B’ha’alotecha – Num. 8:1-12:16

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

B’ha’alotecha – Num. 8:1-12:16

This week’s Torah portion is B’ha’alotecha – Num. 8:1-12:16, and begins with God instructing Moses what to tell Aaron about how to light the lights of the menorah (the seven-branched candelabra which stood in the Mishkan outside the Holy of Holies).  Medieval commentator Rashi points out that the word B’ha’alotecha is used for two reasons: 1) “…when you kindle – literally ‘raise,’ because the flame rises, as one must kindle – hold the fire to the wick – until the flame rises by itself… 2) ‘When you raise’ is meant to teach us that there was a stair in front of the Menorah upon which the Kohen would stand and prepare the lamps.” In other words, the Kohen must rise up to prepare the lamps, and as the fire is held to the wick, the flame of the wick itself must rise up on its own. Wednesday night I had the opportunity to hear Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, Senior Rabbi at The Temple -Tifereth Israel, and the Rev. Otis Moss, Jr. (theologian, pastor, and civic leader) speak to the theme of “Rise Up,” hosted by the Maltz Museum. Rabbi Cohen shared that to rise up implies movement – changing hearts and minds.  “God spoke to Abraham and said, ‘Rise up and be a blessing’… Elijah was told to ‘Rise up and go to Sidon to save the life of a young boy’… Jonah was told to ‘Rise up and go to Ninevah.”  Rise up, in order to go forth and bring about change. Rev. Moss began his comments with asking for a moment of memory – “for those whose lives have been lost through executions without guilt, who have been imprisoned without due justice, who have suffered only because of the color of their skin, the country from which they came, the religion they practiced… because they were different.”  He charged us with becoming “transformational idealists and creative realists who love God with all our heart and our soul and our strength and who love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” Rev. Moss spoke of the hierarchy that leads to hate: suspicion… that leads to fear… that leads to resentment… that leads to hatred. What steps can we take to unlock love of God and our neighbor?  Intentionally get to know your neighbor and hear each other… Listen to each other…  Respect each other… Learn from each other… Create community with each other. The evening ended with Rabbi Cohen reminding Rev. Moss of Rabbi Joachim Prinz’s famous speech during the 1963 March on Washington; he spoke right before Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a dream…” speech.  Rev. Moss was standing right behind him on the stage that day, and recalled: Rabbi Prinz said, “…in the face of discrimination, the most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence… The silence of good people, who stand by when a word can be spoken and action must be taken.” This is the time for us to rise up.  To break the silence and step up to light the call for change.  You’re not properly climbing if you’re not lifting as you climb!

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