Parshat Beha’alotcha – Unity in Diversity
This week’s parsha, Beha’alotcha, opens with God speaking about the commandment God gives to Aaron, the Kohen Gadol (high priest), regarding lighting the menorah in the Mishkan: “Speak to Aaron and say to him: “Beha’alotcha et ha’nerot — When you light the lamps — the seven lamps shall cast their light toward the face of the menorah.”
The word Beha’alotcha comes from the word “la’alot,” to ascend. So God’s instruction to Aaron, taken literally, begins “When you cause the lamp’s light to ascend…”
Rashi teaches that the Torah choose this particular word, “la’alot,” or “ascension,” because each of the seven lit flames of the menorah would straighten and rise upward, as if climbing toward heaven.
Unlike the menorah we light at Chanukah, the menorah in the Mishkan was fashioned out of one piece of pure gold and had six branches and one shamash (as opposed to eight and one), all of which were lit every evening and burned until morning.
The design of the menorah famously represents the unity and diversity of the Jewish people — that our strength is in sharing one stem with many branches of tribes and communities. K’lal Yisrael has never been a monolith, neither at camp, nor since the very beginning of our existence as a wandering people in the desert. We have always existed in a balance between tribe and nation, individual and collective identity. In Parshat Tetzaveh God instructed Moshe about how to create the menorah. What we learn for the first time in Parshat Beha’alotcha is that God intended for Aaron’s kavanah, holy intention, in lighting the menorah each day to be a sanctification of this unification in diversity, this K’lal Yisrael with one root and many branches — all bearing flames equally bright, equally and ever ascending together, toward God. May we all be blessed to help one another in this ascent through the K’lal Yisrael community we create together this summer.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- What experiences have you had where doing something with different kinds of people or with people different from you has made it better than it would otherwise have been?
- What is unique about your flame in the menorah? What are you bringing to our K’lal Yisrael community this summer that no one else can bring?