Parashat B’ha’alot’cha 5784

20 June 2024 – 14 Sivan 5784

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein


Numbers 11:26-29

“Two of the men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in camp; yet the spirit rested upon them—they were among those recorded, but they had not gone out to the Tent—and they spoke in ecstasy in the camp.  

An assistant ran out and told Moses, saying, “Eldad and Medad are acting the prophet in the camp!”  

And Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant from his youth, spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!”  

But Moses said to him, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all God’s people were prophets, that God inspired them!””

As you can imagine with such a peculiar occurrence, our Sages provide a wide range of responses. Some point to the unusual names of the protagonists. Eldad, for example, might mean, if it were Hebrew:

God is the brother of my father and Medad, the one who is of my uncle. 

If Assyrian, God is beloved and Meldad, object of affection; and if Akkadian, El is Hadad (and Arabian deity) and Meldad, one who is of God.

This is all according to the Encyclopaedia Biblica, 1899.

What was the prophecy that Eldad and Medad received and communicated also takes up Talmudic column inches. Some suggest that they reported that Moses would die and that it would be Joshua who would bring the Israelites into the Land of Israel. Abba Ḥanin says in the name of Rabbi Eliezer, that it was about the quail that would satisfy the Israelites prior lust for meat. You can read more in Sanhedrin 17a!

I am just returning from a slightly extended annual leave or a mini-Sabbatical depending on which Rabbi’s interpretation you follow. So what drew my attention is this sidrah was Moses’s response to the concern shown by Joshua. 

Two of the books I was reading, were, “Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop,” by Hwang Bo-Reum and another “Butter,” Asako Yuzuki. Both contained lines that reflected on anxiety that things might fall apart if were not present and equally that they would not.

Moses’s response to Joshua displays great humility:

“Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all God’s people were prophets, that God inspired them!”

The strength of our Liberal, Progressive and Reform Congregations has always been the partnership between lay and rabbinic leadership. The ability for professional leaders to show humility and for lay leadership to seek and cherish professional leaders who lead and enable has often led to our success. 

As I return to the Congregation I serve, I hope I might follow the wisdom of Moses, ok and I will admit it, also feel the more human desire to be needed. Oh if I were a prophet but I am not. Just a mere Rabbi!

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