Those men said to him (Moshe), “We are ritually unclean [because of contact] with a dead person; [but] why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of Hashem in its appointed time, with all the Bnei Yisrael?
Parshat Beha’alotcha is filled with several important events which took place while Bnei Yisrael were journeying in the Midbar. There is, however, one central theme that is consistent and interwoven into the above Pesukim which communicates an important and central lesson to how we relate to Mitzvot in general.
The Pasuk begins with Aron HaKohen being awarded the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah. Rashi, quoting Midrash Tanchuma, explains that Aaron felt distressed and left-out of the inauguration of the Mishkan since he and his shevet were not included in the dedication offerings. Hashem appeased Aaron with the honor of lighting the Menorah.
How do we define this הדעת חלישות or distress that Aaron experienced? Aaron knew his role as Kohen Gadol and if he wasn’t given a part in the Mishakan’s inaugural ceremonies why was he not satisfied with knowing that he would be serving Hashem regularly in the Mishkan?
Later on, the Pasuk describes how the Menorah was constructed as it did in Parshat Terumah. Moshe was instructed for the Menorah to be hammered out from one chunk of gold. Instead of connecting each branch separately to the Menorah’s base, it was fashioned from one solid piece of gold. For Moshe, this was difficult to understand until Hashem showed him an image of what it was to look like. Rashi, in Parshas Terumah, further describes this episode that after seeing Moshe’s difficulty Hashem instructed him to throw the gold into the fire and it was then created by Hashem alone.
The question may be asked, If it was humanely possible to manufacture a Menorah out of a single chunk of gold by hammering it out what was Moshe’s difficulty and why did Hashem not allow for it to be constructed in that manner? Instead, Moshe was first given a description of its complex components and later followed with an image so that it would be more accessible to him yet this still wasn’t sufficient and Hashem had him throw the chunk of gold into the fire.
A few Pesukim further the Parsha introduces us to the group of people within Bnei Yisrael that came to Moshe with the complaint arguing “why should we be left out of the Korban Pesach offering?” “Just because we are tame’i resulting from performing a Mitzva of being involved with the aron/casket of Yosef should we be excluded from this Mitzvah?
What was it specifically that bothered this group of people? The Torah forbids one who is tame’i to bring a Korban Pesach and they were therefore excluded. This wasn’t a penalty of some sort but rather an exemption and they should have felt that they satisfied their obligation by being excused because of their impure status at the time?
Perhaps we can suggest that the common denominator connecting these three events is a strong will and desire to fulfill the ratzon Hashem/will of Hashem and not being satisfied with an alternative or easy-way out. There are those that become excited when Tachnun isn’t said or the Rabbi is away for a shabbat leaving the Kehilla without a drasha. For Aaron, Moshe, and the group of men that were tame’i it was not so. They desired to perform the will of Hashem and use every opportunity available to them to fulfill the word of Hashem. Being excused was not enough nor were they content with their circumstances. They wanted a part in it whether it was with inaugurating the Mishkan, constructing the Menorah, or bringing a Korban Pesach and taking no for an answer was not an easy feat. This is why Aaron felt distressed and why Hashem kavyachol “went the extra mile” to show Moshe how the Menorah should look. These individuals communicated the will and desire to grow and to go beyond the call of duty resulting in Hashem responding and allowing them to fulfill their true ratzon/will.
Source: Torah V’nefesh
facts of life: take this serious
the power of Memory
The second year after the exodus signaled that it was time for the Jews to start their journey from Sinai to the land of Israel. Hashem wanted them to get there quickly so He had them travel a three day’s journey in one day. Yet, the people complained how they struggled so much on the journey and didn’t rest for three days. Then, the rabble that was among them, riled them up to complain more, so they started complaining about the food saying, “who will feed us meat?” זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל חנם במצרים ,we remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for free.
Rashi tells us that they definitely did not get fish for free; the Egyptians wouldn’t even give them straw they surely didn’t give them fish. The Chasam Sofer explains the posuk with a teaching that’s brought in the חובות הלבבות ,which says that the power of memory is one of the greatest gifts Hashem gave us. Without it, the world could not exist.
Imagine if a person would walk in one door and have no memory, he wouldn’t know how to get back out. Also, if one eats something good the memory serves him to remember it, so one will want more and that’s what keeps him alive. This is what the Jews meant when they said, “we remember the fish that we ate for nothing”; we are remembering it for nothing because here in the desert there is no fish so the memory is useless to us.
For us, it’s difficult to understand that a generation that was freed from national servitude by Hashem, saw all the miracles that He did by the splitting of the sea and now they have this heavenly food which tastes like anything one wants and they’re complaining about fish and melons?
Many answers are given to this question but, perhaps for us, the lesson to learn is to be thankful for what we have. Although it seems that they had everything, they still complained. People become satisfied with what they have and then, no matter how good one has it, he could always find something to complain about.
The power of memory is only one of the many great things that Hashem gives a person. There are times, says רב יצחק זילברשטיין that a person looks around and sees all the good that Hashem does for him and just wants to shout it from the rooftops, but he doesn’t and the moment is gone. So how does one go about keeping that feeling alive? Someone wrote to Reb Zilberstein that many great things happened to him that he wanted to remember and thank Hashem, so he decided to write down everything as it happened. Then, before he went to sleep, he would read the paper and thank Hashem for the good he did for him that day.
I heard a similar concept from Rabbi David Asher who repeated this story A man who in charge of raising the funds for a very large Kollel in Israel, once came to Rav Shlomo Zalman Orbach zt”l with the following problem. He said that, for years, he had been able to raise the money. However, recently it had become very tough, and his days were filled with stress and worry. He went to a doctor, as his health was declining due to the stress. The doctor said that his only solution is to close the Kollel and stop the fundraising.
Rav Shlomo Zalman told him, “The doctor is right. You must get rid of the stress. Yet, there is another way of doing it. If you follow it, it will also bring you blessing in your efforts. Take a little notebook and start writing down each time you see that Hashem helped you in any way. Then, before each Tefila, read over the list and make sure you thank Hashem for each one of them in מודים – the thanksgiving Beracha. This will be the key to your salvation.”
The man followed instructions and started writing down small things. For example, one day, he wrote about how he was in a big rush and had to stop at a grocery store to buy milk. Just as he walked in, a shipment of milk arrived and the cartons were all piled up in front of the cash register. He was out of the store in less than a minute. One day, he was running late for work and arrived at the bus stop a few minutes late. However, that day, the bus was even later, and he still made it on time. He continued the process of writing and thanking. Eventually, he started giving thanks for the big checks that were arriving, just in time for him to pay all the stipends.
Perhaps if we take this advice and write down even the littlest things that we saw Hashem helped us with and read it every day, then we will not become too complacent and complain; rather we will always be thanking Hashem who then will want to shower us with everything that’s good!
By Yitzy Adlin
Every year on my birthday, I looked forward to my aunt’s gift—a scarf, hat, or sweater knitted by hand. One year, she must have had better things to do because I received a ball of yarn, knitting needles, and a how-to-knit book. Her card read “Scarf, some assembly required.”
At Yeshiva University, Professor Goldfarb wanted all of his students to sign a form stating that they had not received any outside assistance – whether electronic or otherwise. Unsure of whether he should sign the form, Shmuel Lipman stated that he had davened to Hashem for assistance.
Professor Goldfarb carefully studied the test Shmuel had submitted and then said, “You can sign it with a clear conscience. God did not assist you.”
First aliya: G‑d commands Aaron to light the golden Tabernacle Menorah on a daily basis. Moshe is then commanded to initiate the Levites into Tabernacle service. This inauguration procedure included shaving their bodies, immersion in a mikvah, and the offering of certain sacrifices.
Second Aliyah: The exact prescribed initiation procedure is followed, and the Levites are consecrated to G‑d — instead of the firstborn who lost their sanctified status when they participated in the sin of the Golden Calf. Towards the end of this section we learn the Levite service age-requirements and retirement age.
Third Aliyah: On the first anniversary of the Exodus, the Jews are instructed to bring the Paschal Offering. Certain individuals, however, couldn’t participate because they were ritually impure. These people lodged a complaint, which Moshe then transmitted to G‑d. G‑d responds by designating a “Second Passover” to be observed exactly one month later. Anyone who could not offer the Paschal Offering in its proper time must do so on the Second Passover. G‑d then informs Moshe the laws of the Second Passover.
Fourth Aliyah: From the day the Tabernacle was erected, it was covered by a cloud during the day and a fire by night. When the cloud lifted, this signaled G‑d’s wish that the Jews should journey onwards — following the cloud until it came to rest in a new location of G‑d’s choosing. In some cases the Jews only stayed overnight in a particular location before the sign came for them to depart again, and on other occasions they would stay in one place for many years. This section then discusses Moshe’ two silver trumpets. These trumpets were used for several purposes: 1) To assemble the nation or its leaders. 2) To signal the beginning of a journey. 3) The trumpets were blown when the Jews went to battle. 4) The trumpets were sounded when certain communal sacrifices were offered in the Tabernacle.
Fifth Aliyah: Nearly one year after the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai, the cloud rises from the Tabernacle, signaling their impending departure. The Tabernacle was dismantled and they traveled in formation as outlined on last week’s Torah reading. Moshe pleads with his father-in-law Yitro to join them on their journey to the Land of Israel.
Sixth Aliyah: No sooner than the Jews start traveling, and they start complaining. First they complain about the “arduous” journey. Then they grumble about the manna, expressing their desire for meat. Moshe turns to G‑d and insists that he cannot bear his leadership role any longer. G‑d tells Moshe to gather seventy elders who will assist him in his leadership duties. He also promises to provide the Jews with an abundance of meat — “until it will come out of their noses…” Moshe gathers seventy elders and brings them to the Tabernacle where his holy spirit is imparted upon them. Two additional elders, Eldad and Medad, remain in the camp, and the Holy Spirit descends upon them, too, and they prophesy as well. Joshua is displeased by this, and Moshe calmed him.
Seventh Aliyah: G‑d causes a wind to sweep in huge numbers of quail from the sea. The people gathered piles of quail and started enjoying meat. Those who ate gluttonously died in a plague. Miriam, Moshe’ sister, spoke negatively of Moshe’ decision to become celibate. G‑d was highly displeased by this talk against His servant, and Miriam was stricken with tzara’at (“leprosy”) for one week.
something to think about
silence is golden
There is a proverb found in the Gemara – מילי בסלע, שתיקותא בתרי – literally; “Words can be worth a coin, but but silence is worth two!”.
It is intended to illustrate the power of being introvert, not speaking when not required.
The Vilna Gaon says that the etymology of the proverb is directly sourced the parsha.
סלע is a unit of currency, but literally translates to “rock”. Eldad and Medad foretold that Moshe was going to die and Yehoshua would bring them into Israel – משה מת, יהושע מכניס – Moshe was to remain in the desert, for the sin of hitting the rock and not speaking to it.
In other words מילי בסלע – if Moshe had spoken to the rock, then שתיקותא בתרי; the two, Eldad and Meidad, would have remained silent – never predicting Moshe’s downfall. Truly, the power of not speaking up.