Friday, June 16, 2006

Parshas Behaaloscha

זכרנו את הדגה אשר נאכל במצרים חנם (11:5)

On our verse, which relates that the complainers lamented their recollection of the fish they used to eat in Egypt, the Medrash Pliah cryptically remarks מכאן שמדליקין נרות בשבת – from our verse we may derive that one is obligated to light candles on Shabbos, a mitzvah which has no apparent connection to our verse whatsoever.

The Chida explains the Medrash Pliah by nothing that we must first understand what they were complaining about, as we are told that one was able to make the Mon taste like anything he so desired simply through his thoughts. If so, why were they complaining about the fish they used to eat in Egypt when they were perfectly capable of causing the Mon to take on that taste with no effort whatsoever? Rather, the Gemora in Yoma (74b) states that although one was able to make the Mon taste like anything he desired, it nevertheless retained the standard appearance of the Mon. Even though they were able to make the Mon taste like fish, they lacked the enjoyment and satiety which comes from seeing the food which they wished to taste. The Gemora there even notes that a blind person won’t enjoy or become as full from a meal as a person with normal vision who consumes the same food. Based on this complaint, the Medrash Pliah questioned how a person will be able to avoid the same dilemma on Shabbos, as he won’t be able to enjoy and appreciate the Shabbos delicacies if he is forced to eat them in darkness, and it therefore concluded that from our verse we may derive that one is obligated to light candles on Shabbos!


והמן כזרע גד הוא ועינו כעין הבדלח (11:7)

מי שאמר זו לא אמר זו ישראל אומרים בלתי אל המן עינינו והקב"ה הכתיב בתורה והמן כזרע גד וגו' כלומר ראו באי עולם על מה מתלוננים בני והמן כך וכך הוא חשוב (רש"י)

Rashi explains that in response to the complaint of the Jews that they have nothing to look forward to but the Mon, Hashem wrote in the Torah a description of how wonderful the Mon was as if to say, “Look, inhabitants of the world, at what my children are complaining about.” Rav Pam notes that although we don’t merit to here it, a Divine voice expressing frustration over the things we complain about still goes out regularly. We live in a time of unprecedented freedom and material bounty, and we are surrounded by a society which influences us to believe that we are entitled to immediate gratification, to have everything we want, when and exactly how we want it. If we would only step back and view our lives with the proper perspective, we would be so overwhelmed by the blessings we enjoy that there would be no room to complain about trivialities.

Every time that a husband comes home to a messy house, filled with children’s toys and dirty clothes, and once again berates his wife over her inability to keep their house clean, a Heavenly voice challenges, “How many families would do anything to have children and would gladly clean up the mess that accompanies them, and here is somebody who has been blessed with healthy children and is upset that they make his house disorderly? Where are his priorities?” When a husband or a child complains about eating the same supper for the 3rd consecutive night, Hashem can’t help but point out how many poverty-stricken families would do anything to eat this dinner every night for a year, if only to enjoy a nutritional and filling repast. Every time that the parents of the bride and groom quarrel over petty wedding-related issues such as who will walk which child down to the chuppa, a Bas Kol wonders how many parents will cry themselves to sleep that evening over their inability to find a proper match for their aging son or daughter, and who would gladly accede to any terms the other side would set … if only there would be another side. The next time we find ourselves upset about issues which are objectively nothing more than nuisances and minor inconveniences, let us remember the lesson of the Mon and open our ears to hear Hashem’s response to our complaints.


האנכי הריתי את כל העם הזה אם אנכי ילדתיהו ... מאין לי בשר לתת לכל העם הזה (11:12-13)

The S’fas Emes once noted that one of his recently-married Gerrer chassidim had suddenly become much less diligent in his studies. The Rebbe approached the newlywed and inquired as to the source of his recent absence from the Beis Medrash. The chossid was embarrassed that the Rebbe noticed his declining involvement in Talmudic studies, but explained that he was having a difficult time meeting his financial needs and was being forced to spend an increasing amount of time working to earn a living and support his new wife. The Rebbe asked whether he was receiving any financial assistance from his parents, to which the chossid replied that his father wanted to help him but simply didn’t have the money to do so.

The sagacious S’fas Emes called in the newlywed’s father to discuss his worries that the chossid, who possessed the potential for greatness, was being derailed from his true calling by mundane financial matters. The father expressed his concern, but reiterated that he was simply unable to do anything to be of material assistance. The Rebbe replied by asking him why Moshe Rabbeinu, in his complaints to Hashem, began by asking whether he had conceived and given birth to the Jewish nation, and only subsequently continued to express his inability to supply them with the tremendous amount of meat necessary to meet their desires. If he knew that he lacked the means to provide them with their request, why was it relevant whether or not he gave birth to them? The chossid remained silent, to which the Rebbe answered that we derive from here that only because Moshe didn’t conceive the Jewish nation was he able to excuse himself with the argument that he was incapable of meeting their demands, but if somebody did indeed give birth to another, then the claim of lack of means to assist and support them is completely invalid!


ורוח נסע מאת ד' ויגז שלוים מן הים ויטש על המחנה כדרך יום כה

וכדרך יום כה סביבות המחנה וכאמתים על פני הארץ (11:31)

וכאמתים - פורחות בגובה עד שהן כנגד לבו של אדם כדי שלא יהא טורח באסיפתן לא להגביה ולא לשחות (רש"י)

The Darkei Mussar quotes Rav Yitzchok Meir ben-Menachem (son-in-law of Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer) as deriving from here a beautiful lesson in how Hashem runs the world. Rashi explains that the quail floated in mid-air at a level of two amos (3-4 feet) off the ground, so that the Jews who went to gather them wouldn’t have to exert themselves to bend over and pick up the quail from off the ground. However, we know that a mere two verses later (11:33), the Torah relates that those who gluttonously consumed the quail died with the unchewed meat still between their teeth. If Hashem felt that their complaints and request for meat were inappropriate and planned to use the quail as an instrument of Divine punishment, why did He miraculously suspend the quail in mid-air in order to prevent unnecessary efforts on the part of such sinners?

Rather, we may derive from here that Hashem’s Divine system of reward and punishment is precisely meted out, and even a person upon whom suffering is decreed will only experience exactly the amount of pain which is coming to him and not the slightest bit more. We similarly find that although Yosef was sold into slavery and forced to endure untold suffering in Egypt, the Arab caravan which took him to Egypt was uncharacteristically carrying sweet-smelling spices (Bereishis 37:25) in order to save him from unnecessary suffering. Rashi also writes (Vayikra 14:34) that even when Hashem brings tzara’as upon the house of a person who speaks evil of others, it still brings with it the blessing of allowing the owner to discover valuable treasures which were hidden in the walls of house by the previous Canaanite inhabitants. Although nobody enjoys the suffering he is forced to endure throughout life, the knowledge that it is precisely meted out by a loving and compassionate G-d who won’t put him through the smallest amount of unnecessary pain can make it significantly more bearable.


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Rashi writes (27:5) that Moshe was punished through the laws of inheritance being hidden from him, such that he had to ask Hashem regarding them in response to the claim made by the daughters of Tzelafchad. Why wasn’t Moshe’s unfamiliarity with the laws of Pesach Sheini, regarding which he was also required to ask Hashem in response to the argument made by the impure men, similarly considered a punishment? (Rabbeinu Bechaye)

2) Why are people accustomed to eat matzo on the day of 14 Iyar to commemorate Pesach Sheini and not on the night of 15 Iyar when the sacrifice was actually eaten? (Kli Chemda)

3) Moshe questions (11:21-22) how he will be able to provide sufficient meat for 600,000 people to consume. This figure represents the number of male Jews between the ages of 20 and 60 at the time of the census taken in Parshas Bamidbar (1:46). Why wasn’t Moshe concerned about providing meat for men under the age of 20 and older than 60, for women, and for Levites, none of whom are included in this figure?

4) The Daas Z’keinim writes that Eldad and Meidad were conceived after the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. How is it possible that they were able to merit prophecy and repeat it throughout the camp when they were only a few months old at the time of the events of our parsha?

5) Why were Yehoshua and Gershom (see Rashi 11:27) concerned and upset by the fact that Eldad and Meidad were prophesying in the camp when the Mishnah rules (Sanhedrin 11:5) that one who represses his prophecy and refuses to share it with others is liable to be killed at the hands of Heaven, and if their argument was that Eldad and Meidad were false prophets, then they should be put to death, not overburdened with public service (Rashi 11:28)? (Toras Chaim, M’rafsin Igri)

6) The Shulchan Oruch rules (Yoreh Deah 242:15) that a student is prohibited from referring to his teacher by his first name. How was Yehoshua permitted to call his teacher Moshe by name (11:28), and even did so to his face? (Rema and Pri Chadash Yoreh Deah 242:15, Moshav Z’keinim, Shiras Dovid, M’rafsin Igri)

7) The Ramban writes (11:35) that the Jewish people erred in fleeing from Mount Sinai like a child running away from school. Why are they faulted for leaving Mount Sinai when the cloud lifted from on top of the Mishkan at this time (10:11) and they were commanded (9:17-18) to travel and follow the cloud whenever it lifted from the Mishkan? (Pirkei Torah?)

8) Rashi writes (12:4) that at the time that Hashem revealed Himself to Aharon and Miriam, they were impure from having had marital relations. How were they permitted to enter the Ohel Moed – which is the camp of the Divine Presence – at that time (12:4) when the Gemora in Pesochim (67b) rules that any person who is impure due to marital relations must be sent out of two camps, not only the camp of the Divine Presence but even the camp of the Levites? (M’rafsin Igri)

9) The Rambam writes (Hilchos Tumas Tzara’as 16:10) that Miriam didn’t intend to disparage Moshe with her comments to Aharon about him, but rather erred in equating the level of his prophecy to that of other prophets such as herself and Aharon. In his Peirush Mishnayos on Sanhedrin (Perek Cheilek), the Rambam lists the 13 fundamental principles of Jewish belief, one of which is that the level of prophecy of Moshe is unparalleled among all other prophets, and writes that one who denies even one of these beliefs is considered a heretic. Does this mean, G-d forbid, that Miriam was a heretic? (Kovetz Ma’amorim by Rav Elchonon Wasserman)

10) The Rambam writes (Hilchos Deios 7:3) that the punishment for one who listens to lashon hara is even greater than that for the person who speaks it. The Mabit writes (Beis Elokim Shaar HaTefilla 18) that both Miriam and Aharon were stricken with tzara’as, but Aharon was cured immediately, while Miriam remained stricken. As she was the primary speaker and he was listener (Rashi 12:1), why was her punishment more severe?


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