In this week’s parsha, Behaalotecha, we learn of many separations.
God commands Moses to light the Menorah, which has seven lamps. Doing so creates a separation between the light and darkness, as the Torah says, “The seven lamps shall cast light on the Menorah.”
Then God commands Moses to separate the Levites from the rest of the Children of Israel. This separation is intended to purify the Levites and recognize their position as servants of God and the people in the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
Another separation is discussed when Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, tells Moses he intends to leave the Israelites and return to his own land. Moses urges Jethro to stay. Moses is concerned that this separation will mean the loss of someone who knows the Wilderness and has been a guide to the Israelites and an advisor to Moses.
The people separate themselves from God’s gifts by complaining that they are tired of the food in the Wilderness. God has given them manna which appears every morning. The people say they miss the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic they had in Egypt. They complain, “Our life is parched, there is nothing.” Not only do the people separate themselves from God’s gift of the manna, they also separate themselves from God’s gift of spirituality when they say they miss the spiritual wilderness of Egypt.
Moses is frustrated by the constant complaining of the Israelites and asks God why he deserves such evil to be done to him? God’s response is to suggest that Moses get help by taking 70 men from the elders of Israel to be his advisors – another separation.
The separation that has the most meaning to me is the one brought to light by people who were not able to participate in the commandments of eating the Korban Pesach (Passover offering) because they were contaminated by contact with a dead body. They asked “Why should we be diminished by not offering the Korban Pesach?” These people understand the gifts that God has given them and their value. They understand that when they are not able to participate in the mitzvot they are diminished spiritually.
We should think about whether there are times we separate ourselves from our friends, our family, or the Torah, when we do not appreciate the wonderful gifts we have in the people we love and the mitzvot we have been given. Are our separations for good, like that of the Levites who separated themselves to serve the people and God, or are they selfish like those who complained about the manna and longed for the food of Egypt?