For the week ending 13 June 2009 / 20 Sivan 5769

Parshat Beha'alotcha

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Aharon is taught the method for kindling the menorah. Moshe sanctifies the levi'im to work in the Mishkan. They replace the first-born, who were disqualified after sinning at the golden calf. The levi'imare commanded that after five years of training they are to serve in the Mishkan from ages 30 to 50; afterwards they are to engage in less strenuous work. One year after the Exodus from Egypt, G-d commands Moshe concerning the korban Pesach. Those ineligible for this offering request a remedy, and the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini, allowing a "second chance" to offer the korban Pesach one month later, is detailed. Miraculous clouds that hover near the Mishkan signal when to travel and when to camp. Two silver trumpets summon the princes or the entire nation for announcements. The trumpets also signal travel plans, war or festivals. The order in which the tribes march is specified. Moshe invites his father-in-law, Yitro, to join the Jewish People, but Yitro returns to Midian. At the instigation of the eruv rav - the mixed Egyptian multitude who joined the Jewish People in the Exodus - some people complain about the manna. Moshe protests that he is unable to govern the nation alone. G-d tells him to select 70 elders, the first Sanhedrin, to assist him, and informs him that the people will be given meat until they will be sickened by it. Two candidates for the group of elders prophesy beyond their mandate, foretelling that Yehoshua instead of Moshe will bring the people to Canaan. Some protest, including Yehoshua, but Moshe is pleased that others have become prophets. G-d sends an incessant supply of quail for those who complained that they lacked meat. A plague punishes those who complained. Miriam tries to make a constructive remark to Aharon which also implies that Moshe is only like other prophets. G-d explains that Moshe's prophecy is superior to that of any other prophet, and punishes Miriam with tzara'at as if she had gossiped about her brother. (Because Miriam is so righteous, she is held to an incredibly high standard.) Moshe prays for her, and the nation waits until she is cured before traveling.


Turning Over The World

“We are contaminated by a human corpse; why should we be diminished by not offering G-d's offering in its appointed time?” (9:7)

A man goes into a shop to buy a watch. His eye settles on the glint of gold and he takes a fancy to a fake Rolex. The owner of the shop says, "Don't take that thing. It's rubbish. In six months it's going to be asking you the time. Take this one instead. True it doesn't look much on the outside, but it will last you for more than a lifetime."

But the buyer insists in spite of all on the fake Rolex so the storeowner says, "Okay, if that's really what you want – take it!"

“We are contaminated by a human corpse; why should we be diminished by not offering G-d’s offering in its appointed time?”

There's something strange about the above verse.

The group of people who complained about not being able to bring the korban Pesach said that the reason they were unable to do so was because they were contaminated. So why then should they ask, "Why should we be diminished?", meaning "Why should we be left out?" Didn't they already answer their own question? Because they were contaminated?

The answer is that their question was not a question at all, it was a cry from the heart. And through this cry from the heart an entire section of the Torah not given at Sinai was written into the Torah – the mitzvah of Pesach Sheni, a second chance to bring the korban Pesach.

What a person truly desires, G-d gives that person.

One of the ways that G-d interfaces with His creation is the characteristic called Hod. The week of the counting of the Omer that contains Pesach Sheni is the week of Hod. Hod is connected to the verb l'hodot' –"to admit"; meaning that G-d “admits” to what is in the heart of a person; that G-d will grant what a person really wants if his desire is authentic.

The Avnei Nezer asks why Amalek deserved the punishment of total obliteration. He answers that Amalek truly desired, in his heart of hearts, the removal of the Jewish People from existence. So G-d, so to speak, said, "Fine, you don't want the Jewish People to exist, so I will behave towards you as they don't exist; and seeing as the entire Creation was for the purpose of the Jewish People to observe the Torah, therefore there is no reason for the Creation to exist – in which case – you don't exist.

When Rabbi Akiva saw that water had carved a channel in a stone he reasoned that if something as soft as water could shape something as hard as stone, surely the Torah – which is as hard as iron – could shape his heart which was mere flesh.

Rabbi Akiva's feeling was, "Am I worse than a stone? Why should I be diminished?" Not having Torah was impossible to him. That feeling expressed from the deepest place of his heart brought a forty-year-old man who had never learned a thing in his life to be the father of the Oral Torah.

The nature of Hod is both frightening and exhilarating. Frightening, because it means that if our minds and hearts are full of superficial desires G-d will let us buy that fake Rolex.

And exhilarating, because if we really want Torah, then like Rabbi Akiva and those people who missed out on the korban Pesach, G-d will turn the world over for us.

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