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Parashat B’ha-alot’cha (Numbers 8:1-12:16)

“Aaron did so; he mounted the lamps at the front of the menorah,
as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (Numbers 8:3)

Parashat B’ha-a lot’cha describes the Israelites’ departure from Mt. Sinai to begin their desert trek. As part of the final preparations, God instructs Moses to craft two silver trumpets to signal the people when to gather and when to march (Num. 10:1-10). This is the source for the musical patterns of the shofar for Rosh Hashana: the t’kiah, or long blast, and the t’ruah, or short blast. It also is the source for the division of the Rosh Hashana amidah, or standing prayer, into three sections: kingship, shofar, and remembrance.

Chassidic commentators, however, read a daring theological statement out of these verses. Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezrich (?-1772; second leader after the Baal Shem Tov of the Chassidic movement), says shtei chatzotz’rot, two trumpets, can also be read shtei chatzi tzurot, two half forms. So, a human being, alone, is only half a form. Only in relationship with God can the person be complete. The reverse also is true. Only in relationship with a human being can God be complete.

The Maggid uses the Hebrew word adam to make the point wonderfully (if unfortunately gendered). God is represented by the letter aleph, which by itself makes no sound and is not a word. Man(kind) is represented by the letters dalet and mem, which together spell the words dam, blood, and dom, silent or without voice. Only when combined with aleph does humanity emerge out of mere physicality. And only when combined with dalet and mem does God’s voice emerge into this world. B’ha-a lot’cha offers a theology based on reciprocal relationships: God needs us as much as we need God.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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