Behaalotecha 5773 – Gilayon #800

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Parshat Behaalotcha

And miriam

was shup up outside the camp seven days,

And the people did not journey onward

Until miriam

was gathered back in

 (Bemidbar 12:15)


And the

people did not journey onward – (Sotah 9) – This is the honor which the Omniscient

bestowed upon her as reward for the hour she waited when Moshe was cast into

the Nile, as is written (Shemot 2) 'And

his sister stationed herself from afar etc."

 (Rashi, ibid.,



And the

people did not journey onward – The passage "And his sister stationed

herself from afar" contains seven words, therefore the Holy Presence

waited for her seven days.

(Baal HaTurim ibid. ibid)


And it says: "And

afterward the nation journeyed from Hatzerot and camped in the Paran wilderness".

To tell us that in every journey they were afflicted with trials and

tribulations because of the sin of lashon hara [speaking ill], At Tav'era were the complainers – "and the fire of the

Lord consumed them" (ibid, 11:1), and at Kivrot HaTaavah (the graves of

desire) they were lustful and spoke against the Lord, and they buried there the

lustful (Ibid, 11:34), and in Hatzerot was the incident of

Aharon and Miriam and her leprosy (22:17). And in Paran they sent spies and

rebelled against the Lord and the decree was issued against them (Ibid 13:3),

And there, too, occurred the incident with

Korach and all his assembly. So you see, in every journey they corrupted and

plotted from which no good came.

(Abarbanel, Bemidbar 12:117)



And the man Moshe was very


Rami Pinchover


honor of the Shabbat Chatan-Callah of


Ovadia and Oved Pinchover

The unusual passage we read in this week's parasha, "And the man

Moshe was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth" (Bemidbar 12:3), is found in the narrative "concerning

the Cushite wife". This narrative may well be

termed "the family rebellion" of Aharon and

Miriam against Moshe's prophecy [along with the rebellion of the people and the

tribe of Levi in the wilderness] appearing in the Book of Bemidbar, Chapter 12:

And Miriam

and Aharon spoke against Moses concerning the Cushite wife whom he had married;

for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said: Has the Lord indeed spoken

only with Moses? Has He not spoken also with us?' And the Lord heard it. – Now

the man Moses was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth. –

And the Lord spoke suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aharon, and unto Miriam: 'Come

out you three to the tent of meeting.' And they three came out. And the Lord

came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called

Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forth. And He said: 'Hear

now My words: if there be a prophet among you, I the Lord do make Myself known

unto him in a vision, I do speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not

so; he is trusted in all My house; with him do I speak mouth to mouth, even

manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord does he

behold; wherefore then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against

Moses?' And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed.

The text relates that immediately following His words to Aharon and

Miriam, God listens. We do not hear Moshe's reaction – we assume that he was

not privy to this conversation. Instead there appears the passage regarding

Moshe's humility. Then "suddenly" God calls to Moshe, Aharon and

Miriam and tells them about the prophet Moshe's greatness, and at the end of

the admonition appear the leprously punishment, Moshe's prayer, and Miriam's

cure. Many questions have been raised regarding this strange story. One of the

more intriguing regards the identity of the party describing Moshe's humility.

Is it Moshe? God? The story's

narrator? And why is Moshe's humility relevant to this story? Why does

Moshe alone merit the two crowns: the crown of humility and the crown of trust!

In the context of this passage, our Sages wrote many midrashim

praising Moshe excessively. Savor the following:

Come and see

the greatness of our teacher Moshe's humility, that Scripture testifies to it (Bemidbar 12) "And the man Moshe was very humble

etc" (Psikta Zuta (Lekach

Tov) Bemidbar Behaalotcha).

"…more than any person on the face of the earth", but

not more than the Patriarchs. R. Yosi says: Even more than the

Patriarchs…" (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah, Parashat

Behaalotcha 247 339).

Jewish (and also non-Jewish) tradition sees Moshe as history's greatest

leader and prophet. According to many exegetes, his greatness derives from the

characteristic of humility and thanks to it Moshe merited being the greatest

leader and prophet.

The Bible, our Sages, Bible commentators and the literature of ethics

are replete with descriptions of the qualities and praises of humility, and we

present here but a few examples: "The effect of humility is fear of the

Lord, wealth, honor, and life" (Proverbs

22:4), "Always be humble as Hillel, and not hot-tempered like Shammai" (Bavli,

Shabbat 30b). On the other hand, one should also remember R. Yochanan's famous dictum: "The humility of R. Zacharia

b. Afkilos destroyed our Temple

and burned down our sanctuary, and exiled us from our land" (Bavli, Gitin 56).

In the Palestinian Talmud there appears an anonymous statement "That

[fear of the Lord] which Wisdom makes a crown for her head – humility makes the

imprint [heel] of her shoe" (Shabbat 3).

R. Shelomo Hayyim Friedman (grandson of R. Yisroel of Ruzhin, Chassidic leader

from Sadigora, a distinguished Zionist who established residence in Tel-Aviv 1887-1972),

in his book "Hayyeh Shelomo, expounds this


This statement presents a difficulty, for what [kind of] humility is

this that takes fear of the Lord and makes it an imprint for her shoe? But the

truth is that humility is a greater wisdom than wisdom itself [emphasis mine, R.P.], because wisdom, when

making the fear into a crown for the head, emphasizes thereby that the work is

already completed, whereas Humility says 'No, I have only begun my fear of the

Lord, it is still under my heel, and have yet to perfect myself in the fear of

the Lord, I still must labor until I succeed in raising it to my head and then

will I be full of the fear of God" (It seems that the "Chayye Shelomo connects fear of

the Lord to "The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord [Psalm 111])


Kallasvuo, CEO of Nokia in its golden age, wrote: "Humility is an

essential quality in a leader, just as it is essential to a company. Nokia, if

it is to continue to flourish, must be focused outwards. It must adopt the humility

which causes it to listen to its customers and to seek ideas from the

outside. It must be humble in the face of the complexity…" Humility

does not mean being silent or lacking the courage to express what is

upon your heart. Courage and humility go hand in hand and do not

contradict one another." (Appeared on 28/01/08 in "The Marker"). [These words were written in 2006, but it seems

that the message was forgotten…]

Our national poet excelled

in describing the above sentiments in his wonderful poem:

May my lot be with you, meek of the world,

silent souls,

Who shape their lives in secret, modest in

thought and action,

Hidden dreamers, who speak little but increase


The pleasantness of your spirit ensconced

within you like a pearl on the ocean floor,

And your virtues, like forest seeds, multiply

midst shadows.

But your lives – your finest vision, and

your glory – your very being;

You are the trustworthy guards of God's

image on earth!

Bialik stresses the critical function of the trustworthy

and dependable preservation of God's image in the world! It may be said that

according to Bialik, without humility the world has no hope and no revival.

We have learned that the

world is built upon humility and upon trust, two qualities in which Moshe

excelled. There is a wonderful midrash which

broadens and combines within itself all the attributes of Moshe through which

he merited revelation, prophecy and leadership:

And the Name who revealed himself to Moshe

in the bush out of love and out of mercy and out of modesty and

out of honesty and out of humility and out of charity and

out of trust. (Otzar HaMidrahsim

[Eisnstein], Midrash R. Akiva p. 414)

These traits of Moshe are

based upon the descriptions of his image and his actions which appear in all

their power throughout his path, from the moment he steps out of Pharaoh's

palace until his demise on Mt.

Nevo, facing the

longed-for land (and this is not the place to elaborate).

This beautiful midrash accurately charts the way and the recipe for

everyone–especially a couple seeking unity beneath the marriage canopy – to a

shared life, a life in which each party gives its share of love, mercy,

modesty, honesty, humility, and trust.

In this spirit Zelda

effectively described "the humble home" in her poem "The Old


The humble house is partner

To the celestial celebration;

The sun casts into it

Its flaming gold,

And the night floods it with the darkness

of stars.

May it be His will that

we succeed to preserve – and to be preserved – in ourselves, in our family, in

our land and with our neighbors: In love, in mercy, in modesty, in honesty, in

humility, in charity, in trust and in peace, and thereby may we all participate

in the celestial celebration.

(These thoughts are

penned in honor of the marriage of our youngest son, Oved, to his fiancée Daniel. May their home be an everlasting edifice)

Rami Pinchover

is an engineer.


More on the quality of humility

The end result of every quarrel – regret;

the end result of humility – peace.

(R. Shelomo

Ibn Gvirol)


"And this shall be for you the sign

that I have sent you" – your humility will be the sign.

(Meshech Chochma, Shemot 3:11)


All positive qualities require intent, with

the exception of the quality of humility, for humility with intent can not

longer be called humility.


RazMenachem Mendel of



Reb Zushe and his

brother Reb Elimelch were discussing the quality of humility. Elimelech said: "A

person must first contemplate the greatness of the Creator, and then he will

attain true humility." But Zushe said: "Not

so, one must first begin with true humility, and then he will attain

recognition of the Creator." They asked their mentor, the Maggid of

Mezeritz, to decide who was right. The Rebbe ruled: "Both are the words of

the Living God, but inner hessed rests upon one who begins with his soul

and not with the Creator."

(M. M. Buber "The

Hidden Light" P. 225)


Rabbi Moshe [of Kobrin] repeated for one of

his associates a story which the Baal Shem Tov told about himself: "When I

reached the stage of the great calm of mind [yishuv hadaat], I

understood that I had not yet even begun serving the Name". The listener

asked: "But did not our Sages say: 'If you have attained knowledge, what

are you lacking?' Replied Rebbi Moshe: "From my

mentor I once heard clarification of this. "If

you have achieved knowledge" – if you think that you have already attained

knowledge, you are lacking 'what', in the sense of humility, as is written 'And

what are we?' Whereas 'you are lacking knowledge': if it is clear to you

that you are lacking knowledge, then you have attained 'what'",

that is to say: You have attained 'what' – in the sense of humility."

(Ibid. ibid. P. 355)


Awe and Humility

This was the argument of the convert in the chapter of "Bameh Madlikin" and the

reason for Shammai's rejection of him. Shammai had reached the level of yir'ah

of awe – which is accompanied by gevura

courage, and by kapdanutstrictness

– which was the level of our father Yitzhak, o"h,

from whom Israel evolved. Therefore, he (Shammai)

rebuffed converts, as related in the chapter Bameh Madlikin… Hillel's humility brought them near, like Moshe

our teacher o"h, who was very humble, and

therefore he brought close the airev ravthe non-Israelites who joined the Israelites in

the Exodus… And so was our father Avraham o"h humble, as is written in Tractate Berachot "Woe [upon the passing of] this humble

person, disciple of our father Avraham o"h". Therefore he was the father of

converts, as we learned in Bikkurim. Humility

includes the appreciation of one's deficiency as compared with the greatness of

The Holy One, Blessed Be He, and therefore has no place for belittling

the convert who has come with his staff and pouch, for He who told oil

to burn can tell vinegar to burn and it will burn, and he can put fire into

vinegar, as with "God, created within me a pure heart", and

creation is ex nihilo.

(Rabbi Tzadok

HaCohen of LublinOr

Zarua LaTzaddik)


"We remember the fish": Is it conceivable that the Egyptians

gave them fish for free? Has it not already been written: "And you go and work, and you will not receive straw" (Shemot 5)?! If they

would not even give you straw for free, would they give you fish for free?! But

what do I mean by "for free"? Free of the mitzvoth.


Behaalotecha, Section 87)


For this reason people hated the Land. Being hard-hearted and

uncharitable, they had no desire to exchange a place where charity is optional

for a place where it is obligatory. They sincerely declared "We recall

the fish that we used to eat in Egypt

for free" – and our sages explained homiletically "free of the mitzvot". The meaning of this is that they would eat

without giving terumot u'maaserotheave-offerings and tithes – (for this

reason they also enumerated the cucumbers and the watermelons, etc., for all

these are exempt from maaser outside

the Land – even as rabbinical obligations – and compulsory within the Land only

as a rabbinical injunction). Their declaration "free of the mitzvot" indicated stinginess towards the priest of

God; therefore, they disliked the Land with its obligation. The women

of that generation, however, were righteous, and

cherished charity – both the mitzvah of challah which

is directed primarily at women and is obligatory in the Land, and all the

other terumot and maasrotThis is what our Sages had in mind

when they said, "In the merit of the righteous woman of that generation,

our fathers were delivered from Egypt" – meaning that because of their

merit they [our fathers] went from a place of permission – reshut

to a place of obligation for which their [the women's'] hearts yearned,

and thus our Sages described the daughters of Tzlafchad

as 'righteous women' because they cherished charity, and therefore they asked "Give

us a holding".

 (Kli Yakar, Bemidbar

26, 64)


Envy, lust, and vainglory shorten a person's life

"The Graves of Desire" – One

might think that that this was its original name, but the Torah teaches that:

"Because there were buried…" Because of that

incident it was so called, but this was not its original name. But you do

not know who were those who accustomed Israel to sin, therefore it

says "The riffraff [lit. "those gathered"] in

their midst" – these were the converts gathered from everywhere.

Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya

says: These are the elders among them, as is written "Gather

me" – the elders, then, provided a kal

vachomer by which to judge others [e.g.,

"if the leaders could behave so, then what can we expect of the

masses?!"]. Similarly we say with regard to the passage "And the

Sons of the Lord saw the daughters of man" – what did the sons of

the judges (The term "Elohim"

– a widespread appellation of God, also is a connotation for

"judges".) do? They would grab women from the market place and

rape them. If the judges' sons could so behave, then kal

vachomerso would the ordinary



Shimoni Behaalotcha, 247:



"When the Lord enlarges your territory… and you say,

"I shall eat some meat" – teaches us that

great expansion causes man to follow his passions, "and the lion roars

only over a pile of meat" (Berachot 32), There it is written "When

the Lord enlarges your territory" – this leads to removal of

the mask of shame from your face to the extent that you unabashedly say "I

shall eat some meat". This is somewhat similar to the

throwing off of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and to questioning the place

of sacrifices; the reason for all this is "The place where the Lord has

chosen to establish His name is too far from you" fear of the

Kingdom of Heaven is proportionate to closeness to the temple, as is written,

"and fear my temples", meaning that from the temple flows

fear of the Kingdom of Heaven. But the fact that "The place where the

Lord has chosen to establish His name is too far from you" results

in the distancing of God from your thoughts, therefore you shall

experience desire all the time, and you will not be ashamed to say "I

will eat some meat". I therefore permit you to do so,

and you shall offer up from you cattle, etc., as I have commanded you,

but not at all times, but occasionally, when desire

becomes overwhelming.


Yakar, Devarim 12:20)




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