Parashat Behaalotecha: Remembering and Being Remembered
The Torah in Parashat Behaalotecha presents the Misva of the Hasoserot – the special trumpets which were blown on various occasions. In the desert, the trumpets were sounded to assemble the people and to announce that the nation was journeying. After Beneh Yisrael entered the Land of Israel, the trumpets were sounded during times of war, and also in the Bet Ha’mikdash during the Yom Tob celebrations (10:9-10).
Rav Shabtai Sabato (contemporary) noted an important difference between the way the Torah commands sounding the Hasoserot during wartime and the way it commands sounding them on the holidays. In reference to wartime, the Torah says that as a result of our blowing the trumpets, “Ve’nizkartem Lifneh Hashem Elokechem” – “you will be remembered before Hashem your G-d.” The purpose of sounding the trumpets during war is that G-d will remember us favorably and grant us victory. In reference to the obligation to blow the Hasoserot in the Bet Ha’mikdash, however, the Torah writes, “Ve’hayu Lachem Le’zikaron Lifneh Elokechem” – “they shall be for you as a remembrance before your G-d.” Here, the trumpets serve as reminders to us. Whereas in wartime the Hasoserot serve to ensure we are “remembered,” so-to-speak, by G-d, on the holidays they serve to remind us about G-d.
Rav Sabato explains that during times of festivity and celebration, there is a natural tendency to forget about G-d and our religious obligations. We get caught up in the joy and feasting, and feel comfortable and confident. Therefore, during the holidays, it was necessary for us to be reminded of G-d, and this was the purpose of the Hasoserot on the holidays. In times of war, however, we do not need to be reminded about G-d. The fear and tension brought about by war itself makes us mindful of our dependence on G-d for our survival and wellbeing. Under such circumstances, then, the Hasoserot serve a much different purpose – to ensure that we are remembered favorably by G-d, to bring our prayers before the Heavenly Throne so we earn G-d’s merciful assistance.
The message, Rav Sabato writes, is that if we remember G-d when we are prone to forget Him, then He will “remember” us when we need Him the most. During times of peace and joy, when we tend to feel self-sufficient, we must remind ourselves that everything we have is granted to us by the Almighty, and that we depend on Him at all times, even when our lives seem perfectly stable. If we remind ourselves of this basic tenet during periods of joy and prosperity, then we will earn G-d’s assistance during times of crisis and hardship, when we are keenly aware and mindful of how much we depend on His grace and mercy.