Welcome to our study of this week’s Torah portion, which is called Parasha Behaalotecha (When You Raise).
Behaalotecha (When You Raise)
· Numbers 8:1–12:16
· Zechariah 2:10–4:7
· Philippians 2:1–18
“Now YAHUVEH spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and say to him, “When you set up (behaalotecha) the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the Menorah.”’” (Numbers 8:1–2)
Last week, in Parasha Naso, the numbering of Israel continued with a census of the Levites. The Nazirite vow was detailed, as well as the Aaronic Blessing.
This week's Scripture portion is named Behaalotecha, which means ‘when you step up’ because it begins with instructions as to how the Menorah (lampstand) is to be set up in the Tabernacle. A related word is ‘aliyah’ – the Hebrew word for immigrating to the Land of Israel. It can also be defined as the act of going up.
To take the step of faith to return to the Land of our Forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is an act of spiritual elevation.
The Menorah: Raising the Light of Purity
“Now this workmanship of the Menorah was hammered gold; from its shaft to its flowers it was hammered work. According to the pattern which YAHUVEH had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.” (Numbers 8:4)
Parasha Behaalotecha opens with the kindling of the Menorah. This lampstand is a symbol of the light of revelation and truth.
YAHUVEH commanded Moses to make it out of gold according to the pattern shown him on Mount Sinai. Why gold and not bronze or silver?
Gold symbolizes something precious — of great value, and it is a metaphor for purity in the Bible.
The fire in the Menorah represents the fire of the Divine Light spreading throughout the entire world, beginning with Israel HIS people.
We can understand it also as GODliness; therefore, the fire can be seen as symbolic of YAHUVEH refining HIS people so that they may be as fine gold!
“HE will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; HE will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then YAHUVEH will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:3)
The Light of Obedience
Seven lamps were lit on the Menorah.
Why are there seven golden lampstands and not five or nine or any other number? Seven stands for perfection or completion.
The Book of Revelation also speaks of seven golden lampstands in a vision YAHUVEH gave to John: "And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands." (Revelation 1:12)
Here, these seven golden lampstands represent the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:10–11, 20).
YAHUVEH warned that HE might remove the lampstand of a congregation if they continue in sin and refuse to repent. As YAHUSHUA told the church at Ephesus: "I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent." (Revelation 2:5)
Those who are HIS followers continually grow in obedience, love, joy, and peace, becoming more and more like YAHUSHUA.
That love, joy, and peace shines forth through a dark and dreary world.
Cleansing of YAHUVEH’s Servants
“Delight yourself in YAHUVEH, and HE will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
As we pursue YAHUVEH, we also pursue purity in our attitudes, our speech, and our ministry.
And so we read in this Parasha that the Levites who served YAHUVEH in the Temple had to be cleansed and purified before beginning their ministry.
“Then YAHUVEH spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them ceremonially. Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purification on them, and let them shave all their body, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.’” (Numbers 8:5–7)
YAHUVEH took the Levites as HIS own in place of the firstborn who were spared during the Ten Plagues in Egypt. Most of those sons defiled their hearts and spirits when they worshiped the Golden Calf.
The Levites didn’t worship the calf. They stayed faithful and true to YAHUVEH of Israel; therefore, they were given the work of service in the Tabernacle, instead of Israel's firstborn sons.
Murmuring in the Wilderness
“The manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil.” (Numbers 11:7–8)
In Parasha Behaalotecha, the Israelites resume their trek to the Promised Land. The Divine fire-cloud accompanies them as a supernatural manifestation of YAHUVEH's Presence.
It has been a year since HE delivered HIS Chosen People from bondage in Egypt. They saw the River Nile turn to blood and their firstborn saved by blood. They even walked through a parted sea into safety.
But experiencing YAH's supernatural Presence and HIS provision of manna did not stop them from murmuring in the wilderness.
Oh how they complained! Even to the point of rejecting YAHUVEH and desiring to go back to bondage where they could have the fish “that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” (Numbers 11:5)
Despite the manna, they were consumed with a craving for meat. The Bible does not explain why they did not eat meat from their herds of sheep.
Moses finds the people's complaining so hard to bear that he is ready to die if no solution is found, and his honesty with YAHUVEH brings about a Divine solution.
YAHUVEH tells him to gather 70 experienced elders to the Tent of Meeting. They are to share the burden of leadership, and to help them, YAHUVEH endows them with Moses' spirit (Numbers 11:17).
YAHUVEH also promises Moses that HE will give the people so much meat that they will be sick of it, which Moses finds difficult to believe.
To satisfy the cravings of these ungrateful Israelites, YAHUVEH sends tons of quail. Many gorge themselves and die as YAHUVEH's anger is unleashed due to their rejection of HIM. They are buried at the place they named Kibroth-hattaavah (Graves of craving). (Numbers 11:31–35)
Miriam and Aaron also complain by speaking against their brother Moses. They criticize Moses for marrying a Cushite woman — slander, and they want more respect as prophets in their own right — pride.
For speaking ‘lashon harah’ YAHUVEH strikes Miriam with leprosy; she turns white “like snow.”
Aaron recognizes their sin and cries out to YAHUVEH, “O YAHUVEH, please heal her — please.”
Although repentance helps restore our relationship with YAHUVEH, a lesson still has to be learned by Miriam, Aaron, and the entire community. They cannot move ahead until Miriam spends seven days outside the camp.
Haftarah (Prophetic Portion): Purity and the Menorah
The prophetic reading this Shabbat (Zechariah 2:14–4:7) begins with an invitation to shout for joy because YAHUVEH will dwell in the midst of Zion and once again choose Jerusalem. In that day many nations will join themselves to YAH.
Zechariah's vision confirms how deeply YAHUVEH cares about the cleansing of HIS people.
The Prophet Zechariah sees the high priest Yahshua, son of Jehozadak, standing before the angel of YAHUVEH in the Heavenly Court.
Satan is also there accusing Yahushua, who is clothed in filthy rags, a metaphor for sin. Yahshua is guilty of allowing his sons to marry foreign women, which is not allowed for Levites (Ezra 10:18).
The Angel of YAHUVEH identifies Yahushua as a brand plucked from the fire, interprets as the "hardships of exile."
Indeed, Yahuhua has returned from the Babylonian exile along with Zerubbabel and the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem where they will rebuild the city and the Jewish Temple.
YAHUVEH rebukes Satan and says to Yahushua, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and you shall be clothed in [priestly] robes.” (Zechariah 3:4)
Zechariah then describes his vision of a seven-branched Menorah, which is kindled for the first time in this week's Torah reading.
Empowered by the RUACH HAKODESH
Rebuilding Jerusalem and the Second Temple is a huge task. And through the Prophet Zechariah, YAHUVEH reassures both Yahushua and Zerubbabel that HE is behind the initiative.
Immediately after Zechariah sees the Menorah, the symbol of purity and the light of truth reaching the nations, YAHUVEH gives a word to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, saying,
"Not by might, nor by power, but by MY SPIRIT — said YAHUVEH of Hosts." (Zechariah 4:6)
Of course, pursuing spiritual goals is too difficult if we are left to our own devices. Both the Parasha reading and the Haftarah reading reveal that we have supernatural help.
We see that even Moses had his limits as a mere man. No one — not even Moses himself — could do the work of Moses without being anointed with the Spirit of YAHUVEH.
To ease Moses' burden, YAHUVEH spread some of Moses’ anointing — the RUACH HAKODESH — giving it to 70 respected elders who would share in the task of leadership.
The Scriptures say that these elders immediately prophesied.
When the Spirit of YAHUVEH is working in someone, spiritual gifts manifest. Prophecy is just one of these gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, 28; Romans 12:6–8)
These gifts were only available to a select few until the RUACH HAKODESH descended on Shavuot (Pentecost) upon the first Believers 50 days after YAHUSHUA's resurrection.
Through YAHUSHUA, our garments of iniquity have been removed and we, like Joshua, are clothed in vestments of purity and righteousness. This is a fulfillment of one of Zechariah's prophecies, which foretells of a time when the Messiah will remove all iniquity in a single day.
“I am going to bring My servant the Branch [a future king from the line of David] … and I will remove that country's guilt in a single day. In that day — declares YAHUVEH of Hosts — you will be inviting each other to the shade of vines and fig trees.” (Zechariah 3:8–10; Jeremiah 33:15)
This righteous Branch from the line of David has appeared; and in one day, HE paid the penalty for our sin and clothed us with HIS righteousness.
Each of us need YAHUVEH's RUACH HAKODESH in our lives, empowering us to obey HIS word, manifest HIS love, joy, and peace, and exercise spiritual gifts HE has bestowed.
Filled with HIS SPIRIT, each of us are beacons of light that show the way to a lost and dying world.
One practical way we can shine as lights in the midst of the darkness is by refusing to complain and, instead, express gratitude in all things, rejoicing in YAHUVEH always.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of YAHUVEH above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:14–15)
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of YAHUSHUA, His Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
SHABBAT SHALOM FROM TORAH KEEPER!
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