The Parsha, the Process and the Promised Land
Thoughts on the Weekly Torah Reading Relating to Current Events

by Michael Freund
(first posted on Arutz 7)



1. The Power of Commitment

Parshat Beha'alotecha, after describing Aaron's kindling of the Menorah and the consecration of the Levites in the service of G-d, relates the laws of Pesach Sheni, the second Passover offering that is sacrificed on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, one month after Passover. The Torah relates that there were people who were unable to offer the first Passover sacrifice because they were ritually impure at the time of the festival. They approached Moshe and Aaron, distraught that they were unable to participate in the communal celebration: "We are impure through contact with a corpse; why should we suffer by being unable to offer G-d's sacrifice at its appointed time among the Children of Israel?" (Chap. 9, verse 7). G-d then told Moshe that anyone prevented from participating in the Passover sacrifice because of ritual impurity or because they are too far from the Temple to arrive in time, may instead take part in the Pesach Sheni sacrifice a month later. Thus, G-d gave them an opportunity to "make up" for having missed the first one.

The Question:
The only instance in the entire Torah in which a mitzvah has a "make up" option at a later date is the Passover sacrifice. Why is this the case?

The Answer:
The Tiferet Shlomo, Rabbi Shlomo of Radomsk, says the reason is that the people mentioned in our Parsha who were unable to participate in the Passover sacrifice demonstrated such a tremendous level of dedication to fulfilling the mitzvah that G-d decided to create the fall-back option of Pesach Sheni for them and for all future generations. The same holds true for the Final Redemption of the Jewish people, says the Tiferet Shlomo. At the end of the exile, when the Jews will pour their hearts and souls into bringing about the Messianic era, G-d will hear them and respond to their devotion by redeeming them before the appointed time, just as He did during the Exodus from Egypt.

The Lesson:
Dedication to fulfilling G-d's will does not go unnoticed. We see above how G-d was willing to respond to the impassioned request of those unable to participate in the Passover sacrifice - He actually "added" a new mitzvah to the Torah as a result. Such is the power of sincere commitment. It can reverberate to the Heavens and bring about significant changes in the world, both physical and spiritual. Indeed, in our own day, we see similar examples of intense commitment and dedication - when the Land of Israel is under assault, when our foes seek to drive us out of our homeland, there are still Jews who are willing to brave it all and stick things out. Undeterred by gunfire or explosives, they cling to the Land, safeguarding it from those who would take it away. The Jews of Israel, and especially those of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, are a living example of courage and heroism, of sacrificing the comforts of an easy existence elsewhere on behalf of building and settling all parts of the Land of Israel. Their strength and commitment are an example to all of what a Jew's priorities should be. And, as the Tiferet Shlomo noted, when the entire Jewish people display a similar level of profound dedication to G-d, then our efforts will be rewarded with a prompt reply - the final redemption.

2. Bury Your Cravings
Subsequently in the parsha, the Jewish people complain about the manna that G-d was sending them daily to feed them. Weeping about their condition, the people called out, "Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now, our life is parched, there is nothing, we have nothing to anticipate but the manna" (Chap. 11, verses 4-6). Their nostalgic, and inaccurate, look back at the Egyptian slavery angered G-d, who told Moses that He would send the people meat for a month, such that they would grow tired of it and soon regret their complaints. G-d then sent quail, which the people gathered in large quantities. G-d then punished the people for wishing they were back in Egypt. The Torah states, "The meat was still between their teeth, not yet chewed, when the wrath of
G-d flared against the people, and G-d struck a very mighty blow against the people. He named that place Kivrot HaTaavah
[lit. "the graves of the desire"], because it was there that they buried the people who had been craving" (Chap. 11, verses 33-4).

The Question:
Why was the place where those who complained against G-d named Kivrot HaTaavah ["the graves of the desire"] rather than Kivrot HaMitavim ["the graves of those who craved"]?

The Answer:
The Maayanah Shel Torah cites the Binah L'Itim as explaining that it was not only the people who craved meat and wanted to return to Egypt who were buried there, but also the craving itself that was laid to rest. Everyone present who witnessed the punishment meted out to those who had complained was purged of his craving. Hence, the burial of those who craved also resulted in the burial of the craving itself, which is why the site was named Kivrot HaTaavah ["the graves of the desire"].

The Lesson:
With events swirling all around us, it is easy to lose sight of their significance as one horrific terrorist attack follows another. The bottom line of the past eight months of Palestinian violence is very simple: the craving to trade away parts of the Land of Israel to an unrepentant foe in the hopes of receiving peace in return have proven to be a vain fantasy. As we saw above, those who witnessed the result of the complaining against G-d were quickly cured of their cravings, for they learned the lesson of the events around them. That too, is what we must all do - finally and unequivocally bury our illusions about our neighbors, before our neighbors bury us.

Michael Freund served as Deputy Director of Communications and Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1996 to 1999. He is currently an editorial writer and syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post. Comments/Feedback/Subscribe:

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION