Explore Jewish heritage with an amateur Jew’s commentary on Parsha Beha’alotcha, Numbers 8:1 – 12:16. Click here to read the previous portion, Parsha Nasso.
The Israelites are marching onward toward the Promised Land and the Lord’s children are growing impatient. But they aren’t asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” They’re complaining about the meal plan––all of the manna they’ve eaten. They crave meat and say they were better off in Egypt.
And Torah God gets pissed.
He promises them meat. But not just meat for a day or two. Oh, no. That’d be too benevolent. Instead, he will provide them with meat for “a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.”
How delicious is that? Not that meat, but the way Torah God renders punishment. Your childlike idea of God would find a gentle way to teach you, “Careful what you wish for!” or “Be happy with what you have!”
Not Torah God. Torah worries you’ll forget the lesson if you just talk it out. But you won’t forget meat coming out of your nostrils. That sticks with you.
Before God threatens to torture His people with meat, there is a touching moment. As we’ve discussed before, the Torah is full of thoughtful comments on one page, surrounded by Torah God playing the role of a schoolyard bully. One moment He’s lifting you up, the next He’s pulling your shorts down and pushing you so you trip over your own drawers.
While describing how to celebrate Passover, God says, “There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.”
It doesn’t take much interpreting to see the beauty in this line. No matter what, there’s one law for everyone. That might not seem so revolutionary. But consider that this all went down thousands of years ago. In relative history, we’ve only recently abolished slavery and reluctantly admitted that there’s one law for everyone––even though as current events make it clear that societies around the globe are falling well short of that mark. I’m also certain there’s no shortage of examples that prove that there isn’t one law for everyone.
But that’s the ideal worth pursuing––whether Torah God says so or not. Though perhaps if silent white people were suffocated with exuberant amounts of white privilege, forced to live and acknowledge it constantly for a month, they’d be as nauseated by it as the folks protesting and change their ways.
Onward with Parsha Sh’lach.