Parshat B’ha’a’lot’kha: The Honeymoon is Over

Parshat B’ha’a’lot’kha: The Honeymoon is Over

For me, the phrase “let’s get real” is not the most beloved expression in the idiom hierarchy. In its most literal sense, “let’s get real” suggests that from this moment forward we need to be realistic and serious about something for which we were previously dismissive.

In the portion of B’ha’alot’kha, reality sets in for the desert Israelites. They are becoming more conscious not only of their national mission but of the severe challenges of that mission. Still perhaps somewhat euphoric over the liberation from Egypt, they now appreciate the painful and steep costs of freedom.

The honeymoon between the people and their new God, between the people and Moses, is essentially over. Now is the time to “get real.” The day-to-day dreadful realities of independent life bring b’nai yisrael to a scary conclusion: They actually miss Egypt! Slavery in Egypt meant oppression and degradation but at least they had food on the table. Now, in the desert, life under a hot sun has become so unbearable that even the two people closest to Moses turn against him. Betrayed by his own siblings, Aaron and Miriam, Moses faces the reality of insurrection. God, as it were, faces the reality of losing a nation in its infancy. B’nai yisrael faces the reality of either fending for themselves or starving. Such a watershed moment will be addressed and resolved in one of two ways: Either the nation will get it together and face the realities of life in freedom or risk total extinction. Yes, life will be hard and producing food will demand more effort. With its new way of life, Israel will certainly face severe (anticipated and unanticipated) struggles and conflicts. The key for Moses and the nation is not to ignore the obstacles, but to approach and resolve them together for the sake of a promising future.

The realities of modern life include sickness, economic struggle, severed relationships, religious conflict, terrorism, national civil war and too much uncertainty throughout the globe. Perhaps some of these harsh realities we can reverse, but others will remain constant as inevitable facts of life. For most of us, life will never be a Paradise. How we address life’s realities will in large measure determine whether our future (individually and collectively) is promising or gloomy. For each sickness we can contribute time, expertise or money toward finding a cure. For every economic struggle we can pick ourselves up and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, grit our teeth and get back on our own two feet. For every relationship in question we can open ourselves to new and flexible ways of seeing life from the other person’s perspective. For each religious conflict or threat of terrorism we can pledge to raise our children with tolerance and respect for everyone. All of us will experience painful episodes in the future. Yet, if at such moments we extend our arms to support and comfort one another, we will take solace in knowing that the world we sometimes detest is also a world of honor. The nation led by Moses was not yet prepared to take such drastic steps. Hopefully, we will be…

Major Themes in this week’s portion:

  • Levites Earn Their Pay: They Are Officially Installed
  • A Cloudy Day: God Acts Through a Hovering Cloud
  • The People March On: Time to Traverse the Sinai Desert
  • Jethro Goes Home: Moses’ Father in Law returns to His Tribe
  • Kvetch, Kvetch, Kvetch: The People Struggle With Freedom
  • Et Tu Aaron?: Aaron and Miriam Turn Against Brother Moses

To Think About: What advice, wisdom or guidance did you ever receive from an unlikely source?

For more information about these intriguing subjects, join us this Shabbat morning for our regular service. We begin at 9:30 am.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Klayman


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