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1. What is the meaning and symbol of the phrase 'the seven lamps shall cast light towards the face of the Menorah' (8:2) according to the S'forno?
2. According to an earlier passage (4:3) the Levites were to go into service from the age of thirty, and yet in this Parasha (8:24) the age given is twenty-five. How does Rashi resolve that contradiction, and what teaching may be learnt from his answer?
3. What, according to the text and Rashi, are the differences between the regular Pesach, and Pesach Sheini? (- the day on which people unable to take part in the regular Passover offerings may bring that offering)
4. The Torah goes into great detail describing the means by which the Israelites were guided by the Divine Cloud in the desert. What may be learnt from the Torah's recording those proceedings at great length, according to the Ramban?
5. In Temple times, why are the Trumpets sounded in times of distress, according to the Ramban?
6. The two inverted 'nuns' divide between the reprehensible behavior recorded in 10:33 and the two sins in the next chapter. What was that reprehensible behavior in 10:33, as understood by the Ramban?
7. When the Israelites recalled the good food they had in Egypt, they said that they got it 'for nothing' (11:5). What does that expression mean, according to (a) Rashi, (b) the Ramban and (c) Ibn Ezra?
8. What, according to Rabbeinu Bachya, may be learnt from the Torah's putting together the two stories: of Moses' spirit being spread to the seventy elders, and of death by gluttony through overeating quails?
9. What was the substance of the negative report that Miriam spread to Aaron, according to the sources quoted by Rashi?
10. 'Please G-d, Heal her now' was Moses prayer on behalf of Miriam when she became a metzoraat. Why, according to the sources quoted by Rashi, was his prayer so short?
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ON PARASHAT BEHAALOTCHA
1. The lamps casting towards the face of the Menorah' teach that all man's activities should be directed to G-d service - symbolized by the central shaft (the face) of the Menorah. The three lamps on the right hand side symbolize Torah, spiritual pursuits, and the three to the left represent temporal, productive, activities (S'forno).
2. Rashi resolves the contradiction by stating that young Levites between the ages of twenty five and thirty prepared for their sacred duties, which were only to commence on reaching their full strength at thirty. That indicates a pedagogic lesson: a person who has shown no signs of success after five years' training would be unlikely to do so in the future.
3. The differences between the regular Pesach, and Pesach Sheini (second Pesach) are as follows. Pesach Sheini has no festival laws as such (prohibition of work), and no prohibition of eating and possessing leavened food (chametz) on the day - though the Pesach offering must be consumed with unleavened bread (matzot) and bitter herbs (maror).
4. The Ramban interprets the details describing the means by which the Israelites were guided by the Divine Cloud in the desert to the credit of the Israelites. Even though on some occasions the stopping and starting gave them little rest and often came unexpectedly and inconveniently, the Israelites followed G-d's marching orders willingly and without complaint.
5. According to the Ramban, the Trumpets sounded in times of distress in Temple times to remind them that suffering and war is a product of sin. For people to interpret wars, plagues, and droughts, as merely coincidence defeats the object, as their purpose is to warn the Israelites to change their ways for the better.
6. That reprehensible conduct was the manner in which the Israelites left the 'mountain of G-d' (10:33). The Ramban quotes a Midrashic tradition that the Israelites left Mount Sinai without the correct reverence befitting the ultimate spiritual experience of receiving the Torah - in other words 'like a child who runs away from his lessons'.
7. The good food they had 'for nothing' was, according to (a) Rashi - without any obligation to perform the many precepts (mitzvoth) associated with food (b) the Ramban - though they were slaves, they did not go short of food as fruits, vegetables, and fish were plentiful in Egypt and (c) Ibn Ezra - fish were so plentiful in the Nile that their sale value was virtually 'nothing'.
8. According to Rabbeinu Bachya, the Torah's putting together the stories of the seventy elders and the quails is to teach the following. In the same way that Moses' spirit could elevate all seventy men to greatness without reducing his own in any way, so G-d could provide meat without placing strain on the world's resources.
9. The negative report, following the traditions quoted by Rashi, refers to Moses' family life. The expression 'Cushite woman' (12:1) is a euphemism for the beauty of his wife, Zippora. The content of the information was that Moses had neglected his conjugal life as he was a prophet. Aaron and Miriam were also prophets, but did not withdraw from normal family life, and privately, between them, they criticized Moses for so acting.
10. According to Rashi, the recorded very short nature of Moses' prayer for Miriam 'Please G-d, Heal her now' is show that Moses did not neglect his people for family reasons, and that he did not go out of his way with lengthy prayer to show favoritism to his close relatives.
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT BEHAALOTCHA
Wholesale punishment only came after that final sin of gluttony with the quails: the gross self-indulgence unworthy of those who had received the Torah. What was special about that offence that caused a very large destruction (11:33) to fall on the Israelites? In sharp contrast to the Sin of the Golden Calf, overeating - though hardly within the spirit of the Torah - would be hardly in actual breach of any of the 613 Mitzvot. The punishment of death by the Hand of G-d appears very harsh in the circumstances… How may this be explained?
For a suggested approach, see my 5761 on the Shema Yisrael website.
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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