Summary of Parshat Beha'alotcha
Parshat Beha'alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:16) begins by briefly discussing the daily lighting of the golden menorah in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), followed by a description of the Levites' consecration ritual. The Torah then describes the celebration of Passover in the second year in the desert, complete with the bringing of the korban Pesach (Paschal lamb). Those who are tamei (ritually impure) on the regular date of Passover and therefore unable to participate in the offering, are commanded to celebrate Pesach Sheni, a quasi-Passover celebration held one month later, at which time the korban Pesach is eaten with matzah and bitter herbs. After mentioning the cloud and fire which alternated resting above the Mishkan, the Torah describes the standard procedure by which the Children of Israel would break camp to continue their travels in the desert. Soon after leaving Mt. Sinai and journeying to the Wilderness of Paran, the people begin a series of bitter complaints. Spurred by the erev rav (the "mixed multitude" who joined the Jewish people upon leaving Egypt), the Children of Israel are dissatisfied with the manna, their daily miraculous portion of heavenly bread. As Moses begins to despair, Hashem commands him to select seventy elders to form the Sanhedrin, the court which would assist him in leading the nation. Almost immediately, two of the newly-elected members announce a prophecy in the camp. Hashem sends a massive flock of quail which the people gather to eat; those who had complained about the lack of food overstuff themselves and die during this supernatural event. The portion concludes with Miriam's speaking lashon hara (slander) to Aaron about their brother Moses. She is punished by Hashem with tzaraat (a skin disease representative of a spiritual shortcoming) and is quarantined outside the camp for seven days.
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