Parshat Behaalotcha

A Mitzva with Good Taste
by Dr. Joel Berman

Bilti El Hamon Eineinu, "We have nothing to look forward to but the Mon" (11:6).

For 40 years, we were sustained by the heavenly delicacy, Mon. According to the Ibn Ezra, the Jews would almost effortlessly gather it from the ground around their tents. It had the ability to satisfy even the most discriminating lunchtime pallet at a Yeshiva high school by transforming its flavor into whatever the eater desired.

Bnai Yisrael had such an easy life. How could it be, then, that they failed to appreciate this miracle? Rabbi Shlomo Cohen explains this with a parable. Imagine, after being born and growing up in the desert, a Mon-fed youngster peers into Eretz Yisrael. Overcome with excitement, he runs back to the camp telling everyone who will listen of the miracle he just observed: in Eretz Yisrael, food comes from the ground!

Not only do we fail to appreciate the miracles around us, we rarely recognize the wonderful conveniences we have grown so accustomed to and dependent upon, until something like a blackout or a car breakdown occurs.

The Chafetz Chaim, zt"l, once asked the members of his Shabbat table, "If one ate Mon with nothing (no taste) in mind, what would it taste like?" The guests offered their various opinions until the Chafetz Chaim said that just like one derives little merit when mindlessly performing a Mitzva (Mitzva Lalo Taam), so too Mon eaten with no taste in mind tastes like absolutely nothing.

In a curious way, the crushing poverty and anti-Semitism experienced by previous generations had one positive result: these people were closer to Hashem. Without the conveniences, it was easier to appreciate Chesed, easier to Daven with Kavana. American Jews have "Mon delivered to their doorsteps." We live on the highest material standard ever experienced in the history of Klal Yisrael. Material wealth is the one test that everyone is willing to accept.

Birkat Hamazon says, Ve'achalta Vesavata Uverachta, "You will eat, be satisfied, and bless [Hashem]." It may be that the test of our generation is in fulfilling this Mitzva; now that we have eaten and are satisfied, Uverachta, we must bless Hashem properly, Daven with Kavana, and serve Him, despite the fact that life is so good.

Lighting Souls
by Yehuda Turetsky

In the opening Pesukim of Parshat Behaalotcha, Aharon is given the task of lighting the candles of the Menorah. Rashi comments that this section is placed next to the previous one because Aharon had been upset that the Nesiim had all brought Korbanot, whereas he was not given that opportunity. Therefore, Hashem gave him the job of lighting the candles. The uniqueness of this special job is discussed by many Chassidic Rabbeim and adds great insight to what the candles really symbolize.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe arrived at the conclusion, based on a Pasuk in Mishlei, that the lamps of the Menorah are a symbol of the Jewish soul, and seven lamps represent the seven kinds of Jewish souls that Aharon was supposed to raise up. This is based on an idea that Hillel stated in Pirkei Avot that Aharon is one who loved and pursued peace. For this reason, he is the one who lights the Menorah because he is the one who can bring up every type of Jew, even from the lowest level.

Rav Zadok Hakohen of Lublin teaches a similar idea. Commenting on the Gemara in Masechet Keritut (6a), Rav Zadok asks the famous question: If the spice Chelbana smelled bad, why was it included in the incense? The Gemara answers that this teaches that even one who is far from Hashem is welcome in His house. It is Aharon who is given this task, for who better than Aharon, the one who chased peace, to make it clear that all people are welcome in Hashem's house?

The question of why the Menorah is used as a symbol for bringing Jews back to Judaism is expounded upon by the Slonimer Rebbe, who states that the light of Hashem is the source of spiritual life. Similarly, Chazal teach us that a blind person is considered dead, even if his limbs perform perfectly well. The same is true regarding spiritual matters. If one is so blind to spirituality that he does not see the light of Hashem, he is considered dead. Therefore, one can understand that if one is going to bring a Jew back to Judaism, it must be done through light because light is what symbolizes the spiritual aspects of this world. If deprived of this light, one cannot be considered alive.

The Ishbitser Rebbe, in his Sefer Mei Hashiloach, expands on the previous idea. He explains that the outer six candles face the inner one to teach us that even if one wants to serve Hashem he must know the correct way to do so. The seventh candle represents all that is in the name of Heaven. Rav Yisrael Salanter taught that the person in danger is the one who thinks he is serving Hashem when in reality he is not. Even if one sees the candles - the greatness of Hashem - the Ishbitzer wants us to know that all our actions must be directed to the right place because even if one wants to return to Hashem, he must know how to do it properly.

Aharon's task appears, on some level, not to be a prestigious one. Why would Aharon, a great Tzaddik, be given the task of interacting with the lowest people? Aren't they below him? Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach once quoted the following teaching of Reb Nachman of Breslov: There is a distinction between a Tzaddik Tachton, a low Tzaddik, and a Tzaddik Elyon, a high Tzaddik. Whereas a low Tzaddik loves only holy people, a high Tzaddik is on the level where he can love everybody, even people who appear to be very low. May we all merit to learn from Aharon, a very high Tzaddik, how to see the greatness in all people, regardless of the initial impressions they may give off.

Food for Thought
Dani Gross

1) Parshat Behaalotcha starts with the words, Vayedaber Hashem El Moshe Lemor: Daber. What is the reason is for the repetition of the word Daber?

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