MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, May 24, 2013

Parashat BeHaalotekha- Free Fish? Something’s Fishy….

Parashat BeHaalotekha- Free Fish? Something's Fishy….

5. We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.

ה. זָכַרְנוּ אֶת הַדָּגָה אֲשֶׁר נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם חִנָּם אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים וְאֶת הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת הַבְּצָלִים וְאֶת הַשּׁוּמִים:

The Missvah of 'BeHaalotekha' is given to Aharon HaKohen, when he 'goes up' to light the Menorah. This Missvah was given to him specifically now because in last week's Parashah, when the twelve representatives of each Shevet brought a korban, Aharon HaKohen did not bring one. He felt deprived of such a Missvah; he also wanted to serve HaKadosh Barukh Hu!....and this is why he was given the beautiful Missvah of lighting the Menorah each and every day. 

This very feeling also translated to those in Benei Yisrael who were given the opportunity to bring Korban Pesah again during Pesah Sheni. A group of people came to Moshe Rabbenu and told them because they lived far or were impure, they were not able to bring Korban Pesah on Pesah itself and felt deeply deprived that they couldn't bring it the first time. They begged for a second chance. They did not want to miss out on such a beautiful Missvah!

In this Parashah, there is also another group of people who feel deprived; except they feel deprived of food. A few times in the Parashah, Benei Yisrael ask Moshe Rabbenu to provide them with meat and vegetables. One of these times, they remind Moshe Rabbenu that they once even had fish for free in Misrayim!

What do they mean? They didn't even get simple straw for free in Misrayim, how could they possibly have gotten fish for free there! Anyways, the mahn they ate could taste like anything they wanted, they could have just wished for it to taste like fish, what's the problem here?

Could Benei Yisrael seriously be complaining about food? They obviously had fish available to them….they weren't really asking for fish; they were complaining about something else.

The Sifri says that when Benei Yisrael say we remember the fish we got 'for nothing', it meant without the responsibility of the Missvot.  Now that Benei Yisrael were obligated to observe the Missvot, their sustenance was dependent upon observance. In Misrayim, they still haven't received the Torah HaKedoshah, it was 'easy' for them there, but now that they received the Torah, it felt 'burdensome' to them, so much so that the Rambam says that in this Parashah, Benei Yisrael left from Har Sinai like children run from school; they did not want to learn anymore, they did not want to hear about anymore Missvot.

This was one of the things that Benei Yisrael didn't do right in the Parashah. Yet, the Torah is so sensitive not to show Benei Yisrael in a negative light that even though we 'sinned' once more, that it doesn't want to list them one after another. To separate these two incidents, the Torah interjects two pesukim in between. How?

Famously, the pesukim of 'VaYehi B'Nsoa HaAron' are added right here in between the two 'wrongdoings'. These two pesukim are enclosed by nuun hafoukhim, upside down nuuns (נ), sometimes backwards. Rashi explains that these nuuns are to indicate to us that this is not the proper place for these pasukim.  Really there are 7 books of the Torah: the portion from the beginning of Sefer BaMidbar until now is one Sefer, these two pasukim are another Sefer, and the rest of Sefer BaMidbar is another Sefer; altogether this is three Sefarim, plus the other four Sefarim of the Torah really makes seven.

The Keli Yakar explains that the word 'nuun' means fish. A fish naturally turns toward the water, it does not want to stay out of the water for even a second; the water is its life source! A backwards nuun, a backwards fish, swims against the water's gradient, against is natural environment. When Benei Yisrael turned away from Har Sinai like school children, they were 'swimming' away from their life source! We acted as a backward nuun - a backward fish!

That explains why the nuun is backwards, but why are they both upside down? The Me'am Lo'ez points out that these two nuuns refer to 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' which both start with the same letter nuun. Benei Yisrael's hasty departure from Har Sinai rendered their 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' as void. Their 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' was flipped over. They wanted fish for free! They wanted to eat without having the responsibility of Missvot; no proper shekhitah needed, no cleaning meat, no waiting six hours after meat to eat dairy. They wanted to eat 'freely'.

Do we feel that some Missvot are burdensome to us, or do we feel that when we do not have the opportunity to do them, that we are deprived of them? Are we passionate about Torah uMissvot or do we do them by rote? Do we wake up in the mornings and recite 'Modeh/Modah Ani' with deep gratitude and vigor, or do we mumble it and go back to sleep? Do we refrain from eating bread because Birkat HaMazon feels like a burden? Do we not daven because those extra fifteen minutes will lose me customers in the store? Or does it feel the other way around? These customers are getting in the way of my davening! Barukh HaShem I have yet another opportunity to bless and thank HaShem! We must realize, MISSVOT ARE A PRIVILEGE!

Don't do things passively. Even a fish that is not alive will appear to be swimming along a river, but that is because he is being carried along by the water's current; he does no work of his own. But who wants to be a dead fish? We are supposed to be those live fish! The ones that swim!

Aharon HaKohen wasn't excited to light the Menorah each day because it was made of one, smooth and elaborate piece of 24 karat gold; he was excited because, even though he would be lighting the Menorah each and every day the same thing over and over again, he had the opportunity to serve HaKadosh Barukh Hu in such a beautiful way. Even after 40 years, he was still as passionate about it as he was the first day!

There was once a man passing by a field, and he saw a Rav with his tefillin on milking a cow. He thought to himself, Wow, look at how this man disrespects his tefillin, he does his davening while he milks his cows! He said to himself, this can't be…. He thought again,Look at how much this Sadik elevates his work! Even when he milks his cows he has tefillin on!

We are supposed to continuously be doing Missvot and stop only to take care of our physical needs, not the other way around. The Shelah HaKadosh has a concise berakha, 'HaKadosh Barukh Hu, please allow me to learn Torah and do Missvot, and anything that gets in the way of me doing so (Parnassah, Health, Shalom Bayit) please take care of it for me!'

We must be passionate about the Torah! It is our life source! Just like we eat three times a day to feel satisfied, we must be involved with Torah and Missvot just as often, if not more, in order to satisfy our Neshamah. When we hear our stomach rumbling, we immediately get up, prepare a delicious meal and take our sweet time to eat. But do we feed our Neshamot this way? Are we so careful with the needs of our Neshamah and tend to it any time it is hungry? Food for thought….

Be'Ezrat HaShem may we get our priorities straight. May we develop such a passion for doing Missvot until a point where if we don't do them, we feel truly deprived. May we feed our Neshamot better than we feed our bodies. May we be those live fish that swim with such intensity at great lengths! May immerse ourselves in Torah, which just like water to a fish, is our life source. In this zekhout may we be blessed with all that is good!

Wishing every special Neshamah a beautiful Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!
Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

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