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Parshas Beha'aloscha - Vol. 11, Issue 37
Compiled by Oizer Alport
When the time arrived to offer the Korban Pesach in the wilderness, there was a group of people who were tamei (ritually impure) and therefore ineligible to perform this mitzvah. They approached Moshe to lament their inability to participate, questioning why their status should cause them to miss out on this mitzvah. Moshe told them that he would consult Hashem for guidance, and Hashem responded by teaching the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini (the second Passover offering), which offers a second chance to those who were unable to bring a Korban Pesach because they were impure or too far away. The Gemora (Sukkah 25a) discusses the identity of these impure individuals, with one opinion stating that they were the people tasked with transporting the bones of Yosef from Egypt to Israel, and another opinion maintaining that they were the men who buried Nadav and Avihu.
The Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, raises two difficulties with this episode. First, the Gemora's need to identify these individuals and the precise source of their impurity seems to imply that the presence of such impure people was unusual, when in fact the laws of nature were not suspended in the wilderness, and in a group of millions of Jews, death and its resulting tumah was a regular occurrence. As such, there should have been many Jews in this predicament; why did the Gemora specifically need to identify them as having become impure either through contact with Yosef or with Nadav and Avihu? Additionally, the claim of these people that they were being unfairly treated worse due to their tamei status is also hard to understand. A Jew who is impure is disqualified from performing many mitzvos, not as a punishment, but due to basic legal requirements. If so, what were the grounds for the complaint that these individuals presented to Moshe and Aharon?
Tosefos (Bava Metzia 114b) discusses the question of whether tzaddikim (righteous individuals) who have died transmit impurity. Although this is a fascinating concept which is mentioned in some Medrashic sources, Tosefos maintains that it does not have any basis in halacha (Jewish law), and every Jew who dies, no matter how great and holy he was, imparts tumah, and a Kohen is forbidden to have any contact with them.
The Satmar Rebbe suggests that in reality, a truly righteous individual is so pure that even after he dies, his body does not possess any impurity. However, halacha does not establish rules and guidelines that require knowledge of the innermost depths of a person's heart in order to evaluate them. Therefore, even though in theory a tzaddik should not transmit tumah, because it is impossible for us to determine who is genuinely a tzaddik, in practical terms we do not discriminate and must view all dead bodies equally. Nevertheless, although we have no choice but to treat all dead bodies as sources of impurity, in Heaven it is known who is truly a tzaddik and completely pure.
With this novel insight, the Satmar Rebbe explains that in the case of the tamei individuals who approached Moshe, the law was clear: They were considered impure due to their contact with the dead. Nevertheless, they argued to Moshe that he knew how great Yosef was, as we hold him up as the paradigm of righteousness in referring to him as Yosef HaTzaddik, and how great Nadav and Avihu were, as Moshe himself described them (Rashi Vayikra 10:3) as being even greater than he and Aharon were. If so, why should they lose out on the opportunity to bring a Korban Pesach when it was clear that in Heaven, Yosef, Nadav, and Avihu were completely tahor (pure) and did not impart any impurity to them? This is alluded to by their use of the unusual expression Anachnu temei'im l'nefesh adam - we are impure through the soul of man - instead of the more precise anachnu teme'im l'meis - we are impure through a dead body. The Zohar HaKadosh teaches that of the many Hebrew words that refer to a person, the term Adam is used to connote a respected and important individual, which is the point that they were trying to make.
In light of this explanation, the Satmar Rebbe explains that the aforementioned difficulties with this episode are now resolved, as the ability to present this challenge to Moshe was unique to these individuals, whose only "impurity" was due to their contact with either Yosef or with Nadav and Avihu, but those Jews who had become tamei through contact with those who died naturally in the wilderness didn't have any grounds to make this complaint. Similarly, those who made this argument were not bothered by the law excluding an impure person from performing certain mitzvos, but rather were claiming that they shouldn't miss out on this important mitzvah when they weren't truly tamei altogether.
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 tastes of the meat, fish, and vegetables that they ate in Egypt, and now they had nothing to look forward to except Manna. When Moshe heard them weeping, he approached Hashem and expressed his concern about his inability to single-handedly obtain enough meat to sustain the nation. Hashem responded by commanding Moshe to gather seventy elders to the Mishkan, where Hashem would spread some of Moshe's spirit onto the elders so that they could assist him by sharing in the burden of providing for the nation.
When Hashem transferred part of Moshe's spirit to the elders, they were spiritually elevated and were temporarily able to prophesy. Two of the elders, Eldad and Meidad, remained behind in the Jewish camp, where they began to prophesy publicly. When Moshe's trusted servant Yehoshua heard what was happening, he petitioned Moshe to incarcerate them. What where Eldad and Meidad doing that upset Yehoshua so greatly? The Gemora in Sanhedrin (17a), quoted by Rashi, explains that it was the content of their words that angered him, as Eldad and Meidad were prophesying that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would lead the nation into the land of Israel. As there is no explicit mention of this message, where did Chazal find an allusion indicating that this was the prophecy they were sharing?
The Chanukas HaTorah brilliantly answers by pointing out that the Torah records (Shemos 2:10) that Moshe's name was given to him by Pharaoh's daughter to connote the fact that min ha'mayim meshi'sihu - I drew him from the water. As the Torah always conveys information in the most concise manner possible, it would have seemingly been more succinct to say mi'mayim meshisihu instead of min ha'mayim, in which case the letters nun and hei are apparently superfluous. Why did the Torah utilize these additional letters to express the significance of Moshe's name? The Chanukas HaTorah explains that Hashem intentionally avoided using the shorter alternative because the word mi'mayim can be read as an acronym for Moshe meis Yehoshua mach'nis - Moshe will die, and Yehoshua will bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisroel. Because it would be inappropriate to allude to such a prophecy in conjunction with the giving of Moshe's name, the additional letters nun and hei were inserted to interrupt and break up the acronym.
The Torah records that Eldad and Meidad were misnabi'im ba'machaneh - prophesying in the Jewish camp. The word ba'machaneh can be read as a combination of two words bamach-aneh, meaning that the content of their message was to eliminate (the letters ξη form the root of the verb meaning "to erase") the letters nun and hei that were added in Parshas Shemos to the reason for the selection of Moshe's name, in which case the words of Pharaoh's daughter would revert to mi'mayim, which hints to the fact that Moshe meis Yehoshua mach'nis, and it was this insolent implication that angered Yehoshua.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) 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 it. 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? (Peninei Kedem)
2) Rashi writes (9:7) that the section discussing the laws of Pesach Sheini would have been taught by Moshe together with the rest of the Torah, but the impure men merited that the portion was introduced and written as a result of their actions. Rashi similarly writes (27:5) that the daughters of Tzelafchad merited bringing about the teaching of the laws of inheritance through their actions. Why aren't the names of the impure men specified, as are the names of the daughters of Tzelafchad, in order to give them proper credit for introducing this section? (Darash Moshe)
3) The Torah testifies (12:3) that Moshe was humbler than any person on the face of the earth. Does this mean that it is physically impossible for another person to be humbler than Moshe, or is the Torah merely stating the facts and teaching that in reality nobody was ever more humble than Moshe, even though it is theoretically possible to do so? (Ayeles HaShachar)
4) The Torah records (12:13) that Moshe prayed on behalf of his ill sister Miriam. Why do we pray for the healing of a sick person using his mother's name? (Zohar HaKadosh Parshas Lech Lecha 81a, Maharshal Shabbos 66b, Chasam Sofer Parshas Bereishis, Ben Yehoyada Berachos 55b, Shu"t Torah Lishmah 399, Ma'adanei Asher 5768)
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