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Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center

A Jewish Community Built on Caring, Prayer and Learning

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Shabbat Beha’alotekha 5779

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What gets you up and moving in the morning? For the Israelites, there were two signals that it was time for the camp to mobilize. One was the cloud (Numbers 9:15-23), and the other was the trumpets (10:1-10). Almost immediately after we learn of these signals in this week’s Torah reading, Beha’alotekha, there’s a travel crisis. Moshe’s father-in-law, Hovav (or is it Yitro?), seems not to want to continue on the journey. Here’s the text of the Torah on this curious interlude:
 
(29)Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, ”We are setting out for the place of which the LORD has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will be generous with you; for the LORD has promised to be generous to Israel.” (30) “I will not go with you,” he replied to him, “but will return to my native land.” (31) He said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness and can be our guide. (32) So if you come with us, we will extend to you the same bounty that the LORD grants us.”
 
This passage begs so many questions, including whether Hovav/Yitro is won over by Moshe’s petition, or if he does indeed depart. But what really generated a variety of interpretations is the phrase at the end of verse 31, vehayita lanu l’einayim. The new JPS translation is “and can be our guide,” but the original JPS edition rendered it as “and thou shalt be to us instead of eyes.” On Shabbat morning, we will look at some of the ways our traditional commentators understood this phrase, and we’ll see the many ways that Moshe defines guidance. And in this season of graduations, we can think about how those who have guided us have “been to us instead of eyes.”  
 
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise