Parashat Beha’alotcha by Rabbi Heidi Cohen

For two years the Israelites lived at the base of Sinai. It was there that Moses brought Torah and the Ten Commandments down to them. It was there that they set up their tents and established a regular routine after having left Egypt, crossed the Sea of Reeds, and saw Pharaoh’s army swept up in the waters, leaving them to be free. But now, two years later, it is time for the people to move again. And only a few days into the next journey from Sinai into the desert, do the Israelites begin to complain again.

“The people took to complaining bitterly before the Eternal.” (Numbers 11:1) “The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, ‘if only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!’” (Numbers 11:4-6)

It seems natural, according to Rashi and Nachmanides, for the Israelites to be complaining. They are out of their comfort zone. While they were enslaved in Egypt, at least they knew they had shelter and food. But here, in the desert, the Israelites are lost. They rely on this simple white sticky substance, manna, to nourish them and they are only permitted to take enough for that day (unless it is Shabbat and they are allowed to take a double portion). They must rely on God to care for them – God, who they just reentered into a relationship with after 400 years.  And they must have confidence in Moses, to ensure their safety. Where is the trust, the confidence?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch offers another interpretation of the Israelites behavior.  Like all children, they’re bored! Their needs are met; they have shelter, they have sustenance, but the manna is just not cutting it. While we hold the legend to be true that manna will taste like anything you want it to, Rabbi Hirsch argues contrary to that – this manna is boring! The people seek substance, flavor, and variety!

Today, we seek the same thing, variety. We don’t want standard, boring, or tasteless. We want life and our activities to stimulate us. We cry out when we’re bored and we don’t feel like we are being entertained. But we cannot only rely on others to stimulate our senses or to peak our interest. We are all responsible for quenching  our thirst for stimulation.

Rather than saying, nothing excites me anymore and hope that someone else will fix it or entertain us, we are the ones who must take action. No one is a mind reader; no one can fulfill those of your needs if those needs are not shared. We are all partners in this world and in our community who seek the same thing – to be challenged and moved.

Summer is upon us and now is the time to be inspired. Our children will soon be done with school and it will take less than 24 hours for them to turn to us and say, ‘I’m bored!’ And as God, our parent told us in the desert, and as we tell our children, it’s time for us to listen to our own advice, ‘go out and play – entertain yourself.’

Do you want to keep your brain active? Come to Torah study on Shabbat morning. Participate in some of our summer class opportunities. Join us for an inspiring book review.

Do you want to explore your spiritual side? Join us for Shabbat services at 6:00 pm in the Sukkah plaza every Friday night.

Do you want to stay in touch with people or meet new friends? Join one of the many Reservation Only events still open.

Your TBS staff and congregational family are available to hope you not be ‘bored,’ but you have to take responsibility for yourself and go out and play!

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