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Perashat Behalotecha

Dedicated for a Refuah Shelemah for Yaakov Ben Leah Lulu and Chaya Malka Bat Batsheva by Ricky and Sandy Semah

Perashat Behalotecha

This week’s Parasha opens with Hashem telling Moshe to instruct Aharon: "When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light." Rashi explains that the three wicks on the right and the three wicks on the left were all directed toward the Menorah's central stem, thereby concentrating the light toward the center. Because its light was not spread out, the Menorah symbolized Hashem, the source of all light.

Rashi comments that Aharon was embarrassed that every other tribe, represented by their leader, had a role in the dedication of the new Mishkan, while Aharon and the tribe of Levi were excluded. Hashem consoled Aharon by telling him that his service of preparing and lighting the Menorah was a greater service than any role given to the other tribes. Rambam explains that the lighting of the Menorah was a consolation because the lighting of the Menorah in this Parasha alludes to the later Menorah of the miracle of Chanukah. At that later time, when the Temple service would be disrupted by the Greeks, and the Torah would be on the verge of being forgotten, only the faith and heroism of the Hasmonean family who were Kohanim and descendants of Aharon would succeed in driving out the enemy. They purified the Bet Hamikdash by lighting the Menorah, and through this they were ultimately responsible for saving the Jewish nation.

Later in the Parasha, we see that Miriam is punished with tzaraat for speaking Lashon Harah to her brother Aharon about Moshe. First, according to Midrash, Miriam was responsible for Moshe being born, because when their father Amram decided to separate from their mother because of Pharoah's decree, Miriam told her father that he was worse than Pharoah because Pharoah's decree was only against the boys while Amram, by separating from his wife, was preventing both boys and girls from coming into the world. Then when Moshe was born and was put in a basket on the Nile river, Miriam followed the basket to make sure Moshe would be safe and end up in good hands. We learn from this that Miriam was very devoted to her brother Moshe.

In this episode, seventy Elders are appointed by Moshe according to Hashem’s instructions, so that they will be able to share and thereby alleviate Moshe’s burden of leading the people and dealing with their many concerns and complaints. The Midrash tells us that when the Elders were appointed, it was a happy day with much rejoicing, and Miriam exclaimed, "How fortunate are the wives of these Elders who have been granted Ruach Hakodesh!" Moshe’s wife, Tziporah, replied, "On the contrary, they will be unhappy, because their husbands will now separate from them." In this way Miriam understood that Moshe had separated from his wife. Miriam then went to her brother Aharon to discuss this matter, in order to understand why Moshe would separate from Tziporah.

In Perek 12, Pasuk 2, Miriam says to Aharon: “Has the Lord spoken only to Moses? Hasn't He spoken to us too?"The text then continues: “And Hashem heard. Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth." The question is asked, Why is this mention of Moshe's humility introduced in the middle of this exchange? The Ramban and the Or Hachaim both explain that Moshe was so humble that it was unthinkable to accuse him of considering himself superior to the other prophets. Because of his humility, Moshe would never have defended himself against Miriam's charge. Therefore, Hashem had to intervene and punish Miriam for speaking against His servant Moshe.

The Torah’s characterization of Moshe as being humble sheds light on the nature of true humility. It is commonly assumed that humble people are afraid to speak up or assert their authority. This surely does not apply to the most humble man on the face of the earth - Moshe did not hesitate to confront Pharoah or to rebuke the entire nation of Israel; his humility did not deter him from doing what was proper, even if it was unpopular or dangerous. Rather humility refers to someone’s personal assessment of himself. He may feel humble that he has not achieved his potential, or that, even if he has, his greater innate ability puts greater responsibility on him, and no one has a right to feel haughty merely for doing what one is obligated to do.

We learned here from Moshe how humility is a most outstanding trait that we should all aspire to attain. This reminds me of a book I recently read. It’s a biography on the life of a special man from our community. His name was Rabbi Avraham Netanel A’h and the book is called “A Tzadik In Our Midst”. This man’s life story grabbed me in a most amazing way. This is the story of a man who really had no religious upbringing who ultimately grew to become the epitome of what we should all strive for. He didn’t have any meaningful connection to Judaism until he was 25 years old and despite that, he was able to grow to become an extremely learned and well loved Rabbi in our community with many followers. This showed me that any one of us can grow as he did to reach our potential, because that’s all that Hashem wants of us. In addition, he had tremendous midot and was humble way beyond his stature. He consciously kept himself under the radar and therefore would never take a formal position.

The book describes a time when there were several ba'alei battim that joined forces in an effort to have Rabbi Netanel open up his own Yeshiva. Knowing what a difference Rabbi Netanel was making in people's lives, they felt his leadership would be of great value to the community. Of course, Rabbi Netanel, an unassuming man by nature, didn't want to consider it. But these men were determined. Again and again, they reached out to him, trying to find a way to convince him of the importance of their request, until one day he seemed more receptive. These men were overjoyed, believing they had finally gotten through to him and thought it was going to happen.

However, the next morning, Rabbi Netanel approached them, his brow darkened in concern, visibly upset. "I'm sorry," he began,"But please, don't ever bring this up with me again. I cannot possibly be tied down to a yeshiva. If l am busy with a school, who will be busy with people having troubles? Who will take care of the people who walk into shul in need of help? Who will assist those who have no jobs or who have shalom bayit problems? Who will help the precious children who are getting thrown out of schools? Who will look out for the strangers in the street who are down? How can I give up helping so many people to take care of one single yeshiva? Please, let's never speak of this again."

The following story is an example of Rabbi Netanel’s commitment to others in need. The Rabbi was once walking in the street when he noticed a bachur of about eighteen shuffling along the sidewalk, face turned away as if to hide tears. Rabbi Netanel had never seen this boy before, but his nature would not let him ignore such a miserable sight. He stopped the boy and asked him his name. The boy mumbled a response. Next, he bluntly asked the boy what was wrong. Although he was reluctant to speak at first, the boy soon succumbed to Rabbi Netanel's genuine warmth and concern and spilled his heart out.

He explained that he'd just been forced to leave a certain Yeshiva in which he'd been looking forward to starting his Zman. But his hopes were soon crushed, when the Yeshivah told him that his learning was too weak for them to find him an appropriate Chavruta. Since they had no one on his level for him to learn with, they could not permit him to join the Yeshiva.

Rabbi Netanel looked the boy in the eyes and told him, "Go tell the Rosh Yeshiva that you found a Chavruta on your level. His name is Avraham Netanel." The boy, re-energized with purpose and joy, promptly turned around and raced back to the Yeshiva. He headed straight for the Rosh Yeshiva's office and knocked on the door.

“Come in," came the muffled response and he entered eagerly, smiling from ear to ear.

“Rosh Yeshiva," he exclaimed, "I found a Chavruta! He promised to learn with me every day, and said I should tell you that he is on my level."

The Rosh Yeshiva was skeptical. "Who is this Chavruta?" he asked. "And how did you find him so quickly? How much does he charge?"

"His name is Avraham Netanel, and he promised to learn with me for free," the boy answered. “So can the Rosh Yeshiva accept me now?"

The Rosh Yeshiva was stunned into silence. He sat there, frozen. In an instant, he had been thrown back twenty-five years. He remembered himself as a young bochor in the exact same situation. He too was rescued by Rabbi Avraham Netanel, who without a second thought offered to learn with him every single day. The rest, as they say, is history.

"So, am I accepted into the yeshiva?" the young man asked again.

"Of course the Rosh Yeshiva replied, his voice soft, wistful. "And tell your Chavruta....tell him I said thank you - for the second time."

The boy's brow wrinkled in confusion, but the Rosh Yeshiva smiled to himself in wonder at the way Hashem runs the world. Rabbi Netanel’s kindness had truly come full circle.

This is the legacy that Rabbi Netanel left with his children and many students of all ages and that’s why this book is so important for everyone to read. So they can learn the important Mussar from this special Tzadik’s life, which would most likely not be revealed to the public if not for the writing of this amazing book.

May we all appreciate the blessings we get from the Kohanim. May we also, learn the importance of not speaking lashon harah even when it’s seemingly innocent. Lastly, may we also learn from the life and the legacy of Rabbi Avraham Netanel, how to grow in Torah, Mitzvot and to constantly look to hesed for others and to always remember that Hashem is above us so to keep us very humble.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

Sarah Bat Chanah Esther Bat Sarah

Shulamit Bat Helaina Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana

Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rafael Ben Miriam

Rav Haim Ben Rivka Moshe Ben Mazal

Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

Moshe Ben Garaz Rahamim Ben Mazal

Avraham Ben Garaz Avraham Ben Mazal

Yaakov Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Kami

Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

Malka Bat Garaz Mordechai Ben Rachel

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