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When You Feel Like Giving Up....

By: Mrs. Neima Novetsky

Parashat Behaalotekha marks a new stage for Am Yisrael.  After camping by Har Sinai for almost a year, it is finally time for them to leave and begin their travels home, to Eretz Yisrael.  New challenges await them as they move out of the comfort zone of Sinai.  As the end of seminary approaches, you, too, are preparing to leave our little Har Sinai of Torah, and go home (though unfortunately, away from Israel) to new challenges and new experiences.   So, what lessons does our parashah share about both endings and fresh beginnings?

The parashah opens with the command to Aharon "as you raise up the lamps, towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps give light".  The language of the verse is difficult.  What does it mean that Aharon should "raise" up the lamps? Should he not simply be lighting them? Rashi explains that Aharon was supposed to make sure to hold the flame at each wick for a long enough time so that the wick could rise up and burn on its own.  The idea is an apt metaphor for our year of learning.  Every day for the past year, an "Aharon" has come to light your flame of Torah, but, now it is time to take the skills learned, and the passion that was ignited, to light your own lamps and shine on your own!

The verse raises a second question as well – what does it mean that the lamps "faced the Menorah", and why were they set up in such a manner? Seforno suggests that the menorah refers to the middle branch of the candelabrum and that Aharon set up the lamps so that the three outer ones on each side faced the middle branch.  He suggests that the three lamps on the right represent those engaged in Torah, the three on the left symbolize those who busy themselves in secular work, while the middle branch stands for Hashem.  The verse teaches that as long as each group is focused on Hashem, each is necessary and helps bring Hashem's light into the world.  For most people, life after seminary is a mixture of "kodesh" and "chol".  Don't disparage the "chol" but instead learn how to sanctify it, and thereby spread light in all that you do!

The parasha continues with a description of how the nation knew when and where to travel.  Two systems are discussed: Hashem's cloud of glory and the trumpets.   When Hashem's cloud moved the people knew it was time to follow.  That, alone, though was not enough.  They also heeded Moshe's trumpet calls to know specifics.  As you travel through the journey called life, find your path by following Hashem's cloud, but remember that human effort is essential as well!

A final point.  Towards the end of the parahah we read of the nation's initial challenges after beginning their travels.  Not surprisingly, the first thing they do is complain. Moshe's reaction is to throw up his hands in despair, while Hashem's response is to find him 70 elders to help ease the burden.  When things are tough, everyone, even Moshe, sometimes feels like giving up.  Hashem teaches Moshe to instead look for help.  As you move on in life, obstacles are inevitable, but having a support system of "elders" in place will ensure that you have someone to turn to.  Make sure to make use of them, and remember that as you leave, we are all always here for you as well!

Wishing everyone a Shabbat shalom, and tons of hatzlakhah in your new journeys!




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