Shabbat Beha’alotekha 5777

After the idyllic, orderly details that dominate the opening chapters of Sefer Bemidbar, the Book of Numbers, all heck suddenly breaks loose in chapter 11. The Israelites begin to complain about the wilderness menu, and they are stricken by a plague. There’s a leadership crisis, and Moshe expresses abject despair in his ability to continue to lead. After God instructs him to bring on a staff of 70 prophets, two of them, Eldad and Medad, seem to go rogue on him. It’s one hot mess after another.
This chapter is a goldmine for study of leadership and group dynamics. On Shabbat morning, I’d like us to search for a thread that links the various narratives I mentioned above. For starters, consider a few questions:
1. Since this isn’t the first time the People have complained to Moshe (see Exodus 15:22-17:7), what is different about these complaints? After all, back in Exodus, Moshe manages to calm them, and God provides solutions without punishment. Now, nothing seems to work. What has changed?
2. What was it about Eldad’s and Medad’s prophetic behavior that so startles Yehoshu’a (11:28) to prompt him to say, “My lord Moses, restrain them! (Lock them up!)”
3. What does Moshe see in them that he refuses to get caught up in Yehoshua’s hysteria?
It’s worth reading the chapter while thinking about these questions. You can find a Hebrew/English version of the text here. See you in shul!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise