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

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Vol. 13   No. 34

This issue is sponsored anonymously
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'in honour of our 30th Wedding Anniversary'

Parshas Beha'aloscha

A Break Between the Punishments

Citing the Gemara in Shabbos (115b), Rashi informs us that the Torah opts to insert the Parshah of "Vayehi bi'Neso'a ha'Aron" (10:35) out of place, in order to break between one punishment and another. He does not however, tell us which punishments he is referring to. This is strange, since the Pesukim prior to the Parshah under discussion discuss Yisrael leaving Har Sinai, but say nothing of their having sinned (even assuming 'punishment' really means sin).

The Ramban refers to the above Gemara, which concludes that the second punishment refers to the sin of the grumbling (11:1) that follows "Vayehi bi'N'so'a ha'Aron", and the first one, to "Vayis'u me'Har Hashem" that precedes it, on which the Gemara comments 'This teaches us that they strayed from Hashem'.

Rashi explains there that this is referring to the desire of the rabble to eat meat mentioned in (11:4).

But surely, asks the Ramban, that occurred after the grumbling, so how can the Gemara list it as the first punishment? He suggests that according to Rashi, although the sin of 'desire' is mentioned only second, it really began before the sin of the grumbling that precedes it, for, the moment Yisrael left Har Sinai, they already had in mind to grumble at the first opportunity (or, as others explain, they already began murmuring at that point, but the grumbling gathered momentum only later), so the Torah first mentions Yisrael's second sin, and then elaborates on the sin which preceded it, and which it already hinted at before.


The Ramban however, dismisses Rashi's interpretation out of hand. According to him, the first sin is inherent in the words "Vayis'u me'Har Hashem". In fact, it is the one described by the Medrash, which compares Yisrael to a child who cannot wait for school to finish, and who, once it does, runs away from the classroom as fast as his legs will carry him. So too Yisrael, notwithstanding the high level of spirituality that they had attained during the year that they spent at Har Sinai (incorporating Matan Torah and the building of the Mishkan), couldn't get away from there fast enough, 'before G-d would load them with more Mitzvos'.


According to the Ramban, it transpired that Yisrael committed, not two sins, but three, and when the Gemara talks about making a break between one sin and another, what it really means is that it broke up the triumvirate of sins, since three sins in a row would have comprised a Chazakah, which the Torah wished to avoid.


It seems to me that as strange as Rashi's explanation appears at first sight, Rashi preferred it to that of the Ramban for three reasons.

1. If the Gemara had been referring to the sin of 'running away from Har Sinai like a child ... ', then surely, it ought to have said so. This is not something that is apparent in the words "And they traveled from the mountain of Hashem", so how did Chazal expect us to understand it by ourselves?

2. If the purpose of placing "Vayehi bi'Neso'a ha'Aron" comes to break the Chazakah, then surely, it ought to have been placed after the second sin (that of the grumblers) and not after the first?

3. And if it nevertheless is, then why did the Gemara not say so? To break between one sin and another implies that there were two sins, as Rashi learns, and not three?

All of this gives credence to Rashi's explanation, in spite of the Ramban's objection.


Tosfos in Shabbos, concur with the Ramban's interpretation of the first sin, but make no reference to his explanation with regard to breaking a Chazakah. The Ramban is forced to learn that way, because if it was a matter of breaking between one sin and another, then that problem would remain regarding the two latter sins (grumbling and seeking desires), which are recorded juxtaposed to one another without a break.

Assuming that Tosfos understands these two latter sins as being one and the same (as the Tos. Yom-Tov explains in Pirkei Avos, Perek 5, Mishnah 4), then it will mean that they explain the first sin like the Ramban, but the reason for placing the Parshah where it does, like Rashi (in which case the first two questions that we posed on the Ramban will not apply to their explanation).


Irrespective of how one interprets the sins however, the Ramban suggests that the Chachamim use the term 'punishments' (rather than sins) because, had Yisrael not sinned at this juncture, they would have gone straight to Eretz Yisrael. And if they had, the sin of the spies would never have taken place - a classical example of 'Aveirah Goreres Aveirah' (one sin leads to another), and how far it is capable of going.

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Parshah Pearls

No Externalism

"And Aharon did so, facing the centre of the Menorah, he lit the lamps ... " (8:3).

This teaches us the praise of Aharon, says Rashi, that he did not change.

This cannot mean simply, that Aharon did exactly as Moshe instructed him, as who would even dream that a man of the caliber of Aharon would do otherwise? Would we?

The commentaries therefore explain that Aharon kindled the Menorah without any external show of emotion.


The story is told of a Bachur who once traveled to Radin to see how the Chafetz Chayim Davened. Imagine his surprise when he saw no external change in the Tzadik's actions or even in his facial expression.

He understood that there are Tzadikim who do not change at all externally, only internally. After all, have Chazal not said that the external arouses the internal ... that the excitement that one musters before performing a Mitzvah improves the quality of the Mitzvah ('actions arouse one's devotion'). The Bachur now realized that Tzadikim of the caliber of the Chafetz Chayim, do not need the externalism. They go straight to the essence. They themselves may well be in seventh Heaven when performing a Mitzvah; but nobody else needs to know about it.

And so it was with Aharon ha'Kohen.


A Sin in Deed, but Not in Thought

"And they shall take a bull ... and a second bull you shall take for a Chatas (a sin-offering)" (8:8).

Here the Pasuk gives precedence to the Olah (burned-offering). Later however (in Pasuk 12), the Torah writes first, "Prepare the one as a Chatas, and the other, as an Olah" (inverting the order of precedence).

As a matter of fact, by all sets of Korbanos, the Chatas precedes the Olah (because one first needs to atone for the sin and then to bring a gift to Hashem). The sole exception is Korbanos that are brought to atone for the sin of Avodah-Zarah. There one first brings the Olah, to atone for the thoughts that accompany the sin (for which one is punishable by Avodah-Zarah, though not by other sins). See also Seforno.

Now the Korbanos of the Levi'im (currently under discussion), came to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf (which was synonymous with Avodah-Zarah). Presumably that is why the Torah mentions the Olah first.

Only G-d knew that in this case, Yisrael sinned in deed but not in thoughts (since they did not intend to serve the Golden Calf at all, only to find a leader to replace Moshe). And that is why when it came to the crunch, the Torah inverted the order, placing the Chatas before the Olah, as it does with regard to all sins which are punishable for the deed only (Kedushas Levi).


Beloved K'lal Yisrael, Notwithstanding

"And I gave the Levi'im ... to Aharon and his sons ... " (8:19).

Five times Yisrael are mentioned in this Pasuk, says Rashi, to teach us how precious they are before G-d, that their names are mentioned five times, corresponding to the five Books of the Torah.

The question arises however, why does the Torah choose to teach us this here, of all places?

When the tribe of Levi was chosen to replace Yisrael to perform the Avodah, the latter might have felt slighted by the inference that they were unfit to perform the Avodah. So the Torah softened the blow by singing their praises even as it stripped them of the Priesthood.


A Time to Say 'No'!

"And he shall serve his brothers ... but the service he shall not do" (8:26).

The Pasuk is referring to a ben Levi who retired at the age of fifty, who may continue to guard the gates and to sing, but who may no longer perform the Avodah of carrying (Rashi, see also Ramban).

Another way of translating the end of the Pasuk, the M'lo ha'Ro'im is quoted as saying, is "but his Avodah is not to serve".

There are times, he explains, where a person's Avodah is to act in the Name of Hashem. There are however, times, when his Avodah is to desist.

That was the mistake of the Ma'apilim, following the episode of the Meraglim (in next week's Parshah). Initially, when their instructions were to go and capture Eretz Yisrael, their refusal to do so constituted a grave sin.

But when Moshe Rabeinu ordered them not to go, that became their Avodah, and their decision to go nonetheless was considered just as much a sin as their initial refusal.


Putting Things in Perspective

"And G-d spoke to Moshe in Midbar Sinai in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt, in the first month saying" (9:1).

The commentaries ask why this Parshah, which was said in Nisan, does not precede the opening Parshah in the Seifer (1:1), which was said one month later in Iyar.

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos explains that the Torah prefers to juxtapose the Pasuk in Bamidbar, which specifically mentions the Ohel Mo'ed, to the Seifer of Vayikra, all of which took place in the Ohel Mo'ed. And what's more, the Torah goes on there to describe how the four Degalim encamped around the Mishkan, which also follows Seifer Vayikra, which the current Parshah, which has no direct connection with Vayikra, does not.


They (the Da'as Zekeinim) also cite Rashi however, who explains that the Torah preferred not to open Seifer Bamidbar with the current Parshah, since, bearing in mind that it deals with the only Korban Pesach that Yisrael brought throughout the forty years in the desert, it constitutes a disgrace for Klal Yisrael.

The Da'as Zekeinim query Rashi however, based on the fact that the Torah itself connects the Korban Pesach with Yisrael's arrival in Eretz Yisrael, in which case it is unclear as to which disgrace Rashi is referring to? In fact, the current Korban Pesach was a decree which was confined to that year only.

And they answer by ascribing the sin to the fact that, due their ongoing acts of rebellion, they were still in the desert, by the time the following Pesach came round. That in itself, was a disgrace.

The Chizkuni elaborates ... First of all, he says, following the sin of the Mis'onenim (the grumblers) they had to remain where they were for a month (as the Pasuk explicitly states). Otherwise, he explains, Yisrael would have entered Eretz Yisrael after only three days, as Moshe told Yisro (see Rashi 10:29).

Then they traveled to Chatzeros, where they were delayed for another seven days, when Aharon and Miriam spoke against Moshe. And finally, they arrived in Midbar Paran, from where they sent the Spies. A classic example of 'One sin leads to another' (see also end of main article).


Justice & Redemption

"And the flag of the camp of Dan, the one who gathered (the lost property of) all the tribes ... " (10:25).

Bearing in mind that the tribe of Dan symbolizes justice (as his name suggests), the Ramal Litch of Pressberg, taking the Pasuk out of context, explains it like this ...

'When there is justice in the Camp of Yisrael, then the ingathering of all the tribes will take place.

And he bases this explanation on the Pasuk in Yeshayah (1) "Tziyon will be redeemed on account of justice".


Today, we need to beseech G-d to rid us of the scourge of the evil secular courts that holds Eretz Yisrael in their iron grip.


Too Short to Gauge

"And Moshe cried out to G-d saying 'G-d please, heal her now" (12:13).

The word "saying", Rashi explains, implies that Moshe requested a reply from G-d, as to whether he would answer him or not. Why was this necessary, asks the Siya'ata di'Shemaya? Chazal teach us in B'rachos (34) that a person can know whether his prayer has been answered or not, by the way it comes out of his mouth. If it comes out fluently, then he knows that his prayer has been answered ... ?

But not here, he answers. Rashi has already informed us that Moshe deliberately issued a short Tefilah, and as to why he did. Anybody can utter a Tefilah consisting of five words, and the fact that they come out fluently, does not really prove anything.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 378:
For the Kohanim to Bless Yisrael Every Day

The Kohanim are commanded to bless Yisrael every day, as the Torah writes in Naso (6:23) "So you shall bless B'nei Yisrael".

One of the reasons for the Mitzvah ... is that G-d wanted to bless His people through His servants, who are constantly to be found in His House (the Beis Hamikdash), whose thoughts are centered around His service and whose souls are bound with His fear the entire day. And it is through their merits that the Divine blessing will take effect on the people whom they are blessing and on all their achievements, and it is through them that the sweetness of Hashem will rest upon them ... Perhaps, you will ask, if G-d wants to bless Yisrael, what is to stop Him from doing so without the participation of the Kohanim?

The author has already explained, on a number of occasions, that B'rachah comes to us through our own deeds, since Hashem's Hand is open to whoever asks for it, provided he also deserves it. That is why, when He chose us from among the other nations with the intention of earning His goodness, He warned us to perform good deeds and to prepare our bodies by means of His Mitzvos, to be ready for all the good that He has in store for us. And, in His great goodness, He also commanded us to request B'rachos from Him, and that we should do so by means of His pure servants. All this will serve as a great merit for our souls, and through it we will earn His goodness.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Our sages have taught us that the Kohanim do not perform Nesi'as Kapayim (raising the hands, as Birchas KOhanim is also known as) unless there are at least ten people (including the Kohanim) being blessed ... How is Nesi'as Kapayim performed? When the Shatz arrives at the Avodah (i.e. the B'rachah of 'Retzei'), all the Kohanim present go up to the Duchan (i.e. where Nesi'as Kapayim will take place), and stand there still facing the Heichal, with their backs to the congregation, and with their fingers bent into their palms - until the Shatz concludes the B'rachah (i.e. 'ha'Tov Shim'cha ... '). They then turn round to face the congregation, stretch out their fingers and raise their hands level to the level of their shoulders, and begin 'Yevarech'cho', in a pleasant voice. word for word after the Shatz, in keeping with the Torah's instructions "Omor lohem" (Note, that there are a number of discrepancies in the Chinuch's version of the Mitzvah and Minhag Ashkenaz in Eretz Yisrael). As they conclude each Pasuk ("ve'yishmerecho", "vi'yechuneko" and "sholom"), the congregation answer 'Amen' ... The Shatz begins 'Sim Shalom', and the Kohanim turn back to face the Heichal once more, with fingers bent as before, until the conclusion of the B'rachah, at which they return to their places ... Nowadays, it is not customary for the Kohanim to go up to the Duchan, but to stand in front of the Aron ha'Kodesh, and to follow the same procedure there ... Before turning round to bless the people, the Kohanim recite the B'rachah "Baruch ... asher kidshonu be'Mitzvosov ve'tzivonu le'vorech es amo Yisrael be'ahavah' ... whenever the Kohanim turn round (towards the congregation or towards the Aron), they should always move towards the right as they do so ... Six things prevent a Kohen from going up to Duchen 1. the language (Duchen can only be recited in Lashon ha'Kodesh); 2. a Visible blemish; 3. Specific sins; 4. Tum'ah of the hands; 5. Age (under bar-Mitzvah) and 6. Wine.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to Kohanim, since the Mitzvah is placed on them to bless Yisrael, at Shachris, Musaf and Ne'ilah (on Yom-Kipur). The Mitzvah does not however, apply to Minchah, since by that time, everybody has eaten, and since the possibility exists that they may have drunk wine, and a Kohen who has drunk a Revi'is of wine is forbidden to Duchen, the Chachamim decreed a prohibition of Duchening at that time, even on a fast-day, on account of a regular one, in keeping with the opinion of R. Nachman in the last Perek of Ta'anis (26b). The Gemara concludes there that the reason that we do Duchen nowadays at Minchah of a Ta'anis, is because, since one tends to Daven Minchah close to sunset, it is like Ne'ilah, which the Chachamim did not include in the decree, as we explained.

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