Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kol Brisk on Parshas B'ha'alosecha

לעלוי נשמת הגאון הר"ר אהרן בן הר"ר משה הלוי סאלאווייציק זצ"ל
Parashas Beha'aloscha
A Question of Attitude - A Crucial Turning Point in the Torah

In the middle of פרשת בהעלתך we find two psukkim set off from the rest of the parasha by inverted letters "נ" (gematria nun = 50). These two psukkim of ויהי בנסע הארן and ובנחה יאמר שובה ה' do not belong here, and should have been placed fifty chapters earlier, in פרשת במדבר. The reason that they are placed here is כדי להפסיק בין פורענות לפורענות, in order to pause between two punishments (Rashi 10,35).

When we examine the psukkim, we do find one apparent פורענות after these psukkim:
"ויהי העם כמתאננים.. ותבער בם אש ה'.."
"and when the people were complaining.. and the fire of Hashem burned among them"
We find, however, no apparent פרענות preceding the psukkim. The Ramban explains that the first פרענות is to be found in the words:
"ויסעו מהר ה'.."
And they travelled away from the mountain of G-d",
שנסעו מהר סיני בשמחה, כתנוק הבורח מבית הספר, אמרו שמה ירבה ויתן לנו מצוות..
..they left Har Sinai with joy, like an infant fleeing from school, saying lest He give us more mitzvos!

Although we find no punishment spelled out in the passuk, if not for this, says the Ramban, perhaps we would have entered Eretz Yisrael immediately..
This fleeing with joy from Har Sinai, alas, turned out to be a great calamity. Thus far, the Torah relates the preparations to enter Eretz Yisrael. ספר שמות tell us of the redemption and its culmination with מתן תורה. The redemptive process was set back by the חטא העגל, the golden calf, which caused the Divine Presence to depart. The building of the Mishkan brought the Shechina back. ספר ויקרא deals with the laws concerning the Kohanim and korbanos, sacrifices in the Mishkan. This all brings us to ספר במדבר. In the first parshios of במדבר and נשא, the nation was counted and the encampments were set up, everything was set and ready to proceed to the Promised Land. In פרשת בהעלתך , the tempo of the preparation increased; the leviim were sanctified, the silver trumpets were prepared for battle "in your land". Moshe Rabbainu even said to his father-in-law Yisro, נסעים אנחנו אל המקום.., "WE are travelling to the place that Hashem said.." And the aron travelled in front of the camp a journey of three days in order to seek for them a resting place...

Within three days they, we, were to have arrived.
But Am Yisrael fled from Har Hashem, fearful of receiving more Mitzvos.
Because of this, the entire direction turned. And for the first time, at the end of this parsha, we hear of the chilling נבואה by Eldad and Meidad – משה מת ויהושע מכניס את ישראל לארץ . A downward process, a chain of events had begun that ended with chait hameraglim, the sin of the spies. The entering into the land was then delayed for thirty-eight years. The whole generation of the desert died out. Moshe Rabbainu did not enter and was not Mashiach. Alas.

* * *

What starts the downward slide? It all starts out with a question of attitude.
When a Mitzvah is done out of אהבת ה' , out of love, out of a true desire to fulfill Hashem's will, and to cleave unto Him, one doesn't look for exemptions or excuses to avoid the burden.
In this parasha itself, perhaps as a contrast, in order to instruct us, we find two examples of קיום מצוות מתוך אהבה:
1) מה נסמכה פרשת המנורה לפרשת הנשיאים? לפי שכשראה אהרן חנוכת הנשיאים, אז חלשה דעתו בשלא היה עמהם בחנוכה..

Why is the topic of the menorah next to the portion about the princes? Because when Aharon saw the inauguration done by the princes, he became grieved that he had not taken part in this mitzvah..

2) ""ויהי אנשים אשר היו טמאים לנפש אדם ולא יכלו לעשות הפסח ביום ההוא.. ויאמרו האנשים ההמה.. למה נגרע.. ?!
And there was men that were temai'ai mes and were unable to bring the korban pesach on that day (the 14th of Nissan).. And those men said.. WHY SHOULD WE BE LEFT OUT..!?
These men had been occupied with a mitzvah (carrying the coffin of Yosef Hatzaddik) and therefore were TRULY EXEMPT from the mitzvah of Korban Pesach. However, this excuse did not satisfy their deep desire to draw close to Hashem through whatever mitzvah possible. They actually agonized over the fact that they had missed an opportunity.
A mitzvah is an opportunity to cleave to Hashem. When done out of habit, or for external reasons, there is a basic FLAW in the mitzvah.
It may seem like a minor and subtle difference. After all, both are fulfilling the Mitzvah, whether out of love, or out of habit and social norms. Why scrutinize with a magnifying glass??
From פרשת בהעלתך we see that it does make all the difference. It is a totally different direction that the doer faces: one is marching with his face toward "the Promised Land", the other, chas veshalom is facing the opposite direction. At the outset, they might be standing near each other. As time goes on, however, the gap keeps widening.

Practically speaking, there is a tendency that people have to identify and affiliate themselves with a religious circle, and to set their behaviour and standards in accordance with the norms of their group. This is true for all the groups.

We can learn from this week's parsha that no matter what label we give ourselves, no label exempts anyone from our obligations as members of Hashem's nation. Tznius, modesty and Yiras Shomayim, fear of G-d apply to all, even if particular styles vary. The obligation of Torah study applies to all; no type of hat or kippah exempts anyone from this most basic mitzvah. Frum attire also cannot discharge a person from the most scrupulous standards of בין אדם לחברו, in his dealings with his fellow Jew.

The list goes on.

This same concept translates into one's attitude towards leadership. A person looking to express his Ahavas Hashem and love of His Torah and mitzvos will surely respect and support and maintain a leader, a manhig, who represents all this. However, someone with the mindset of - "I'll go only with someone who is willing and understands how to share the profits and the fringe benefits with me" will surely reject such idealistic leadership.

Rav Aharon zt"l would often quote the Kotzker on the passuk, "כרחוק מזרח ממערב הרחיק ממנו את פשענו.." . As far as the east is from the west, so He has distanced from us our sins. How far are the two directions from each other? All it takes is for a person to turn around to do Teshuva!

Where do we all stand? Which direction are we facing?
It is all a question of attitude.
A gutten Erev Shabbos, from Yerushalayim Ir haKodesh.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looking for Brisk?

'not brisker yeshivish'