Last week, in Parasha Naso, the numbering of Israel continued with a census of the Levites. God also detailed the laws pertaining to the suspected adulteress and the Nazirite, as well as gave to Moses and Aaron the priestly blessing. The Parasha ended with the heads of tribes bringing their gifts to the Tabernacle.
This week’s portion of Scripture opens with God’s instructions regarding the lighting of the seven-branched golden lampstand in the Tabernacle.
Raising Up the Light
The Hebrew word Behaalotecha, which means to raise or set up or mount, comes from the Hebrew root alah, which means to go up or ascend.
The word aliyah—to ascend to the Land of Israel—is also derived from this root. The word oleh (m) or olah (f) , one who immigrates to Israel, is also related. Since coming to the Promised Land is to ascend, leaving the Land carries, perhaps, the connotation of descending spiritually.
In Parasha Behaalotecha, God told Moses how to raise up the lampstands [nerot]. The word nerot not only means lampstands but also candles.
Light is so very precious! In fact, one of the Ten Plagues in Egypt was darkness.
Without a light, we cannot find our way; we stumble in the darkness. How true spiritually, as well.
The Bible contrasts the dark path of the wicked to the bright path of the righteous, whose light grows ever brighter!
“The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18–19)
The Dark Path of Complaining
Yeshua emphasized the theme of spiritual light during His earthly ministry.
He recognized our need for light and revealed that those who follow Him will never be in darkness.
“When Yeshua spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
We are also called to be lights.
One of the main ways that followers of Yeshua can shine as lights in the world is to love one another and to refrain from complaining and arguing.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world …” (Philippians 2:14–15)
The Yiddish word for complaining is kvetching. This week’s Torah portion is often called the kvetching sedra (the Book of Complaints) because in it, the Israelites protest, grumble, gripe, and complain.
“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when He heard them His anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1)
Kvetching is the subject of many a Jewish joke; however, it is no laughing matter in God’s eyes.
The habitual complaining is a serious sin that indicates lack of trust in God and a heart bereft of gratitude.
Complaining brought down God’s wrath upon the children of Israel and caused them to wander aimlessly in the wilderness until they died. How tragic!
Despite their dramatic encounter with God and witnessing firsthand His mighty deliverance—saving them from a life of slavery and bondage in Egypt—they still failed to take hold of their destiny.
An entire nation lost their spiritual compass and sense of purpose by being disgruntled and dissatisfied with all that God had provided for them.
Rather than being thankful for the miracle of deliverance from Egypt and daily manna, they demanded meat, longing for foods they were accustomed to eating in Egypt.
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4–6)
They failed to recall, however, the price they had paid for these foods—the lashes of the Egyptian slave masters and a life of bitter oppression.
In previous times, when the people complained of having no water to drink or food to eat, God was not angry. Instead, He met their very real needs and blessed them.
Then why did God punish them for their complaints this time?
They were murmuring and grumbling for no good reason. They had everything they needed, and instead of being grateful for God’s provision, they clamored for more.
In this Parasha, God gave the people the meat they craved, but death followed instead of life.
“So He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them.” (Psalm 106:15)
There is a warning in this for us.
Just because we receive what we desire doesn’t mean it will be a life-giving blessing. When we are greedy and lust after things, we are sowing into our flesh. This leads only to death. Sowing into the Spirit, however, leads to life.
Contentment in Our Trials and Difficulties
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)
The cravings and blindness that the Israelites were guilty of in the desert is just as common today.
The inability to see beyond trials and difficulties into a hope for the future causes many to want to return to oppressive situations rather than face the day and go through it boldly.
Some people even return to slavery to sin after God rescues them, throwing away their confidence in the Messiah because of difficulties on the way to the Promised Land.
It is a human tendency to slide back into what was known and familiar, even if it is troublesome, rather than endure the uncertainty and challenges of freedom.