CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS B'HAALOS'CHO 5769 - BS"D
1) Ch. 8, v. 2: "B'haalos'cho" - Rashi says that Aharon felt hurt that neither he nor his tribe took part in the dedication sacrifices of the Mishkon. Hashem consoled him by giving him the mitzvoh of the daily cleaning, preparing, and lighting of the menorah. Although this is a great privilege, how does it compensate for not having taken part in the dedication?
2) Ch. 11, v. 4: "V'hosafsuf asher b'kirbo hisavu taavoh" - From this verse until the end of this chapter the Torah relates that there was a group of people that was unhappy with its daily fare of manna and they lusted meat. Hashem's response was powerful. He sent a vast amount of birds called "slov" and the people collected, ate, O.D.ed on them, and died. Why such a severe punishment for what seems to only be a bit of gastronomic "taavoh?"
3) Ch. 11, v. 12: "He'onochi horisi" - Since Moshe knew that he was also about to say "Mei'ayin li bosor," that he had no access to a sufficient amount of meat, that it was impossible to fulfill their demands, why did he now say, "Have I sired this nation?"
4) Ch. 11, v. 16: "Shivim ish" - Moshe first had seventy-two candidates for the prophecy, six from each of the twelve tribes. Two were eliminated through a lottery. Why indeed did Hashem not allow for seventy-two prophets, thus simplifying the procedure, and having six prophets from each tribe?
5) Ch. 12, v. 1: "Va't'da'beir Miriam v'Aharon b'Moshe" - We find that people often have a burning desire to relate a piece of juicy gossip, entailing the prohibition of "loshon hora." The gemara Taanis 8a and Arochin 15b raises the point of "Ma hano'oh l'baal loshon," - what enjoyment does one who speaks "loshon hora" derive. The gemara does not actually answer this question but just raises it as a criticism of one who speaks "loshon hora." What indeed impels people to transgress this severe sin?
The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers with the opinion of Rav Sheishes in the gemara M'nochos 88b (whom the OHH says has the correct opinion) that the lamps of the menorah were detachable and every time they were cleaned and prepared for the next lighting, it was necessary to remove them. Since the menorah was not valid when the lamps were not attached, the daily return of the lamps after cleaning, the "hatovas haneiros," constituted a daily dedication.
A relatively newly married Gerrer Chosid appeared in front of the Sfas Emes. The Sfas Emes asked him why he was recently not studying in the Beis Hamedrash as often as he used to in the past. The chosid answered that he had no means of support as of late and was forced to spend time pursuing an income. The Rebbe asked about parental support, to which the chosid responded that he had asked his father, but the response was that his father had no money to give the son.
The Rebbe later called in the father, who reiterated his son's response. The Rebbe asked the father, "Since Moshe said that he had no meat for the nation, why did he have to also say that he did not sire them?" The Rebbe concluded that if one is a parent, not having enough is not a legitimate excuse.
A number of other questions are raised to lead into this answer:
1) The double expression "hisavu taavoh" (verse 4).
2) The instigation of this lust by the "asafsuf" and the complaint spilling over to the bnei Yisroel (verse 4). Why didn't they all complain in unison?
3) The elaborate description of the manna, even detailing that it was transparent (verse 7). In Shmos 16:15 where the manna was first mentioned there is no such description.
4) The detailed description of having to spread out to collect the manna, the required preparation of either grinding or crushing, the need to cook it, the need to shape it into cakes (verse 8). Why burden us with all these details?
5) Mentioning that the manna fell daily (verse 9).
6) Seemingly going off topic by mentioning that people were crying because of the recently given laws prohibiting marriage to certain close relatives (verse 10, as explained by Rashi - Sifri 11:10).
7) "Hashem was very angered, while in the eyes of Moshe it was bad" (verse 10). Why mention Moshe's opinion when Hashem's assessment is already mentioned?
8) Why indeed did Moshe only feel that "it was bad" if Hashem felt more negative, to the point that He was very angered?
All of the above is answered with an insight into what the underlying motive was for lusting meat. In truth the "asafsuf" were not disenchanted with the manna. However, the gemara Yoma 75a-b explains that the need to spread out to fetch the manna as well as the need to expend much time and effort in its preparation went hand-in-hand with the spiritual level of the people. Those who were more righteous found their portion of manna at their doorsteps, while those who were less righteous had to go further afield. The really wicked people had to charter an airplane to fetch their portions. Similarly the gemara derives from the comparison of verses that the more righteous needed no preparation of their manna. It was ready to eat. The less righteous had to do some preparation, while those on the lowest level had to do a tremendous amount of preparation.
As a person's level of compliance with the mitzvos changed, something that could differ on a daily basis, so did the location and level of preparation of his manna change. In effect, the manna was a visual barometer, measuring each family's spiritual level daily.
If the manna were to fall a year's supply at a time the embarrassment would not be so severe. However, as the verse states, it fell daily. If this were not bad enough, let us dramatize a day in the life of a not so righteous person. After trekking many kilometers to and fro to fetch and bring his family's manna home, the wife just begins to grind it. The children are screaming that they are starving. The whole neighbourhood hears them. Breakfast is finally ready in the mid-afternoon. The wife's respect for her husband plummets.
The manna being transparent alludes to its creating a transparency in everyone's life, clearly showing everyone's level of keeping or not keeping the mitzvos. In essence, the system of manna creates a spiritual stranglehold on the nation. No doubt this was Hashem's intention, being very tough right after giving the Torah to show that He meant business. This also explains why when the bnei Yisroel sinned in the desert retribution was quick to come, and the characteristic of "erech apayim" only took place once they entered Eretz Yisroel.
What is one to do who is not ready to toe the line fully in keeping Hashem's mitzvos? The "asafsuf" were the people who wanted to undermine Hashem's system. The restriction on marrying close relatives was the straw that broke the camel's back. They couldn't sell a conspiracy to find another way of finding food so as to destroy Hashem's system, as no one would buy in. They artificially "lusted a lusting" (of an alternate food source not governed by their righteousness) but in truth had a hidden agenda. They championed the cause of a change in diet and this spilled over to some of the bnei Yisroel.
Hashem, Who knows the intention in everyone's heart, was rightfully very angered that they wanted to destroy His control. Moshe, who only saw the outward complaint of lusting meat, reacted less severely, only thinking that it was bad.
There is now no need to elaborate on why death was a most fitting punishment, not being overly harsh for those who attempt to destroy Hashem's system of control. (Adaptation of K'hilas Yitzchok)
The Moshav Z'keinim answers that we find that Moshe placed the prophets around the "Ohel Mo'eid," (11:24) "Va'yaameid osom svivos ho'ohel." They were specifically placed there so that they would receive the overflow of the prophecy given to Moshe at the "O'hel Mo'eid." The "Ohel Mo'eid" was a building that was 30 amos long and 10 amos wide. This gives a total outer length of eighty amos. A person takes up an amoh by an amoh floor space (gemara Sukoh 7b). The front of the Ohel Mo'eid, which was open, was designated only for Moshe. This leaves us with only seventy amos of wall space left, thus necessitating the limitation of having only seventy prophets.
The GR"A on Mishlei 1:23 on the words "Hi'nei abioh lochem ruchi" explains that whenever a person mocks with his words, "leitzonus," or just speaks about worthless matters, "dvorim b'teilim," the talk creates a spirit that goes up to heaven and this creates an urge in the soul of the person to again do the same. This is a most powerful urge that does not readily wane. The same is true on the positive side. The GR"A says that this explains why a mitzvoh brings another mitzvoh in its wake, while an a'veiroh brings another a'veiroh in its wake (Ben Azai in Pirkei Ovos 4:2). It certainly stands to reason that what the GR"A says can apply to "loshon hora" as well.
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