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Parshas Behaaloscha - Vol. 2, Issue 30
Zacharnu es hadaga asher nochal b’Mitzrayim chinam (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 mikan she’madlikin neiros b’Shabbos – from our verse we may derive that one is obligated to light candles for Shabbos, a mitzvah which has no apparent connection to our verse whatsoever.
The Chida explains the Medrash Pliah by noting that we must first understand what they were complaining about, as we are told that one was able to make the Manna 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 Manna to take on that taste with no effort whatsoever?
Rather, the Gemora in Yoma (74b) states that although one was able to make the Manna taste like anything he desired, it nevertheless retained the standard appearance of the Manna. Even though they were able to make the Manna 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 a person is obligated to light candles for Shabbos!
V’hamon k’zera gad hu v’eino k’ein hab’dolach (11:7)
During their travels in the wilderness, a group of complainers began to lament the Manna which they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent tastes of the meat, fish, and vegetables which they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except for Manna. On our verse, Rashi explains that in response to their complaint, Hashem wrote in the Torah a description of how wonderful the Manna 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 hearing 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.
Although we don’t usually hear Hashem’s direct communication about this point, sometimes He sends us the message about priorities and values through a human agent, as illustrated in the following story. A student in a yeshiva was once complaining with his friends about the quality and selection of the meals that they were served. Each boy heaped more and more criticism on every aspect of the food, until they were jolted to their senses by one of the elderly teachers in the yeshiva. The Rabbi couldn’t help but overhear their loud complaints in the dining hall and walked over to deliver a succinct lesson: “In Auschwitz we would have done anything to have gotten such food.”
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, a Bas Kol (Heavenly voice) 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 that we find ourselves upset about issues which are objectively nothing more than nuisances and minor inconveniences, let us remember the lesson of the Manna and open our ears to hear Hashem’s response to our complaints.
Vayishma Moshe es ha’am
bocheh l’mishp’chosav (11:10)
The Gemora in Shabbos (130a) teaches that any mitzvah which was accepted by the Jewish people with joy, such as circumcision, is still performed happily to the present day. Any mitzvah that was accepted with fighting, such as forbidden relationships, is still accompanied by tension, as the issues involved in the negotiation of every wedding cause struggles. Of all commandments, why did the Jews specifically complain about the prohibition against marrying family members?
Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher suggests that when the Jews heard that they would be unable to marry their close relatives, they feared that they would be unable to enjoy successful marriages. They believed that the ideal candidate for marriage would be a person who was familiar since birth and who would be almost identical in terms of values and stylistic preferences. From the Torah’s prohibition to marry those most similar to us, we may deduce that Hashem’s vision of marriage differs from our own.
The Mas’as HaMelech derives a similar lesson from Parshas Ki Seitzei, which begins by discussing the Y’fas Toar – woman of beautiful form. The Torah permits a soldier who becomes infatuated with a non-Jewish woman during battle to marry her. This is difficult to understand, as only the most righteous individuals constituted the Jewish army. Rashi writes (Devorim 20:8) that somebody who had committed even the smallest Rabbinical sin was sent back from the war. How could such pious Rabbis be tempted to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman?
Rashi writes (21:11) that a person who marries a Y’fas Toar will ultimately give birth to a Ben Sorer U’Moreh – wayward son. The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. The Mas’as HaMelech explains that even the most righteous soldier will be taken aback upon encountering a woman who looks like him and whose voice is identical to his. All external signs seem to indicate that she is meant for him, and he may be convinced that Hashem’s will is to convert her and marry her.
However, from the fact that Rashi teaches that a wayward son will come out of such a union, we may conclude that the ideal marriage isn’t one in which the two partners enter already identical. A Torah marriage is one in which the two partners grow together over time to understand and respect one another, allowing them to overcome their differences and create a beautiful, harmonious blend of their unique perspectives and experiences.
He’anochi harisi es kol ha’am haze him anochi yelidtihu … me’ayin li basar laseis l’kol ha’am hazeh (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 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 great potential, was being derailed from his true calling by 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!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) As the Gemora in Yoma (24b) rules that lighting the Menorah isn’t considered part of the Divine service and may be performed by a non-Kohen, why is the section discussing the lighting of the Menorah addressed (8:1) specifically to Aharon? (Ritva and Tosefos Yeshonim Yoma 24b, Raavad and Mahar”i Korkos Hilchos Bias Mikdash 9:7, D’var Avrohom 1:14, Mikdash Dovid 21:2, Tzafnas Paneiach Hilchos Berachos 11:15, Shu”t Tzafnas Paneiach 52 and 251, Meshech Chochmah, Chazon Ish Menachos 30:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
2) Rashi writes (8:2) that there was a step in front of the Menorah upon which the Kohen would stand when cleaning out and lighting the Menorah. As the Menorah was only 18 tefachim tall (approximately 5 feet), why was it necessary for the Kohen to stand on a step to light it? (Rav Yonason Eibeshutz, Rav Leib Tzintz quoted in P’ninei Kedem)
3) Rashi writes (11:5) that the Manna tasted like whatever the person eating it desired, except for five tastes which it couldn’t take on because they are unhealthy for nursing women. Did the person eating it need to actually state the taste that he desired, or was it sufficient merely to think it? (Shemos Rabbah 25:3, Moshav Z’keinim 11:8, Chavatzeles HaSharon Parshas Beshalach)
4) Rashi writes (11:10) that the Jews began to weep over the fact that with the giving of the Torah, they were forbidden to marry various relatives. There is a Talmudic maxim (Yevamos 22a) ger shenisgayer k’katan shenolad dami – one who converts to Judaism is considered to be newly born, and is therefore not considered to be legally related to any of his former family members. Why did the Jews cry over the forbidden relationships when they all converted at Mount Sinai and were no longer considered to be related? (Gur Aryeh Bereishis 46:10, Shev Shmaitsa Hakdama 9, Kli Chemdah Vayigash 2, Shu”t Doveiv Meishorim 1:136, Chiddushei HaGranat Kesuvos 28, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M’rafsin Igri)
5) Is it permissible for a person who is suffering – physically or emotionally – to pray that he, or another person who is in pain, should die? (Ramban 11:15, Ran and Maharsha Nedorim 40a, Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 335, HaEmek Sh’eilah and Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 93, Shabbos 30a, Sefer Chassidim 301, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
6) The Gemora in Arachin (16a) teaches that a person is afflicted with tzara’as as a punishment for speaking lashon hara only if his words caused actual damage. Why was Miriam stricken with tzara’as (12:10) when her criticism of Moshe had no effect? (Sh’eilas Sholom on Sheiltos 98, Chofetz Chaim in Be’er Mayim Chaim Hilchos Lashon Hara 3:6, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
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