Parashas Behaaloscha – Liar Liar
This week's sedra is another busy one with no lack of activity to discuss... so lets get started. Parashas Behaaloscha (try pronouncing that after a few drinks) begins with Moshe being told to command Aaron to light the Menorah, a seemingly irrelevant piece of information which our mefarshim discuss as to why it is placed here... We left off in Parashas Nasso, last week, with the dedication offerings from the twelve tribal leaders which were brought from every tribe at the exclusion of Aaron's tribe, the Levim. In the first Rashi to this weeks sedra, he comments that Aaron was perturbed by this and craved to be involved in the dedication of the new Tabernacle. Citing the Midrash Tanchuma, Rashi goes on to explain that Hashem comforted Aaron from his qualms by reassuring him that his role in the preparation and kindling of the Menorah would be greater than that of the bringing of the dedication offerings. In fact the Or HaChaim holds that the the process of cleaning and preparing the lamps of the Menorah required that they be removed every day and therefore Aaron's role would effectively be to build a new Menorah every day which was far greater than a one off dedication which the other tribal leaders brought. But Aaron's mitzvah did not stop here, Ramban reads into the fact that Hashem reassured Aaron of his greater role in a different light (no pun intended)... he explains that what was being stated in the Midrash Tanchuma was alluding to the kindling of a later Menorah, that of the miracle of Chanukah. The Hasmoneans who were the heroes of Chanukah were of course from the family of Aaron's priestly descendants and G-d was comforting Aaron by telling him that one day his family would save the nation. The offerings of the tribal leaders were therefore great and impressive but they were temporary, Aaron's contribution however would be eternal and paramount to the nations survival.
With Aaron having been told the mitzvah he is to perform the Torah tells us that... “Aaron did so” [8:3] which Rashi expands to mean that... “שלא שינה"... he did not change or deviate... in other words he followed the instructions on the lighting of the Menorah. OK... but this is Aaron we are talking about, when would he ever deviate from Hashem's instructions and why would he even consider doing so when this is his mitzvah to perform which he wanted so badly... so what is Rashi getting at here by using this language? So at it's most basic level of understanding, Rashi is explaining to us that Aaron is being praised here for undertaking what was being told and I think there are two ways in which this praise is justified. Firstly we have to remember that Aaron was the religious leader of the Jewish people at this point, the Kohen Gadol, and however holy anyone is, power can corrupt people and cause them to become egotistical... look at Obama for example, although I think he has always loved himself so maybe not the best example. No one likes to be told what to do and all the more so if you are in a high position of power and are usually the one doing the telling, Aaron was therefore praiseworthy for not altering the command in anyway and accepting Hashem's specific instructions. But obviously there is a deeper concept at play here... Chazal tell us that Aaron was the peacemaker of the Jewish people and we actually see that more people mourned Aaron's death than Moshe's. There is a Midrash that speaks of 'Aaron' being the most popular name for newborn babies in the wilderness as he was so successful at producing solutions to marital problems (which as you can imagine were probably rather rampant under such conditions... trying to hold a marriage together in a desert can't be easy!). So with this in mind we must understand how Aaron was able to create the peace... which wasdone through twisting the truth and sometimes even lying, in fact there is even a halacha which states that one can “משנה מפני השלום"... which means we can change the truth in order to make peace, for example, if your father comes home hungry from a long day at work and discovers that the dinner has been burnt, you are allowed to tell him a complete lie and say that you were playing with the oven and it was your fault in order to save the peace between your parents... just make sure you have your running shoes on before you try this! So although what Aaron was doing was completely kosher and was of course a huge mitzvah, there is the danger that he could have incorporated this 'deviation' into other areas of his life... for example when commanded to kindle the Menorah... therefore Rashi tells us “שלא שינה", on this Aaron did not change the instructions and it is therefore praiseworthy that he was able to live a life of deviation yet when he was told what to do he didn't deviate... he had the control to know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. When Rav Aharon Kotler died in 1962, the Satmar Rebbi at the time, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum used this Rashi explanation on the possuk to eulogise the great Rav who was responsible for bringing Torah to America... he said that he did not change when he moved from Europe to America, which was very praiseworthy indeed considering the magnitude of the change... he was said to have been the same great Rav.
In the latter part of Behaaloscha after the Torah goes through the order of the breaking of the camp and how they are to be summoned we are told that... “They journeyed from the Mountain of Hashem...” [10:33] and it is exactly at this point that things started to go pear shaped with this event being viewed as the beginning of all the trouble which started from this point in time in the desert; which included the complaints, the spies and eventually the death of the entire nation. So what is it about this possuk that implies that they did anything wrong? Citing a Midrash, Ramban comments that they... “fled from the mountain of G-d like children running away from school”, with the implication that they were happy to leave such a holy place because they were afraid that G-d might give them more commandments. They in fact travelled at such speed that the journey, which is described as a three-day distance, took them only a day to cover. This event is then subsequently followed by “the people took to seeking complaints...” which was described as “evil in the ears of Hashem” [both 11:1]. According to Ramban this complaining took place when the people left Sinai, which was not far from populated areas, to venture into the great, desolate and unknown wilderness. They grew frantic and wondered how they would be able to survive and they acted as if they were truly in pain and had a right to complain and bemoan their fate. Rashi also adds that in their mood of rebellion and self-pity, they wanted G-d to hear and be angered, which they succeeded in and unfortunately paid a heavy price for when “a fire of Hashem burned against them” [11:1] consuming the masses of the Egyptian mixed multitude that attached itself to the people disguised as sincere converts. This mixed multitude, “the rabble” [11:4], were then involved in the final sin of the nation in Parashas Behaaloscha which is that of the dissatisfaction of the manna. They succeeded in influencing the rest of the nation to complain again as they had done previously. This new complaint was especially irritating in the eyes of Hashem as they complained that their diet was insufficient, questioning “Who will feed us meat?” [11:5] and they even had the chutzpah to say that they preferred Egyptian slavery to the Presence of G-d [11:20]. In response to these false claims that their life was 'parched' or 'lacking' the Torah testifies it to be untrue by giving descriptions of the manna; “Now the manna was like coriander seed and its colour was like the colour of the bedolach (Rashi identifies as a crystal). The people would stroll and gather it, and grind it in a mill or pound it in a mortar and cook it in a pot or make it into cakes, and its taste was like the taste of dough kneaded with oil” [11:7-8].
This complaint turned out to be the straw that broke the camels back with regards to Moshe, who despaired at his position amongst this madness... the Torah gives an interesting account of this... “Moshe said to Hashem, 'Why have you done evil to your servant? Why have I not found favour in your eyes that you place the burden of this entire people upon me? Did I conceive this entire people or did I give birth to it, that you say to me, 'carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a suckling, to the Land you swore to its forefathers'? Where shall I get meat to give to this entire people when they weep to me, saying, 'give us meat that we may eat?'. I alone cannot carry this entire nation, for it is too heavy for me!...” [11:11-14]. Sforno comments on this stating that, parents often have children who are in sharp conflict with them, but there is at least a certain basic trust that their parents love them and mean their good. But this nation had displayed no such trust in Moshe, and were constantly testing to see how he would react to them and this is why Moshe seems to lose it here and plea for the abandonment of his difficult position. We learn an interesting lesson from here which is brought down by the Chofetz Chaim that no matter how difficult the lot might seem for parents, they have no right to shirk their responsibility for their children. Even if a couple have the misfortune of having a very difficult child, it is their challenge in life and duty to Hashem to raise them appropriately and so to Moshe was in this similar position with his child being the nation of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom and Chatzlacha Rabba for the week ahead!
Daniel Sandground, (student at Ohr Somayach Yeshiva, Jerusalem)

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