Parashat B'ha'alotkha

Jews March On

The verses recited when the ark (and today the Torah) was carried remind us of our own restless wanderings.

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These two misplaced verses become a remedy, showing that Israel was not always complaining and that they were capable of running toward the ark just as they were capable of turning away from the Holy One's Torah.

These verses which accompany every Torah reading as the Torah travels to and from its ark are verses which have yet to find their place. They reflect the travels and exiles of Israel, which is a book that does not even rest within the five books, it is the book of a restless people who even when they are given a place, the place cannot either draw or hold them. It becomes the home we wander toward and away from.

These verses become the book of moving toward responsibility with the understanding that our resting times through history's eye are actually very brief. These 85 letters are the subtext of the Jewish people.

The first verse calls and indeed prays for protection from without while the next verse prays for “Return, O YHWH, (you of) the myriad divisions of Israel!” Indeed, a prayer for peace among the myriad divisions that can destroy from within. Isn't it ironic that the very next verse is one of internal dissension?

The backward noons tell us to carry these verses with us wherever we go as we pray for peace from within.

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Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Rabbi Avi Weinstein is the Head of Jewish Studies at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas City.