Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Beha'alotkha

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Beha’alotecha – In Your Making Go Up Numbers 8:1-12-16

As we look at this week’s Torah portion we are directed to the continuing saga of the children of Israel and some of the trials and tribulations of the sojourn through the wilderness wanderings. Parshas B’Haloscha can be divided into two distinct parts. The first part discusses the daily lighting of the Menorah, the consecration of the Leviyim into the service of the Mishkan, and the laws of Pesach Shaynie (the second chance for bringing the Pascal Lamb). The second part returns to the organization, travels, and challenges of the Jews as they prepared to enter Eretz Yisroel. Rashi explains that the word “beha’alotecha” (literally “when you step up”) is used because there was a ma’aleh - step - in front of the menorah on which the Kohen stood as he prepared the wicks and oil of the menorah.

The Menorah

Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.” Aaron did so; toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as Yahweh had commanded Moshe. This is the workmanship of the Menorah, hammered-out gold, from its base to its flower it is hammered out; according to the vision that Yahweh showed Moshe, so did he make the Menorah.

Yahweh’s instruction to Aaron to “raise light” in the lamps of the menorah in the Sanctuary, so that “the seven lamps should give light toward the face of the menorah.” Bamidbar/Numbers 8:1-4

Moshe is given the design for the menorah that is to be placed in the Tent of Meeting. This seven-branched candelabra is to be formed from a single ingot of gold and is to illuminate the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant is located. The menorah, however, was hammered out of a single piece of gold, originating as a single object and remaining a single object through the various stages of its construction to the finished product.

The instructions for the lighting of the Menorah are given here because the altar has just been dedicated in Numbers 7. With the dedication of the altar, the tabernacle worship has begun. The menorah will have to be lit the following morning and then every day thereafter. The command and key word is to give light in “front” of the Menorah or ‘toward the face of the Menorah’. The rabbis teach that the three wicks on the right and the three on the left were all directed toward the Menorah’s central stem, thus concentrating light toward the center. The Menorah symbolized that Yahweh is the Source of all light (Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 775). Thus the command is meant to specify that the six lights beside the central one should be arranged to shine the light in front of the Menorah, or in the direction of the table of the Bread of the Presence.

The menorah had seven branches, nine flowers, eleven knobs, and twenty-two cups, and according to the Gemara (Menachot 28b) it was eighteen tefachim (handbreadths) tall or three amot, approximately five feet. It was one solid piece of beaten work of gold (Vs.4). . . and the flowers of beaten work—The Menorah was an amazing piece of art, beaten from a single piece of gold and not molded. The shape included almond blossoms as the cups holding the oil for each of the 7 lights.

It symbolizes an eternal light as well as the eternal vigilance of Yahweh towards His people. Each of the three lamps on the left and the three lamps on the right were all directed towards the central stem of the lamp. If we pattern our lives in this manner of keeping our eyes on Yeshua, we will walk in His light of which He is a conduit from the Father ( we see God in the face of Yeshua 2 Cor.4:6; Heb.12: 2). The central branch which is the Menorah, pointed straight up, toward Yahweh. In Isaiah 11: 2, we have a picture of the central branch of the ‘Spirit of Yahweh’ from which the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of Yahweh are manifested. It is as if to say that the other six lights of the Menorah which also correspond to the six days of creation and the six millennia of history, are all just to “launch” us into the realm of God. All manifestations of His presence, His power and His purposes are directed toward finding fulfillment in Him as the central focal point of our lives.

The central trunk is the true Menorah from which the six branches shoot. The highest central lamp is called the “Shamasch”, that is, the “Servant”. The Menorah represents our relationship to Yeshua the servant of Yahweh, of which we are the branches.

Yeshua said, “I am the vine and you are the branches?” (John 15:5) He is the main branch that carries the life to the attached human branches of the Menorah. Does the power of His resurrected life and anointing flow through you even as oil was in the Menorah and as sap flows through a tree to its branches? Is Yeshua the center of all that we do and say and can we say as the Apostle Paul did, that “in him we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28 The Menorahs of the seven Messianic assemblies of Revelation 2 and 3 represent the same truth of their testimony of light as an assembly, shining from the oil/anointing of the Spirit flowing through them. (Rev. 1:3, 20)

“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men,” (John 1: 4). Through His life we become a light. We are to be a reflection of His glory, and though not the source of the light, we reflect His light to show the unsearchable riches and the glorious mystery which from the beginning of the world has been hidden away in Yeshua - that is Messiah in us - His Word embodied in us. The Menorah was a light to the world, and thus also represent God’s Torah. Note that even a person who was not a priest could light the lamps of the Menorah, to spread the light of His Presence which is seen through His Word enacted in our lives. (Compare to Matthew 5:13-16)

The word ‘beha’alosecha’ is not the normal one used for “lighting” which is “Lhadlik.” The Torah used the word “B’Haloscha” which literally means to “lift or raise up,” rather than the literally correct word, B’Hadlikcha “when you light.” For this reason the Rabbis say that Aharon is being instructed - “when you ignite the Menorah, make sure that it is a flame that can stand on its own, one that reaches Heavenward by itself. You may have to initiate the flame, but, after that, the flame must be able to rise independent of any further effort on your part.” The Talmud states, “This teaches that the job of the Kohain Gadol when lighting the Menorah was to make sure that once lit each flame would stay lit and “rise up by itself.” This speaks of raising up the other individual lights that can stand independently strong and brightly burning the ‘oil’.

The essence of good spiritual instruction is facilitating the person’s own desire to feel the presence of God, something that must be inspired, because it must be pursued with one’s life-force. The ideal form of inspiration is the kind that we feel when we catch a glimpse of Yahweh’s master plan, and how we can contribute to its completion. This was part of Aharon’s job to transmit this message to the rest of the nation, so that each and everyone could hook into that master plan, and feel a sense of destiny being attached to it. This would then result in a great desire to be a partner in that plan, bringing the person closer to Yahweh in the process, and closer to their own personal capacity of greatness and fulfillment.

Thus the Menorah symbolized each one’s unique ability to understand and serve God. The High Priest was to inspire and teach others through both word and deed to accept their divinity and act accordingly. The test of his success would be when each candle would “rise by itself”, set alight by the illumination of His Spirit to serve Yahweh in his individual capacity. Ultimately, it would be Aharon who would inspire and nurture that individual responsibility for divinity, until each one could rise up by itself.” Yeshua now takes this responsibility to ignite our flame to burn and stand by itself.

“The soul of man is a candle of Yahweh” (Proverbs 20:27). Every believer must also exercise his priesthood and see to it that his candle shines brightly and ensure that his brother’s candle also is lit. The soul of your fellow is a ready lamp, filled with the purest oil and equipped with all that is required to convert its fuel into a blazing flame. It only lacks the proximity of another lamp to ignite it. If your own soul is alight, its contact with another’s soul will awaken its potential for light, so that it may illuminate its surroundings and kindle other souls, in turn. Are we “raised up” in being a light in our service to Yahweh? Yeshua instructed us to let our lights shine so that others will be enlightened by the flavour of the spiritual ‘food’ which we have to offer (i.ew. - the salt of our lives). (Matthew 5:13-16)

The priests stood before the menorah and we stand before the Menorah which is the golden light of the presence of Yahweh that comes through Yeshua from Yahweh.

Purification and dedication of the Levites

Moshe then gathers all the people in front of the Sanctuary, where the tribe of Levi is initiated into the Temple service as assistants to the Kohanim (priests). They then immerse in a pool of water, shave off all their hair, are sprinkled with the ashes of the Red Heifer, and bring offerings to God. The shaving of the hair symbolises the removal of all of man’s glory, all of his natural pride and dignity, i.e. becoming completely stripped bare before the Almighty. To bear His glory, ours must go.

The people lay their hands upon the Levites, and Aaron the High Priest lifts each of them up as an “uplifting before God” For, The Levites are given as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel... “And after that, the Levites went in to do their service in the Tent of Meeting before Aaron and before his sons; as God had commanded Moshe..."

The consecration of the Levites at this juncture fits perfectly. The Kohain Gadol’s job of inspiring and nurturing the nation needed help. The Levites were that help. In this case the Levites were gifts to their superiors, the priests. The prince of the tribe of Levi was the Kohain Gadol (the High Priest); therefore, after Aharon had been given his symbolic job of preparing and lighting the Menorah the Levites were consecrated into their duty. Until now their function was to care and carry the Mishkan; however, upon crossing the Jordan their real job would begin. The Levites were to be the conscience of the nation. Living among the people, teaching them, inspiring them, and representing the duality of free willed service to both God and man.

Specific instructions are given for the Levites who have been deemed the equivalent of the first born sons and dedicated to service unto the Almighty. As we are all priests through the work of Messiah on the cross and our faith in the redemptive result of His sacrifice, we need to take hold of the fact that the Levites have no inheritance in the Land. They were set aside to serve Yahweh and the people of Israel. This is the position which we have to assume of having no worldly inheritance, but that we are called to serve in His tabernacle with all our earthly needs provided for that purpose.

The Second Passover

Numbers 9:6-11 tells of a “second Passover” being added for those who were defiled by a dead body and could not keep the usual Feast because of unchangeable circumstances, and an ordinance was made for them of one month later “at the appointed time”. In its appointed time [season]/moed. The word moed (Strong’s H#4150; TWOT 878b) primarily means an appointment, a fixed time or season, a festival, an assembly, the congregation, the place of meeting (- i.e. a meeting with Yahweh.)

This is a gracious allowance for the circumstances of life so that His people can keep this special appointment to meet with Him. There are exceptions for those who would want to keep Pesach but for what ever reason are unable to. These exemptions were being ritually unclean and being caught travelling. We know that failure to keep Pesach is to be cut off from your people or your heritage and consequently your loss of identity. Yeshua Himself faithfully kept Pesach, should we not emulate Him and do the same?

In Numbers 9:14, God states that those Gentiles who associate themselves with Israel were to follow the same Torah ordinances as Israel did: “…you shall have one ordinance, for the stranger, and for him who was born in the land.” Compare this to Ephesians 2:11-13, where Paul tells Gentiles who come to Yeshua that they were no longer to be strangers to the Torah ordinances of Israel as they were now one with them. (Compare Yeshua’s comments at the beginning of His midrash on Torah observance in Matthew 5:17-21 to his concluding ones in Matthew 7:21-23.)

The word given to them the was that if they failed to keep Passover, they would be ‘cut off’ from among the people. This was done literally then, but now it has a spiritual application and failure to keep the feasts causes us to be cut off in a spiritual measure from His life.

The term ‘cut off’ (expelled or killed - 9:13) is used in the Torah about 34 times and is usually referring to Israelites being cut off (expelled) from the camp of Israel for rebellion and disobedience against Yahweh’s commands. This is a spiritual principle that applies to us today with regard to the assembly of believers. Leaders are instructed to expel someone for disobedience and rebellion against Yahweh’s commandments? (See Rom. 16:17; Tit. 3:10; 2 Thes. 3:6; 2 Tim. 3:5; 1 Cor. 5:5; 11:27-30).

The Silver Trumpets

It was at this point that the instructions for the two silver trumpets are given (and not the rams horn - the shofar) “to summon the community, and to make journey the camps." which are to call the people to meeting, to war or to sound the alarm. It was shaped similar to modern trumpets according to the description of Josephus and the sounds used were also similar to those still in use with the shofar.

The long blast on the trumpet is called the tekiah, the short blast is called the teruah which is usually sounded as nine short staccato sounds.

The straight long blast (tekiah) is to be used to summon the people: if both trumpets are sounded, the entire people should gather before the entrance of the Sanctuary; one trumpet means that only the tribal heads were being summoned.

When the people break camp, the start of the journey is to be heralded with a series of short blasts (teruah). The first teruah signals the tribes camping to the east to begin moving; the next series of short blasts sets the southern camp in motion, and so on, according to the order instructed earlier (Numbers 2). Trumpets are also to be sounded when going out to war, and when bringing the seasonal offerings in the Holy Temple. The procedure for using trumpets to summons or signal the nation of Israel was an eternal decree (v. 8) (Stone Edition Chumash, p. 783).

The silver trumpets were taken by the Romans in AD 70 and have not been in use since.

The rabbis teach that the sounding of these silver trumpets is directly linked to Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) which is symbolic of the return of Yeshua and the regathering of His people Israel. These two silver trumpets prophetically represent the two Houses of Israel being called to gather before His sanctuary (a call to holiness) for the final spiritual warfare of this age against the saints receiving their promised inheritance.

The readiness of the Israelites to travel

After being encamped at Horeb at the foot of Mt. Sinai for more than a year (10:11-12), the Children of Israel begin their journey to the land of Canaan. During the past year they were transformed from a rabble of former slaves into a fledgling nation: they heard Yahweh teach the Torah, they built the Mishkan and they organized their camp. Now they are ready to establish the nation of Israel in the land promised to their forefathers.

Newlyweds (in this case, Yahweh and Israel) were to spend one year together (getting to know each other) before going to war (Deut. 24:5). It was now time for Israel to go forward in their journey of taking the promised land from the enemy. The wilderness journey is symbolic of the tribulation period - the silver trumpets of Yahweh will signal His prophetic people when to move forward and when to camp in formation on their journey to the Israel of the kingdom. There is a war to be waged in our spiritual journey to overcome the flesh and take hold of our inheritance. There is a spiritual parallel to the conflicts which they went through in the wilderness before they reached the promised land to us overcoming in our individual lives.

When the Mishkan was assembled, the cloud covered it. In the evening until the morning, it appeared as if fire was over the Mishkan. The cloud covered it [by day], and there was the appearance of fire by night. When the cloud rose from above the Mishkan, then the Children of Israel marched on; where the cloud stopped, the Children of Israel camped. Thus at the command of Yahweh the Children of Israel traveled, and at the command of Yahweh they camped ... (9:15-18) This text teaches us that Yahweh led his people with a command that was manifested by the cloud and by the prophet. Yahweh gave the command by moving the cloud and by Moshe who gave the order. This teaches us that we ought to follow Yahweh’s word that is given through His Spirit and through his prophets so that we do not fall behind and miss the move of Yahweh in this time. One who believes that he can serve Yahweh in the same way that people served Him in the past is mistaken. Since Yahweh is always moving, we must be willing to leave one place and go on with Him, instead of staying within established human structures, even though they may have been very useful during times past.

“Then it came about when the ark set out that Moshe said, ‘Rise up, O Yahweh! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You. ' When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O Yahweh, to the myriad thousands of Israel” Numbers 10:35-36

This was in essence a war cry. It was the General shouting on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief to his enemies “here we come. you had better flee’. When the ‘battle’ was finished the general was telling the Commander-in-Chief that because of his brilliantly orchestrated victory, His Presence could now rest in the camp.

There was great joy in the camp when the glory cloud lifted, the priests hoisted the ark to their shoulders and it was time for the camp to go forth as led by Yahweh with His servants carrying the ark. When they move forward it was in formation, with Judah in the lead, then Issachar and Zebulon (Praise and victory initiate the move supported by intercession [Issachar] and evangelism/taking the spoil [Zebulon] with the other tribes behind in their order.

The Flesh Complains

The portion then turns to the almost incessant complaints of the sons of Israel and how the Holy One dealt with their insurrection and demands for food and the culinary comforts of Egypt. In Egypt it rained very little and the country would rely on the Nile river for irrigation. When the water would rise and flow into the fields, it would contain fish, and when the water would subside, the fish remained on the ground. Thus the slaves who worked the fields for their masters would take home fish together with vegetables from the fields. In spite of their slavery, food was plentiful.

The people complain, incurring the wrath of God, and a fire rages at "the edge of the camp." The Aramaic targums cite that there "were wicked men of the people, who, being discontent, devised and imagined evil before Yahweh" and that there was idolatry in the camp of Dan that was related to this insurrection. (Targum Johnathan)

The people again call out to Moshe, who prays for the fire to be quenched. But soon they are complaining again. "And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting; and the children of Israel also wept again, and said: "Who shall give us meat to eat?" "We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes..."

This was the beginning of a long list of such incidents in Israel's wilderness journey. Do we complain and murmur about something that bothers us going on within the assembly of Believers or otherwise when our needs are not met? Yahweh provided their needs with a visitation of quail, driven there by a mighty wind. Some, being unthankful and consumed with lust in their eating, were struck with a plague by Yahweh. 11:33

The introduction of the quail for food and the response of Moshe to the judgment that is meted out upon the Israelites gives us a real sense of Moshe’s heart and love for the children of Israel. At this point in the sojourn, Moshe is literally ready to offer his life for the needs of his fellow Israelites. Then the Holy One interjects the methodology that He wants to help divide the leadership responsibilities among the seventy elders who are chosen for the continuation of the journey to the Promised Land.

“The name of that place was called Kivrot-Hatta’avah, because there they buried the people who lusted."(HNV) - Kirvot-Hatta’avah means “the graves of lust”. Here it says that those who lusted were buried there. Lust is not the same thing as desire. Lust is something that cannot be satisfied, something animalistic and demonic, that is not based on natural needs. Lust is a twisted desire that demands without gratefulness, without humility, and without acknowledgment.

Seventy Elders

Yahweh instructed Moshe to gather seventy men from the elders of Israel upon whom He would place some of the spirit which was upon him, to help bear the burden of the people. (Bamidbar/Numbers11:16-17).

Seventy is a divine number of perfection and has some very profound implications - many ordinances are in seventies. For example, according to the sages of Israel, seventy represents the number of primary nations. When Jacob went to Egypt, he took seventy souls (Deut.10:22 - 11:1). It is the number of silver shekels the different tribal leaders offered up to Yahweh as the altar was being dedicated (Nu. 7), There were seventy years of exile from the Land of Israel. Yeshua, He appointed seventy of His disciples to go to the nations to evangelise Luke 10:1-2). There are the seventy biblically-ordained holy days of the year: 52 Sabbaths, seven days of Passover, eight days of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Shavuot.

This is similar to, but not the same as, the time when earlier in the book of Exodus Moshe was challenged by his father-in-law Jethro to appoint the seventy judges to help distribute the burden of judging between the many disputes of the people. In these appointments of the judges, just like as the commissioning of the leaders of Israel, Moshe is to choose men of the highest qualifications. Then we discover that after Moshe chooses men that he “knew,” that the Holy One then was able to pour out His Spirit upon them. In an incredible display of the Holy One’s grace toward His people, He places His Spirit upon the seventy elders who had been selected for leadership. (The instructions for elders and deacons in the new order are actually amplifications of these character traits. Titus 1:5-9; 1 Tim. 3)

As a result, these men began to prophecy and make declarations to the others in the camp. Apparently, as the account records, there were two men who were chosen to lead, but did not attend the initial outpouring of the Spirit upon the other sixty-eight. All of a sudden within the camp, Eldad and Medad are found prophesying in the camp and Joshua comes and reports this activity to Moshe thinking that perhaps they were out of order.

Moshe was delighted with the new administration. In fact His comment that, “Would that all the Yahweh’s people were prophets, that Yahweh would put His Spirit upon them!” indicates that He was desiring all of Israel to be in a position to prophecy or speak the truth with clarity. Moshe desired that all men would prophecy. But he also wanted them all to be filled with the Holy Spirit, Who through them would do the prophesying. This is available today as we submit our wills to His will. As we seek to be led by the Spirit, we can let His words come forth from our inner most being and prophesy. May this be the testimony for one and all!

Evil Speaking

“And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moshe about the Kushite woman whom he had married... “ (12:1)

She was upset at Moshe’s actions which were based on Divine direction, that had him separate from an intimate matrimonial life. “(Miriam) said (to Aahron), ‘Was it only to Moshe that Yahweh spoke? Did He not speak to us, as well?"(ibid v.3) Evil speaking (Lashon Horah) is considered a terrible sin. The Torah has no less than 31 warnings concerning that crime, and it is incumbent upon believers to remember the story of Miriam as a daily reminder of the difficult test we face in our encounters and our oral reactions to them. If we fail to avoid speaking lashon horah because of the pain that it inflicts upon our fellow believers, then we should consider the pain we inflict upon our Father in Heaven when we talk ill of His children. As long as we give in to gossip and slander we will grieve the Spirit/Ruach and will not advance spiritually. After harsh rebuke from the Almighty for the audacity to speak against her brother Moshe, the world’s greatest prophet and most humble man, Miriam was punished with leprosy. Her skin turned white as snow and was subjected to seven days of judgement.

Prophetic people often allow a spirit of Jezebel (rebellion, personal ambition and usurpation of control) to rise up within them to usurp authority over those to whom Yahweh has given authority in the congregation of His people. Such people may use their prophetic giftings to try to direct the leadership through “words from the Lord.” They will also attack leaders through accusation in areas unrelated to their ambitions. Miriam did this with Moshe by questioning his marriage, but her real ambition was to usurp control over Moshe. (Targums Johnathan & Jerusalem record that Moshe was married to a member of the royal household of Pharaoh. Other Egyptian and historical records indicate that this was before he fled from Pharaoh and that she left with Israel at the time of the Exodus)

Whatever, the issue is a criticism of Moshe elevating himself in his calling, above Mirium and Aaron, and a strong and powerful response by Yahweh for Mirium’s sin in rising up against against His anointed leadership.

Speaking against Yahweh’s appointed leadership is never justified, even if there is reason for it, Yahweh Himself deals with His leaders. The assembly’s commitment is to pray for them. Mirium obviously lost the respect of the congregation as she was not mourned at her death as would have been usual for the anointed leadership and prophetic mantle she had carried previous to this incident. Her death is only just mentioned for the record. (Nu.20:1)