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Pop Quiz: For how long did Hashem provide quail in the desert?

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free" (Bemidbar 11:5)

Our perashah records a complaint from the Jewish people while in the desert. We remember the free fish in Egypt! As usual, we mustn't learn the episodes of the Torah as mere stories. We must dig a little deeper. Rashi explains: The Egyptians, who would not even give the Jews straw for their work, surely would not give them free food! These protesters meant that the food in Egypt was free in the sense that it came without any obligation to perform misvot.

From Rashi we learn that the Jewish people were being criticized for feeling that the misvot were a burden, that while in Egypt we were able to eat our food without having to worry about washing our hands for bread, or making sure it was kosher, or saying a berachah or bircat hamazon. Now we have all of this burden of misvot!

Let's give an example and we will see how foolish this really is. The Da'at Torah says: Let us study our Shabbat, our "day off," and the "day off of the gentiles. They have a great day; they can do what they want, cook and bake, have a great barbecue and go where they please. They cant believe that our "day off" is for real. If you would tell them that there is one day a week that we can't cook anything, they would laugh in disbelief! However, we know that not only is it not a burden, but we love it. We eat on that day from the best foods without the burden of having to cook it on that day. Can the gentile understand this? Misvot are never a burden. A person should look deeply into himself if he feels the misvot are a burden, because in reality the misvot are a source of joy and pleasure, not only in the next world, but even in this world. There is no question that the simple pious Jew has more happiness and pleasure in this world than the person who indulges in all of the so called worldly pleasures. It says in a later perashah that a Jew is lacking "because you did not serve Hashem with gladness and goodness of heart" (Debarim 28:47). Probably the greatest cause for a Jew not to feel this joy is his constant rushing. Take a minute to taste the sweetness of our misvot. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"Moshe heard the people weeping in their families" (Bemidbar 11:10)

When the Jewish people complained to Moshe about the mann, the Torah says that Moshe heard them crying "lemishpehotav - in their families." The Rabbis explain that in reality they were complaining about their family lives. They were really complaining about the fact that, after they received the Torah, their relatives had become forbidden to them to marry. But on the surface they were just using the mann as an excuse to be unhappy. That's why there were such devastating results in this episode. Because when one is bothered by something and yet uses something else as an excuse, we can never appease him fully, since we are only addressing the issue he mentioned and in reality the problem lies somewhere else.

It is always wise to remember this lesson when listening to complaints or criticism.. We must learn to read between the lines and see whether there is some underlying problem rather than the one which is apparent. This applies both on a personal and on a communal level, and when addressed correctly, will provide a great chance of solving the real problem.


"And Aharon did so; toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as G-d had commanded Moshe" (Bemidbar 8:3)

Rashi explains that the Torah emphasizes that "Aharon did so" to declare Aharon's praise that he did not act differently. Would anyone suspect that Aharon would depart from Hashem's command?

Aharon, as Kohen Gadol, kindled the Menorah the entire 40 years that the Mishkan was in the wilderness. A person naturally does something for the first time with more dedication and excitement than after he has done it for several years. In his praise, the Torah says that Aharon did not change. Even after kindling the Menorah for many years, he continued to do so with the same dedication and excitement as the first time.

Alternatively, Aharon was a "lover of peace and pursuer of peace" (Pirkei Abot 1:12), and was therefore loved by every Jew. An ordinary citizen is often affable and involved with people and their needs. However, a person who is appointed to a high office may become conceited and distant.

Aharon's greatness is that even when he became the Kohen Gadol, holding the second highest position in the Jewish community, he did not change toward his fellow man. He still remained the same lover of peace and pursuer of peace. (Vedibarta Bam)


"We are contaminated by a human corpse; why should we be diminished by not offering Hashem's offering?" (Bemidbar 9:7)

At the time when Bnei Yisrael sacrificed the Korban Pesah, a few men were impure and ineligible to participate in the sacrifice. They approached Moshe and protested this point, claiming that they should be able to bring the sacrifice. Moshe consulted with Hashem, Who told him they may make up the sacrifice one month later on Pesah Sheni.

A person's level of love for Hashem can be gauged by his attitude toward the misvot. The Gemara in Masechet Berachot tells how the earlier generations would be careful with their crops to make sure that the ma'aser was taken out, while the later generations would use (perfectly legal) loopholes in order to exempt themselves from separating the ma'aser. Even though the later generations did everything according to halachah, they were not on the same level as their ancestors. The true lovers of Hashem do not look for a way to get out of performing a misvah. Rather, they are constantly seeking ways to fulfill more and more misvot.

Our Rabbis teach that the earlier generations viewed spiritual matters in much the same way that the later generations view physical matters. It is no secret that a person nowadays would go to great lengths to acquire physical possessions, and if he is unsuccessful, he feels pain and anguish. This is the same attitude that a devotee of Hashem should have regarding Torah and misvot. He should constantly strive to do more, to learn more, and if he is unable, he should feel regret over it.

This was the reason that the people who were exempt from the Korban Pesah protested to Moshe. Technically, they could have just sat back and accepted their exclusion happily, as many of us do when we are not absolutely obligated to do something. Instead, they fought for their rights to serve Hashem with all their strength. (Lekah Tob)


"And Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe" (Bemidbar 12:1)

Miriam heard from Moshe's wife, Siporah, that Moshe had separated himself from her. Miriam felt that Moshe's behavior was improper and related this to her brother, Aharon.

The Hafess Hayim writes that from these verses we learn a number of principles concerning lashon hara:

1) The prohibition against speaking lashon hara applies even when the person spoken against is very humble and does not mind if others speak against him. For this reason, right after Moshe was spoken against, the Torah states that he was humble.

2) Even if you have done many favors for another person, it does not give you the right to speak against him. Miriam helped save Moshe's life when he was an infant, but she was still punished for her lashon hara.

3) The prohibition against lashon hara applies even if you do not publicize the lashon hara but only relate it to one person, and that person is a relative who will not repeat it to anyone else. Miriam told the lashon hara only to her brother Aharon who would not publicize it.

4) If you say about a truly great man that his behavior would only be proper if he were on a higher level, but on his present level his behavior is improper, it is considered lashon hara. Miriam felt that Moshe was wrong for separating himself from his wife. She erred, however, since Moshe's level of prophecy was such that at any moment G-d could communicate with him and his abstention was proper. (Love Your Neighbor)

Answer to pop quiz: 30 days.

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