Be-Ha’alotekha means “when you step up”. The Israelites are on the move, and God, as a cloud, is leading them. This portion happens during the second passover, so apparently it occurs in early spring. That’s a good time, if there is one, to be traveling in the desert looking for food. And the Israelites subsist on grain (manna). As a matter of fact, in this portion there is complaining about the lack of meat. But I jump ahead here.
So the Israelites subsist on grain, which requires water to grow. It makes sense to stay with the clouds as they will provide the rain to grow the grain. And if you live in the desert, whether it’s Sinai or Paran, water is important. According to what I’ve read, Paran is south of Mt. Sinai, which means they are walking away from Israel. Kind of interesting, but that would account for the 40 years of wandering. If they had walked straight from Sinai to Israel, I think the trek would take less than 2 weeks. But then, they didn’t have google earth. They were following clouds. And there were more than 600,000 of them who were not always eager followers. And that number reflects only the men I believe. If so, you could probably triple it. 1.8 million hungry, grumpy people. So God told Moses to gather 70 people to share the burden of the followers.
In one of the articles I read about this portion, there is talk about the Jews being God’s firstborn, the chosen ones. The first born is held up as the most spiritual, the one who is to follow God.
The whole idea of “chosen one” has always bothered me. I am a first born. I am a Jew. I am no better, nor am I more spiritually available, than anyone else. But this article I read makes an interesting point. God is only God because of the first born Jews, the Jews of Moses’ time. I am only a mother because I gave birth to Emily, my first born. God is only God because the first Jews believed this to be true. If not for the first born Jews, there would be no God. God’s existence relies on the Jews, and by extension God’s existence relies on the belief of each individual. So, really, everyone is a first born. Everyone is chosen, if they choose to believe. Because God only exists as we choose to believe God exists. And, in my opinion, there are no 2 beliefs in God that are the same. So, while many of us believe in one God, we do not all have the same God.
When you look up at the clouds, what do you see? And if you describe what you see to your sister, brother, mother, father or friend, how can you be sure that they are seeing, really, the same thing as you are describing? Thank God for clouds. Thank clouds for God.