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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Beha'aloscha

Speak to Aharon...When you kindle the lamps, towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps light. (8:2)

Rashi addresses the relationship between Aharon's lighting the Menorah and the previous parsha, which recounts the offerings of nesiim, princes, for the dedication of the Mizbayach. He says that Aharon was upset that neither he, nor any member of shevet Levi, was included in the dedication. Hashem comforted Aharon saying that his service, preparing and kindling the Menorah, was more significant than theirs. We wonder at Aharon's chagrin. Obviously, his reaction must have had some validity, as Hashem responded by comforting him. We must also endeavor to understand the meaning of the phrase, "Yours is greater/more significant than theirs." This comment seems to belittle the nesiim.

Horav Dov Eliezerov, Shlita, offers a number of approaches towards understanding Aharon's reaction and Hashem's response. He contends that the significance of the nesiim's korbanos lay in the fact that all of the nesiim participated together to determine the most propitious way to dedicate the Mizbayach. Nesanel ben Tzuar, of the tribe of Yissachar, spoke up at the meeting and advised them concerning the appropriate manner of dedicating the Mizbayach. When Aharon took note of the fact that the nesiim were working in unison, and he had been excluded, he was distressed. Perhaps he was doing something wrong. Was he suitable to be Kohen Gadol? If yes, why had he been excluded from their meeting?

Hashem told Aharon, "Do not concern yourself, for your service is greater than theirs. Do not think that your exclusion was an expression of a negative opinion of you. On the contrary, specifically because the nesiim held you in such esteem they omitted you from the Chanukas Hamizbayach." In the eyes of the nesiim, Aharon's tasks were in a unique class. They included: being Kohen Gadol; offering korbanos on behalf of the entire Jewish people; preparing and kindling the Menorah whose light emanated outward towards Am Yisrael. Consequently, they did not invite Aharon to join with them. Aharon's emotions were justified. The nesiim's action, in turn, also had validity. Hence, Hashem intervened, offering comfort to Aharon.

In his second answer, Horav Eliezerov distinguishes the two disparate approaches towards serving Hashem which were represented by the nesiim and Aharon Hakohen. By his very nature, Aharon was oheiv shalom v'rodef shalom; he loved and pursued peace. He reached out to all Jews, seeking to bring them closer to Torah. The nesiim, however, felt that a man is responsible to elevate himself, to demand of himself that he attain the level required to bring a korban to Hashem. Aharon brought himself down to the level of the people. In contrast, the nesiim ascended above them. When the nesiim decided to convene a meeting to discuss the correct protocol for dedicating the Mizbayach, Aharon thought they were telling him that his derech, approach, for avodas Hashem was not acceptable. Is it any wonder that he became distraught?

Hashem responded to Aharon that, indeed, the nesiim's form of avodas Hashem was correct for the dor hamidbar, the generation that had sojourned in the desert and received the Torah. Would it be equally appropriate for the ensuing generations that would not attain such spiritual ascendance? Who would reach out to them and bring them closer to the Torah? Aharon's kindling of the Menorah symbolized bringing the light of Torah into all homes. Carrying the message of Torah to the dark recesses of all Jewish hearts and minds was an endeavor that was not limited to that particular time. It was everlasting. "Shelcha gedolah m'shelahem," "Yours is truly greater than theirs," because its need traverses the generations.

This is the workmanship of the Menorah...according to the vision that Hashem showed Moshe, so did he make the Menorah. (8:4)

Chazal tell us that Moshe had difficulty in forging the Menorah. They say that Hashem "showed" Moshe by pointing a "finger" and describing the exact image of the Menorah. In the end, according to one statement of Chazal, Moshe threw the talent of gold into the fire and a finished Menorah emerged. A number of explanations address Moshe's difficulty in perceiving the image of the Menorah. Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, views this from an homiletic point of view. He suggests an analogy between the fabrication of the Menorah and two people who were given the necessary materials for building a house. Each was supplied with wood, mortar, nails, bricks, etc. There was one problem - neither one knew anything about building a house. What did they do? One of them went to a builder to be taught "housebuilding." After awhile he felt proficient enough to undertake building the house on his own. The other man decided to take a "course" in "self-study;" he undertook to build the house without any instruction. He decided to use common sense and through trial and error to create a suitable home for himself. He was certainly correct about the trial and error approach. Indeed, he became an accomplished builder. By the time he "graduated" from his self-study program, however, he no longer had enough material left to build the house. The trial and error program had nearly depleted his resources.

The same concept can be applied to life. The time is short, and the amount we must accomplish is great. We have no time for error. When the moment comes that we confront the truth at the end of our lives, we will regretfully see how much time we have wasted. Hashem, therefore, gave us His Torah, which is our blueprint for life. By following its commands and dictates, we learn the correct way to live, thereby circumventing any errors we might have committed on our own.

The Menorah represents Hashem's Torah. Hashem pointed to the Menorah and told Moshe, "Follow this; look through the wisdom of Torah, Hashem's Heavenly mirror of life. See what it has to tell you. The 'light' of Torah will guide you and show you how to live."

They journeyed from the mountain of Hashem a three day journey and the Aron of the covenant journeyed before search out for them a resting place. (10:33)

Rashi contends that the "Aron Bris Hashem" -- which was taken out with Bnei Yisrael when they went to battle -- contained the broken Luchos. The "Shivrei Luchos" retained a unique power which served as a protective armor when Bnei Yisrael were in a difficult predicament. We must endeavor to understand why the Aron that contained the broken Luchos accompanied Bnei Yisrael in time of war. What was the significance of the Shivrei Luchos? What influence did they maintain over the people?

We suggest that the broken Luchos represent the integrity of Torah and each Jew's mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice, to preserve that integrity. The Almighty fashioned the Luchos and gave them to Moshe Rabbeinu. They represented the epitome of Torah. Chazal tell us that had they not been broken, the level of Torah-learning accessible to the individual would have been incredible. Indeed, Torah would never be forgotten. When Moshe broke the Luchos, Klal Yisrael's bond to Torah was weakened. Torah was no longer an integral part of them. In the future, they would be required to toil to understand and to review and to remember its profundities. Yet, Moshe broke them, and he was commended for his grave action. Why? What was accomplished by breaking the Luchos that would compensate for the irreparable loss produced by his act?

When Moshe descended the mountain and witnessed Klal Yisrael's appalling behavior, their idol worship and reveling, he was shocked. He saw a nation that felt prepared to receive the Torah, but was not ready to give up its desires for material excess. He saw a nation that behaved in a manner unbecoming a people who had received the Torah. The revelry and debauchery that reigned was not what one would expect from decent people, let alone Am Yisrael. By breaking the Luchos, he sent a clear message; Torah is different. It is uncompromising; it does not yield to one's desires or bend to one's passions. You cannot have both. If you choose to live like a hedon, then you shatter the Luchos.

Moshe believed in the Torah. He understood its depth, appreciating the beauty and serenity of a Torah way of life. He knew that Torah is unequivocal. Torah remains intact. Man cannot change or append it. Moshe was willing to break the Luchos in order to teach Klal Yisrael that no false gods, no alien values, no strange desires can coexist with the Torah.

This integrity of Torah is preserved in the shattered shards that remained of the Luchos. They attested to Moshe's heroism, his devotion to Torah, and his love of the Torah and the people who received it. They represent Torah in its pristine form, unembellished, pure and unpolluted by alien interpretations and self-serving renderings of the text. This force, the power of truth, preceded the people into battle.

Horav Chaim Pardes, Shlita, cites the Talmud Kesubos 104A, which relates the last moments of Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Nasi's life. Chazal describe the "struggle" between the spiritual forces that sought to return the holy neshamah to its source and the tzadikim of this world who prayed fervently that he be spared. The text of Talmud Bavli reads, "And the Aron Hakodesh was captured," which is a reference to Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Nasi who was the embodiment of Torah as represented by the Aron Hakodesh. In the Talmud Yerushalmi the text reads, "The Luchos were grabbed." Both texts obviously refer to the lofty ideal to which Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi was compared. The Bavli focuses on the external Aron Hakodesh, whereas the Yerushalmi emphasizes the essence of the Aron - the Luchos.

If the Luchos represent - by their very nature - the greatness of Torah and the esteem of its scholars, then the breaking of the Luchos implies their loss.. They are the banner, the pride of Klal Yisrael. They maintain an inexorable bond between Klal Yisrael , Torah and Hashem Yisborach. It would follow logically that a talmid chacham who, either through age or illness, forgets part of his Torah learning is like the Shivrei Luchos, maintaining the original kedushah, holiness, that permeated the intact Luchos. Furthermore, those talmidei chachamim who have been abused and humiliated at the hands of our enemies throughout history, are also to be included as Shivrei Luchos. Even in their moments of pain and sorrow, during weakness and debilitation, amidst humiliation and chagrin, these people maintain their zchus haTorah, the merit of Torah. They reflect the Torah study for which they sacrificed themselves. Their pain precludes Klal Yisrael serving as a vehicle for success and victory.

Moshe heard the people weeping in their family groups. (11:10)

To express their displeasure publicly, entire families gathered outside their tents and wept. Rashi explains that the word "families" alludes to the real reason for their complaint. The family laws that were initiated at Har Sinai became a source of frustration for them. They did not care to have their relationships governed by the Torah. Rather than viewing the laws of family life and morality as a privilege reserved for the nobility that comprises Klal Yisrael, they viewed them as an infringement on their freedom. Horav Yitzchak Blazer, zl, suggests a novel interpretation to the word "families." The manna descended to all Jews equally. Status did not play a role in the distribution of the Heavenly food. The rich did not receive more than the poor; those of more distinguished lineage did not receive special treatment. People were frustrated; they cried that their "families" were not receiving preferential treatment. This was bothersome to Moshe. Why should one family receive more than another, simply because of its lineage? Why should family be the prime factor in determining one's prize? They all stood together as "one person with one heart" at Har Sinai. Why should anyone claim preeminence over another? Regrettably, for some people this is cause for weeping.

Otzar HaTorah notes Moshe Rabbeinu's ability to discern between the various complaints and sounds emanating from the people. They complained about one thing - but he was able to hear another - the real underlying complaint. They complained about the manna. He heard a much more significant complaint, one that demonstrated the depths of depravity to which they had sunk. Shlomo Hamelech entreats Hashem in Melachim 3:9, "And you shall give to Your servant an ear to listen." He was implying that a leader must possess the capacity to "hear," to listen, to understand and focus upon what the people are really saying. Every expression, every word, every nuance, carries with it a different message. The leader must be capable of hearing that message and responding to it.

In referring the pasuk in Shemos 32:17, "Yehoshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moshe, 'The sound of battle is in the camp,' " the Midrash in Koheles says, "Moshe said, 'One who is destined to lead a multitude of people does not know how to discern between various sounds?' " You should be able to distinguish between sounds of war and sounds of revelry! A leader should be attuned to the pulse of his flock and understand exactly what motivates them. He should be able to focus on the origin of their desires to determine what they really seek. Moshe understood the basis of the weeping. Episodes such as this establish one's ability to lead and develop one's character in the leadership role.


1. a. At what age does the Levi become pasul from performing certain avodos?
b. What are these avodos?
2. How were the chatzotzros similar to the Menorah?
3. Which shevet, by the nature of its position in the order of travel, emphasized the mitzvah of hashovas aveidah?
4. Did Bnei Yisrael have access to meat in the desert?
5. Were Bnei Yisrael able to taste all foods in the manna?
6. Who reported to Moshe that Eldad and Meidad were prophesizing in the camp?
7. Is a metzora metamei b'ohel?


1. a. 50 years old
b. The avodah of carrying, avodas maso. He may, however, open the gates, load the wagons and sing shirah.
2. They were both mikshah, beaten out of one piece of metal.
3. Shevet Dan.
4. Yes. They took sheep and cattle with them when they left Egypt.
5. No. Those food/vegetables which they complained about included cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. These are foods that are harmful to nursing mothers.
6. Gershom ben Moshe.
7. Yes.

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