Bemidbar (Numbers) Like the book of Leviticus, Numbers contains little 'narrative.' As its English name suggests, it contains several lists- each census of the Israelites. The Hebrew name comes from the first significant word(s): On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, in the wilderness of Sinai, (bemidbar Sinai)....The Israelites' journey through the desert concludes, and they get ready to enter the Promised land. There are thirty-six chapters, divided into ten parashiyot. The parashiyot of Be-Midbar are: Bemidbar, Naso, Be-haalotecha, Shlach Lecha, Korach, Chukat, Balak, Pinchas, Matot, and Masei.


BeHalotecha: The menorah is a symbol of the Jewish people's faith that has endured.

The Israelites have been out of Egypt for two years and are well into their daily experience of wandering in the Wilderness. This week's parasha gives an interesting blend of the ritual and personal concerns of the people. First, we read that Aaron is instructed to light the Menorah, and its construction is reviewed. The portion then continues with a description of the dedication of the Levites as assistants to the priests. The celebration of the second Pesach (Passover) is recounted, but with an interesting twist: some people can't bring the required sacrificial offering, due to ritual impurity, so God gives them a second chance a month later, with the introduction of Pesach Sheini. Then, the movements of the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night are explained, indicating God's presence among the people and the nature of divine leadership in the wilderness. As the central story of this portion, the Israelites take to complaining about the lack of variety in their diet. They are provided with Manna from heaven, but this is not enough - they want meat! Even though God is angered by the people's impudence, God agrees to satisfy the people's craving for meat and sends flocks of quail. To make a graphic point, God sends so much meat that it comes out the people's nostrils! Next, Moses expresses frustration as the leader of a difficult people. To help, Moses is instructed by God to appoint 70 Elders to help him govern and judge the nation. The Elders are divinely confirmed and given the gift of prophecy. In a final episode of dissention, Moses's own brother Aaron and sister Miriam speak slander against Moses. As a result, Miriam is stricken with Tzara'at, a scaly skin affliction, and is sent out of the camp. Moses pleads with God to heal her.

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.