levels. As we will see below, it is also possible to read this account more sympathetically, as a case in which God sides with one maligned woman (Moses’ wife) against a more powerful one (Miriam).
CRITICIZING MOSES: MIRIAM, AARON, AND THE CUSHITE WOMAN (12:1–16) p.859-60
The presence of two female characters stands out in this story. One, Miriam, is active and central; she constitutes the story’s axis. The other, Moses’ unnamed wife, called the “dark-skinned” or “Cushite” woman, is unseen and silent; though from her behind-the-scenes position, she is the story’s catalyst. The story constitutes a family drama of siblings who speak out against their brother and his wife.
This section contains numerous gaps, making it difficult to bridge from one verse to the next (particularly in the first three verses) and provoking a variety of questions…. Who is this [Cushite] woman? Have we encountered her before? Is she Zipporah, the wife of Moses and the daughter of the Midianite priest (Exodus 2:21)? Or, is this another wife…a native of Ethiopia…? What is Miriam and Aaron’s complaint against their brother and his marriage? Are they attacking Moses for marrying a woman with dark skin? Is it a diatribe against marriage outside of the Israelite tribal structure?
What connection does the [Cushite woman] bear to [Miriam and Aaron’s] complaint about Moses in relation to his siblings’ prophetic roles? The statement highlights one of several crucial gaps in this story. As prophets themselves, the siblings may think that they are entitled to the same privileged status accorded Moses. Indeed, if status is Miriam and Aaron’s primary concern, then perhaps they oppose Moses’ marriage because his wife is of the “wrong” status….
Why is Miriam alone punished for the siblings’ complaint…? Whereas both of them complain about Moses’ prophetic status (v. 2 uses the plural verb vayomru), is it possible that only Miriam criticizes Moses’ marriage (v. 1 uses the feminine singular va-t’daber); and thus only Miriam receives God’s punishment for that criticism…. [I]f we understand the cushit … to mean “dark-skinned,” then Miriam is punished for insulting a dark-skinned woman. She alone turns white (in an ironic twist) because she alone spoke out on that particular subject….
Another View – by Beth Alpert Nakhai, p. 862
IT IS HARD TO KNOW what to make of the story of Miriam: she is afflicted with snow-white scales for daring to challenge Moses–and by implication, God (12:1–16). First of all, this reader is outraged. Why is Miriam punished, but not her brother Aaron? And why is she punished at all, given the legitimacy of their complaint against Moses? Like so many passages in the Torah, B’haalot’cha seems to express values that are difficult to accept. Upon reflection, though, this reader’s outrage is softened–for there is much here that speaks to the power of women, even as it reflects unease about their authoritative voice.
Moses has married a foreign woman and his siblings complain, perhaps upset that Moses continues to lead Israel despite violating the law while they, leaders who are guilty of no such wrong, remain subject to his authority. Imagine their surprise when God responds directly to their complaint–and their dismay when God chastises them and supports Moses. Aaron seems not to suffer for his insubordination, but Miriam’s punishment is described in detail. She is afflicted with a horrible skin ailment that threatens to place her in a state of ritual impurity and block her access to God’s holiness. As if this were not enough, she must remain outside the Israelite encampment for a full week, like a disobedient daughter shamed by her father.
At first, the story of snow-white Miriam seems a perfect example of a double standard, for God permits the brother independent thought but punishes the sister for the very same ideas and words. Still, the story is more than that, for it shows us how much all of Israel valued Miriam. Her brothers plead for her, as Aaron beseeches Moses and then Moses prays to God to reverse their sister’s punishment. And the people do not respond by abandoning this victim of God’s great anger. Rather, they “did not march on until Miriam was readmitted” seven days later (v. 15), thus expressing their solidarity with the woman who in happier times led them in victory song and celebration (Exodus 15:20–21).
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds especially directed at individuals and specific communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, 19 Sivan through 25 Sivan, we lovingly remember:
Bernice C. Sigler
TKH Memorial Board – sister of Enid Schwartz z”l
Cousin of Rowena Jones, TKH Member
Roberta Nathan Bracker
Friend of Maria Gomez Murphy
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, June 17, 2022.
Zoom regularly updates its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening with wine/grape juice for Kiddush and Challah for Motzi.
Topic: Torah Study – Beha’alotecha (triennial part) Num. 10:35-12:16
Time: Jun 17, 2022 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Jun 17, 2022 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!
PS – Happy Father’s Day, Happy Juneteenth, Happy Pride – Sunday, June 19, 2022