“When you raise and light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the menorah.” The lamps flame with holiness and burn with the freedom of the Israelites. And certainly B’ha’lot’cha begins well with instructions for the inauguration of the Levites into their role as God’s servants. Rules for Passover follow, then the wonderful image of the divine cloud that covers the Tabernacle by day, giving way to the divine fire by night. When the Israelites are to move on, the cloud lifts and goes ahead to guide the people on their journey. The Ark goes forth, the Ark stops and the people go obediently and happily with it. But how long can they remain happy? Not very long, sadly. They are soon complaining again, this time about the endless days of manna, whereas in Egypt they had fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. They forget what they paid for this good diet in the way of remorseless forced labour and lack of freedom. No sooner has God sent quail to fill their bellies, even to nausea, than Aaron and Miriam complain against their long-suffering brother. They are silenced by God’s description of how He speaks to Moses, not in visions, but face to face, “Moses, who is like a trust servant through My house.” Miriam is punished, but ever compassionate and loving, Moses asks God to forgive her.
And so we come to Sh’lach L’cha and the episode of the spies and yet another episode of backsliding. There is, though, hope, always hope. Moses, yet again, prays to God to forgive the people and, just as important, two examples of great courage stand out, for Joshua and Caleb, despite the risk of being stoned by the people, appeal to them to have faith in God and go forward into the promised land.
As usual, there is much, much more, and you can hear it and live it by coming to the service on Saturday at 10.30. Pat Lipert will be leading us.