Thursday, 23 May 2013

More than Slaves to Slavs---Behaalotecha

Behaalotecha was sort of my Bat Mitzvah portion. I celebrated at mincha on Shabbat Nasso, so I guess I get two. But all those years ago I thought this was a really really dull parasha. In retrospect, I probably didn't rate anything outside of Beresheet and Shemot. But now, I LOVE this parasha. There are so many valuable lessons and so much holiness.
The parasha begins with Hashem commanding Aaron to kindle the Menora. Last week the girls saw a menora in the window of an opp shop (thrift shop) near beit kenneset. We went in and bought the hand made, blown glass and marble, numbered and signed Menora. It was $30. We don't usually buy 'art pieces' so everyone was stumped by its 'purpose' but I really like it. Obviously it does not look like the Menora in the Mishkan/Beit Hamikdash but Rambam says that is only the ideal and a menora can look different. (But for anyone who has not figured it out, a menora always has 7 branches and a channukiyah has 9.)
How was the menora lit? With the purest olive oil! Olives in Australia are currently in full bloom. A few weeks ago I explained how to pickle olives. Now it was time to do something else with them.

We started with picking.
I love picking fruit and vegetables! The experience is so wholesome and fulfilling. The girls loved climbing up the ladders.

 But taking a break was also fun and they really enjoyed the hammock next to the tree. 
We took home a small bag of olives for oil making, leaving the rest for others.
Finding how to make olive oil wasn't as easy as I thought, but challahcrumbs had this video of how to make olive oil with kids. We tried to follow it (more or less).

Step 1: We pitted the olives. This was fun but made a big mess. It was not a step in the video.
Step 2: We put the olive pulp in a pyrex dish and megamixed it.  I left the room to change a diaper and returned to find the girls very excited about pushing the button and hearing the sound. Boys would probably like it more and make car sounds.

Step 3: We put the pulp in a muslin and squeezed. Now we have a bowl of black liquid. I am not sure if it is olive oil.  (I think olive oil production works better from green olives, for anyone who is trying this at home.)
It was inevitable that at some point the girls would taste these olives and were disgusted. We did a comparison taste to the ones in brine and discussed the differences.

We watched a video on the 'real method'. Sadly the girls don't remember when we did the same thing as in this video.

Which leads us to more parasha projects.

 I like the waving of the leviim, but I think we will save that for another time. 

Instead we moved on to the silver trumpets. My husband used to play trumpet, so I brought his old instrument out for the girls to try. Ben gave them a quick lesson and because Gabi and Cohava can blow shofar, they were quick to pick up the embouchure and made beautiful, loud blasts. Ruti doesn't quite have the hang of it - yet.

I did not explain the differences between a modern trumpet and those used for the Mishkan, but it would be an interesting lesson for another time. In fact there is enough in parashat Behaalotecha to teach children (anyone) for a very long time.

My *favorite* part is the inverted nuns (Nun, the Hebrew letter, not the female Catholic clergy).
My first deep encounter with this phenomenal bracketing of 85 letters was during a shiur from Rabbi Ari Kahn. But that is still just the tip of the iceberg.
The girls and I practiced reciting the words within the nuns, which we say when the Aron HaKodesh is opened. And then we discussed why the words might be there.
Bnei Yisrael should have been at the highest level of spirituallity at this point. They were free, got the Torah, built the Mishkan, lit the Menora, and got the Kohanim and Levvim ready. What was left? Hashem was so close to them! They should have entered the land of Israel and experienced spiritual transcendence. The words bracketed in the nuns allude to the potential of the moment. But the moment was not actualized. Instead the people who had been eating Hashem's holy mann, began complaining about the lack of meat. Hashem had freed them from slavery but they made themselves slaves to their desires. There weren't on a high enough level at all! They still could not appreciate everything Hashem was giving them. So He sent them slav (quails). They got their meat but lost everything else. 
Although our 'projects' did not relate to the nuns, it is the lesson I hope the girls most internalize. I refer to it often, trying to make the message relevant.

For example:
"I want thaaaat toothpaste!" wailed a tired Gabi.
"Do you already have toothpaste?" I asked.
"Yes, but I neeeeed the one Cohava has!"
"Do you have mann?" I asked.
"Yah, I guess I don't need slav," she agreed.

This struggle to be happy and fulfilled with all of the brachot Hashem gives us is an almost universal plight. I give us all the bracha that we are able to see and appreciate all of the goodness we are given. Then the nuns will be opened and actualized with the coming of Mashiach bimhera beyamenu.

Shabbat Shalom!


  1. This was an awesome post. Love, Abba

  2. I thought it was pretty good too! I like teaching high school kids about not complaining too much from this parasha.