Parashat Beha’aloteha

Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Rina Bat Jamile, Renee Natkin A’h by her Daughter In Law Arlene Natkin

Parashat Beha’aloteha

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.”

Lighting the Menorah

Rashi explains that the three wicks on the menorah’s right and the three wicks on the left were all directed toward the menorah’s central stem, thereby concentrating the light toward the center. He asks why the wicks faced inward, thereby giving off less light. Rashi, following Midrash Tanchuma (Beha’aloteha 5), explains that this was so the people would not say that Hashem, Who is the source of all light, needed the menorah’s light to illuminate His Mishkan.

S’forno comments that the right side of the menorah symbolizes those who engage in spiritual pursuits, while the left side symbolizes those who engage in more worldly pursuits. By having both sides of the menorah give light toward its center, the Torah is teaching us clearly that all of man’s activities should be directed only towards the service of Hashem. For example, we can work on our businesses to support our families and give tzedaka as commanded by Hashem or we can eat healthy and work out in the gym so that we can keep our bodies strong to serve Hashem properly. Either way we must direct all our efforts towards Hashem.

Aharon’s Consolation

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 greater than the role given to any of the other tribes.

Rambam explains that the lighting of the menorah was a consolation because the menorah in this parasha alludes to the later Menorah of the miracle of Hanukah. At that later time, when the Greeks threatened the Torah’s existence, only the Hasmonean family, who were kohanim and descendants of Aharon, succeeded in driving out the enemy. They purified the Bet Hamikdash by lighting the menorah, ultimately saving the Jewish nation.

Miriam’s Lashon Harah

Later in the parasha, Miriam was punished with tzara’at for speaking lashon harah about Moshe to her brother Aharon. Before we discuss this incident, we must understand that Miriam was very devoted to her brother Moshe. First, according to the midrash Miriam was responsible for Moshe being born. When their father Amram decided to separate from their mother because of Pharaoh’s decree to drown all the baby boys, Miriam told her father that he was worse than Pharaoh. Pharaoh’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.

In this parasha, Moshe appointed seventy elders according to Hashem’s instructions. This way the elders would be able to 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 ruah hakodesh (prophecy)!”

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. So we see that Miriam didn’t has ve’shalom just gossip about Moshe for no reason — she suspected that he might have an issue in his personal life, so she wanted to discuss it with Aharon. Not only was Aharon their brother, he was also the kohen gadol and a very affective marriage counselor!

Miriam said to Aharon: “Has Hashem spoken only to Moshe? Hasn’t He spoken to us too?” In other words, Miriam said, “Why is Moshe separating from his wife? We are also prophets, and we haven’t separated from our spouses. We know that just because you’re a prophet, you don’t have to separate from your spouse! So why is he doing this?”

The answer is that Moshe was different than any other prophets. He was the only one who spoke to Hashem “panim el panim(face to face).” It’s true that all the other prophets did not need to separate from their spouses but Moshe was a special prophet!

Lashon Harah’s Power

We may not understand many things in our lives. We see things and hear things, but we will never understand the whole picture. Therefore, we are never permitted to talk lashon harah about others. We all have faults and none of us are perfect, so by speaking ill of others, we are implying that we are better, when in fact, we’re not. So when we speak lashon harah, we are trying to elevate ourselves at the expense of others by putting others down.

Lashon harah destroys lives, breaks up families, and causes our shortcomings to be examined in shamayim. The situation is so much more magnified today, because technology can spread lashon harah to hundreds of millions of people in a mere matter of seconds!

There is a fictional story about a rabbi from a local Yeshivah who is seen in the butcher buying a rack of lamb for $132. The lady standing on line behind the rabbi overhears and texts her friend, “My sons rabbi is buying a rack of lamb for $132, no wonder my son’s tuition is so high!” That person tells her friend the same thing and says, “We eat chicken to save money!”Another person then complains, “The rabbi is spending way above his pay grade!” Another person says, “I know his son from camp, he’s a little weird!” And then, “Someone tried to make a shiduch with his son... B’h it didn’t work out!” Then someone else texts that her sister who lives next door says, “They just LOVE food!” Someone else responds, “I don’t think this rabbi is a good role model for our children!”

Now they want to report the rabbi to the principal of the school because they feel he has serious issues. Another person agrees and says, “We better fix this problem now before it gets out of hand!”

The rabbi’s wife gets a call from her friend in LA that she’s hearing all kinds of problems about her husband’s spending habits, all before the rabbi even gets home!

The rabbi walks in and his wife tells him, “People are saying bad things about you, and telling everyone that you spent $132 at the butcher today.” The rabbi replies, “Mr. Schwartz asked me to do him a favor and pick up his order at the butcher for his son’s sheva berachot tomorrow night.”

At 2:29 that afternoon this Rabbi who was beloved in the community but by 2:55 pm, less than a half hour later, his reputation was destroyed. From the time it took the rabbi to walk home from the butcher after dropping off Mr. Schwartz’s rack of lamb, 200 people, from Monsey to Williamsburg to Lakewood, heard about the rabbi’s over-spending at the butcher, which eventually turned out to be pure lashon harah about the Rabbi and his family. Only none of it was true!

IF LASHON HARAH IS LIKE A GUN AND CAN DESTROY A PERSON, LASHON HARAH ON THE INTERNET IS A WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION!

How many people have been harmed like this? How many times have we destroyed the bet hamikdash today? Next time you’re about to send an email or text… think before you click Send! From here we can see that even the slightest trace of lashon harah will only lead to hurting others!

Moshe’s Humility

The text continues: “And Hashem heard [Miriam’s words]. Now the man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth.” The question is asked: Why is Moshe’s humility introduced in the middle of this exchange?

The Ramban and the Or HaHayyim 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 to assert their authority. This surely does not apply to the humblest man on the face of the earth: Moshe did not hesitate to confront Pharaoh 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 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 from Moshe how humility is a most outstanding trait that we should all aspire to attain.

A Contemporary Role Model

This reminds me of a book I recently read. It’s a biography of the life of a special man from our community. His name was Rabbi Avraham Netanel, A’h, and the book is called “A Tzaddik In Our Midst.”

This man’s life story grabbed me in a most amazing way because it’s 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 twenty-five years old. Despite that, he was able to grow to become an extremely learned and well-loved rabbi in our community. 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. He had tremendous middot and was humble way beyond his stature. He consciously kept himself under the radar, and would never take a formal position.

The book describes a time when several ba’alei battim joined forces in an effort to have Rabbi Netanel open up his own Yeshivah. They knew what a difference Rabbi Netanel was making in people’s lives, and they felt that 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 that the Yeshivah 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 Yeshivah. If I 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 Yeshivah? Please, let’s never speak of this again.”

Rabbi Netanel, A’h was a true example of a humble person. He put the needs of others ahead of his own and devoted his life to serving Hashem. He never felt he was better than anyone else and never engaged in gossip. One example of this is how one day the Rabbi marched into his living room, a look of absolute determination across his face. Without uttering a word, he bent over and grabbed the living room couch over his head out his front door, down the hall, and bumped it down the front steps to a garbage truck waiting outside. With a giant heave, he dumped it inside and walked calmly away. His children stood there, with their mouths wide open with astonishment and not quite sure what happened. When he returned to the house, the Rav faced the amazed faces of his children and simply said, “I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time. There’s no reason to have a couche in the house; it only brings lashon harah. If you’re tired, go to bed; if you’re hungry, sit at the table; if you’re not eating or sleeping, go to shul, go do hesed or go do something productive! Sitting on the couch only leads to speaking lashon harah.”

This is the legacy that Rabbi Netanel left with his children and many students of all ages. This book is so important for everyone to read, so they can learn the important mussar from this special tzaddik’s life, which would most likely not have been 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. May we learn from the life and the humility of Rabbi Avraham Netanel how to grow in Torah and mitzvot, to constantly look to do hesed for others. And lastly, may we remember to use the tools gifted to us as a means to always serve Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· How good are we with keeping our speech in check and not talking negatively about other people?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

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