B’ha-alotkha 5773–Shabbat Torah Study–What Do You Crave?

Did you ever miss an important event, maybe a Simcha, because you were sick (God forbid!) or out of town? What can you do? Can you ask the bride and groom to have another wedding that you could attend? How about asking the bar mitzvah to read the next week’s Parasha too and maybe the parents will provide another party just for you? After all, it was not your fault that you could not attend.

This week’s Parasha gives us some special insights into the possibilities in the spiritual realm when our intentions are pure.

The second Passover, a year after the inaugural Seder of the Exodus story, is held in this week’s Parasha. Bamidbar 9. We find that the individuals who, though involved in the sacred task of carrying Joseph’s body, were considered “impure” and could not participate in this important mitzvah. How could this be, they complained, that people performing a mitzvah should be deprived of this important ritual ceremony and mitzvah opportunity? Moved by their request, Moshe consults God and in the merit of their sincere desires, God creates an entirely new mitzvah opportunity, Pesach Sheyni.

This is unbelievable. God creates a new mitzvah that was nowhere in the Torah. He creates a make-up opportunity for anyone considered “tamei” or “r’chokah” simply on a distant journey and unable to participate, God goes well beyond what was requested. If individuals make a request to be included as part of the community to be closer to God and they do if for the right reasons, it has an impact on everyone, not only in the present, but in future generations. Pesach Sheyni is the mitzvah of opportunity.

This is the mitzvah that it is never too late. Rashi points out that if one examines the Torah, one also finds a dot above the word r’chokah. It is not a Torah typo. That dot is a signal that the words should be interpreted with more than their literal meaning. R’chokah literally means to be far away from the Mishkan, or wherever sacrifices might be made. Or, as Rashi adds, it may mean to be on a distant path, a spiritual journey, that may have taken a person away from God, Torah and our people. We are each that dot, a geometric symbol above the word r’chokah, a dot that is without time and which defies measurement, the pintele yid, and the divine spark. We also have the modifying words l’dorotaychem – posterity. These individuals, with a sincere, heartfelt request and with the proper motivation, sent a ripple through the cosmos. Its affect is on the Jews of every generation, including us. Which one of us is not on a spiritual journey? Who among us does not crave “another chance,” an opportunity for a “do over,” a mulligan from the golf tee of life?

Contrast the carriers of Joseph’s bones with the people of Bamidbar 11 who complained, not about missing a mitzvah, but that the manna was not good enough, that they wanted actual meat and had other cravings. God gave them meat, but they came to wish He hadn’t. Bamidbar 11:33

How different God’s response was when confronted with a sincere and selfless goal compared to gluttonous and selfish desires.

This Shabbat, we learn with Rabbi Rachel Shere who shared that her study will focus on the destructive, yet eternal nature of craving and desire. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat Shalom,


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