Rabbi Robinson’s Sermon June 9, 2023

Beha’alotcha: Coming and Going

Plaut p. 957

Source Sheet by Yair Robinson



Numbers 9:18-23

(18) At a command of יהוה the Israelites broke camp, and at a command of יהוה they made camp: they remained encamped as long as the cloud stayed over the Tabernacle. (19) When the cloud lingered over the Tabernacle many days, the Israelites observed יהוה’s mandate and did not journey on. (20) At such times as the cloud rested over the Tabernacle for but a few days, they remained encamped at a command of יהוה, and broke camp at a command of יהוה. (21) And at such times as the cloud stayed from evening until morning, they broke camp as soon as the cloud lifted in the morning. Day or night, whenever the cloud lifted, they would break camp. (22) Whether it was two days or a month or a year—however long the cloud lingered over the Tabernacle—the Israelites remained encamped and did not set out; only when it lifted did they break camp. (23) On a sign from יהוה they made camp and on a sign from יהוה they broke camp; they observed יהוה’s mandate at יהוה’s bidding through Moses.


במדבר ט׳:י״חכ״ג

(יח) עַל־פִּ֣י יְהֹוָ֗ה יִסְעוּ֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְעַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה יַחֲנ֑וּ כׇּל־יְמֵ֗י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכֹּ֧ן הֶעָנָ֛ן עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן יַחֲנֽוּ׃ (יט) וּבְהַאֲרִ֧יךְ הֶֽעָנָ֛ן עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֖ן יָמִ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים וְשָׁמְר֧וּ בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶת־מִשְׁמֶ֥רֶת יְהֹוָ֖ה וְלֹ֥א יִסָּֽעוּ׃ (כ) וְיֵ֞שׁ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִהְיֶ֧ה הֶֽעָנָ֛ן יָמִ֥ים מִסְפָּ֖ר עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּ֑ן עַל־פִּ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ יַחֲנ֔וּ וְעַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה יִסָּֽעוּ׃ (כא) וְיֵ֞שׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִהְיֶ֤ה הֶֽעָנָן֙ מֵעֶ֣רֶב עַד־בֹּ֔קֶר וְנַעֲלָ֧ה הֶֽעָנָ֛ן בַּבֹּ֖קֶר וְנָסָ֑עוּ א֚וֹ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה וְנַעֲלָ֥ה הֶעָנָ֖ן וְנָסָֽעוּ׃ (כב) אֽוֹ־יֹמַ֜יִם אוֹ־חֹ֣דֶשׁ אוֹ־יָמִ֗ים בְּהַאֲרִ֨יךְ הֶעָנָ֤ן עַל־הַמִּשְׁכָּן֙ לִשְׁכֹּ֣ן עָלָ֔יו יַחֲנ֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וְלֹ֣א יִסָּ֑עוּ וּבְהֵעָלֹת֖וֹ יִסָּֽעוּ׃ (כג) עַל־פִּ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ יַחֲנ֔וּ וְעַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה יִסָּ֑עוּ אֶת־מִשְׁמֶ֤רֶת יְהֹוָה֙ שָׁמָ֔רוּ עַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיַד־מֹשֶֽׁה׃ {פ}



If you can, I want you to remember life before GPS. Do you remember? Asking for directions, and getting little maps drawn on the back of envelopes, or told to go by way of landmarks that may or may not be accurate? Or getting trip-tiks for longer journeys, or just looking at a map? Even now, with GPS, how often does it seem to want to take you on a short-cut through someone’s front lawn? Wouldn’t it be nice to know when you’re supposed to go, and where, and why? Instead of trying to determine one’s path in life, to just be led by the nose? On one level, that’s what we’re presented with in our text this week. We’re told that God’s presence was constant near the tabernacle–fire by night, cloud by day–and when the cloud settled on the tabernacle, they stayed, and when it lifted, Israel left, ‘whether it was two days or a month or a year.’ They didn’t have to think about their choices, or do any real executive functioning–the cloud lifts, and off we go.


Of course, that’s not how life is. Each of us, to the best of our ability, with the resources available to us, must decide our path in life, and then make the best of the outcomes. Whether we’re taking a physical journey to a new place–a vacation or a trip to visit family or to create a new home–or we’re taking a journey within ourselves to determine who we should be and what we should do with ourselves, our lives–fundamentally, it’s up to us. And what is important, on some level, isn’t so much the destination, but as Rabbi Alvin Fine reminds us, that we undergo the journey, stage by stage. And as Norman Hirsch reminds us, we don’t like leaving, but God loves becoming.