The bible always seems to make for great theatre- from the sibling
rivalries to the awe-inspiring powers of an Almighty, the torah pulls out all the stops when it comes to pomp and circumstance. This week’s parsha, B’ha-alot’kha speaks on a variety of topics- the lighting of the m’norah, the consecration of the Levites, Pesach Sheini, clouds and fire, silver trumpets, incessant complaining and blasphemy by both the common citizens and the greatest of leaders. At first glance, the torah portion is all over the place. However, this grab-bag of topics includes within it one powerful message: symbols that call us to action:
The m’norah reminds us to be a “or lagoyim”, a light to the nations. The purifying of the Levites symbolizes the reverence we should all have to God. Pesach Sheini (for those who were unable to make it the first time around) is a symbol of second chances. The tabernacle, covered in fire when it rested and a cloud when in transit, uses these physical affirmations of the divine in an unorthodox way. We might think that the fire is a call to action and a cloud (of uncertainty) is an indication to stop and rethink. But this is an act of faith- when clouds gloom over, THIS is the time to act. The silver trumpets, the music in the air a la “Torah on Taps”, means that we should all listen more carefully to the signs and symbols around us. Finally, the riffraff (asafsuf in hebrew, quite possibly the greatest hebrew word ever) as well as Miriam and Aaron’s questioning of Moses reminds us to be humble, happy with our lot, and mindful of the gifts that not all have.
What are the symbols in our own lives that harken us to action? There are so many symbols in our tradition that do more than induce fond memories. These symbols in our every day lives can add purpose by acting as an agent for good deeds throughout the world.