Parashat Beha’a’lot’kha Numbers 8:1-12:16
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Questions for Young Children
• Have you ever complained about the dinner your mom or dad prepares for you? Why?
• How do you think your parents feel when you complain? How do they address your complaints?
• Can you ever have too much of something you love to eat? What happens to you when you do?

Questions for Older Children
• Do you ever begin complaining and find it’s hard to stop? Why do you think so many kids complain about the food their parents prepare for them?
• Do you think B’nei Yisrael were being childish when they complained about the manna?
• Why do you think the Israelites need a make-up day to celebrate Pesah?
• We’ve read about leprosy before so you probably remember that it was a dreaded disease. Why do you think God chose to afflict Miriam with leprosy when she spoke against her brother?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• As parents and teens, how do you assess God’s performance in dealing with the Israelite food complaints? Why do you think the Israelites are so kvetchy? Why aren’t they more grateful? Do you have an alternative path to suggest that God could have followed to deal with the complaints about manna?
• Did you know about Pesah Sheni? Is there a Sukkot Sheni or a Shavu’ot Sheni? Why is there a make up day for Pesah? Why not allow Jews to select their own date for Pesah Sheni? Should holidays be celebrated when it’s convenient for the celebrants or according to the calendar?
• What do you think of the incident of Miriam speaking against Moshe and then being struck by leprosy and cured by Moshe’s prayer? Is there a lesson here to teach siblings?

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Beha’a’lot’kha opens with instructions to Aharon on kindling the menorot. The parasha continues with a description of the work for all the levi’im who are then sanctified to work in the Mishkan. There is a duty roster for the families and a stipulated age for beginning and ending service. This parasha also includes directions for the sacrifice for Pesah as well as the instructions for Pesah Sheni for those who were unable to perform the sacrifice on the 14th of Nisan. Complaints about the food from B’nei Yisrael interrupt the instructions. Moshe throws up his hands and turns to God for help and sympathy. God’s solution is to select 70 elders from the tribes who will aid Moshe. Two men prophesy in the camp; there are cries of outrage, but Moshe welcomes their prophetic ability. God addresses the Israelites’ food complaints with a deluge of quail which sicken the Israelites. They continue complaining. Miriam is struck with leprosy when she complains to Aharon about Moshe. Moshe utters the shortest t’filah in the Torah and, once God does heal Miriam, the Israelites break camp and move on.

Find the food connection...
ה זָכַרְנוּ, אֶת-הַדָּגָה, אֲשֶׁר-נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם, חִנָּם; אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים, וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים, וְאֶת-הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת-הַבְּצָלִים, וְאֶת-הַשּׁוּמִי
We remember the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
--Numbers 11:5

Cucumbers, melon, and onions!


The Side Dish
This is a kvetchy parasha—no matter what you offer to B'nei Yisrael for dinner, they complain. Manna—a miracle from heaven—no thank-you! We want meat, we want the cucumbers, leeks, and melons from the Land of Egypt! Kvetch kvetch! Don’t they remember slavery was not 400 years of picnicking on the produce of Egypt? God uses the same method to teach B’nei Yisrael to stop kvetching that our grandfather used to stop our dad from smoking. God poured down quail on the heads of B’nei Yisrael until there were too many to eat and the smell became repulsive. B’nei Yisrael behave like children and God via Moshe treats them as such. Without reference to this parasha, our dad told us more than a few times how his dad caught him smoking his Camels (cigarettes, that is). He forced Dad to sit down and smoke an entire pack until he was sick. That ended the romantic notion of smoking for Dad, although our grandfather never gave up the habit and suffered the consequences.

We may think we can never get enough of a good thing like meat or cucumbers, but perhaps we don't recognize the benefits of moderation. 




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A Dash of T’filah (Prayer)
What do you think is the first t’filah in the Torah? Moshe’s t’filah for Miriam’s health (El na r’fah na la) is the shortest, clocking in at five words including please. In many congregations, Debbie Friedman’s tune for El na  r’fah na la is familiar. There are other compositions as well. Sample other versions on youtube.

How do you define t’filah? What do you think is the reason Jews pray, the reason you do or don’t pray? How did Jews learn to pray? To jog your memory, think about the following people in the Torah and see if you think any of their conversations with God constitute a prayer: Avraham, Eliezer, Ya’akov, Miriam, and Moshe in Sh’mot.

A Dash of Current Scholarship
Professor Jonathan Paradise led me to this website that features modern scholars’ articles relating to the parshiyot. Dr. S. Tamar Kamionkowski, a professor of Biblical Studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, addresses the question of who is the real Miriam. She summarizes both the traditional rabbinic commentaries and those of contemporary Biblical scholars and synthesizes their responses. Prof. Kamionkowski presents the principles used by both traditional commentators and current academics in examining Biblical material. It's a great introduction to the wealth of material on this website.

A Dash of Botany behind the Symbol
What’s the oldest Jewish symbol? Some might think the Star of David, but the earliest symbol of the Jewish people is the menorah. The menorah is first mentioned in Sh’mot (25:31-40) where there is a detailed description of design based on natural forms. Parashat Bha’a’lot’kha opens with lighting the seven lamps of the menorah. There are countless midrashim on the meaning of the seven branches, archaeological evidence of the menorah as an enduring symbol on graves and in early synagogues.

Moving into summer, what caught my interest was the botanical model for the menorah. Digging deeper, I discovered Israeli botanists are also interested. Is there a plant in the Sinai that resembles a menorah? Would it be on a mountain since Exodus 25:40 claims, “Note well and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain.” Professor Ephraim and Hana Hareuveni identified מרווה (marveh),” originally מוריה “moriah.” You can see the moriah (sage) from the photo of the plant located in Ne’ot Kedumim on the blue trail, station 5. See what you think from the photo.  Even better, visit Ne'ot Kedumim see for yourself.


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Egyptian Nostalgia Salad
Pareve--serves 6

Ingredientsrsz 03 bhaalotkha egyptian memorial salad

  • 1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh gingerroot
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (omit for those who don’t remember hot food from Egypt)
  • 1/4 cup scant vegetable oil
  • 1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups 1-inch cubes of watermelon (any melon will work in the salad)
  • 2 scallions, minced (you can use a leek if you feel the need to tie the recipe to the text more)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tblsp. sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • Cilantro for garnish


  1. Whisk the vinegar, the gingerroot, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and the vegetable oil until the dressing is combined well.
  2. This can also be done in a blender or food processor. Add the cucumber, the melon, red pepper, and the scallions.
  3. Toss the salad until it is combined well.
  4. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro.

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