Commentary for Beha’alotcha

5 Jun

This week’s parshah begins with God giving Moses instructions about lighting the menorah to relay to Aaron. Specifically, God says “Speak to Aaron and say to him: ‘when you cause the lamps to go up, let the seven lights cast light toward the front of the menorah (Num. 8:1).’” Many modern translations translate the awkward phrase “cause the lamps to go up” as to “kindle” or other similar words, such as in the phrase “to go up in flame” meaning to catch fire. While this translation certainly works on the P’shat (surface) level to convey the literal actions that Aaron will be taking, the actual Hebrew word the Torah uses, “beha’alotcha”– the word from which our parshah gets its name- has nothing to do with kindling fires. Beha’alotcha, meaning “when cause to go up” comes from the Hebrew root meaning “ascend.” This word is used both in the literal context (such as climbing a mountain) and in the spiritual context to mean coming closer to God (such as having an aliyah in synagogue or offering the Olah sacrifice). By lighting the menorah in the way that God specifies, Aaron is turning what is essentially a fancy lamp into an instrument by which he can serve God.


We use the same table for dinner all seven nights of the week, but on Friday night, that table becomes more than just a table: It becomes our Shabbat table. By eating Shabbat dinner on it, we “cause it to go up” from merely being a table and turn it into something we use it to serve God. Through our actions we have the ability to bring the world around us closer to God, and was we do this, we become more aware of God’s presence in the world, and bring ourselves closer to God.

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