Numbers in [brackets] are the mitzva-count according to the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts vary.
First Aliya -14 p’sukim (8:1-14)
Aharon is instructed to tend the lamps of the Menora.
SDT – Rashi explains the connection between this portion and that of the gifts of the tribal leaders at the end of Parshat Naso. Aharon, as leader of the tribe of Levi was embarrassed that he had not offered gifts for the dedication of the Mishkan as did the other leaders. G-d is telling him that his gift – daily servicein the Mishkan – is far greater than the other gifts. Theirs are material and transitory; Aharon’s is spiritual and permanent.
The MITZVA to tend and light the Menora is recorded and counted elsewhere in the Torah. This fact makes the DRASHOT explaining the connection to Parshat HaNesiim stand out all the more, since the P’SHAT is sort of redundant (but not quite).
Ramban sees in this portion an allusion to a future generation when Aharon’s descen dants (the Hasmoneans) were to (re)dedicate the Mikdash by lighting of the Menora.
If we look at the two topics that flank chapter 7, we find the two Temple practices that survive until this day (as opposed to the relatively short-lived nature of the gifts described in chapter 7) – Birkat Kohanim, still practiced daily as commanded by the Torah and the Menora, commemorated by the yearly observance ofChanuka. This perhaps is part of G-d’s message to Aharon.
The Menora is described again with specific reference to the wicks (flames) of the lamps facing the “face of the Menora” (i.e. the central stalk of the Menora).
G’MATRIYA based on L’ORA SHEL TORAH by Rabbi Yaakov Auerbach z”l
DIVREI HATORAH HAZOT (the words of this Torah)
= 4+2+200+10 (216) + 5+400+6+200+5 (616) + 5+7+1+400 (413) = 1245.
L’HA’ALOT NEIR TAMID (to light the eternal flame)
= 30+5+70+30+6+400 (541) + 50+200 (250) + 400+40+10+4 (454) = 1245.
The former phrase relates to TORAH, the latter one to LIGHT. Numerically equivalent.
TORAH = LIGHT as in the verse from Mishlei: KI NEIR MITZVA V’TORAH OR (for a mitvza is a candle and Torah is light)
= 20+10 (30) + 50+200 (250) + 40+90+6+5 (141) + 6+400+6+200+5 (617) + 1+6+200 (207) = 1245!
The one, the other, and both together – all with the same value.
Next G-d commands Moshe to separate the Levi’im from among the People and to purify them. Ritual waters, shaving their hair, cleansing their clothes, and various sacrifices and ceremonies accomplish this “separation”.
Second Aliya – 12 p’sukim (8:15-26)
After the above procedures, the Levi’im are qualified to perform their holy tasks in the Mikdash as aides to the Kohanim. They, instead of the firstborns of Israel, shall function in the Mikdash. The Torah explains that the sacred functions were originally to be performed by firstborns who were sanctified as a result oftheir being spared in Egypt. (The special position of the firstborn actually predates the Egypt experience.) As a result of the sin of the Golden Calf, the Levi’im, who unilaterally reacted in defense of G-d’s honor, were taken by Him in lieu of the firstborns. Moshe, Aharon and the People of Israel did to the Levi’imas Moshe was instructed. After purification, the Levi’im were to come to the Mishkan to “report for duty”.
From age 25 until 50, the Levi was eligible for Mishkan service. (From 25-30 the Levi studied and trained for Temple service, at 30 he began serving. Age 50 was the retirement age for the “carrying chores”, but the singing and guarding functions of the Levi continued beyond that age).
Because the Torah emphasizes age with Levi’im, the Gemara teaches us the blemishes were not invalidating as they are for a Kohen. Conversely, the Kohen can be invalidated by blemishes, but age is not a factor. Apparently, a young Kohen can serve, but not a young Levi.
Third Aliya -14 p’sukim – 9:1-14
G-d spoke to Moshe in the Sinai wilderness during Nissan of the second year from the Exodus. He commanded (reminded) him to tell the People to bring the Korban Pesach. The Torah records that on the 14th of Nissan in the afternoon, the first annual Korban Pesach was brought as was commanded.
[This Pesach Sheni episode occurred before the counting of the People as recorded in the opening portion of Bamidbar. It was not placed at the beginning of the book because it is embarrassing to the People of Israel that they (we) only brought one Korban Pesach in the entire Wilderness Period.]
Then the Torah tells us that there were people who were ritually unclean and thus unable to participate in the Korban Pesach. They approached Moshe and complained that it was unfair that they were unable to join in this mitzva with the rest of the People.
Moshe called upon G-d to answer them.
[It is important to understand that the laws of Pesach Sheni are part of the original Torah that we received at Sinai. However they were not revealed to the People until this point together with an actual test case, so to speak.]
A person who is “tamei” or far away from the Mikdash and is unable to bring the K.P. shall bring K.P. on the afternoon of the 14th of Iyar  and eat it that night  with matza and maror. Nothing of it may be left over for the morning  and no bone of it may be broken ; all rules of K.P. apply to this PesachSheni (actually there are differences concerning peripheral details), but the korbanot themselves are the same. Intentionally not bringing K.P. is punishable by “karet” (Divine excision).
Note: Although the Torah mentions two specific “excuses” for not bringing K.P., anyone who did not bring K.P. for any reason – including someone who intentionally did not bring it – is eligible and obligated to bring Pesach Sheni.
The Torah once again emphasizes that there is one law for the born-Jew and the convert.
Is Pesach Sheni a second opportunity to bring Korban Pesach or is it a “stand-alone” mitzva for people who missed Korban Pesach in Nissan? Following the latter possibility, we see that the Rambam and Chinuch count four separate mitzvot related to Pesach Sheni among Taryag. This would indicate that Pesach Sheni is its own”Yom Tov”. This certainly seems to be the Rambam’s view as he says that a non- Jew who converts to Judaism after Pesach is obligated to bring Pesach Sheni. This would not be the ruling if Pesach Sheni were merely a make- up for Pesach Rishon.
So, too, a boy or girl who reaches the age of mitzvot after Pesach but before Pesach Sheni, should not participate in the first Pesach (as a child) and should bring Pesach Sheni (as a halachic adult). If, however, they did eat Pesach Rishon, then they do not bring Pesach Sheni. This is different from the non-Jew, who wasforbidden to eat Korban Pesach.
Furthermore, it would be difficult to understand how it is possible to fulfill a mitzva after its time limit, which in the case of Korban Pesach is explicitly emphasized as being on the afternoon of the 14th Nissan, unless we consider Pesach Sheni as its own holiday.
SDT – A woman is obligated on Korban Pesach (the first one, on the 14th of Nissan), just like a man is obligated. Even though it is time-related, it is part of the pakage deal of Pesach mitzvot, which includes the prohibitions of Chametz, and we are dealing with THE set of mitzvot at the hub of Jewish life — “everything”is related to Y’tzi’at Mitz rayim — women are obligated.
Pesach Sheni is different. It is more the “classic” time-related positive mitzva, and women are exempt. However, a woman who wants to bring P2 (if the conditions for P2 are present, of course), may do so, and kohanim in the Beit HaMikdash will do the P2 of a woman or women. But not on Shabbat. Then, she must be part ofa CHABURA that includes a man. This is so because an optional korban cannot push aside Shabbat; only a required one can.
Fourth Aliya – 19 p’sukim – 9:15-10:10
From the day that the Mishkan was erected, it was covered by a heavenly cloud of glory during the day and a fiery cloud at night. Only when the cloud would lift would the People travel. And when the cloud rested, the People would camp. It happened that sometimes the People travelled a few hours after they had camped; sometimesit was for a period of days or months or years. By G-d’s command the People camped and by G-d’s command the People would travel.
SDT – The pasuk (9:18) says: “AL PI HASHEM (by the word of G-d) the People of Israel shall travel, and by G-d’s word they shall camp.” The SHLA”H HAKADOSH writes that this is the source for the concept that a person should use the phrases Im Yirtzeh HaShem, Baruch HaShem, B’ezrat HaShem, and the like whenever he speaksof doing something. Our travels and every activity should also be AL PI HASHEM.
We also have the minhag of using G-d’s name in mutual greeting between Jews. This we learn from Boaz (in Megilat Ruth) and his exchange with his field workers: He said, HaShem Imachem, and they answered, Y’Varechecha HaShem (May HaShem be with you – May G-d bless you). In our time, we use SHALOM, one of G-d’s nicknames(ATA SHALOM V’SHIMCHA SHALOM, You are Shalom and Your name is Shalom) in greetings. Shalom Aleichem, Aleichem Shalom, and Shabbat Shalom, are considered fulfillments of this idea.
G-d commanded Moshe to fashion two silver trumpets  to be used to assemble the People (or their leaders) and to signal their movement. The T’KIYA sound on both trumpets was a call for everyone to gather to Moshe. The T’KIYA on one trumpet was a call to the leaders of the people. The T’RU’A sound indicated that travelingwas to commence – one T’RU’A for each camp (of three tribes each). Kohanim are charged with the mitzva of sounding the trumpets when appropriate.
The above-mentioned purposes of the trumpets applied to the generation of the wilderness only, but the mitzva for future generations concerning the trumpets is as follows:
When the People enter the Land of Israel, the trumpets are to be used during times of troubles and on festive occasions during Temple service. There is a dispute among authorities as to whether this mitzva applies without a Beit HaMikdash. Silver trumpets have been made, are occasionally used in our times and stand readyto be fully activated for the third Beit HaMikdash. May we soon hear their happy blasts.
Fifth Aliya – 24 p’sukim – (10:11-34)
On the 20th of Iyar in the year following the Exodus, the Cloud lifted from the Mishkan. The People of Israel travelled through the Sinai wilderness and the Cloud rested in the Paran Desert. First in line to travel was the “flag-camp” of Yehuda consisting of the Tribes of Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun. The Mishkan was dismantledand the Levi-families of Gershon and M’rari followed with their ladened covered wagons. Then came the grouping of Reuven, Shimon and Gad. Then the Levi family of K’hat carrying the sacred vessels followed. Next came Ephraim, Menashe, Binyamin followed by the “camp collectors”, Dan, Asher and Naftali.
(The above description of travel conforms to the simple reading of the text and one of the Talmudic opinions on the subject.)
Moshe informs his father-in-law Yitro of Israel’s traveling plans and asks him to come along. Yitro declines the invitation and returns to his homeland.
The People travel from Sinai for 3 days, led by the Aron which was searching for a resting place, so-to- speak. G-d’s Cloud accompanied and protected the People.
A poignant observation…
At this point in the Torah, we are 13 months out of Egypt and neither the people nor Moshe Rabeinu have done what caused them to be barred from entry into Eretz Yisrael. After Moshe talks to Yitro, it was supposed to be a three-day trip (condensed into one day) to bring us AND Moshe, into the Land of Israel. So close. Thenwe started messing things up.
Sixth Aliya – 31 p’sukim, 10:35-11:29
The two special p’sukim about the moving and resting of the Ark are quoted in our davening when the Torah is taken out and returned to the Ark. In the Torah scroll this two-pasuk portion is flanked by the letters “nun” written backwards. This serves to “split the Book of BaMidbar into separate books”. Rashi indicates thatthis portion does not really belong here and the unusual “scribal parentheses” indicate its abnormal placement.
As mentioned earlier, up until this point, we were all set to go into Eretz Yisrael. Although the “problems” coming now were not the official reasons for the wandering, for the dying out of that generation, for the ban on Moshe’s entrance into the Land, they signal a change for the worse in the behavior of the people; therest followed in its wake.
Next follows another “black period” in the early history of the Nation – the Complaints. The People complained and were punished. They complained about the Manna and demanded meat. With great chutzpa, they remembered the fish and other “fine foods” they ate in Egypt. And they disparaged the wonderful, miraculous sustenance from G-d.
Even Moshe Rabeinu complained about G-d’s anger with the People and expressed his difficulty in handling the People alone. Moshe also questioned where he would possibly be able to get enough meat to satisfy the People’s demands.
G-d told Moshe to gather 70 elders who would help ease the burden of leadership. G-d would instill in them the Divine Insight so that Moshe would not have to lead them alone.
To the People, G-d promised meat (quail) which would descend in such great quantities for a sustained period of time (a month) until the People would become “sick of them”. Moshe expressed doubt as to how so many people could be thus fed. G-d reproaches Moshe for the doubt. Moshe speaks to the People and gathers the Elderswho were given the gift of prophecy by G-d.
Two of these “new prophets” (Eldad and Medad) remained within the camp and prophesied amongst the People. (Commentaries tell us that they prophesied Moshe’s death and Yehoshua’s accession to leadership.) Yehoshua, protective of his mentor Moshe, pleads with him to punish them. Moshe assures Yehoshua that it is G-d’s willthat they should prophesy.
SDT – About 18 times in the Tanach, it says “And G-d got angry with…” Yisrael or Bnei Yisrael, or His people. When the People complained about the Manna, etc., the Torah says VAYICHAR AF HASHEM M’OD, G-d got VERY angry. Why? Kedushat Levi explains that usually, when G-d got angry at the People, Moshe would rise to theirdefense and pursuade G-d, so to speak, not to punish them. This time, the Torah says that “and in Moshe’s eyes it was bad”. Moshe Rabeinu was more upset with the people than usual. This “angered” G-d all the more.
SDT – The Baal HaTurim finds two hints in the text of the Torah which allude to the content of the prophecy (which is not specified in the text). The Torah says: “…Eldad and Medad MITNAB’IM (are prophesying)”. The word can be seen as being formed by the initial letters of “Moshe’s soul will rest in G-d’s Garden; Yehoshuawill bring the People in”. Furthermore, the letters, with slight rearrangement, spell MEIT NEVI’AM – their prophet (Moshe) died. This is particularly significant, because prophecy (except in Moshe’s case) comes in the form of riddles and hints which the prophet must interpret.
Seventh Aliya – 23 p’sukim, 11:30-12:16
Moshe and the Elders gather the People. G-d sends the quail, as He has promised, carried by a Divine wind. The supply is overwhelmingly huge. The People spend day and night collecting the quail. No sooner had they started eating that G-d’s anger was manifest in a devastating plague that struck the People.
“The meat is still between their teeth…” This phrase is in a “story” portion of the Torah, not in a mitzva-halacha section. Yet it impacts on halacha (as do other passages from non- halachic parts of the Torah) in a significant way. Chazal decreed that fowl be considered forbidden with milk. If the source of the prohibitionof meat in milk deals with mammals (its own mother’s milk), then on what basis would the Sages put birds into that category? There are several factors that explain what the Sages did. One of them is this pasuk, where the Torah calls quail BASAR. This is not to say that chicken and milk are Torah violations, but the reference”allows” our Sages to make the jump.
Miriam speaks critically against Moshe to Aharon by belittling Moshe’s unique stature among prophets and people. G-d rebukes them and clearly states how unique Moshe is among all prophets, past and future. Miriam is stricken with Tzora’at. Moshe offers a short but eloquent prayer on behalf of his sister. The People delaytheir travels for the week of Miriam’s isolation. (81 years previously, Miriam had stood by the Nile protectively watching over her baby brother Moshe in the basket. Her “reward-in- kind” is this 7-day delay. The Mishna points out that good deeds are thusly rewarded.) The People then move on to the Paran desert.
Haftara – Zechariya 2:14-4:7
As if to counterbalance the depressing sequence of events from the sedra, and to answer the question as to how it is possible for the People of Israel to rise from the depths of their iniquity, the Haftara provides us with the optimistic prophecies of Messianic times, when G-d will once again be completely in our midst.
The haftara contains Zecharya’s vision of the Golden Menora flanked by olive branches. This serves as an appropriate counterpoint to the description of the Menora in the Mishkan at the beginning of the sedra. This vision was borrowed by the State of Israel to be the national emblem. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leaderswould heed the words of the prophet in explaining that vision: “Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit…” Only when we act properly, which is differently from the nations of the world, will we merit redemption. On the other hand, the fact that the Menora was chosen as symbol, even if our leaders don’t always liveup to what it represents, is still something. Half-empty = half-full.
21 p’sukim is a fairly common number for Haftara corresponding to the minimum number of p’sukim for Torah reading on a Shabbat – 3 p’sukim min. to each of seven people. This is appropriate because the Haftara was at one time read in lieu of the Torah, as opposed to its supplemental role in our time.