Moses then gathers all the people in front of the Sanctuary, where the tribe of Levi is initiated into the Temple service as assistants to the kohanim (priests).
The Levites immerse in a pool of water, shave off all their hair, are sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer, and bring offerings to G‑d. The people lay their hands upon the Levites (as a person does when bringing an offering to G‑d), and Aaron the high priest lifts each of them up as an “uplifting before G‑d” (as the kohen does with those portions of the offering that are given to him). For,
The Levites are given as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel . . .
“After that, the Levites went in to do their service in the Tent of Meeting before Aaron and before his sons; as G‑d had commanded Moses . . .”
The Second Passover
On the day before the Exodus, while still in Egypt, every Israelite family had brought a lamb or kid as a Passover offering to G‑d. Now it is a year later—in the month of Nissan of the year 2449 from creation (1312 BCE)—and G‑d commands Moses:
The children of Israel shall keep the Passover at its appointed season.
On the fourteenth day of this month, at evening . . . according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies of it, shall you keep it.
But not all were able to do so:
There were certain persons who were contaminated by [contact with the dead body of a] human soul, who could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day.
Those persons said to him: “We are contaminated. . . . Why should we be deprived, that we may not offer the offering of G‑d in its appointed season among the children of Israel?”
Moses said to them: “Stand by, and I will hear what G‑d will command concerning you.”
G‑d spoke to Moses, saying:
“. . . If any man of you, or of your future generations, shall be impure by reason of contact with a dead body, or be on a journey afar off, he shall keep the Passover to G‑d. On the fourteenth day of the second month at evening they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs . . .”
On the day that the Sanctuary was erected, the cloud covered the Sanctuary, the Tent of the Testimony; and at evening there was upon the Sanctuary as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.
So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
And when the cloud was taken up from above the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed. And in the place where the cloud came to rest, there the children of Israel encamped. At the commandment of G‑d the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of G‑d they encamped . . .
When the cloud tarried long upon the Sanctuary many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of G‑d, and journeyed not. At times it was that the cloud was a few days upon the Sanctuary. . . . And at times it was that the cloud abode from evening until morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, and then they journeyed . . .
Or whether it was two days, or a month, or a year that the cloud tarried upon the Sanctuary, remaining over it, the children of Israel remained encamped, and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed.
At the commandment of G‑d they remained encamped, and at the commandment of G‑d they journeyed; they kept the charge of G‑d, at the commandment of G‑d by the hand of Moses.
G‑d instructs Moses to make two silver trumpets, which should be used “to summon the community, and to make the camps journey.”
A straight long blast (tekiah) is to be used to summon the people: if both trumpets are sounded, the entire people should gather before the entrance of the Sanctuary; one trumpet means that only the tribal heads were being summoned.
When the people break camp, the start of the journey is to be heralded with a series of short blasts (teruah). The first teruah signals the tribes camping to the east to begin moving, the next series of short blasts sets the southern camp in motion, and so on, according to the order instructed earlier (Numbers 2).
Trumpets are also to be sounded when going out to war, and when bringing the seasonal offerings in the Holy Temple.
Onward from Sinai
For eleven months and twenty days, the people of Israel camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. There they received the Torah; there they worshipped the golden calf, repented their sin, and obtained G‑d’s forgiveness; there they constructed the Sanctuary and dedicated it as the “Tent of Meeting” and divine dwelling in their midst. Then came the divine command to move on.
It came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from off the Sanctuary of the Testimony.
The children of Israel took their journeys out of the Sinai Desert; and the cloud rested in the wilderness of Paran.
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, was in the Israelite camp at the time (cf. Exodus 18). Before they go, Moses says to Jethro: “We are journeying to the place of which G‑d said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come you with us, and we will do you good; for G‑d has spoken good concerning Israel.”
They departed from the mountain of G‑d three days’ journey; and the ark of the covenant of G‑d went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them.
The Ark in Motion
It came to pass, when the ark went forth, that Moses said, “Rise up, G‑d, and let Your enemies be scattered; and let those who hate You flee before You.”
And when it rested, he said, “Return, G‑d, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”
(These two verses are bracketed in the Torah with two inverted nuns, signifying that they constitute “a book unto itself.”)
Manna and Meat
The people complain, incurring the wrath of G‑d, and a fire rages at “the edge of the camp.” The people cry out to Moses, who prays for the fire to be quenched.
But soon they are complaining again.
The mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting; and the children of Israel also wept again, and said: “Who shall give us meat to eat?
“We remember the fish, which we ate in Egypt for nothing; the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, besides this manna, before our eyes . . .”
Even the long-suffering Moses can tolerate it no longer.
Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent. And the anger of G‑d burned greatly; Moses also was displeased.
Moses said to G‑d: “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You lay the burden of all this people upon me?
“Have I conceived all this people? Have I begotten them, that You should say to me: Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries the suckling child, to the land which You have sworn to their fathers?
“Whence should I have meat to give to all this people? For they weep to me, saying: Give us meat that we may eat. I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me . . .”
If the burden is too heavy for you to bear alone, says G‑d to Moses, “gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.”
I will come down and talk with you there. And I will emanate of the spirit which is upon you, and will bestow it upon them; they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you bear it not yourself alone.
As for the meat they’re asking for:
Say to the people: Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of G‑d, saying, Who shall give us meat to eat . . . ? Therefore G‑d will give you meat, and you shall eat.
Not one day shall you eat, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils, and it becomes loathsome to you. Because you have despised G‑d who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying: Why did we come out of Egypt?
Moses still has difficulty with the whole thing. “The people, among whom I am,” he says to G‑d, “are six hundred thousand men on foot. And You have said: I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month. Shall flocks and herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?”
“Is G‑d’s hand short?” says G‑d in reply. “You shall see now whether My word shall come to pass to you or not.”
Eldad, Medad and Joshua
The seventy elders are selected, and G‑d “emanates of the spirit” which He has bestowed upon Moses to them, and they receive the gift of prophecy.
Joshua, Moses’ faithful disciple, is upset. When two of the elected men, Eldad and Medad, prophesy in the camp, he urges Moses to imprison them.
“Are you jealous for me?” says Moses “Would that all G‑d’s people were prophets, and that G‑d would set His spirit upon them!”
“The Meat Yet Between Their Teeth”
Moses retired into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
And a wind went out from G‑d and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
The people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails—he that gathered least gathered ten heaps; and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
The meat was yet between their teeth, before it was cut, when the wrath of G‑d was inflamed against the people; and G‑d smote the people with a very great plague.
He called the name of that place Kivrot Hataavah (Graves of Lust), because there they buried the people that lusted.
The people journeyed from Kivrot Hataavah to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth.
Miriam Criticizes Moses
Moses’ sister, Miriam, speaks negatively about her brother’s marriage with the “Cushite woman” he wed. “Was it indeed only with Moses that G‑d spoke?” she says to her other brother Aaron. “Has He not spoken also with us?”
And G‑d heard. Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than all the men that were upon the face of the earth.
G‑d speaks suddenly to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and summons them to the Sanctuary. There He appears in a pillar of cloud and speaks only to Aaron and Miriam:
Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I G‑d make myself known to him in a vision, and speak to him in a dream.
My servant Moses is not so, for he is the trusted one in all My house.
With him I speak mouth to mouth, manifestly, and not in riddles; and the similitude of G‑d does he behold. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?
When the cloud departs, Miriam is snow-white with leprosy (the punishment for lashon hara, evil speech).
Moses cried to G‑d, saying: “I beseech You, O G‑d, heal her now!”
And after that the people journeyed from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.