Parashat Beha'alotcha // “When You Mount the Lamps”

- א ו ם -

How can we measure true leadership?

The Israelites are dissatisfied with the food provided by God and begin to complain

“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” Numbers 11:1 – 5

  • The Israelites are not content with eating only the manna. Even though God provides it to them miraculously and without any effort on their part, they want more. As such, Moses experiences distress. A person who is fortunate tends to forget the origins of their good fate. “There is no blessing in gratuity” (see Zohar 160a). To deserve divine grace, we must make an effort.

Moses appoints 70 sages to help him administrate the Israelite camp

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which isupon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” Numbers 11:16 – 17

  • Moses is struck by despair and loneliness – both because of the adversities of the desert and the Israelites’ complaints. Seeing Moses’ distress, God commands him to appoint 70 elders to help him administrate the people and address their grievances. This new council will eventually evolve into the Sanhedrin – the highest institution of Jewish law. “Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets…” (Mishnah, Tractate of Avot 1:1). Moses doesn’t appoint the elders because of an inability to perform his duties; rather, he appoints them with the goal of expanding his influence. Delegating responsibilities is a sign of power and vision. Moses is extremely humble. He does not aspire to take control or abuse the people for his own interests. As a prophet and leader, all Moses wants is to influence the people positively – and show them the way to good behavior and faith. True leadership is measured by its impact and visionnot by the level of power it exerts.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “When You Mount the Lamps”

  • Judging others provokes negative thoughts and incites divine judgment against us. We must therefore always remember – if we judge others, we will also face the same treatment. The solution is to focus on doing kind deeds and building spiritual bridges towards others.
  • When a person is endowed with grace and blessings without any effort, they tend to believe that such gifts can be taken for granted.
  • Just as the Israelites are tempted to sin in the desert, our evil inclination can stir inside of us even in times of great abundance. This is a battle we must fight daily.
  • True leadership is measured by its impact and vision – not by the level of power it exerts. A leader must consult their followers, act for the common good, and not focus on their own gain. Delegating responsibilities is not a display of weakness – it is a display of strength.
  • Moses appoints the elders so that he can expand his scope of influence. He does this out of extreme humility. He is not interested in wielding power or honor. His goal is to teach the Israelites to engage in good deeds and strengthen their faith.
  • The trumpets are like a “pipe” through which we can communicate with God. God’s vision is for the Israelites to be united so that He can dwell in their hearts.

Kindness flows when we put others before ourselves.