Parasha Inspiration – Beha’alotcha

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־משֶׁ֗ה אֶסְפָה־לִּ֞י שִׁבְעִ֣ים אִישׁ֘ מִזִּקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יָדַ֔עְתָּ כִּי־הֵ֛ם זִקְנֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם וְשֹֽׁטְרָ֑יו וְלָֽקַחְתָּ֤ אֹתָם֙ אֶל־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וְהִתְיַצְּב֥וּ שָׁ֖ם עִמָּֽךְ: וְיָֽרַדְתִּ֗י וְדִבַּרְתִּ֣י עִמְּךָ֘ שָׁם֒ וְאָֽצַלְתִּ֗י מִן־הָר֛וּחַ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָלֶ֖יךָ וְשַׂמְתִּ֣י עֲלֵיהֶ֑ם וְנָֽשְׂא֤וּ אִתְּךָ֙ בְּמַשָּׂ֣א הָעָ֔ם וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׂ֥א אַתָּ֖ה לְבַדֶּֽךָ:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Assemble for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the people’s elders and officers, and you shall take them to the Tent of Meeting, and they shall stand there with You. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will increase the spirit that is upon you and bestow it upon them. Then they will bear the burden of the people with you so that you need not bear it alone.

Numbers 11:16-17

This week’s Torah portion contains a very important historical event in the Torah. After the giving of Torah at Sinai, in order to relieve Moses’s burden, Hashem asks Moses to assemble 70 elders. These elders, heads of families, clans, and tribes, are to interpret Torah and adjudicate cases within the nation of Israel. Israel, as a nation, must learn how to live a Torah lifestyle. This necessitates having a common interpretation of Torah. It is through the lens of this understanding of Torah that observance by the nation may be accomplished, and disagreements between people may be resolved. Without this common understanding and interpretation, each man would do what was right in his own eyes. We will see in next week’s Torah portion that not accepting this common interpretation is in itself a violation of Torah. This interpretation and understanding will later be called Oral Law.

Most interpretations of verse 17 indicate that Hashem will increase the spirit which is on Moses. This, however, is not an accurate translation. The term translated increase instead means next to or beside. Hashem is telling Moses that he will move from his spirit and place it on the elders. In other words, the elders will have some of the spirit of Moses. The term spirit here, ruach, can better be translated soul. It is one of the 5 words which are translated as soul in the Tanakh. So, a part of the soul of Moses is put in the elders, so they will hear cases justly.

This action of granting the elders part of Moses’s soul, gives us great insight as to the nature of the ruach. The ruach of one person may influence the ruach of another person. The relationships that we have with our parents and our teachers must be viewed in this light. In essence, we each have part of the soul of those that influence us within us. And those whom we influence have part of our souls within them. Shabbat Shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.