WHEN YOU LIGHT UP
BEHA’ALOT’KHA counts Netzah of Hod, Victory within Humility
with wisdom adapted from Meta Parshyot 5755 by Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank, and The Living Torah R Aryeh Kaplan
This Torah portion is rich, like chocolate mousse. It highlights the completion of the Mishkon, lighting of the menorah, historical aspects, laws, and exciting short narratives; on an uprising, prophecy, and criticizing Moshe. The entire Torah portion has a thrust of activity tempered with pause. (Like, Netzah in Hod.)
The names given to Yisrael’s campsites provide profound insight into the journey, and the wisdom gleaned from it.
In Beha’alot’kha, the Mishkon (sanctuary) inauguration rituals are completed.
In Beha’alot’kha, the Mishkon inauguration rituals are completed. The menorah was lit. The Levites were installed, and duties were defined. Passover was celebrated. A make-up for Passover was introduced. And then, Divine signs came to move on—big ones. Havayah communicated with the Yisrael camp through clouds by day and fire by night. The Levites would sound silver trumpets to communicate with the Yisrael camp. Kuma Havayah (Rise up, Havayah.)
Let’s get the show on the road
Everything is set – all the gear is in order; it’s clear who is in charge of the sacred items; we know how many we are and where to set our tents out at night. Let’s get the show on the road! Bamidbar! Into the wilderness! Sound the silver trumpets! Bullock carts, Ho! Vayehi binsoa haAron (And when the ark was lifted, Moshe proclaimed) … Kuma, get up!
Three acts of opposition to Moshe
The latter part of this Torah portion shares three acts of opposition to Moshe. The first is an uprising in which the people demanded meat in addition to the manna, which was their regular diet. They got a lot of meat. It did not turn out well for the people.
The Holy One gave the power of prophecy to the 70 elders, and two men in the vicinity also received prophetic vision. These two men began to prophesize. This caused Joshua to worry about his ascendency to the power spot, and he asked Moshe to stop them. The response? Moshe said he was not worried and wished everyone in the Yisrael camp could prophesize.
His sister and brother were talking critically of Moshe. Havayah called the three of them into Presence and rebuked Aharon and Miriam personally. Miriam was punished, and Aaron was not. This Torah portion even offers a window into how Moshe felt about himself through all these challenges. I imagine he had painful moments due to these desert experiences wondering whether he was a good enough leader or had it in him.
MODERN MIDRASH: THREE STAGES OF BECOMING MIRIAM
There are three significant events in the life of Miriam as recorded in the Bible, and each event may be considered to represent a stage in the element of the Miriam in each of our souls.
MIRIAM STAGE 1
The poet Bat-Miriam explains each event is Miriam taking the initiative to do something that impacts the leadership of Moshe over the Yisrael people. In the poem “Miriam, “the first event signifying the first stage of the development is the dance to the drums at the crossing of the Reed Sea. In these moments, Miriam expresses personal celebration, her own liberation, and the expansion of her perspective.
MIRIAM STAGE 2
True liberation for Miriam is achieved only when she challenges the masculine authority represented by Moshe (Bamidbar 12). The poem portrays Miriam‘s leprosy and isolation outside the Yisrael camp as a freely chosen state of Nazareth abstention. The intention is to object to an unyielding stance toward inappropriate use of authority. Miriam has, by these means, created for herself a positive self-image that will lead her to a truly free way of living, as so too may the inner Miriam in us achieve liberation.
MIRIAM STAGE 3
In the final stanza of the poem (and the final stage of development of the Miriam part of self), the scene returns to Miriam standing by the infant Moshe‘s basket in the Nile. Miriam prays for the well-being of the infant Moshe and watches over him like a mother. Like a Divine figure, she seeks to set a path for his future fate by teaching him to follow specific ways of living. Miriam is no longer the victim of Moshe‘s authority; instead, she is his older sister, parental authority, and Divine Being guiding the male child on his path to liberation.
Following her struggle to be liberated from the power of masculine authority, the emergence of Miriam as one of the liberators of Yisrael is now visible. (Adapted from Modern Midrash, pages 118 to 119)
Beha’alotkha counts Netzah of Hod.
Hod’s nature discerns beauty and increases refinement. This Torah sets boundaries (Hod) to maintain sustainable methods for the community (Netzah).
The innerness of Hod is being affected by the integration with the scattered energy of Netzah. In this parashah, we find a great variety of issues that reflect the quality of Netzah, and each of them has a quality of self-evaluation about them related to Hod. We see Moshe in a rare self-evaluating moment. What is his relationship to the leadership of these demanding people? He shows his perspective when he explains how he feels about alternative visions being voiced by other prophets. Miriam‘s isolation can be seen as a time of chosen pause and self-reflection.
As we already know, Hod’s nature is meditative, reflective, and pauses and serves to develop and refine sensibilities. In this Torah portion, we have a satisfying integration of the principles of abundance and reflection, signaling to Yesod that the work in Netzah and Hod is coming to a close.