Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Nissan ben Leah and Rav Ishai by Eliyahu Ben-Ishai and Family
Parashat Beha'alotcha Lighting the Menorah 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 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’alotcha 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 tzedakah 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. The Cloud Moves On and So Does Life Rabbi Frand comments on a specific passuk in this parasha. “When the Cloud lingered upon the Mishkan many days, the Children of Israel would maintain the charge of Hashem and would not journey (9:19).” The Torah says that the pattern of the Jewish Nation traveling and camping in the wilderness was dependent upon the movement of the Cloud that accompanied them. The Ramban says that it was not uncommon for the Jews to arrive at an undesirable place in the dssert. At times, they wanted to leave a place immediately, but they would need to stay because the Shechina stopped over the Mishkan. Similarly, at other times, they arrived at a lovely place, exhausted, and wishing to stay for a long time. Often, after only two or three days in such places, the Cloud began to move, and they continued their travels. Sometimes they would come to a spot, the Shechina would stop, and they would all unpack. Then, the next morning, after they finished unpacking all of their belongings, the Cloud would move, and they would have to pack up and start traveling all over again. Imagine such an experience! Think about what’s involved in going on a trip. The kids get loaded and packed, the suitcases get tied to the roof. When we finally arrive at our destination, we at least want to stay for a couple of weeks! There is an obvious question. G-d is not a puppeteer who demands that people “jump” for no reason. What was the point of making the journey in the desert so arbitrary? Rav Dessler offers insight in Michtav May’Eliyahu (Volume 4). The time in the wilderness was the period during which the Jews were taught most of the Torah. Perhaps G-d was trying to teach us the lesson that we must learn Torah and perform mitzvot despite outside conditions. We often make excuses like “I am busy with work,” or “I am having trouble with dating,” — “If only I had my shidduch and I didn’t have to worry about making a living — oh boy would I be able to sit and learn and pray without rushing!” But life does not work like that. Life is always full of disturbances. We are not living in Gan Eden. There are financial problems. There are problems with parents, problems with children. There are always problems! That is what the Torah is teaching us through the travels in the wilderness. Life in the desert was not easy. It was no picnic. But life must continue. In other words, we must continue learning and living as an honest and dignified Jew despite the surrounding conditions. 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 chas 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 brilliant 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 not the typical prophet! 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.” A question is asked; why is 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 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 learn from Moshe how humility is a most outstanding trait that we should all aspire to attain. Rise and Stand Together This past week has been a difficult one. With antisemitism on the rise, it hasn’t been easy to see the world stand against Israel and against the Jewish Nation. However, what’s absolutely remarkable, is seeing how the Jewish people banded together, uniting against antisemitism, all for one and one for all! When B’nei Yisrael come together as one heart, Hashem is like a father getting nachat from His children taking care of each other. Rabbi Yechiel Spero told a story about how about a woman name Sarah who went above and beyond to return a lost pair of tefillin. A new couple had just moved to Baltimore, and on their first Shabbat as newlyweds, the bride, Sarah, escorted her husband to shul on Friday night. She wanted to keep him company, so she went to the women’s section before Shabbat started. The women’s section in that shul is a Bet Midrash during the week, and it was pretty messy. She began to tidy up the books a little. While she was putting the sefarim on the shelves, she uncovered a tefillin bag buried underneath. Sarah took it and put it on a noticeable shelf, where no one would have to look far to find it. After she cleaned up, she admired her work and decided she would do this weekly. The next Friday, she went early to organize, and she noticed the tefillin were still there on the shelf, and the next week and the week after that as well. Clearly, whoever was missing the teffilin was not wearing them, and it upset her. Sarah put up a sign that said, “Whoever knows whose tefillin these are please call this number.” And she put a picture of the bag and took it home with her for safekeeping. Weeks later, she got a phone call from a woman who said, “My husband told me there is a sign in the Bet Midrash, and he sent me the picture, and I think I recognize the name on the bag. I’m almost sure it belonged to my old neighbor’s son. The family moved to Israel five years ago. I haven’t been in touch, but I have the mother’s number.” Sarah quickly took the number and called the woman in Israel. It rang twice and then was declined, so she left a message saying she had her son’s tefillin. Two minutes later, her phone rang. It was the woman in Israel. Sarah proceeded to tell her the whole story about how she was organizing, and how the tefillin were in the shul. And after her story, she said, “So tell me, is your son looking for his tefillin?” Sarah heard silence on the line, and then some muffled cries. The woman began to speak. “My son had unfortunately gone off the derech about five years ago. He struggled terribly and decided to stop wearing his tefillin. Our relationship has been extremely strained, and it’s been so so hard for me. We speak once or twice a year when he needs something. Today my son called me, and he said, ‘Ma, I think I want to come home. I think I’m going to start praying again. Do you know where my tefillin are?’ And when he asked his question, your number came across my screen. I told him I would try to find them, and I hung up, only to listen to your voicemail saying you had them. So, yes. To answer your question, my son is looking for his tefillin.” The boy got his tefillin and was chozer beteshuvah. That is the significance of looking out for your fellow Jew. Sometimes, we drift. This year, this week, it’s been especially hard. It’s been a difficult journey. But we have risen and achieved unimaginable things. We must look out for one another, and Hashem will bring Mashiach quickly and easily! May we all appreciate the blessings we get from the kohanim. May we remember to use the tools gifted to us as a means to always serve Hashem. May we learn and pray despite our circumstances. May we also learn the importance of not speaking lashon harah even when it’s seemingly innocent. May we be humble like Moshe, knowing although we are not even close to reaching our full potential, humility does not mean we can’t stand up for what’s right. May we look out for one another to give Hashem nachat from His children and to bring Mashiach speedily in our days! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey Discussion Points:
Do we learn, pray, and do mitzvot regardless of our circumstances?
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