Erev Shabbos Kodesh Beha’aloscha Inspiration 5776


In this week’s parasha we learn about the Jews’ opening salvo of complaints in the Wilderness. It is said (Bamidbar 11:4) וְהָאסַפְסֻף אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבּוֹ הִתְאַוּוּ תַּאֲוָה וַיָּשֻׁבוּ וַיִּבְכּוּ גַּם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִי יַאֲכִלֵנוּ בָּשָׂר, the rabble that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more, and said, “Who will feed us meat?”. The word וְהָאסַפְסֻף is a repeat of the word סף. We also see duplication in the words הִתְאַוּוּ תַּאֲוָה. Furthermore, throughout the parashah there seems to be a theme contained in the word אסף, gathered in.

The Jewish People were on a high level in the Wilderness, and we cannot relegate their complaints to “silliness,” “immaturity,” or the like. Rather, we must understand their complaints from a loftier perspective, one of a pining to come close to HaShem. The Jewish People thought they could become even closer to HaShem by increasing their physical indulgences. They were fed up with the manna that was absorbed in their bodies and did not allow for them to relieve themselves, a physical function. They reminisced about the fish that they had eaten in Egypt, and fish represent increase, as they procreate more than other creatures. The inverted letters נון  that precede the parasha of the complaints can allude to the idea that the Jewish People were leaving Sinai for an experience in the physical world, albeit one that would have devastating repercussions, as many people died from these “complaints.” (See Kli Yakar for further elaboration of this idea.) Miriam, the great prophetess, was not spared from punishment, as she spoke against her brother Moshe and the Torah states (Ibid 12:15) וַתִּסָּגֵר מִרְיָם מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים וְהָעָם לֹא נָסַע עַד הֵאָסֵף מִרְיָם, so Miriam was quarantined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not journey until Miriam was brought in. Miriam, too, attempted to embrace physicality in her connection to HaShem, as she claimed that she and other prophets had not separated from their spouses and were still able to prophesy. Why, then, did Moshe find it necessary to separate from his wife to receive prophecy?

While we certainly espouse the idea of sanctifying the physical, we must remember that HaShem would prefer that we decrease our physical indulgences, not increase them. When He proffers His bounty upon us, we thank Him profusely, but we must be satisfied with what we receive, as the blessing towards the Jewish People goes,”אוכל קמעא, והוא מתברך במעיו,” one eats a little and it is blessed within him. The Jewish People sought to “increase” their desires, i.e. create a new need for physicality which would allow them to come closer to HaShem, as it is said (Tehillim 35:10)  כָּל עַצְמוֹתַי תֹּאמַרְנָה יְ-ה-וָ-ה מִי כָמוֹךָ, all my limbs will say, “HaShem, who is like You?” HaShem informed the Jewish People that they were mistaken in their quest of coming closer to HaShem, and the antidote to this was (Bamidbar 11:15) וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הֹ-וָ-ה אֶל מֹשֶׁה אֶסְפָה לִּי שִׁבְעִים אִישׁ מִזִּקְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל , HaShem said to Moshe, “Gather to Me seventy men from the elders of Israel.” By “gathering” the seventy elders, there would be an increase in prophecy and wisdom, and it is this form of increase that HaShem desires from us.

HaShem should allow us to recognize the physical bounty that He bestows upon us and that we should be cognizant of the blessings in our life. We should desire to increase our Torah study and mitzvah performance, and we should merit what is said (Yeshaya 11:9) כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת יְ-ה-ו-ָה כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים, for the earth will be as filled with knowledge of HaShem as water covering the sea bed.

Have an EVER-INCREASING Spiritual Shabbos

Rabbi Adler

Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Beha’aloscha 5776
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