For the week ending 10 June 2017 / 16 Sivan 5777

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'im are 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.


Stage Fright

“And Aharon did so…” (8:3)

Stage fright, or as it’s called in Hebrew “aimat ha’tzibbur” — literally, “fear of the public”, affects nearly everyone.

For some people, having a molar extracted without anesthesia would be a preferable alternative to having to perform in public.

The degree of nervousness depends on several factors: The size of the audience, the importance of the audience, the amount, or lack, of preparation, the importance of the event, and the difficulty of the presentation.

Several years ago I was invited to speak at the plenary session of Agudat Yisrael. I had taken the precaution of flying to New York a couple of days before the event, having remembered a previous experience when I got off the plane, jumped into a taxi at JFK airport, rushed over to Long Island, davened with the yeshiva and then gave a speech to them for an hour. I had slept little, if at all, on the plane, and when I started to speak I felt like someone had filled my mouth with steel wool.

Because the Aguda Convention was both very large (around five thousand people) and it was a very distinguished gathering, I rehearsed my speech until I could “do it in my sleep”. Not that that left no room for improvisation and spontaneity, but I believe, like a gymnast or a musician, when you reach the point where things become automatic, you can go into a “state of flow”. Because your mind is relieved of all technical considerations, you can “fly”.

I’m happy to say the speech was well received, but at the end of the day, however much work you put in, finding chein (favor) in peoples’ eyes is something that comes only from G-d.

In this week’s Torah portion Aharon HaKohen has a “command performance” that leaves all teeth-chattering, palm-sweating appearances in the shade. Aharon has to perform in front of the most important “audience” in the universe — G-d.

An ordinary person having to light the Menorah in front of the Master of the Universe would lose all physical coordination, become a mass of quivering jelly and pour the oil all over the floor.

Aharon, however, “did so.” Aharon rose to the occasion and performed his task flawlessly.

  • Sources: based on the Kedushat Levi as seen in Mayana shel Torah

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