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Beha'alotecha

Parashat Beha'alotecha

by Adrian Kelaty, Dvar Yerushalayim Student
Gur Aryeh

DEDICATED TO:
YEHUDA BEN MOSHE KELATY, Z"L

SHABBAT SHALOM


Two events from this week’s Parasha occurred on this day: the month long miracle of the “Slav” (quail) ended, and Miriam was quarantined for speaking “Lashon Hara” against Moshe. According to many authorities, we are required by the Torah (Devarim 24:8-9) to remember daily the punishment which Miriam suffered for her sin. Nevertheless, there does not seem to be any correlation between keeping this Mitzvah and speaking less Lashon Hara. Why?

There are several reasons for this, each of which may be understood by a parable. If one ignores his doctor’s instructions on how to take a certain medication, the medication may not help him. Similarly, the above Mitzvah is not a magical cure; it comes with instructions - e.g. do not engage in idle talk, avoid situations where Lashon Hara is common, and so on - instructions which may people do not heed. Also, if a person ignores his illness until disease has spread to his whole body, medicine may be useless, or will at least take longer to have any effect. This is unfortunately the case with Lashon Hara; its prohibition is so neglected that there is no easy cure. Rather, one must recognize the extent to which he has become entrapped by this sin, and then true and complete repentance will be possible.
(R’ Yisrael Meir Hakohen, the “Chafetz Chaim”:
Kuntres Zechor L’Miriam, ch.1)

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Parasha Overview
This Parasha contains several - apparently unrelated - sections, but in truth, writes R’ A. Buchman, each teaches us about one aspect of the Torah concept of leadership.
The Parasha begins with a command to Aharon regarding the kindling of the Menorah. According to Chazal, the Menorah represents the light of the Torah. It is the obligation of leaders to spread this light and to raise Bnei Yisrael to a higher level. This is one reason why the Torah uses the word “Be’ha’alotecha” - “When you raise” - instead of a word literally meaning “When you light” in its command to Aharon.
From the “Pesach Sheni” story in this week’s Parasha we learn the proper way to lead. Moshe’s response to his petitioners was the correct one: “Let me see what G-d and his Torah have to say about this.”
The incident of Miriam’s “Lashon Hara” teaches us (among other lessons) that there are different levels of leaders. Miriam’s original failure to recognize that for all her greatness, and that of her brother Aharon, neither of them compared to Moshe, was the cause of her error.
The Haftara (Zechariah 2:14-4:7) reminds us that we and our leaders should not rely on human power and wisdom alone. “’Not through force and not through power, but only through My spirit.’ said Hashem.”
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Pirkei Avot
Do not say, “I will learn when I have time,” for you may never have time. (Ch.2)
R’ Yonah adds: “And even if you do have time later, the present has been wasted and lost, and can never be retrieved.”
This idea has Halachic implications, as the Mishnah Berurah explains: R’ Yoel Sirkes (the “Bach”; 1561-1640) was known to write his novel Torah insights on “Chol Hamo’ed”, when writing is generally prohibited. Why? Such writing would be permitted lest one forget his insights before the holiday ends, but that was not the Bach’s reason. R’ Yonah’s comment teaches us that if one learns tomorrow what he could have learnt today, he has transgressed the prohibition of “Bitul Torah” - wasting time which could have been devoted to Torah study. If the Bach discovered a novel insight on Chol Hamo’ed and did not write it down, he would have to devote time after the holiday to recording it and possibly, to reviewing the whole subject at greater length than would otherwise be necessary. [Notwithstanding the importance of review,] this would not have been proper for him.
(Mima’ayanot Hanetzach, p.96)
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“The seven lamps shall point towards the center of the Menorah.”
(8:2)
Many commentators see here an allusion to the complete body of human knowledge, sometimes called the “Seven Wisdoms.” Man is obligated to enlighten himself in all of these, but the outer lamps must point towards the center, i.e. they must all be studied and used in the service of Torah.
(Vilna Gaon and others)
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“From age 50 onwards, he [the Levi] shall return from service, he shall work no longer [in the Bet Hamikdash.]” (8:25)
Rashi comments: “But he may lock the gates.” Besides the obvious meaning, that an older Levi may hold the task of guarding the Temple, Rashi’s statement may be interpreted homilectically as well, based on the Mishnah’s (Avot, ch.5) teaching: “At age 50, give advice.” Although an older Levi may no longer serve in the Bet Hamikdash, he should use his life’s experience to “lock the gates,” i.e. to advise younger people on any paths he took in life which turned out to be wrong.
(R’ Avraham Mordechai of Ger)
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“They shall make it [the “Korban Pesach”], with Matzah and Maror they shall eat it.” (9:11)
The Gemara (Pesachim 35a) teaches that one fulfills his obligation to eat Matzah only if it is made from ingredients which have the potential to become Chametz. What does this signify?
The “Ohev Yisrael” of Apta explains that man can serve Hashem properly only if he serves Hashem through all his activities. These include his occupation, his eating and drinking, and his management of his possessions - i.e. those activities which may, so-to-speak, become “Chametz” through improper use. However, if one serves Hashem only through his Torah and prayer, he has not fulfilled his obligation, for these cannot be profaned.
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R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook—Part III
The staple of most Yeshivot is Gemara (Talmud), and that subject
is an important part of R’ Kook’s program as well. However,
whereas many scholars concern themselves with “Dikudukim” -
infinite numbers of subtle deductions - R’ Kook encouraged the
study of broader principles. To this end, he encouraged his
students to study works of “Kelalim” - i.e. general rules of
Talmudic interpretation. [Examples of these are Mavo Hatalmud,
printed in the back of Tractate Berachot, and Yad Malachi, a more
recent work. R’ Reuven Margaliot, a 20th century master of this
genre, refers to R’ Kook as his teacher, and exemplifies another
aspect of R’ Kook’s program which will be discussed next week.]
R’ Kook, like so many Lithuanian Roshei Yeshivot before him, understood that the goal of Talmud study is to be able to arrive at Halachic conclusions. Here too, R’ Kook’s approach differed from those of other teachers. He encouraged the study of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, both with and without its commentaries, with the goal of getting a broad overview of each Halachic subject. R’ Kook also encouraged the study of Gemara for “Bekiut” - wide-ranging knowledge - and even encouraged students to set aside time for “Davening Gemara.” This expression, taken from the way most people pray, refers to reading a page of Gemara quickly without stopping to ponder it too deeply. As for filling in the details of these broad overviews, “The air of Eretz Yisrael - the home of prophecy - makes one wise.” So it did, according to R’ Kook’s teacher, the “Netziv”, for the sages of the Talmud Yerushalmi.
All of the above views share a common source: R’ Kook’s conviction that the way Talmud was studied in Europe [and is studied today in most Yeshivot] derives from the methods of the Babylonian Talmud, while Yeshivot in Eretz Yisrael should follow the methods of the Jerusalem Talmud. Hamaayan’s readers will recall that the differences between the two are precisely the distinctions between the traditional European methods and R’ Kook’s proposals. These differences, we have seen, reappeared between the Talmud commentaries of the “Ba’alei Tosfot” on the one hand, and the Halachic codes of Rif (R’ Yitzchak Alfasi) and Rambam on the other. [Based primarily on R’ Shlomo Yosef Zevin, Ishim V’Shitot and R’ Moshe Tzuriel, Otzrot Hare’iyah.]
This week’s parsha opens with a description of the order for lighting the menorah—the candelabra which was situated within the Holy Temple. The menorah was made according to the instruction of G-d from one piece of gold. It was made from one piece, according to the commentary of the Seforno, in order to indicate that G-d is One.
The Rambam writes in the Laws of Yesodai Hatorah that when we say that G-d is One we must know that there is no unity or oneness in the creation like Him. It does not mean one like the beginning of a series of numbered things, and it does not mean unity in the sense of a general category which includes many particulars. It is a unity and oneness like nothing else in the creation.
The idea that the menorah reminds us of the unity of G-d brings to light a very interesting insight. It is customary to place in the synagogue in front of the shaliach tzibur, the prayer leader, the Name of G-d. Sometimes this is called a “shaviti,” which means “I have placed before me.” This refers to the verse, “I have placed G-d before me always...” (Psalms 16:8). In addition to the Special Name of G-d, other Names and verses are written upon it, and usually they are written in such a way as to take the shape of a menorah. Therefore, they are also sometimes called a “menorah”.
Thus, what is placed in front of the prayer leader to constantly remind him of the existence of G-d and the unique unity of G-d is called a menorah, and it is written in the shape of the menorah. It is an amazing insight to realize that according to the commentary of the Seforno the function of the menorah in the Temple was exactly the same: to indicate the existence and unity of G-d.
In this week’s parsha it is written, “If war comes to your Land, then blow upon trumpets against the enemy who is oppressing you; and you will be remembered before the L-rd your G-d, and you shall be saved from your enemies” (Numbers 10:9). Blowing the trumpets is an announcement of G-d’s sovereignty. When Israel announces that they are servants of the King, then He immediately hurries to save them from the oppressor, and thus, “...You shall be saved from your enemies.”
Furthermore, it is written there that when Israel makes camp or breaks camp, they must blow upon the trumpets. Also, “On the day of your festivals and seasons, and your new months, you shall blow upon the trumpets....” In other words, whenever a new time period begins, it is obligatory to announce to the public who is our King and to whom we serve. This is similar to the obligatory declaration of a person to announce who is his King and to whom he serves whenever the day and night alternate. He makes this announcement by reciting the shema (“Hear O’ Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.”)
However, recitation of the shema is a mitzvah incumbent upon individuals, whereas the blowing of the trumpets is a mitzvah of the tzibur, a mitzvah incumbent and relevant to the entire community. Just like the worship of the individual, the activities and arrangements of the community must also serve the will of G-d. The community is G-d’s army, and this is declared when they blow the trumpets.
Therefore, it is worthwhile to note that the trumpets are also made from one piece. They announce G-d’s sovereignty, and at the same time they remind us of His unique unity, that He is One.
In general, all the mitzvot serve to remind a person constantly of the One who commanded them. Nevertheless, there are many mitzvot whose intention is, much more specifically, to remind a person of his ultimate goal and the sovereignty of G-d. These include the shema, mezuzah and tzitzit.
There is a constant struggle being waged between the good and evil inclinations of a person. The evil inclination is constantly trying to force a person to forget what is his purpose and destiny, who is his King and to whom he serves. The material world also lends itself to the assault of the evil inclination upon the individual, and especially through its power to hide the existence and sovereignty of G-d, as Chazal have said. The Hebrew word for “world” is “olam” which comes from the same root of the word “he’elam” which means “hidden.” Thus, “the world hides” the existence and sovereignty of G-d.
Moreover, the soul of a person and the potential of kedushah within him is locked and hidden within the physical body. In order that the soul may reach its potential, many, many commandments are needed. They constantly remind a person of the One who commanded them. Along these lines Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto has written in Mesilat Yesharim that the many mitzvot exist “...In order that we should learn to fear the L-rd our G-d, and not forget our obligations to Him which material nature is constantly trying to remove from our attention.”
In this week’s parsha we have the mitzvah of making the Chatzotzrot (trumpets). The command to Moshe Rabbeinu to make two trumpets of silver specifies: “you shall make them ‘Miksha’”. What does ‘Miksha’ mean? It means the trumpets have to be fashioned from one piece of silver.
The trumpets had a number of purposes. They were used as signals (based on varying sound patterns) for gathering the people and for having the people prepare for travel; they were used on Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh; and they were blown at the time of war.
What we see from the previously quoted verse is that the trumpets had to be made “Miksha”—fashioned out of one piece. There are two other items that had to be made “miksha”—the Menorah and the Keruvim. Rav Aharon Lewin (the “Reishe Rav”) says there must be some philosophic message behind this. Why is it that these three items have to be made only from one piece?
The Reishe Rav offers a classic interpretation al pi Derush: Making something out of one piece is the more difficult way to make something. If one wants short-cuts, one assembles components that are made separately into a “final product”. (An illustration being the difference in price between Tefillin that are made “me’Or Echad” (from one piece), versus Tefillin that are glued together from separate pieces). On the other hand, something made out of one piece is stronger, tougher, and more durable.
Says the “Reishe Rav” there is symbolism to each of these three items:
According to Chaz”al, the Menorah symbolizes Torah. There are no shortcuts to acquisition of Torah knowledge—the path to success in Torah is the way of “miksha”. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the only way to do it. The proverbial attempt to learn all Torah over night while getting a good night’s sleep that same night never works! The way to acquire Torah is as the Mishnah says in Avos: to minimize food consumption, minimize beverage consumption, minimize sleep, etc. That’s why the Menorah was “miksha”.
The Trumpets symbolize Leadership. The Trumpets had to be made in the manner of “miksha” because the Leader, too, has to be as tough as nails. If a person wants to become a leader, to deal with people’s personalities and difficult issues, and to succeed at that task then he must be “miksha”— he must be made as tough as something that is made from one piece.
Finally, Keruvim are made “miksha”. Keruvim the Talmud says have faces shaped “like children”. There are two ways to raise children—the easy way and the tough way. The only way to be successful in raising children, says the “Reishe Rav”, is the tough way—there are no shortcuts. Tough decisions have to be made. Day in day out, from mundane little things such as how you get your young child into supper on time to more complex adolescent dilemmas, there are no easy answers; no easy decisions. There always is this same decision of taking the easy way out or “biting the bullet” and facing the situation with firm and decisive action. The Torah says the only way is “miksha”—that’s the only way to make a “Keruv”; to make a child. It is not necessarily the easy way, but it is the correct way.
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Rav Chaim Shmulevitz: Linkage of types of individuals who are considered
“like dead”
At the end of the portion we have the incident of Miriam speaking Lashon Hara about Moshe. Aharon beseeched that Miriam should not be “like a dead person”. Rash”i explains that a Metzorah is considered like one who is dead. There are other categories of people spoken of by Chaz”al, as being “like one who is dead”—for example the poor person, and one who is blind.
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, zt”l, says there is a common denominator between these categories: These people are all lacking something that is so important to life that if a person doesn’t have this, then he is figuratively speaking, dead. What is this item? It is the ability to give to others and to share.
The Metzorah who is forced to live outside the camp and is cut off from society is “chashuv k’mes” because he cannot contribute to the community. He can’t give and if one can’t give, it’s as if he’s dead.
The blind person who, [at least during Talmudic times,] lives in his own dark world and is not aware of the needs of others is cut off from society because of his terrible disability and consequently he too, generally speaking, is “chashuv k’mes”.
The poor person who has nothing and is on the receiving end of the community; ...and if he is not on the receiving end then he is still so occupied with his poverty that he can’t give to others ..is “chashuv k’mes”.
That, say Chaza”l, is why these types of people are “chashuniv k’mes”— because they lack the opportunity for an aspect of life which is so vital to what life is all about—the aspect of Olam Chessed Yibaneh (the World is built up through acts of Giving). One who cannot give and share with others is missing the essence of Life and is “chashuv k’mes”.


SHABBAT SHALOM