Torah Portion: Beha’alotcha (To Raise Up) B’midbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16

HafTorah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

Tonight we talk about Beha’alotcha or “raise up.” This Torah portion covers many subjects from the dedication of the Levis to the sin of Aaron and Miriam, when they spoke against Moses.  Fire also seems to play a large part in this Torah section. We see it at the beginning and also as a guide of the people later on.

Tonight I want to take this symbol of fire and see what we can glean from G-d’s word. In fact the very name of the section Beha’alotcha is usually translated as kindle, as here where the Torah speaks of the duty to light the Menorah in the Mishkan and later in the Temple. To help us in our quest for the spiritual lesson let us look at a couple of things. First, the word itself means kindle as it is usually translated, but another meaning is to, “raise up.” In this meaning it would speak to the priest to raise up the flame of the Menorah.

A couple of weeks ago Jean, as she always does, kindled the candles for Shabbat. However, this time the second candle went out before it caught well enough to burn on its own. I thought of that when I put the second meaning of this word into play. Beha’alotcha can mean to raise up. When speaking about candles, or in the Mishkan, oil lamps, it means you hold the match on the wick until it raises up and burns on its own without help from the match.

Now taking this, look at Proverbs 20:27. Here we read, “the candle of G-d is the soul of man.” G-d was telling Aaron here to practically hold the match on the wick until it rose up and became self sufficient. Looking at Proverbs spiritually G-d was telling Aaron to raise up the souls of the Israelites until they became self sufficient. “Kindle” refers to the act of lighting. Raise up tells us about the purpose. Here Torah is giving us all a deep lesson. G-d is concerned about the longevity of the soul, that it burns on its own.

It tells us that we can inspire people or teach them how to inspire themselves. We can be their wings or teach then to fly. This principle is so important to each of us. Especially when we relate to children or children in the faith. As teachers our role is not just transmitting knowledge but more importantly to give them the tools to learn on their own. Children or young believers can be kindled but more important is that they be raised up. We all should be involved in passing on our passion for G-d, our burning desire to be what He has called us to be more than anything else. To help someone is to put them on their feet, not our shoulders.

My second point is a good example of someone who was able to fly on their own. In Numbers 9:6-13 it tells about a group of men who were unclean because they had come in contact with a dead body. This disqualified them from keeping Passover at the appointed time. The interesting thing is they came to Moses and pleaded for a second chance. They had a perfectly good and acceptable reason for not doing Passover. There was no reason to feel guilty but it still bothered them that they could not do what G-d had told all Israel to do.

The issue is, sometimes we are good at finding excuses for not doing G-d’s best. These men went out of their way to seek out a way to do what they had an excuse not to do. My point here is that we must rise above the easy way out. These men felt they would miss out by not doing this commandment of G-d. They had been taught to fly on their own. Moses, being used by G-d, had taught them well. They so wanted to be involved in what G-d had commanded that they did not accept an easy excuse and so they are written about in the Torah. Their story is there to teach us to “fly, “ to be everything G-d intended.