Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 10   No. 36

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Parshas Beha'aloscho

The Four Camps
(Part 2)

The tribe of Levi, twenty-two thousand in number, surrounded the Mishkan, Moshe and Aharon and his sons encamped in the east, Gershon in the west, Kehas in the south, and Merori in the north. These corresponded to the twenty-two thousand angels who immediately surround G-d's Throne [and who descended on to Har Sinai together with G-d Himself]). And the four camps of Yisrael (Yehudah, Reuven, Efrayim and Dan), which surrounded the Levi'im, corresponded to the four camps of angels which surround the twenty-two thousand (the camps of Gavriel, Micha'el, Refael and Uriel, respectively).

Rabeinu Bachye elaborates on the comparison between the Camp of Yisrael and the Camp of the Shechinah: Of the four (Angels known as) Chayos, the one who encamped in the east together with Gavriel was called 'Aryeh' (Lion); the one in the west together with Refa'el, 'Shor' (Ox); the one who encamped in the south together with Micha'el was called 'Adam' (Man); and the one in the north together with Uriel, 'Nesher'(Eagle). These in turn, corresponded to the four lead tribes, Yehudah, Reuven, Efrayim and Dan, respectively.

Interestingly, the Zohar switches the camps of Gavriel and Uriel. According to the Zohar, Machaneh Yehudah corresponded to Uriel, and that of Dan to Gavriel. And it is the Zohar's opinion that we voice when we say 'On my right is Micha'el, and on my left, Gavriel; in front of me is Uriel and behind me, Refa'el'(which Rabeinu Bachye himself quotes in Parshas Naso).


As further evidence of the close link between the two sets of camps, Rabeinu Bachye points out that just as the four Angels all ended with the Name of G-d (Keil), so too, did one Nasi in each camp. In fact, it was the second Nasi who enjoyed this distinction, 'Nesan'el' (Yisachar), 'Shlumiel (Shimon), 'Gamliel' (Menasheh) and Pag'iel (Asher). Nor is the choice of these tribes inconsequential, since the days on which these four Nesi'im brought their inaugural sacrifices (the second, the fourth, the seventh and the eleventh) add up to twenty-six, which is the numerical value of G-d's four-letter Name (Hashem).


The K'li Yakar gives his own interpretation of the Four Camps. Based on the Rambam, he explains that the Camp of Yehudah signified Chochmah (wisdom), that of Efrayim, Gevurah (strength) and that of Dan (wealth, which explains why they were the ones to make the golden calves of Yeravam). The Camp of Reuven signified Midos (humility and good character-traits, which is close enough to Teshuvah).

These four incorporate the four assets which serve as prerequisites for the Shechinah to dwell in Yisrael. For so the Gemara says in Nedarim (38a) 'The Shechinah only rests on a man who is wise, wealthy, strong and who is humble'. And that explains their significance here, since it reflects the merits by which the Camp of Yisrael earned the Shechinah in their midst.


The K'li Yakar also discusses the great importance the many Medrashim attach to the intrinsic institution of the Four Camps. Based on a Pasuk in Tehilim (20:6), he quotes the Medrash that we cited in the first article, describing Yisrael's jealousy vis-a-vis the angels, whose four camps they had seen at Har Sinai. And based on a Pasuk in Shir Hashirim, he cites another Medrash which describes how the nations invited Yisrael to join forces with them, and they tried to tempt them with promises of high positions of leadership. But Yisrael responded in the negative. There was no way, they retorted, that their offers could even remotely match the formation of the Four Camps that G-d arranged for them, Yehudah in the east, Efrayim in the west ... , however attractive they might appear.

What does the Medrash mean, asks the K'li Yakar? What was so special about the Four Camps, and how did it supercede the tempting offers made to them by the nations?

It was not the physical formation that so excited K'lal Yisrael, but the fact that they encamped around the Mishkan, which in turn, housed the Shechinah, as Rabeinu Bachye stresses, based on a Medrash. And this was the very essence of Machaneh Yisrael, as is clearly demonstrated in every detail of the vivid description of the way they encamped and departed, in this week's Parshah. Added to that, is the answer of the K'li Yakar himself, who dwells on the one thing that the nations of the world did not offer them - safety from their own clutches. As long as Yisrael merit the Shechinah in their midst, they are assured freedom from the shackles of bondage which, without it, is their lot.

In short, Machaneh Yisrael is reminiscent of the Pasuk in Bechukosai (26:12) "And I will stroll in your midst and I will be for you a G-d and you will be for Me a nation". That is the last of the B'rachos, because it incorporates all the others. We have but to observe the utopian existence of Yisrael in the desert, to realize how empty and meaningless were the promises of the nations in comparison to the Four Camps, which demonstrated that G-d was in our midst. And it was the formation of the camps that reflected the greatness of K'lal Yisrael, which in turn, explains why He chose to do so, as the K'li Yakar explained earlier. In a nutshell, it ia the embodiment of ''Ani le'Dodi ve'Dodi Li".


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Aharon's Consolation

The Menorah is juxtaposed to that of the Nesi'im, Rashi explains, because when Aharon realized that neither he nor his tribe had participated in the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach, he felt faint. So G-d quickly reassured him that he would kindle and prepare the Menorah each evening.

To explain what was special about the Menorah, and why kindling it more than any other Avodah, put Aharon's mind at ease, the Avnei Azel cites the Seforno. The Seforno, in Parshas Naso, explains how each Nasi brought the Korbonos that he felt would atone for those sins that his tribe had perpetrated.

When Aharon, on whose shoulders the sin of the Golden Calf weighed heavily (see for example Rashi, Shemini 9:7), saw that he and his tribe were somehow precluded from participating in the inauguration, he ascribed it to the gravity of his sin. And he figured that as a result, the Shechinah would not descend upon Yisrael. After all, the other Nesi'im had all atoned for their tribes, and it was only he and his tribe who remained un-atoned.

That is why, of all the Avodos, G-d showed him the lighting of the Menorah. When the Menorah was lit each day, the 'Ner ha'Ma'aravi' (the second lamp or the middle one) was the first to be lit and (in spite of the fact that it contained no more oil than the other lights), it burned all day and was the last to go out. It served as an ongoing testimony that the Shechinah rested in Yisrael.

And what's more, says the Avnei Azel, it was on the merit of the Kohen Gadol that this daily miracle occurred, as we see from the fact that, after the death of Shimon ha'Tzadik (at the beginning of the period of the second Beis-Hamikdash), it stopped.What better proof was there that Aharon's sin had been forgiven, and that, not only would his sin not impede the Shechinah from descending, but that he would be responsible for its descent.

The fact that Aharon did not participate in the inauguration of the Nesi'im was certainly not due to Aharon's sin. If anything, it was because he and his tribe had no sin that required atonement.


A Step in the Right Direction

Rashi, quoting a Chazal, explains that the word "Beha'aloshco", which has connotations of climbing, teaches us that there was a step leading up to the Menorah on which the Kohen woud stand and prepare the lights. The question arises why this was necessary. The Menorah after all, was only three Amos tall (the height of an average person minus his head), so that anyone other than a midget could reach the lamps with ease.

The Me'lo ho'Omer points out however, that the Pasuk is talking about Aharon (see also the Ramban, who explains that it was probably Aharon who usually kindled the Menorah). And Aharon, in his capacity as Kohen Gadol, was forbidden to raise his hand higher than the Tzitz that he wore on his forehead. Consequently, without the step, kindling the Menorah would have been problematic.


With this, says the Gerer Rebbe, we can also understand why Rashi refers to 'preparing the lights', rather than kindling them. Kindling the lights (each evening), he says, is permitted to a Zar (a non-Kohen) in which case, Aharon would not necessarily have worn the Tzitz whilst performing the Mitzvah. Preparing the lights (each morning) on the other hand, was confined to Kohanim, and Aharon would have been forbidden to do it without wearing the eight garments of a Kohen Gadol.


Genuine Humility

"And the man Moshe was very much more humble than all other men" (12:3).

Some people, explains the K'sav Sofer, put on a show of humility purely so that others should praise them for their modesty. The moment however, that people see through their disguise, and begin to accuse them of vanity, they drop their pretence, which no longer serves any purpose. Not so the person who is genuinely humble. He behaves humbly because he considers himself small, and remains unperturbed by the talk of others.

Moshe heard Aharon and Miriam talk about him, accusing him of unprecedented pride (in considering himself superior to themselves and to others). Yet the Torah testifies that even after that, Moshe continued to be the most humble of all men. Incidentally, the Torah here refers to Moshe as the ''Ish'', and at the same time, describes him as more humble than any other "Adam". Moshe was truly an 'Ish' (defining a spiritually superior man), yet he was more humble, not only than 'Anashim' like himself, but even than all 'B'nei Adam' (a title which usually describes the ordinary man in the street). It is one thing for a great man to be more humble than other great men, and for an ordinary man to be more humble than other ordinary men. It is quite something else for the greatest of men to be more humble than the ordinary man in the street. That is indeed the highest form of humility.


Attacked from All Sides

When Moshe's motives were queried by the 'Safsuf' (the Eirev Rav) and the rest of the people, perhaps he thought, he would find support among the Nevi'im. But what did Eldad and Meidad have to say about him? 'Moshe will die', they prophesied, 'and Yehoshua will lead the people into Eretz Yisrael' (perhaps even conveying the impression that Moshe would lose this right due to his conceit, and Yehoshua, the great Anav, would receive it in his stead).

But surely, he reckoned, his own flesh and blood would at least come to his defense. Yet even Aharon and Miriam came out sharply against him, accusing him once again of haughtiness. Had there been even a minimal degree of show on Moshe's part, he would now have dropped the facade and begun to 'act normally'.

But no, the Torah immediately testifies that Moshe remained the most humble of men, leaving us in no doubt as to the extent and the genuineness of Moshe's humility.


Heads You Win, Tails I Lose

" ... because we were foolish, because we sinned in error" (12:11).

If we erred, said Aharon and Miriam, pardon us as if we had sinned by mistake (Medrash).

What does the Medrash mean with that?

The Shev Sh'ma'atsa (in his introduction) explains it according to Rashi, who explains in turn, that Aharon's and Miriam's sin can be understood in one of two ways. Either they grossly underestimated Moshe's greatness, in which case they were insulting G-d, in accusing Him of choosing a man who was unfit to lead K'lal Yisrael, or they fully accepted G-d's decision, in which case their attack against Moshe was deliberate.

That is why they asked Moshe that even if their sin against him was based on their misjudgment of his level, he should pardon them as if they had sinned against him on purpose. For it would be easier for Moshe, in his deep humility, to forego his own honour, than to forgive them for one's hairsbreadth of the honour of G-d.


Relatively Speaking

"Do not let her be like a dead person ... " (12:12)

'Who will inspect Miriam's plague', explains the Medrash? 'Aharon is a relative, Moshe is a Zar (a non-Kohen)'. Why does the Medrash refer to Moshe as a Zar, when in fact, he was no less a relative than Aharon?

It seems, one Gadol answered, that that was only before Matan Torah. After Matan Torah, when Moshe was told to remain with G-d, He joined the celestial family, and was no longer directly related to Aharon and Miriam.


The Kotzker Rebbe has a different approach. He cites Chazal who permit even a father to judge, as long as both litigants accept his judgement. In similar vein, G-d had declared that Moshe was reliable and that He trusted him. In that case, the fact that he was Miriam's brother would no longer disqualify him. But the fact that he was not a Kohen, did.


From the Haftarah

Happiness and the Shechinah

"Rejoice and be happy Daughter of Tziyon, because I am coming and I will dwell in your midst, says Hashem" (Zecharyah 2:3). Our sages have said that the Shechinah only rests on a person who is happy. Indeed, a Navi who was not in a happy frame of mind, and who anticipated a prophecy, would listen to music. That is why G-d instructs Yisrael here, that before He comes to dwell among them, they should see to it that they are happy.


A Growing Plant

" ... behold I will bring My servant Tzemach" (3:8).

The Malbim explains why Mashi'ach is called 'Tzemach' (which means a plant).

It is because even if nowadays there is no evidence of Malchus Beis-David, giving the impression that it no longer exists, it is compared to a tree. At the beginning of its existence, a tree is invisible, yet it exists, hidden below the surface of the ground, and it is only a matter of time before it appears and develops into a large fruit-tree. Malchus Beis-David too exists, and it is only a matter of time before it appears and develops into the Mashi'ach.



The Amidah
(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXXX)

Birchas Kohanim

The Levush explains that Birchas Kohanim follows the B'rachah of Hoda'ah (Modim), based on the Pasuk in Shemini "And Aharon raised his hands and he blessed them. Then he descended from doing the Chatas ... ", implying that he blessed the people after performing the Avodah. That being the case, we really ought to recite Birchas Kohanim immediately after 'Retzei', only, as Chazal point out, Avodah and Hoda'ah are very much one and the same thing, since thanking Hashem is also really part of the Avodah. So they put Avodah and Hoda'ah together, and followed with Birchas Kohanim.


The reason that the Kohanim bless Yisrael with this particular B'rachah, over and above all the other B'rochos in the Torah, the Besamim Rosh suggests, is because there are no conditions attached. It is a straightforward B'rachah, with nothing asked in return.

Perhaps it has also to do with the fact that it reflects the merits of the fathers in a number of ways, as we shall see shortly. And Z'chus Avos has high priority, particularly in the realm of Tefilah (as is apparent from the opening three B'rachos of the Amidah, as we explained there, and from many other places in Tefilah). However, seeing that Aharon blessed Yisrael with these very words, that would seem to be the most logical reason for the Kohanim to take their cue from him.


Birchas Kohanim comprises fifteen words. Considering that the major Birchas Kohanim took place daily in the Beis ha'Mikdash, this is significant , in view of the fifteen steps leading up to the Azarah (as we learn in the Mishnah in Sukah), corresponding to the fifteen 'Shir ha'Ma'alos'. Perhaps this corresponds in turn to the seven Heavens plus G-d's throne, with the seven spaces in between (which the commentaries give as the source for the fifteen praises in 'Yishtabach').

Rabeinu Bachye comments that the first Pasuk contains fifteen letters, corresponding to the Holy Name 'Kah' (which signifies the present). The second Pasuk, he says, contains twenty letters, corresponding to 'Hayah' (which signifies the past). Whilst the third Pasuk contains twenty-five letters, corresponding to 'Yehi' (signifying the future). And he bases this on the fact that the Name 'Havayah' appears in each of the three Pesukim. Indeed, he concludes, this is the source of the Pasuk that we recite 'Hashem Melech, Hashem Moloch, Hashem Yimloch Le'olom Vo'ed (which is not a single quotation from any Pasuk, but is taken from various sources in Tehilim).

Furthermore, he adds, (quoting the Medrash Tanchuma on the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim 3:7) the sum total of letters in Birchas Kohanim is sixty, hinting to the 'sixty strong men' who surrounded the bed of Sh'lomoh Hamelech This hints to the power of the sixty letters of Birchas Kohanim to dispel bad dreams.


The Triple B'rachah

According to the Zohar, says the Ya'avetz, when reciting the first Pasuk (Yevorech'cho) one bows first forwards towards the Aron ha'Kodesh, and then towards one's right. And when reciting the second Pasuk (Ya'er), one bows first forwards and then towards one's left. During the third B'rachah, he concludes, one does not bow down at all, and those who prescribe bowing first forward and then both to the right and to the left, are not justified in doing so, for this does not conform with the Zohar's specifications.

The Eitz Yosef elaborates. He connects the three Pesukim with the three Avos, explaining that the Zohar instructs us to bow to the right during the first B'rachah, since the right symbolizes the Chesed of Avraham, to the left during the second, because the left symbolizes the Midas ha'Din of Yitzchak. Whereas, whilst reciting the third B'rachah, which represents Ya'akov, who blends the forces of the right together with those of the left, we do not bow at all.


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