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Dvar Torah: Behaalotcha

Parashat Beha'alotcha is the first storyline Parasha of the book of Bamidbar. Until this point, we have heard about the layout of the camp, the inauguration of the Mishkan, and various laws. However, at this point, the Torah begins to discuss the course the Children of Israel took in the desert. As we know, that course went awry very quickly. Instead of the short journey to the Land of Israel that was envisaged, the Jews complained and argued and rebelled again and again, until Hashem finally told them that they could wait until the next generation to inherit the land. What went so wrong? Why did our ancestors behave this way?

The answer lies in the Jews' expectations when they left Egypt. The Exodus was a miraculous affair. It was characterised by a range of miracles and wonders, from the plagues to the manna. In other words, it was easy. Psychologically it was, of course, a challenge. But the actual process required very little of those leaving. The desert was, in comparison, a difficult and long journey. They had to go, day after day, without anything new happening, just waiting. It was a test of their patience, a time for them to grow. Unfortunately, they were not up to the test. They wanted the instant gratification of Hashem's intervention in Egypt to continue.

As the world lowly reopens, we can all learn from the experience of the Children of Israel in the desert. We would all like for things to happen faster, to "go back to normal", and we chafe when it seems to take longer. However, we must learn to live with the transition period, and with the fact that, for the time being, we must function differently. It is only if we conduct ourselves properly now that we can return fully to our lives from before.

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