Parashat Beha’alotcha (When you cause to go up, i.e. kindle)


Parashat Beha’alotcha (When you cause to go up, i.e. kindle)

Numbers 8:1-12:6

Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7

In this week’s Torah portion Moses is commanded to make two silver trumpets. These should not be confused with the Shofarot (ram’s horn). The trumpets had several different purposes, one of which concerned war.

And because you will come, a war, in your land, concerning the oppressor who oppresses you and you sound the trumpets and you will be remembered before HaShem your G-d and you will be saved from your enemies.” Numbers 10:9

I translated the verse very literally. One needs to pay close attention to the awkwardness of the verse in order to appreciate what is being communicated here. All too often translators want to remove the difficulties from the text so one can read it easily; this is a mistake. The opening phrase of this verse is often translated “If” in many English translations; however in the Hebrew it is best translated “and because”. The idea here is because of something which takes place there needs to be a particular response. The word “if” implies a possibility of something happening, whereas the Hebrew relates to a situation that will most certainly take place. In other words, HaShem is not saying that perhaps a war will occur, but that Israel will be attacked by her enemies.

There is another difficulty in the text. The verb “come” or “go” is in the second person plural, which means that the subject of the verb is “you” in the sense of “you all”. Most English translations render the phrase as, “when you go into battle or “when you go to war”. The problem is that the word “into” as “into battle” does not appear nor does the word “to” as “to war”. This means that the idea is not “going to war” or “coming to battle”. Rather, if one pays close attention, the text reads, “and because you all come (go) into the Land”. The problem is that in between the phrase “and because you all come” and the phrase “into the Land”, the word “war” appears. This makes the rendering awkward in English due to the significance of word order for comprehension. Hebrew is not so bound to word order for comprehension; rather words may appear to be out of order to the English reader, for the purpose of emphasizing. Hence, what is being communicated in this verse is the following.

And because you all (the Children of Israel) will go into the Land, war will occur.

The next part of the verse informs the Children of Israel how to respond. The verse states, “…concerning the one who oppresses you (literally the oppressor who oppresses you), you shall sound the trumpets”. Please be aware that the verb in this phrase is different from the one that appears in verse eight (and the sons of Aaron, the priests shall sound the trumpets…). In verse nine the verb usually translated the same way, has to do with “making a noise” or “sounding an alarm”. The change in verb has to do with the one who is being addressed. In the eighth verse the sounding of the trumpets is for the people, whereas in verse nine it is a call to HaShem. The purpose of this sounding is a petition to HaShem to remember His people, i.e. the covenantal relationship that G-d has with the Children of Israel.

It is clear from the text that Israel, without HaShem’s assistance, cannot survive her enemies who want to stop her from dwelling in the Land. Once again the reader sees how the Jewish people dwelling in the Land that HaShem promised them will be opposed by the world. This message is obvious to most Israelis. Unfortunately, what Israel has failed to learn is the absolute necessity of relying upon HaShem in regard to these enemies. This is but another example of Israel being called to show her dependence upon G-d in order for His promises to be fulfilled.

Shabbat Shalom

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