Thursday, June 01, 2023

The haftarah that we read from Sefer Zecharya this week is one familiar to us, for it serves as the reading for Shabbat Chanukah as well. The obvious connection to both Shabbatot is the theme of “menorah,” which is the source of our eight-branched chanukiah and the seven-branched Menorah of the Mishkan that opens our parsha. The connection between parsha and haftarah, however, is deeper than that one common theme.

In the Torah reading we learn of the many preparations for the eventual entry of Bnei Yisrael into Eretz Yisrael. We read of the consecration of the Leviim and their inauguration into the service of Hashem and the Mishkan. We learn of the people’s departure from Har Sinai and the outset of their journey to the Holy Land. We are informed of the precise order they were to follow while traveling and the signals that would guide them on their way. We also read of the establishment of necessary institutions that would have to function once the people reach Eretz Yisrael: the responsibilities of the Levites, the appointment of the 70 elders and the function of the silver trumpets.

It is this final point that connects us to the Torah portion. Although the function of these trumpets was included in this parsha as part of the travel protocol through the desert, the Torah adds that they are to be used once Bnai Yisrael settle in the land as well. They would be sounded on the days of joy, on Rosh Chodesh and the chagim while the sacrifices were offered. But the trumpets would be used as more thing: an alarm.

The Torah states: “V’chi tavo’u milchama b’artz’chem…,” if an enemy enters your land you are to sound the trumpets and you will thereby be remembered by Hashem and be saved from your enemies. No, God does not need a trumpet blast to remind Him. But you need a trumpet blast to remind you….that ultimate victory belongs to Hashem.

The navi Zecharya speaks to a nation trying to set up those institutions that would be necessary for their successful resettlement in their land after the return of the exiles. They were challenged once again to strengthen and support the new kohen gadol (Yehoshua) and the new political leader (Zerubavel) and they struggled with the daunting task of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash. The enemies surrounded them and poverty overwhelmed them. They doubted their ability to overcome these challenges. To these unfortunates Zecharya spoke: “Lo v’chayil v’lo v’choa’ch ki im b’ruchi…., Your success with come about neither through wealth nor power—but through My spirit…”

It’s important to realize that our possibilities of success are not limited by our few numbers or insufficient weaponry but only by a lack of faith. Ultimately, victory belongs to God, and by doing our utmost to succeed and then trusting in His help, we can build our land and rebuild it… and then, thousands of years later, rebuild it again!

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

Parshat Beha’alotecha

 Rabbi Neil Winkler is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.


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