Parshat Behaalotecha Summary

Parshat Behaalotecha is the 3rd parsha in Sefer Bamidbar (also known as Numbers).

This parsha is verses Numbers 8:1 – 12:16, or a total of 136 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Numbers 8:1 – 8:14, 14 verses

This parsha begins with some instructions to Aaron about lighting the lamps of the Menorah.

As mentioned before, the name of this parsha is Behaalotecha. That word is in verse 8:2 and means, “when you bring up” or “when you cause to ascend.”

There are several explanations for the use of this word. One of them is that the priest has not completed the task of kindling the lamp until it burns well and raises up on its own.

The Levites had been chosen to serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. First it was necessary to consecrate them to this service. They were required to purify themselves. Then they brought a sin offering and a burnt offering.

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Aliyah 2: Numbers 8:15 – 8:26, 12 verses

In this reading God explains that He acquired all of the firstborn of the Jewish people. This happened when God killed all of the firstborn in Egypt but spared the Jewish people. Then he substituted the tribe of Levi for the firstborn.

The Levites start their service when they turn 25 years old. They retire from the “work” at age 50 but are still able to perform other tasks.

Aliyah 3: Numbers 9:1 – 9:14, 14 verses

Chapter 9 begins with God commanding the people to observe Passover. This marks the first Nissan since they left Egypt.

There were some men who were impure due to a human corpse. This impurity prevented them from observing Passover with the rest of the people. They requested an accommodation that would allow them to observe Passover.

God answered them and permitted the observance of a “second” Passover in the second month, that is the month of Iyar. We call this day Pesach Sheni.

Aliyah 4: Numbers 9:15 – 10:10, 19 verses

The Tabernacle was constructed to be a movable structure. God signaled to the Jewish people when and where to camp as well as when to travel.

The Jewish people camped when a cloud covered the tent during the day or a fire at night. They journeyed when the cloud lifted and moved to a new place.

silver trumpets

God commanded Moses to make two silver trumpets. These trumpets were blown

  • to assemble all of the people
  • to assemble just the leaders
  • to signal which group of tribes should begin their journey
  • for a remembrance before God during war
  • for a remembrance before God on festival days

Aliyah 5: Numbers 10:11 – 10:34, 24 verses

In the second year since leaving Egypt, on the 20th of the second month (Iyar), the Jewish people left Mount Sinai. The cloud rose from the Tabernacle and moved to a place called Wilderness of Paran.

The Jewish camp moved according to the instructions they had been given earlier.

Aliyah 6: Numbers 10:35 – 11:29, 31 verses

In this reading, the first two verses are what Moses would say when the Ark moved and then came to rest. In a hand-written Torah scroll these verses are set apart by upside down versions of the letter nun.

Regular nun and inverted nun

The Jewish people begin complaining until God kills some of the complainers.

The people continue complaining that they don’t want to eat only manna. They also want meat to eat. Moses despairs that he will not be able to bear the burden of leadership.

God tells Moses to gather 70 of the elders. God then takes some of His spirit from Moses and places it on these elders. They were now able to share the leadership burdens with Moses.

Aliyah 7: Numbers 11:30 – 12:16, 22 verses

God brings a great quantity of quail into the camp so that the people can eat meat. Those who had started the complaint about meat died while they were eating it.

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses. God upbraided them and demonstrated that Moses had a special and unique level of prophecy.

As punishment, Miriam was afflicted with tzara’at (see Parsha Tazria).

Moses prayed for her and God healed her. As a result, Miriam was quarantined outside the camp for 7 days. They people did not journey until Miriam’s quarantine ended.

Haftarah Summary

Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7
The parsha opens with Aaron lighting the Menorah in the Tabernacle. The haftarah ends with a vision of the High Priest lighting a Menorah in the restored Temple. Growing near the menorah are two olive trees that provide oil for the flame.

Further Reading

I’ve written a short biography of Miriam.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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