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Parshas Behaaloscha -
Vol. 3, Issue 35
Compiled by Oizer Alport
He’anochi harisi es kol ha’am hazeh im anochi yelidtihu … me’ayin li basar lases l’kol ha’am hazeh (11:12-13)
The S’fas Emes once noticed that one of his recently-married Gerrer chassidim had suddenly become much less diligent in his studies. He approached the newlywed and inquired as to the source of his recent absence from the Beis Medrash. The young chossid, embarrassed that the Rebbe recognized his declining involvement in his studies, 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 Rebbe called in the newlywed’s father to discuss his worries that the young 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, 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 Moshe knew that he lacked the means to provide them with their request, why was it relevant whether he gave birth to them?
The father remained silent. The Rebbe continued, explaining 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. However, if somebody did give birth to another person, a claim of a lack of means to assist and support them is completely invalid!
V’ruach nasa me’es Hashem vayagez slavim min hayam vayitosh al hamachane k’derech yom koh uk’derech yom koh sevivos hamachane uk’amasayim al p’nei ha’aretz (11:31)
During their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness, the Jewish people were sustained by Manna, which miraculously fell each day from Heaven. All they needed to do was go out each morning to collect it, allowing their physical needs to be met with a minimum of exertion. Moreover, our Sages teach that the Manna tasted like whatever the person eating it desired (Rashi 11:5).
Parshas Behaaloscha contains a tragic incident, in which a group of ungrateful complainers began to protest the Manna that they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent meat that they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except Manna. Hashem responded to their lack of appreciation by giving them an abundance of meat.
Although this entire episode is difficult to comprehend, one detail in particular stands out as particularly curious. The Torah records that the meat was two cubits (3-4 feet) above the ground. Rashi explains that the animals floated in mid-air at this level so that the Jews who went to gather them wouldn’t have to exert themselves to bend over and pick them up from the ground.
However, we know that a mere two verses later, the Torah relates (11:33) that those who gluttonously consumed the meat died with the meat still between their teeth. If Hashem felt that their complaints and demands were inappropriate and planned to use the meat as an instrument of Divine punishment, why did He miraculously suspend the animals in mid-air to prevent unnecessary efforts on the part of such sinners?
The Darkei Mussar derives from here a beautiful lesson in how Hashem runs the world. Rashi is teaching us that Hashem’s system of reward and punishment is meted out very precisely. Even a person upon whom suffering is decreed will only experience the exact amount of pain which is coming to him and not the slightest bit more.
This concept is illustrated in the following story. A man once arrived at the airport and checked in for his flight. After he was already in his seat and waiting for takeoff, the flight attendant approached to explain that he hadn’t paid the balance of his ticket and must deplane. The man was livid, as he knew that he had paid and he needed to be on this flight. The flight crew was insistent that they wouldn’t take off with him on board, and they suggested that he quickly sort it out at the gate.
Highly perturbed but left with no choice, the passenger went to argue with the manager. Unfortunately, by the time the manager located the source of the error, the plane had departed. The man was beside himself with anger … until he heard on the news that the plane had crashed without any survivors. He was so overcome with emotion that it took him several minutes to realize that although his life was spared, his suitcase had been left on the plane and was destroyed. Still, any pain he felt over his lost personal items paled in comparison to his tremendous joy over his life being saved. Even though Hashem had decreed that he must lose his suitcase, He took it away in a calculated and precise manner which minimized the pain.
Although nobody enjoys suffering, 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.
Vayakam ha’am kol hayom ha’hu v’kol halayla v’kol yom hamacharas vaya’asfu es ha’slav hamamit asaf asarah chamorim vayisht’chu lahem shatoach sevivos hamachane (11:32)
During their travels in the wilderness, a group of complainers began to protest the Manna that they were forced to eat day after day. They wailed that they missed the succulent meat that they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except Manna. Hashem responded by sending them an abundance of meat.
The Torah records that the people spent an entire day, night, and the following day gathering the meat. The person who gathered the least meat had 10 chomers. The Vilna Gaon beautifully explains the mathematics behind this statistic. The Torah relates that the meat fell around the Jewish camp. It stands to reason that those on the outside of the camp were closest to it and were able to make the most trips and gather the most meat. The people who collected the least were those who lived in the middle of the camp.
The Gemora in Pesachim (93b) teaches that an average person is capable of walking 10 parsaos in a day. The Gemora in Berachos (54b) teaches that the size of the entire Jewish camp was three parsaos by three parsaos. A person walking from the middle of the camp to the edge and back to his tent would traverse three parsaos. Since they gathered for two days and one night, each person was able to walk a total of 30 parsaos. Given that each round-trip for a person living in the middle of the camp was three parsaos, he could make a total of 10 round-trips. Since an average person is able to carry one chomer, those who lived in the middle of the camp and gathered the least ended up with exactly 10 chomers!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (9:7) that after Moshe told the men who were impure that sacrifices may only be offered by pure people, they suggested that an offering be brought on their behalf by pure Kohanim, with the meat to be eaten by Jews who were pure. Although a Korban Pesach brought on behalf of a group consisting of pure and impure individuals is valid, what did the impure men hope to gain by their request, as they would still be unable to fulfill any of the actual mitzvos related to the Korban Pesach? (Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, Darash Moshe, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) 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. Was one permitted to think that the Manna should taste like a mixture of cooked milk and meat, or on Pesach that it should taste like chometz? (Chida Chullin 109b, Sha’ar Bas Rabim and Chavatzeles HaSharon Parshas Beshalach, Binas N’vonim on Medrash Pliah, Shu”t Tzafnas Paneiach 3)
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. What did it taste like if he didn’t specify any taste? (Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha Parshas Beshalach)
4) After the Jews demanded meat to eat (11:4), Hashem caused a wind to blow quail from the sea into their camp (11:31). May one derive from here that poultry is legally considered a form of meat, and if not, why didn’t Hashem satisfy their request? (Shu”t Yehuda Ya’aleh 143, Yad Shaul Hilchos Nedorim 216, Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv Kamma 1:237, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
5) The Gemora in Nedorim (38a) derives from Moshe that a prophet must possess four qualities: humility (12:3), wisdom, strength, and wealth. Why must a prophet be strong and rich? (Rav Chaim Volozhiner quoted in Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Shemonah Perakim L’Rambam 7)
6) The Mishnah in Avos (5:7) lists seven characteristics of a wise person, one of which is that he doesn’t interrupt another person who is still speaking. From where in Parshas Behaaloscha is this lesson derived? (Bartenura Avos 5:7)
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