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by Daneal Weiner
This week we’re gonna have to delve into some secrets. There are 4 levels to Torah: Pshot, Remez, Drush, and Sode (Context, hinted, expounded, and secrets.) The first letters of these 4 words spells PaRDeS which means 'Orchard'! Leave out the Sode- the secrets, and the three remaining letters spell PheReD- 'mule'!!! Without secrets this would be "From the Mule of Jerusalem" and then I'd be sued by the Jerusalem Post for encroachment.
Out with the secrets!
opens (8:1), “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to Aharon and say to him, “When you kindle the Menorah lamps...”’” Rav Moshe Wolfson brings the Alshich Hakadosh who knows some secrets. The Alshich asks why the double talk- "Speak to Aharon and say to him"? He answers that Moshe is revealing to Aharon all the secrets behind the lighting of the Menorah. The affects it has on this physical world and on the myriad of spiritual worlds. The reparation it brings for Israel and the original light it releases into the world. But secrets can't be spoken out! So "Speak to Aharon and say to him..." is all we get to hear.
The Torah then says, regarding Aharon’s service of the Menorah (8:3), “And Aharon did so...as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” The a world famous Rashi on this verse says, “‘And Aharon did so’ is to tell the praise of Aharon, that he did not change.” The world famous explanation is that the lighting of the Menorah was something that Aharon did every day. Every, every day for almost 40 years! So what didn't change? That in this every day service, for the rest of his life, he did not change in his enthusiasm to fulfill this mitsvah!
Impossible to imagine! Anyone remember how excited you were the first time you tied your shoes and you learned it was a mitsvah to tie the left shoe first? I bet now, 20 - 40 years later, you’re tying your left shoe first with the same excitement as that first time! No? (Don't worry, you'll get that excitement back when your 80.) Aharon was capable of such an incredible level of service to Hashem that every day the excitement was like the first day. Gevaldik!
That’s not even the half of it! Rav Wolfson asks the following question.
Rashi prefaced his remark on “And Aharon did so…” with "…is to tell the praise of Aharon.” If the meaning is that every single day Aharon lit the Menorah with the same enthusiasm as the first day then all Rashi needed to say was, “ ‘And Aharon did so’ is to tell he did not change” and everyone would agree what incredible praise of Aharon it is that he was capable of such service. Why the need to preface that with “To tell the praise of Aharon”? Of course it’s a praise!? You hear the question?
In other words, Rashi makes it seem like Aharon did something that could be seen in a positive light or NEGATIVE which compelled him to clarify it “is to tell the praise of Aharon that he did not change” because you might think his not changing was a bad thing!? What didn’t the world famous answer answer?
Rav Wolfson begins his answer with a time check. The Mishkan is now in its 13th day of operation. Last week’s parsha ended with the 12 Princes bringing their inaugural gifts and we know they were brought one a day for twelve days. Rashi on verse 7:1 tells us that the first offering was brought on the first of Nissan. Parshas Beha’aloscha (oops, the secrets out) opens on the 13th of Nissan and, as we learned from the Alshich Hakodesh, Aharon is now being taught the secrets of the Menorah. But, if the Mishkan has been up and running already for 12 days then the Menorah must have been lit those 12 days. Who's been lighting it? Speaking unanimously for all commentaries since Mt. Sinai, it was Aharon!
The first 12 days Aharon lit the Menorah because he was told to. Exciting, no doubt, to be in the Mishkan, fulfilling Hashem's command. But, Ahhh! Along comes day 13 and Hashem tells Moshe, “Speak to Aharon and say to him, “When you kindle the lamps, Aharon, do you want to know what you are doing? What affects you are causing?? What kedusha you're creating??? The reparations your making???? What kind of light your illuminating?????" You’re not just lighting wicks! You’re creating worlds!! Altering universes!!! Affecting atonement for Israel!!!! And Rashi comes along and says, "He did not change."
"Did not change"? Aharon, aren't you more excited about lighting the Menorah, now than before? Now that you know all the secrets? Doesn't that give it more meaning? How could you not be more honored by the service? How could you not change? That’s not good that Aharon didn’t change. EHHH! WRONG! Rashi clarifies this "is to tell the PRAISE of Aharon"! The first 12 days, Aharon lit the Menorah with such enthusiasm, with such desire, with such devotion and a connection to Hashem that even after he learned the mysticism behind it he did not change! It wasn't possible for him to add an iota more enthusiasm! Between the 'just do it' of day 1-12 and the 'here is what you are doing' of day 13 Aharon was so into it he could not change! And that's how he lit it the next 40 years!!!
Oy vay! I have to rest just thinking about it.
This is just a peek through a slit in a crack of a pin hole of who our ancestors were. (Don’t try to work it out.) And Aharon is 3-400 years removed from the greatness of Avraham, Yitschak and Yaakov. Can you imagine what their service of Hashem was like? This is our Zchus Avos- merit of the forefathers and mothers. When Hashem revealed His 13 attributes of mercy to Moshe, after the golden calf, one of them was, "Notser chesed l'alaphim"- Preserver of kindness to thousands [of generations]. A word in the plural form without a number designation means the least possible plural, two. Hashem is a Preserver of kindness to two thousand generations. Using a low ball-park figure of about twenty years per generation we are about 1880 generations from Avraham. All that Zchus Avos is still working for us today.
Unfortunately, not only does it take a Torah education to be able to follow in our ancestor’s footsteps, it takes one to even gain the unimaginable image of who they were to follow them. Too many Jews and Jewish 'leaders' are lacking such an education. Our brethren are plagued with a leadership of clowns who see our ancestors’ lives as the same circus act as their own. For example, did you know Yaakov was raised in a broken home? Sure, it says explicitly, ‘Yitschak loved Eisav and Rivka loved Yaakov.’ That's why Yaakov went to his no-good Uncle Lavan's house. Eisav was no-good and his father loved him so Yaakov went to his uncle to learn how to be a no-good too, to win his father's love! When Joseph was born Yaakov didn't want to corrupt him so he had to leave Lavan's and settle for being a do-gooder.” If only they had ‘Jerry Springer’ to talk those problems out. And if you think I made up this boorish depiction of our holy ancestors, just reference the “Torah” column in the aforementioned newspaper. Don’t get me started. I’m supposed to be resting.
Remarkable, but hardly remarked on, are the two upside down, inverted nuns (not 'nones', nuns) found before and after verses 10:35&36. More secrets? A verse from Mishle- Proverbs (9:1) says, "With all forms of wisdom did she build her house, she carved out 7 pillars." Rashi says on all of Mishle that whenever it speaks of a wise women it’s allegorically speaking about the Torah. The Torah carved out 7 pillars? Is this an illusion to 7 books? The Gemorah Shabbos says in the opinion of Rebbe that these verses between the nuns represent a book in itself! Not that Bamidbar is interrupted by another book but it’s one book before the first nun, one between them and one after the second nun, bringing the total to 7! But are these two verses the whole book, or part of it?
Rav Wolfson learns that these book-end nuns, two symbols of 50 reflect a 7th book emanating from the 5th Gate of Wisdom which is beyond our grasp. Beyond our understanding. But a portion is revealed because Moshe having mastered the first 49 Gates had touched upon the 50th Gate. So that Torah was touched upon in Moshe’s Torah. The rest will be revealed in the end of days.
There's another opinion in that Gemorah Shabbos who says these 2 verses are marked by the nuns to indicate that they are out of place, relocated here to make a break in the Torah's narrative of 3 consecutive shortcomings of Bnei Yisrael. This opinion says that in the end of days when the satan is killed and we will no longer fear the consequences of three consecutive sins, then these 2 verses will return to their rightful place. This opinion sounds like Bamidbar is a single book cut in two. It may seem to conflict with the first opinion, but on one thing they agree. These 2 nuns are waiting for the 50th Gate to swing open and for good things to happen! May it be speedily and in our day.
Why 85 words? 85 is the numeric value of 'pey-hey' which spells peh- mouth. Perhaps ('perhaps' denotes “Warning! Author is about to make something up! Perhaps) we can draw something from Pesach which we also find in this parsha? Chazal say ‘Pesach’ is a contraction of, 'Peh-Sach'- mouth-talk. On Pesach we read from the 'Hagadah'- the narration, we tell the story of the redemption, we stimulate the children to ask questions. It’s a very peh-sach oriented holiday. But Peh-Sach wasn't the final redemption! It wasn't the 50th-Gate redemption. We only (as if it weren’t enough) sunk to the 49th level in Egypt and Moshe took us out from that and yet the Torah says we came out ‘chamushim’ which the Zohar says to read chamishim- 50. We also came out from the 50th level. As the precursor of all exiles that redemption also had to be a precursor to the final redemption. So there was a taste of it there. It gave us what to talk about. Maybe this is an idea behind the peh letters of this secret book waiting to be revealed with the final redemption. It’s a taste. Something to talk about.
Jumping to the end of the parsha... well, since we mentioned Pesach we'll take the scenic route. We find Bnei Yisrael complaining about the mon. They yearned for the free food back in Egypt. Free food?!? Commentaries say that the food in Egypt was mitsvah free! In the simplest sense, free from the mitsvah of Kashrus. This is still difficult.
After hearing the mitsvah of the Korban Pesach- Pascal lamb, we read some Jews approached Moshe complaining that they were tamay- spiritually impure for a good reason and were not allowed to bring the Korban Pesach. They were one mitsvah behind crowd! They wanted that mitsvah!
We heard from Rabbi Zev Leff in the Shavuos issue examples of how the Torah is a gift, not an obligation. These men were legitimately exempt from the Korban Pesach. If they felt exempt from an obligation they should say, “Great! Saved one goat for the Bar-B-Q!” They obviously feel they are missing out on a gift and want in! Rav Moshe Shternbach agrees that it can't be that Bnei Yisrael is complaining they want mitsvah-free food! They love the mitsvos too much! What does the Rav say is the real complaint?
Twice a day we say in the Shema that our sustenance is tied into our observance of mitsvos. When we do right we get the rains in their time and gather in the produce. This frees us to do more mitsvos. If not, not. But we live in time when Hashem’s Name of Mercy largely governs the world. He gives us time for tshuvah. We could sin and sin again and we could still be harvesting bumper crops while Hashem waits for our tshuva. The holy generation in the desert, however, lived under Justice. They sinned, they got zapped. Sin, Zap. Sin, Zap. And Justice wasn’t only felt in life or death matters. Their mitvos affected their sustenance immediately!
The Gemorah Yumah says the righteous of that generation would open their tent flaps and their portion of mon was right there! Others had to walk out from their tents. Some had to go wandering about the desert. Their level of mitsvah observance was reported daily! You think you had a good day of learning… next morning… where’s your mon? You raised your voice at the Mrs.? Of course, she deserved it! Better sleep with the binoculars, you’ll need them in the morning. The two people who probably traversed more desert for food than anybody were Dasan and Avirom and in two weeks they'll be fed up (boo hiss) and challenge Moshe's authority saying, "We all heard the word of Hashem! We're all great prophets! We're all great people! Equality!!!" Granted, they were wicked, but it was difficult for even the average Jew of that great generation to live under Justice, to live with such mitsvah “enriched" food. Egypts food was indeed mitsvah free.
At the end of the parsha, Miriam speaks lashon horah and receives tsara'as. Having repeatedly attempted to impress the greatness of our ancestor's, Rav Leff asks, how does Miriam come to speak lashon horah? And about Moshe, of all people!?
She put her life on the line to watch Moshe in the Nile. She has no ill feelings towards him. She was talking to Aharon. When Hashem made Moshe the redeemer over his older brother, Aharon, Hashem told Moshe Aharon’s heart was filled with joy for him. Aharon has no complaints of Moshe’s greatness. And Moshe is the humblest of all men. He could not possibly care less what his loving sister said to his loving brother. Miriam was not thinking lashon horah, didn’t say lashon horah, and absolutely did not do a ding of damage that lashon horah is supposed to do! BUT, she was amongst the greatest of a great generation, whose actions are measured to a hair’s breadth, and she was living in world of Justice. And when Justice heard the faintest of faint sounds of what might be read into her words it registered lashon horah and responded.
The ultimate proof was in Moshe's prayer for her return to health. Moshe knows when it comes to sins between man and fellow men that Hashem does not forgive till man forgives. And all Moshe said was, "Hashem, please heal her." No mention of forgiveness. There was nothing to forgive. A great vort from a great Rabbi about an unimaginably great woman and her two unimaginably great brothers. "Notser chesed l'alaphim." We are an unimaginably fortunate people!
Grab a taste of the 50th Gate of Wisdom, a peh’s worth of the World to Come and make your ancestor's proud by having an unimaginably great Shabbat Shalom!
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