Nostalgia for the Familiar

Assortment of fresh vegetable salads (Image: © Bigstock)

Beha'alotcha

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Beha'alotcha (בהעלותך | When you set up)
  • Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:15
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 14:14-21

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Numbers 8:1 | The Seven Lamps
    • Numbers 8:5 | Consecration and Service of the Levites
    • Numbers 9:1 | The Passover at Sinai
    • Numbers 9:15 | The Cloud and the Fire
    • Numbers 10:1 | The Silver Trumpets
    • Numbers 10:11 | Departure from Sinai
    • Numbers 11:1 | Complaining in the Desert
    • Numbers 11:16 | The Seventy Elders
    • Numbers 11:31 | The Quails
    • Numbers 12:1 | Aaron and Miriam Jealous of Moses
  • Prophets
    • Zec 2:6 Interlude: | An Appeal to the Exiles
    • Zec 3:1 Fourth Vision: | Joshua and Satan
    • Zec 4:1 Fifth Vision: | The Lampstand and Olive Trees

Portion Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha'alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means "When you ascend." It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as "When you ascend the lamps" (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.


In Numbers 11:4-9, nostalgia for the food of Egypt sweeps over the camp of Israel. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:5-6)

The same often happens to us after we take on a life of discipleship. For a while, it is fresh, new and exciting. It is invigorating, and each day is filled with new discovery. But after a period of time, the novelty wears off. We begin to miss the old vices and entertainments. We begin to feel nostalgic for ways of life that we have turned our backs on. When this happens (and it is normal that it does) we must press on all the harder in pursuit of our righteous Savior. It is normal for the heart to yearn for straying, but it is not normal to stray after the heart. We know better. If we will only press on, we will discover further joys, greater depths and new thrills in the pursuit of God.

Believers who begin to keep the commandments of God come from a variety of denominational and religious backgrounds. Typically, when they do, they commit to a life of Torah which they pursue with a proselyte’s zeal.

Everything changes. Your calendar, your holidays, your day of worship, your friends, your rhythm of life, the places you go, your style of worship, the entertainment you watch—everything is different—even the food you eat. It is normal to, at a certain point, long for some of the old things you have left behind. Believers in the Torah movement often feel bewildered by the strangeness of the new world they have entered. They reflect back on the simpler days when a Sunday morning worship service was nearly the full extent of their expression of faith. They long for the simplicity they once knew. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic…” (Numbers 11:5) But the manna on which we now feed is the one who has descended from heaven. He is the bread of life, and He beckons us to eat of Him alone, and to follow Him alone. This is the way to life.

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