Parshas Beha’aloscha: Loshon Hora and Teshuva

The very first dvar Torah I remember writing was on this week’s Parsha, Beha’aloscha. It was only a few paragraphs, and the narrative I chose was surely one which has been oft-repeated, but I remember that I was proud of it. As we made our way through the Torah cycle, and drew closer to Beha’aloscha, I began to look upon it in the way a man might think of his bar mitzvah Parsha.

Beha’aloscha didn’t mark the beginning of my interest in Torah. I’d began reading it daily a short while before. But it was this time last year that I began researching the Parsha extensively and writing my thoughts on it. Returning to the Parsha, with the knowledge I’ve gained over the past year- still but a drop in the ocean of Torah- I am still fascinated, like many, with the same episode, but for a different reason.

The episode is, of course, that of Miriam’s loshon hora and subsequent punishment. To summarise- the Sedra ends with Miriam speaking negatively towards Moshe Rabbenu, and being punished by G-d with leprosy, a blemish which required her to be secluded outside the camp for seven days, for which the inhabitants waited and the camp did not move on without her. After the period of time was up, she was allowed to re-enter the camp.

In the context of a modern day setting, there is no camp to be excluded from, and no waiting period to recover from leprosy. But the punishment and seclusion draw a metaphor to our own personal relationships with G-d; something which is relevant to every person, in every generation. In Parshas Beha’aloscha, Miriam is secluded away from the Israelites and distanced from them as a result of her speaking loshon hora. In a similar manner, when one speaks loshon hora, they find themselves distanced from G-d. He is still there; He is still their Creator and Father; and He will still forgive them, but momentarily, they find themselves pulled away from Him.

No matter how we act, G-d is still there. But we can only become closer to Him through loving and fearing him, and through performing his Mitzvos. When we transgress- in this case through the sin of loshon hora- we draw further away from Him. This doesn’t alter His nature in any way; it just means that we need to do Teshuva in order to return to him and enjoy the close relationship which we once had.

Just as the Israelites waited when Miriam was excluded outside the camp, G-d waits for us when we make mistakes. Sometimes He waits days; sometimes months; and sometimes, years. Decades may pass before we truly realise our nature as Jews, and long to return to our Creator. But no matter how much time goes by, G-d still waits and doesn’t let go. May we soon merit to see the day when all Jews return to Hashem, and we witness the arrival of Moshiach- speedily and in our days!

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