Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
PARSHAT B'HA'ALOTCHABamidbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16
Haftorah - Judges 13:2-25
Over the past few months we have discussed the mechanism of the relationship between Hashem and the B'nai Yisrael. As a review, in Parshat Kedoshim, we discussed the importance of Hebrew, both as a cultural and literary connection to the Jewish thought process. "Kedoshim Ti'hiyu Ki Kadosh Ani - You Shall Be Holy For I Am Holy (Parshat Kedoshim, Vayikra [Leviticus] 19:2)." While we translate Kadosh as holy, the Hebrew word actually means to be distinctive. Since Hashem is distinctive, we who wish to exemplify His ways must also behave in a distinctive manner.
In Parshat B'chukotai, we discussed the concept of reward and punishment, or as I like to call it, reciprocal realities (what goes around, comes around). Our individual and national behaviour initiates either positive or negative changes to the world around us. These positive or negative changes are directly linked to the battle between goodness and evil that we are at all times involved in.
Regardless of which stand we might take, either doing an act of goodness or not doing an act of goodness, either doing an act of evil or not doing an act of evil, causes changes to the cosmos. As is stated in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:18 - "Tzur Y'lodcha Teshi - The Rock That Gave Birth To You, Shall Be Weakened" - by transgressing Hashem's ways, we actually diminish His position in the world.
The RaMCHa"L (Rabbi Moshe CHaim Luzzato - 17th century Italian Kabbalist and ethical writer) explains that Hashem created the world to function on the principal of Midah K'neged Midah - measure for measure. By His own design, our good deeds make Him stronger and more goodness comes into the world. Conversely, our wicked deeds make Him weaker and more evil comes into the world (Hashem's power is a constant, it is our perception of Him and His benevolence, that is affected).
Which brings us to this week's Parsha. Chaviv (also known as Jethro), the father-in-law of Moshe is about to depart from the midst of the B'nai Yisrael and return to Midian. After the revelation on Mt. Sinai, Jethro was instrumental in devising a series of higher and lower courts to deal with the everyday questions as to Torah observance and Torah interpretation (Shemot [Exodus] 18:13-27). Jethro was an advisor, he saw with a certain clarity, that which was beneficial to those less enlightened.
Our Midrash tells us that Jethro was one of three advisors to Pharaoh. When the soothsayers saw that a redeemer had been born, Pharaoh asked of his three top advisors - Balaam, Jethro and Job, what action should taken. Balaam advised Pharaoh to destroy the deliverer (Pharaoh tried to take his advise and had all male newborns thrown into the Nile). Balaam was given great rewards by Pharaoh. Jethro advised that the treaties between Egypt and Grand Viceroy Joseph and his father Jacob, be honoured. Jethro was banished. Job, not wanting to go along with Balaam and yet fearing the fate of Jethro, fled and gave no advise.
In our Parsha, Jethro was about to depart the camp of Israel and return to Midian. Moshe tries to dissuade his father-in-law and have him join the Israelites journey into Eretz Yisrael. In his plea to Chaviv, Moshe says, "Please do not forsake us...V'hayitah Lanu L'anayim - For You Have Been Eyes For Us" (Numbers 10:31).
Sometimes an outsider can see clearer than those on the inside. Jethros insight perceived flaws that would need Tikkun (rectification). Moshe uinderstod that at some later period, how successful that rectification, would have great impact on all of Jewish history. Moshe wanted "those eyes" to remain in the camp of Israel, so that the B'nai Yisrael would always be in the grace of Hashem.
Criticism can be very insightful. Moshe saw that he needed an extra pair of eyes to bring perfection to Am Yisrael. He also saw that Jethro had the integrity and the foresight to be those extra eyes. Many of us are critical of the Jewish world, we perceive things that are not right. It is our duty to search out ways to improve ourselves and our communities at all times, for ultimately, it is our actions that create reality.
Just as we desire Hashem to right the wrongs of the world, Hashem has the very same expectations of us. By bringing goodness into the world, we strengthen His persona and deliver graciousness into reality.
The evil Balaam wanted to destroy the B'nai Yisrael, his end was death by the sword (Numbers 31:8). Job tried to avoid choosing between good and evil, he eventually had to reckon with the ultimate evil, Satan himself (the Book of Job). Jethro, or Chaviv, or Putiel or any of the other names we know him by, chose an unpopular path, but he created a reality that gave him sons-in-law the likes of Moshe and Elazar the son of Aaron, and the choicest lands around Jericho were given to Jethro and his descendants who would eventually be instrumental in saving Judaism for all time (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
Let us all use our eyes properly and become mirrors of His holy and distinctive ways. May His graciousness be felt across this planet, so that one day, all may recognize Him as One and His Name as One.
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
Back to this week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Shema Yisrael Torah Network