This week’s portion, B’ha’alotecha, spans a huge narraitive of the Israelites in the Wilderness. We see a focus on regulations regarding the menorah, issues dealing with the priesthood and another instance of a complaining multitude that forces Moses to lament his position as leader and fall into depression. He even almost gives up by saying, in 11:15, that it would better if he died. He seeks council of elders and sure enough, a miracle of manna ensues. Yet, as chapter 12 developes, even Moses’s brother and sister speak against him. Miriram’s folly is rewarded by her being stricken with “snow white scales” and forced from the camp. In this section (12:12,13) Moses utters what may be our first “healing prayer” as he laments what has happened and asks God to heal her.
This portion is filled with passion and nuance, rebellion and intrigue. There is much to unpack but again, much focus will be on that healing prayer. Miriam is banished from the camp for seven days. She is re-integrated and the people move on. As I looked at this I could not help think of what happens with so many of us as we get older. Does time “heal” past hurts? Do we come to a time in our life when we can “let go” of past slights and wounds? Yes, this is very personal, some people do reach a stage in life when they can do this. Yet, as every clergy person knows who has met with families, for some, that past act just cannot be forgiven. For some, they carry that hurt to the grave. Shalom is at times obtained but in a way that allows people to save a sense of dignity. Jacob and Esau, reunite, but we sense from the text that time has allowed them to place the past in perspective and they move on with their lives, never to be “close”, but releasing their past hurts. We say that “time” heals.
We also see that this can be translated from people to nations. Has time “healed” the horror of the Holocaust? We know that holding on to hurts impacts our own health and perhaps also the health of a community. But is is often hard to allow that healing to take place. One can only imagine what Miriam’s life and position was like once her banishment had been completed. This portion opens again the door to that contemplation of what it means to be “healed”; healing of the body may not be a healing of the soul, and it is the soul that often speaks truth to power.
Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.