01 June 2018

Parshat Beha’alotekha: Like a Child Running Away

Pachad David
Published by Mosdot “Orot Chaim U’Moshe” in Israel
Under the auspices of Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Hagaon Hatzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, shlita
Son of the tzaddik and miracle-worker Rabbi Moshe Ahron Pinto, zt”l, and grandson of the holy tzaddik and miracle-worker Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a

Parshat Beha’alotekha
19 Sivan 5778

Like a Child Running Away

"They traveled a distance of three days” 
(Bamidbar 10:33)

Chazal explain that they traveled from Mount Sinai a distance of three days like a child running away from school. This implies that the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was a heavy burden upon them, which they sought to escape, so they ran away.

This Midrash requires explanation. We are talking about important people who are called by Chazal, the "dor de'ah – generation of wisdom." They had just received the Torah and saw Divine revelations. Eye to eye, they saw the Shechinah of Hashem, and the revelation of Hashem at Mount Sinai.
Certainly they were instilled with the love of Hashem and His Torah; then why did they suddenly want to escape the place like a child running away from school?

We need to understand how one infers from the words "They traveled a distance of three days," that they were running away like a child escaping. Why can't we explain the words "They traveled" like by all other journeys that they simply traveled in the Wilderness, without explaining that they looked to escape? In addition, we can explain that the words "They traveled a distance of three days from the Mountain of the L-rd" signifies that they took with them the impression of the Mountain of the L-rd and the revelations there, as the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh says regarding the pasuk, "They journeyed from Rephidim," (homiletically – laxity) explaining that they departed from their laxity in Torah, meaning that now they reinforced their study of Torah.

I would like to suggest with siyata d'Shemaya, that Chazal explain like this because the behavior of Bnei Yisrael was very puzzling. A short while after Bnei Yisrael received the Torah and rose up to exalted heights spiritually, they suddenly experienced a steep drop, which manifested itself in various complaints against Hashem and His messengers; whether complaints about the lack of water, or lack of meat, and afterwards finding fault with Eretz Yisrael and slandering the Land.

Chazal were perplexed by these cases and asked how it was possible that those who received the Torah accompanied by thunderous lightning and the sound of the Shofar, and saw wondrous miracles, suddenly rebelled and fell time after time into the trap of the Yetzer Hara. Why didn't the Torah protect and guard them? After all the Torah is the antidote to the Yetzer Hara. Thus Chazal concluded that it must be that there was indeed some flaw in their acceptance of the Torah. Consequently, the Torah did not influence them to change their ways for the better. What was the flaw? That they ran away from the Mountain of the L-rd like a child running away from school.

It is true that they were obligated to travel from the place according to Hashem's command, as it is stated, "At the bidding of the L-rd, the children of Israel traveled, and at the bidding of the Lord, they encamped." But they shouldn't have left the place joyfully and hurriedly. Inwardly, they should have felt sorrow and difficulty in having to leave, and a disadvantage, that it was too bad that they had to leave such a holy and sanctified place. They should have expressed longing for the Mountain of the L-rd, a place that was so holy that even the animals were prohibited in grazing nearby, and now they had to leave the place suddenly. But instead they left the place without feeling any loss, and this is the proof that their acceptance of the Torah was like a burden and not a privilege.

Chazal explain that they feared that perhaps Hashem would add more commandments. This is surprising because they should have understood that a person without Torah is like a body without a soul. So too at Mount Sinai, as long as they were there and Hashem was at the mountain top, Mount Sinai remained holy. However, after the holy Shechinah departed from there, and they had to leave the place, the place became like any other location. Now it was incumbent upon Bnei Yisrael to create in every place that they would be a dwelling where the Shechinah would reside. But they behaved exactly in an opposite manner and ran away like a child running away from school, without bothering to create a dwelling for Hashem in another place, as Mount Sinai had been.

And so it is regarding prayer. Even if one prayed with concentration and devotion, but at the end of the prayer, when reciting "Aleinu l'shabayach" he already left the Beit Haknesset, he demonstrates that the entire prayer was a burden and hardship for him, and he was just waiting for the moment that he could remove the heavy burden from his neck… Certainly such a prayer is not successful and it is not wholehearted.

Similarly, when Bnei Yisrael left the Mountain of Hashem and immediately sinned and voiced false accusations against Hashem and His leadership, it indicates that they ran away as a child who runs away from school, and they were glad to leave Mount Sinai quickly, because they still didn't understand fully the value and importance of the Torah. This is why even accepting the Torah did not protect them and help them improve their ways, because if they had appreciated the magnitude and importance of the Torah, they would have felt bad leaving the holy site of the Mountain of the L-rd, even though they were obligated to continue on their journey according to Hashem's command.

Walking in Their Ways
No one is infallible

There is a story that illustrates to what extent challenges bring a person closer to Hashem. Even if he is not a Jew, he can recognize Hashem clearly. My dear disciple, Mr. Haver, whom I merited with the help of Hashem to bring him to full repentance, met his friend, Mr. Rivero, in Argentina, who is not Jewish.

This man was enormously wealthy and had many assets. He was missing nothing. In their emotional meeting (on May, 2011) after greeting each other warmly, an interesting conversation developed between them. My disciple Mr. Haver told Mr. Rivero that his Rabbi, Rabbi David, shlit"a, was presently in Argentina, and he asked if he would accompany him to receive a blessing from the Rabbi as well. Mr. Rivero replied proudly with complete self-assurance, "I have everything, so why do I need a blessing…I have lots of money and a wife and children. I am not missing anything."
And by the way he added, "My wife is Jewish." Mr. Haver then told him, "If so, you have some connection to the Jewish people, and moreover, your children are Jewish.”

To this Mr. Rivero responded scornfully and said, "My wife and children have nothing to do with Judaism! Every week they attend the Church services (Rachmana litztlan) and they have no trace of Judaism." My disciple Mr. Haver continued to relate, "At that moment I gazed at him as if seeing a thoughtless and foolish person who does not understand at all what the purpose of man is in the world. Inwardly I recited the blessing, "for not having made me a gentile." I thanked Hashem from the bottom of my heart that "He did not assign our portion like theirs nor our lot like all their multitudes.”

Two days later, Mr. Rivero called his friend Mr. Haver frantically. On the other end, he unmistakably heard a broken voice that was evidently tearful. He begged to arrange an urgent meeting with Rabbi David…

Mr. Haver was puzzled. Only two days ago Mr. Rivero expressed outright contempt for the Rabbi's blessing. He even responded with arrogance that he did not need blessings at all, since he possessed everything he needed. What happened suddenly?!

His astonishment did not last long, and in a broken voice Mr. Rivero told him that suddenly he did not feel well. When he was rushed to the hospital, he underwent tests and the result was that he was diagnosed with the cursed disease, may G-d have mercy on him.

In a flash, his peaceful life turned chaotic. He found himself in a storm and turbulent sea of treatments and medications, and he was beside himself. In his grief, he recalled his meeting with Mr. Haver, who spoke to him about the Rabbi's blessing, and now he wanted to be blessed in the merit of his saintly ancestors to be saved and get cured.

Within a few hours, he came to see me and told me the story. I turned to him and blessed him with all my heart that Hashem should send him a complete cure and restore his health as before. I am sure that if he would recover, it would cause a great Kiddush and Hashem and Hashem's Name would be glorified.

In addition, when he came to me, he offered me an enormous sum of money for the benefit of our holy institutions, but I rejected his generous contribution, because my sole intention was to glorify Hashem's Name in the world.

This story is etched in my heart. I thought a lot about it and concluded to myself: How wrong a person can be thinking arrogantly that nothing can befall him. Mr. Rivero was so sure of himself at first, and his heart was full of pride, believing that "My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me." He thought that everything was in his control, and his wealth and his family's welfare was secure. But in a moment he experienced catastrophe. His empire crumbled before his eyes when his health failed, and he became entirely broken. This is because everything ultimately depends on the Ribbono Shel Olam.

What opened his eyes to see truth? His suffering and anguish made him see and understand the true reality. Therefore, it is forbidden for a person to ignore the truth that everything is only in Hashem's control, and one should not wait, G-d forbid, until he is sent a painful reminder from Heaven. He must recall his infallibility at all times and always realize Hashem's Divine Providence. He should always aspire to advance continuously in his study of Torah and fear of Hashem.

The Haftarah
“Sing and rejoice” (Zecharia 2:14)

The connection to the parashah: The haftarah mentions the Menorah and the lamps that the Navi Zecharia envisioned, and the parashah discusses the commandment to Aharon HaCohen about lighting the lamps toward the face of the Menorah.

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