Parashat Beha'alotcha & Shavuot
Aharon is taught the method for kindling the Menorah. Moshe sanctifies the levi’im to work in the Mishkan. They replace the firstborn, who were disqualified after sinning through the golden calf. The levi'im are commanded that after five years of training they are to serve in the Mishkan from ages 30 to 50. Afterwards, they are to engage in less strenuous work.
One year after the Exodus from Egypt, Hashem commands Moshe concerning the korban Pesach. Those ineligible for this offering request a remedy, and the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini — allowing them a "second chance" to offer the korban Pesach, one month later — is detailed. Miraculous clouds that hover near the Mishkan signal when to travel and when to camp. Two silver trumpets summon the princes or the entire nation for announcements. The trumpets also signal travel plans, war or festivals. The order in which the tribes march is specified. Moshe invites his father-in-law, Yitro, to join the Jewish People, but Yitro returns to Midian.
At the instigation of the eruv rav — the mixed Egyptian multitude who joined the Jewish People in the Exodus — some people complain about the manna. Moshe protests that he is unable to govern the nation alone. Hashem tells him to select 70 elders, the first Sanhedrin, to assist him, and informs him that the people will be given meat until they will be sickened by it. Two candidates for the group of elders prophesy beyond their mandate, foretelling that Yehoshua instead of Moshe will bring the people to Canaan. Some protest, including Yehoshua, but Moshe is pleased that others have become prophets. Hashem sends an incessant supply of quail for those who complained that they lacked meat. A plague punishes those who complained. Miriam tries to make a constructive remark to Aharon, which also implies that Moshe is only like other prophets. Hashem explains that Moshe's prophecy is superior to that of any other prophet and punishes Miriam with tzara'at, as if she had gossiped about her brother. (Because Miriam is so righteous, she is held to an incredibly high standard.) Moshe prays for Miriam to be healed, and the nation waits until she is cured before traveling.
The ‘Afluenza’ Pandemic
“We are contaminated by a human corpse — why should we be diminished by not bringing Hashem’s offering in its appointed time? (9:7)
How was your Shavuot?
I’m writing these words a few days before Shavuot, and I always approach the Chagim and specially Shavuot with a certain amount of trepidation.
The stakes are high. Hashem will give us the Torah again. I should be filled with great joy and expectation, as it says in the sefarim, waiting for that day of the ‘marriage’ of Hashem and us, the Jewish People.
But what if I fail to make that emotional, spiritual leap to the top of Sinai?
“We are contaminated by a human corpse…”
Many of us in this generation are contaminated by the ‘human corpse’ — by the desires fanned by the (anti-) social media, by a world so filled with affluence. The world is ‘sick’ with ‘afluenza.’ That is the real pandemic that is still raging.
A man goes into a shop to buy a watch. His eye settles on the glint of gold and he takes an interest in a fake Rolex. The owner of the shop says, “Don’t take that thing — it’s cheap. In six months, it’s going to be asking you the time. Take this one instead. True, it doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it will last for more than a lifetime.”
But the buyer insists on purchasing the fake Rolex, and so the store owner says, “Okay, if that’s what you really want — take it!”
What a person truly desires, Hashem gives.
One of the ways that Hashem interfaces with His creation is the characteristic called Hod. The week of the counting of the Omer that contains Pesach Sheini is the week of hod. Hod is connected to the verb l’hodot, “to admit,” meaning that Hashem “admits” to what is in the heart of a person, that Hashem will grant what a person really wants — if his desire is authentic.
The Avnei Nezer asks why Amalek deserved the punishment of total obliteration. He answers that Amalek truly desired, in his heart of hearts, the removal of the Jewish People from existence. So, Hashem said, “Fine, you don’t want the Jewish People to exist, so I will behave toward you as if they don’t exist. And since the entire creation was for the purpose of the Jewish People to observe the Torah, there is no reason for creation to exist — in which case, you don’t exist!”
“We are contaminated by a human corpse — why should we be diminished by not bringing Hashem’s offering in its appointed time?”
There’s something strange about this verse. The people who complain about not being able to bring the Pesach offering say that the reason they were unable to do so was because they were contaminated. So why then do they ask, “Why should we be diminished?” This means that they were asking, “Why should we be left out?” Didn’t they already answer their own question — that it was because they were contaminated?
The answer is that their question was not a question at all, but was rather a cry from the heart. And through this cry from the heart, an entire section of the Torah that had not been given at Mount Sinai was written into the Torah: the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini, a second chance to bring the korban Pesach.
The middah of hod is both frightening and empowering. It is frightening because it means that if our minds and hearts are full of ‘afluenza,’ Hashem will let us buy that fake Rolex.
And it is empowering because if we really want Torah, then like those people who missed out on the korban Pesach, Hashem will turn the world over for us and fill our hearts with His love.