Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 3 No. 33

Parshas Behaaloscha

G-d's Road is Safe, Secure and Successful

Had the Torah wished to inform us as to how Yisroel, throughout their forty years' stay in the desert, were guided by G-d, and how they travelled and encamped at His command, it could surely have achieved this in two or three pesukim. Yet it chose to assign no less than nine pesukim for that purpose, using a constant flow of seemingly repetitive phrases.
The S'forno, explaining each superfluous phrase, attributes the Torah's excessive language to the strong "emunah" which the people displayed here by following G-d's instructions blindly, even under the most taxing and difficult conditions, and even when they seemed to clash with their own self-interests.
Sometimes, he says, they would encamp in a wild and desolate place, where they would wait patiently, often for long periods. They would remain there for weeks or even months, until the cloud eventually enfolded itself over the tribe of Yehuda, indicating that they must move off, and Moshe Rabeinu would subsequently issue the instructions to travel. On other occasions, he continues, they would arrive at a green and luscious site, where there was ample food for themselves and excellent grazing facilities for their cattle, yet when ordered to leave, they would move on without as much as a murmur, even though they may have only been there for a short while. And at other times, they would be instructed to break camp the morning after their arrival, although they were still weary from the previous journey. On still other occasions, it was a matter of days or weeks until, just as they were beginning to get used to their new surroundings and had got themselves organised, the Cloud enfolded and they were off again. Three times the Torah repeats the phrase "at G-d's command they encamped and at G-d's command they travelled" (though on the first occasion the order is inverted). It is to indicate the diverse situations mentioned above which faced them during their long stay in the desert, all of which they accepted in good faith.

Children who travel with their father do not always understand the itinerary that he has planned. Sometimes they think he ought to turn left when he turns right, and he might well turn left when they would have preferred him to turn right. Sometimes he lingers when they would like him to speed, and there are times when he speeds, although, in their young minds, he ought to have slowed down. Yet, if the children have faith in their father's judgement, they will follow him without complaint. Not fully conversant with the entire itinerary, they will understand that sometimes their short-term interests only clash with their father's overall plan, whilst on other occasions, even their short-term dream of pleasure might not be quite such a good idea at all, stemming as it does from inexperienced minds. They will realise that they cannot possibly perceive the pitfalls and dangers of which their more mature and experienced father is aware.

When G-d sets us on a course, be it in a desert or anywhere else, then we can feel secure in the knowledge that, in His Divine maturity, wisdom and experience, He has foreseen and eliminated all pitfalls and dangers, and that that course can only ultimately lead to success. We can and must proceed along it without fear or trepidation, because, as long as we allow our movements to be guided by G-d, we will always be safe, secure and successful.

When Aharon saw the Princes' inauguration of the Mizbei'ach (which concludes Parshas Nosso), he felt faint. He was upset because neither he nor his tribe participated in the inauguration.
G-d consoled him and said "By your life, your lot is great than theirs, because you kindle and prepare the lights" - Rashi.
It is not at first clear as to why Aharon needed to be upset. What prevented him from joining the Princes and bringing his own set of "gifts" for the Mizbei'ach?
The Meforshim however, write that there are always twelve tribes, never thirteeen. As a rule, Levi is listed among the twelve, and Yosef is counted as one. Sometimes - in the desert, often - Ephraim and Menasheh are counted as two tribes, in which case Levi is not counted at all. If the twelve tribes (incorporating the four camps, which included Ephraim and Menasheh, but precluded Levi) saw fit to inaugurate the Mizbei'ach, then there was no way that Levi could participate, since that would have made Levi the thirteenth tribe. And that explains Aharon's frustration.

Was Aharon's mood justified? Surely, jealousy is a bad midoh?

This cannot be. Had Aharon's jealousy been considered a bad character-trait, then G-d would not have responded favourably. Conversely, if G-d responded favourably, then it can only be because Aharon's jealousy was rooted in the jealousy of talmidei-chachomim, for jealousy in spiritual things results in an increase in spirituality, as Chazal write, "The jealousy of talmidei-chachomim increases wisdom" (Bovo Basro 21a). In other words, their desire to know more is granted to them, which is precisely what happened to Aharon ha'Cohen, particularly so according to the Ramban, which we will discuss shortly.
G-d's consolation appears to be based on the fact that kindling the Menorah was a regular mitzvah, whereas the Princes' inauguration only occured once (see Rashbam).

Yet it is difficult to understand why G-d picked out the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah, when he could have chosen the Ketores, the pick of the Korbonos, as Rashi himself points out in Parshas Korach, or any of the other Korbonos for that matter?

The Ramban poses this question, and on account of it, he interprets the Medrash quoted by Rashi in a different light. The Medrash is referring, not to the daily mitzvah of lighting the Menorah, but to the inauguration of the Menorah that would take place in the time of the Greeks, and that inauguration would be initiated by Cohanim - Mattisyohu Cohen Godol and his sons.

In which way would that inauguration surpass that of the Princes' inauguration of the Mizbei'ach? The Princes' inauguration would only be effective as long as the Mishkon and its successor, the Beis Ha'mikdosh, stood. Once it was destroyed, no practical evidence of their magnificent gift remained. Not so the inauguration of the Chashmono'im. It would be commemorated even after the Churban ha'Bayis, throughout the many years of the long and bitter golus, in the form of the Menorah that we kindle still today, every Chanukah.

That was the advantage of the inauguration brought about by the Cohanim, and that was the consolation with which G-d consoled Aharon.

The Ba'al Ha'turim writes: "It places the Parshah of the lights next to the inauguration (Chanukah), a hint to the mitzvah of "publicising the miracle" by the lights of Chanukah" (just as the inauguration of the Mizbei'ach was performed amidst much publicity). This explanation goes particularly well with that of the Ramban that we quoted a little earlier, since the mitzvah of Chanukah is indeed to light with "pirsumei nisso".

The Long and Short of it All

The Gemoro in B'rochos (34c) tells the story of R. El;ozor who condoned the unusually brief tefillah of a certain chazen, on the grounds that his prayer was certainly no shorter than that of Moshe, whose prayer on behalf of his sister consisted of no more than five words (see last Rashi, 12:13).

Then the Gemoro tells another story of the same R. El'ozor, who condoned the unusually long tefillah of a chazen, on the grounds that his prayer was hardly longer than that of Moshe Rabeinu, who prayed for forty days to save Yisroel from extinction following the "Chet ho'Eigel".

Now had the two mispallelim in the Torah been two different people, then R. El'ozor might have remarked that the one had a tendency to daven long, and the other one, short. And again, had the Rov in the one story not been the same as the Rov in the other, then we might have deduced that the one Rov preferred a long davening, whilst the other one preferred that one keep one's tefillos bfief.

But now that it is the same R. El'ozor deriving twice from the same Moshe Rabeinu, once that one may daven short, and once long, we can only deduce that, not only are there many different ways to serve G-d, but that each Jew must know how to serve Him in diverse ways. It is like that fellow who, after being praised for the way he sang and danced at a wedding, went singing and dancing into the house of an "ovel". It is exactly as Shlomoh Ha'melech wrote in Kohelles (3:4), "There is a time to mourn and a time to dance".

We are not robots who are programmed to do certain things in a certain way. We are human beings with minds and with hearts, and it is up to the mind, the seat of understanding, to programme the heart on each occasion as it arises, as to how it should react then - because from Moshe Rabeinu we learn that there is a time to be brief and a time to be lengthy.

In last week's edition (p.4) we wrote that Nachshon was an old man when Ya'akov and his sons went down to Egypt. That of course, was a slip of the pen. It should have read that he was an old man when Yisroel left Egypt.
We apologise for the error.

History of the World
(Adapted from the Seder Ha'doros) Part 19

2228 (cont.)

Yosef is led round Egypt in a state-carriage in pomp and splendour, accompanied by tens of thousands of musicians, with five thousand men with drawn swords following his carriage. Twenty thousand of the King's men wearing leather belts overlain with gold walk to the right of the carriage and twenty thousand to the left and all along the route, the women and the girls climb up to the roof-tops to rejoice at Yosef's appointment and to gaze upon his handsome looks (it is to his credit that he keeps his eyes fixed to the ground). Whilst all along the way, Par'oh's men burn incense and scatter beautiful-smelling spices on the roads in front of Yosef's carriage. And all the time, Yosef's carriage, pulled by the finest horses from the royal stables, rides alongside the royal carriage. At regular intervals, twenty men announce "See the man whom the King has chosen as Viceroy. Anyone who treats him without due respect and fails to bow down to the ground in front of him will be put to death!"

The whole of Egypt prostrate themselves on the ground before Yosef and cry out "Long live the King and long live his Viceroy!" For his part, Yosef lifts his eyes heavenwards and declares "Who raises the poor from the dust, and the needy from the rubbish-heaps. L-rd of H-sts, praiseworthy is the man who places his trust in You!"

And so the King shows Yosef the whole of Egypt and his treasuries, and grants him vast properties plus immense wealth in the form of money and precious stones. He then commands the whole of Egypt to likewise shower him with gifts. A huge platform is erected in the main square, and it is there that everyone throws their gifts of silver and golden ornaments and valuable stones of every discription imaginable. But all of these Yosef simply deposits into the King's treasury.

Par'oh then sends to Poti'fera the Priest of On, and takes his youngest step-daughter Osnas as a wife for Yosef. Now Osnas is actually the daughter of Yosef's sister, Dinah. (She was born to Dinah from Sh'chem, when he abducted her. However, when the brothers threatened to kill her, Ya'akov hung a Kemi'ah around her neck and placed her outside under a bush, into the safe-keeping as it were, of Hashem Himself. She was eventually taken down to Egypt and, like her uncle, she eventually landed up with Potifera).


Yosef is 30 when he is appointed Viceroy of Egypt, Ya'akov is 121. The King gives Yosef 100 slaves. Yosef builds himself a magnificent palace in front of the courtyard of Par'oh's. In it, he places a throne made of gold, silver and precious stones, and on it he has engraved a miniature replica of Egypt. He has a personal army of over 40,000 soldiers whom he equips, and whose commander-in-chief he is. The seven years of plenty begin. Yosef orders the excess grain to be stored in silos together with some of the earth in which it grew, to ensure its preservation.


Yosef is 34 when Osnas gives birth first to Menasheh, then to Ephrayim. (According to some opinions, they are twins.) They grow up in the ways of their father and grandfather.


Kehos, Levi's son, is born.


The seven years of famine begin. Their state of hunger pushes the Egyptians to open their silos, but they discover that all their corn has gone bad and is moth-eaten. So they are forced to go and buy from Yosef, who has opened his huge store-houses, from which he proceeds to sell to the people of Cana'an, the P'lishtim, to Eiver Ha'Yarden, and the people from the Eastern countries etc. as well as to the Egyptians. Anticipating his own family's imminent need to buy corn, he issues a decree that no-one may send his servants to buy corn, only his sons. He also decrees that any purchaser found re-selling corn will be sentenced to death, and other similar restrictions. Yosef places guards at all of Egypt's gates with orders that no-one is to receive corn before all his particulars have been taken down.

Ya'akov's family run out of corn, so he sends his sons, minus Binyomin, down to Egypt to buy a new stock, with instructions to enter through different gates, in order to avoid "ayin ho'ra". On the way down, the brothers express regret at having sold Yosef and decide that, should they find him, they will free him at any cost - even by force, if necessary. The guards take down their particulars and hand them to Yosef who immediately orders all storehouses closed except for his own. Before the brothers arrive there, however, they go to search for Yosef in the brothel area, where they expect their good-looking brother to be. And it is there that Yosef's men eventually find them. They immediately sieze them and bring them before Yosef, who is known as Tzofnas Pa'anei'ach. They are overawed when they first see him, with his striking appearance, sitting on his throne, attired in purple linen robes and wearing his golden crown, and they bow to the ground.


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