Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Beha'alotcha - 5776

Dear friends,

This week's Parasha contains many Mitzvot – commandments. Some dealing with the Tabernacle and some for all generations.

In this Parasha there are also several incidents which foretell what life is going to be like in the desert, as these former slaves head towards the Promised Land. There are murmurs, complaints and dissatisfaction with Moses' leadership, based on the fact that it has already been a year since they left Egypt, and the Promised Land is only a dream.

Interspersed in these various incidents and commandments, there is a very short story, which we truly do not understand. The incident that causes G-d's anger is covered in just two verses:

"Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he married, because he married a Cushite woman. They said, 'Has the L-rd spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?' G-d heard it." (Numbers 12:1-2)

We do not understand exactly what was the gossip that Miriam and Aaron spoke about Moses. Is it the fact that he married a Cushite woman? Is it the fact that Moses' wife was from Cush and not from among the Israelites? In comparing their level of relationship to G-d with Moses' relationship to G-d, are they insinuating that Moses behaves haughtily because he thinks he is superior and above them?

There is a comment in the Torah about Moses, before it continues on with G-d's rebuke to Aaron and a punishment to Miriam. In the next verse, the Torah states, "Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth." Note what strengths or qualifications the Torah chooses to describe Moses. Not that he was their liberator, not that he was the man who could bring all those miracles and plagues. Not even that he is the man of G-d who ascended Mt. Sinai and brought down the Commandments. Nowhere in the Torah is it stated that Moses was wisest of all people, or that he was the most righteous of all people, or the most powerful. We know those traits from his actions. He saved a slave from a task master. He saved the daughters of Yitro from a group of shepherds who tried to steal their water. He stood up to Pharaoh. From all these incidents we learn that he was wise and strong and righteous person.

But the Torah finds it necessary to emphasize only one quality of Moses - that he was the "most humble person of all times".

In this election season, we have been bombarded with speeches from candidates from all parties, listing their qualifications. They tell us they are the smartest, the strongest, the highest achievers in all kinds of endeavors. They possess the intelligence needed to solve all the ills of our society, while at the same time they belittle their opponents as unqualified and lacking of intelligence. I have not heard anyone say, "I don't know it all, I don't have solutions for everything, but I am ready to learn from others. There are experts whose knowledge I will seek. I respect and appreciate what so many have to offer.

We don't know how Moses responded to his siblings when he heard what they said about him and his wife. He did offer a prayer for Miriam and forgave his brother Aaron.

We show humility when we refrain from slandering or criticizing others. We show humility when we are ready to forget and forgive and not keep a grudge.

Be like Moses. Be Humble!

Shabbat Shalom,