Parsha Behaalotcha - the need to Listen

Parsha Insights Behaalotcha

Reb Shlomo's Torah

Beha’aloscha - Aharon and Miriam’s lashon hara

I had this crazy idea

Moshe Rabbeinu sent outstanding yidden to Eretz Yisrael to be the spies. Rashi says shlach lecha anashim; G-d told him to send great people. Anashim means great people. There is a way out Kli Yakar. the Kli Yakar says that G-d says to Moshe, ‘if I were you, I’d send women, but I know you will send men’. You see what it is, the women were not at the sin of the golden calf, so their eyes were clear, they would have been to see Eretz Yisrael for real.

Now listen to the deepest depths, why were Miriam and Aharon so ‘brogez’ (angry) at Moshe that he wasn’t living with his wife Tzipora, and why do we read about this right before Parshas shlach lecha? It’s the deepest depths ever. Miriam and Aharon saw by clear prophecy that if Moshe Rabbeinu would send women, those women would come back and say that Eretz Yisrael is good, and then Moshe Rabbeinu would go into Eretz Yisrael with the rest of the nation. So the question is, where will Moshe Rabbeinu get twelve women from? Miriam and Aharon thought that if he would have lived with Tzipora, who also had clear prophecy, she would tell him to send the women. So they were angry at Moshe, saying ‘if you were living with Tzipora, maybe you would have sent women instead of men, and you would have stayed alive’.

Meat and Prophecy

By Rav Yona Rothman

In the parsha we have two intertwining stories. The story of the complainers asking for meat, and the story of the seventy elders. We will attempt to uncover why these two stories are actually one.

The Torah describes the people saying “Now our soul is dry, without anything, all we have to look towards is the Manna.(11,6)” Upon which the Torah responds with an elaboration the great qualities of the Manna, it looks like coriander seeds and tastes like rich cream. What we have here is a deep hunger that cannot be fulfilled. The Manna is literally heavenly yet it does not satisfy, and even when they finally get the bird meat they asked for they do not get satisfaction. It just makes things worse.

The persistent complaining pushes Moshe into a feeling of crisis. The same Moshe was the people’s dedicated advocate after the episode of the golden calf is now pushed over the edge. He says, “Was I pregnant with this whole nation? Did I give birth to them? That You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,’ to the land that You have promised on oath to their fathers?” (11,12) The responsibility for the people finally becomes overwhelming.

Here, surprisingly, God does not give Moshe a pep talk, or say that the problems will pass; rather he tells Moshe to bestow his spirit onto seventy elders who will now share the burden of leadership.

The Torah then abruptly interrupts this narrative and goes back to the topic the desire for meat and telling of the coming of the birds. Only afterwards do we get back to the spirit resting upon the elders and the subsequent Eldad and Medad drama.

Its seems that the connection is as follows. The complainers experienced a chronic emptiness, it wasn’t the stomach that was hungry, it was their sense of self. Their life was too full of top-down experiences. Torah from heaven, food from heaven, and the answer to all questions from Moshe. They were actually hungry for their own soul.

Moshe sensed this and therefore compared them to a baby, the implication being that they needed to grow into independence. God explained that in order to get there Moshe needed to relinquish his hold on the exclusive leadership and to share his divine spirit with others. When the people see this they will start to break down their “happiness is out there” mindset.

At first, Yehoshua, did not understand how radical this change was, so he asked Moshe to stop the outsiders, Eldad and Medad, from prophesying. Moshe then reveals to him that the appointment of the elders was just the beginning of a process of giving the soul back to the people. “If only all the God’s people were prophets, that God will put His spirit upon them” (11,29).

The way to calming our incessant dissatisfaction begins with the realization that we all have a potential prophetic spring deep inside of ourselves.

Rav Sholom's Treasures

אוצר רב שלום

וַיַּעַשׂ כֵּן אַהֲרֹן

אֶל-מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה הֶעֱלָה נֵרֹתֶיהָ

כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֶת-מֹשֶׁה

In verse two at the opening of our parsha we read, "And Aharon did just as Hashem had commanded him". All the commentators ask why is the Torah telling us this? Would anyone have thought that he would do otherwise? Rashi explains that the Torah is commending Aharon for doing everyday exactly as he was instructed to do, – "shelo sheenah" – he did not make any changes. It seems like the question still needs to be answered – why would you think that Aharon would make any changes in the performance of this great mitzvah?

The Mei Hashiloach explains "shelo sheenah" – that he did not make any changes, as follows. It is common experience that in our practice of our daily mitzvot, we often lose some of our excitement and joy in their performance. All too often we sink into an autopilot mode, performing the mitzvot routinely without true excitement and joy. We become "old" and we fall asleep. [The word 'sheenah' is thus related to the word 'shainah' – sleep.] The greatness of Aharon was that each day he would light the Menorah with the same joy and anticipation, as if he was doing for the first time.

Reb Shlomo zt"l provides a very dramatic explanation of "shelo sheenah" [L'ma'an Achai V'reyai p.56]. Aharon haKohen was an extraordinarily holy man. Most people imagine a holy person as someone who keeps himself at a distance from the ordinary folk and remains aloof from their day-to-day life, protecting him or herself from the assumed ungodliness of the street.

The problem with such descriptions of holy people is that we then see them as so beyond us that we can never imagine ourselves as being holy. But Aharon haKohen was not like that at all. Reb Shlomo describes our first High Priest in a very different manner. Aharon haKohen was indeed very holy, and at the same time very accessible.

Aharon haKohen was the first Kohen and the first Kohen Gadol ever. All Kohanim until Moshiach is coming are his descendants and their sanctity stems from him. One would imagine that he surely spent all his time in the sanctuary, offering sacrifices, studying Torah, praying and meditating. He was so holy that the entire Yom Kippur service was done by him; he was the only one to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year on Yom Kippur on behalf of the entire nation, and only he pronounced the "Shem Hameforash," the unutterable Divine Name of G-d. All this is true, yet at the same time he was able to be very close to his people – not despite his holiness, but, because he was so holy!

What does it mean that Aharon haKohen pronounced Hashem's Holy Name in the Holy of Holies on a daily basis? What did it mean to Aharon and what did it mean to us on a daily basis? What does it mean to us today?

Reb Shlomo explains that these very same lips that uttered Hashem's Name, were making peace between people! The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot [Chap. 1] instructs us to be among the students of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the people and bringing them close to the Torah. It is explained that Aharon did not merely give lip service to peace. Instead of spending most of his time isolated in the protected holiness of the Sanctuary, he was among the people, talking with them, listening to them and actively helping them live in peace. He would make peace between husband and wife, between business partners, between parents and children, between friends, etc. The holiness of Hashem's Name was on Aharon's lips every single day. A holy person speaks holy; a holy person speaks healing words of comfort, reconciliation and peace. Because he was so holy, the Oneness of G-d was so very real to him. Because he was so close to Hashem he was so he could not tolerate people hurting one another. His holiness would not allow him to do the services in the Sanctuary, unless he gave it full expression in the street.

When Aharon would meet someone who was 'off' in his religious practice, he did not tell him "Listen brother, you're off, you are a mess and you better change.” Aharon haKohen saw with 'Mashiach eyes'. He saw the depths of each person. He saw that people are truly holy on the inside. He actively loved them by being with them, by seeing and focusing on their good points and their inner holiness, by speaking with them lovingly, by helping them get along in peace, their Divine souls were aroused and strengthened. Then they would on their own, realize how holy they were and how connected they were. In his presence they became aware of the 'natural' holy fire that is aflame in their hearts.

"Sheloh sheenah" – he did not change – means he did not try to make the other person change, says Reb Shlomo. This was the greatness of Aharon haKohen. Aharon actively loved everyone. When you see someone who is 'off', you need Moshiach eyes to love him and help him. You don't learn to love from 'outside', it is a matter of the 'inside'. As he would light the Menorah he connected all of Israel with the 'or ganuz', and thus inspired all of us to do intimate Tshuvah.

Once during a television interview Reb Shlomo zt"l was asked what was the secret of his great success in 'kiruv' – in bringing so many thousands of Jews back to their roots, did he have some kind of formula? [Kiruv – is the widely used term by those doing religious outreach work. It means, bringing close.] Reb Shlomo zt"l said two things. First, he said that he doesn't use the word 'kiruv' because who is to say that he is closer to G-d than the person that he connecting with – maybe this person who is seemingly less observant, is actually closer to G-d? Secondly, he said, that he does not have any formula at all. He just prays each time that Hashem should put the right words in his mouth and that these words should reach the heart.


"And Aharon did as Hashem had commanded him." All the commentators ask why is the Torah telling us this? Would anyone have thought that he would do otherwise? Rashi explains that the Torah is commending Aharon for doing everyday exactly as he was instructed to do, without making any changes.

Rabbi Raphael Binyamin Levine zt"l [who passed away on the 7th of Iyar 5762] taught me this teaching which is found in the holy Zohar:

We find in the first chapter of the Torah that when G-d said 'yehi or' -- let there be light, the verse continues and says 'va-yehi or' -- and there was light. However concerning all other creations we find that when G-d said, "let there be," it then says "va-yehi kein," 'and it was thus' [exactly as Hashem had commanded]. From the fact that it says 'and there was light' and it does not say 'va'yehi kein' after G-d's command, 'let there be light', the Rabbis learn that though there was light, it was not the full light that G-d had originally intended. We received light -- "va-yehi or", but it was only some of the light that Hashem had planned initially! The majority of this light was hidden as the 'or ganuz'. When Aharon haKohen the High Priest lit the Menorah he brought us the light that Hashem originally wanted to give us. "Va'ya'as kein Aharon', Aharon brought the 'kein' to the creation of light!


Aharon haKohen was told "B'ha-alotcha et haneyrot" When you will raise up (light) the lamps [of Hashem]. One would have expected the word "b'hadlakatcha" [when you will kindle] to be used in this verse, why then does it say "b'ha-alotcha" [when you will raise up]? Rashi explains that from this we learn that Aharon was to hold a flame near to the wicks until each flame would rise up on its own.

"Neir Hashem nishmas adam" – "the lamp of Hashem is the soul of man." (Proverbs 20:27) Each soul is a 'neir' - a lamp of Hashem. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that when Aharon Hakohen was lighting the Menorah, he was also lighting the lamps of each Jewish soul; he was bringing their Divine Light out of concealment. We have learned that in a certain sense each one of us is a Kohen and each one of us has been given the holy task of 'raising up' Hashem's lamps.

Each mitzvah is a holy lamp and each time we do a mitzvah it is as if we are lighting a candle before Hashem, as we see in the following Midrash:"The soul of man is the lamp of Hashem." (Proverbs 20:27) G-d said: 'Let My lamp be in thy hand, and thy lamp in My hand.' What is the lamp of G-d? The Torah, as it says, "For the mitzvah is a lamp and the [teaching] Torah is light." (Proverbs 6:3) Why is the 'mitzvah' commandment a lamp? Because if one performs a commandment, it is as if he has kindled a light before G-d, and it is as if he has revived his own soul, -- also called a light, for it says, "The soul of man is the lamp of Hashem." (Proverbs 36:3)

The Sfas Emes explains that in this world we are surrounded by the darkness of the evil inclination and the 'sitra achrah' [the other side]. Though this darkness is real, we can nullify it and dispel it by the performance of the mitzvot, as it says in the Midrash, that the performance of a mitzvah is compared to lighting a candle before Hashem. In the doing of a mitzvah you are making space for glory of Hashem's 'malchut' to shine in this world.

Elsewhere, the Sfas Emes explains that just as it is a 'halacha' that if a visitor of yours leaves your home at night, you, the host, are obligated to provide your guest with a lantern so that he/she will be able to get home safely. So too as Hashem sends our souls into this spiritually dangerous world, He is obligated to provide us with light to help us navigate in it safely. Thus Hashem gave us His Torah and mitzvot.

Furthermore, as we do the mitzvot, Hashem is holding our candles, -- our souls, and nourishes them with supernal light and thus vivifies our souls. The Sfas Emes goes on to say that Hashem gave us His Torah and mitzvot in such a manner that we can not only perform the mitzvot, we can actually become the mitzvot that we are doing.

One can give tzedakkah because he is commanded to. But then you can attain the level of "being tzedakkah"! Once the Shpoler Zeydeh wrapped Reb Schneur Zalman in a tallis and danced seven 'Hakafot' holding him like a sefer Torah, just like on Simchat Torah, saying "The alter Rebbe IS a Sefer Torah."