Parshas Behaloscha contains one of the most interesting parshiyos found in the Torah. After discussing the manner in which Bnei Yisrael would travel, the Torah tells the way Moshe would announce their departure and arrival.
(Note: the way we usually use the word ‘parsha’, to refer to the 54 sedras in the Torah, is not the correct usage of the word. In fact, each sedra is made up of a dozen or so parshiyos, which are a collection of pesukim that make up one topic. The end of each parsha is signified in the Chumash with either a letter ‘פ’ or ‘ס’.)
“ויהי בנסע הארן ויאמר משה קומה יהוה ויפצו איביך וינסו משנאיך מפניך ובנחה יאמר שובה יהוה רבבות אלפי ישראל” “So it was, whenever the ark set out, Moshe would say, ‘Arise, Hashem, may your enemies be scattered and may those who hate you flee from you. And when it came to rest he would say, ‘Repose Hashem, among the myriads of thousands of Yisrael.” (Bamidbar 10:35-36). Written in the text of the Torah itself, there is a backwards letter ‘נ’ placed before pasuk 35 and after pasuk 36. Rashi explains that these letters indicate that this is not the proper placement for these pesukim; they were placed here in order to make a separation between two different episodes of Hashem punishing Bnei Yisrael.
There are two questions that must be answered based on this explanation. First, where is the proper placement of these pesukim? The Sifsei Chachamim explains that they belong back in Parshas Bamidbar (2:17, to be exact), when the Torah discusses the transportation of the Mishkan. This placement is exactly 50 parshiyos (correct usage of the word) back from this spot; therefore, the Torah uses the letter ‘נ’, which has the numerical value of 50.
The second question is, between which two acts of punishment is this parsha placed? We find Bnei Yisrael being punished right after these pesukim (See 11:1-2), but beforehand there is no punishment; we only find Bnei Yisrael preparing to travel away from Har Sinai!
The Sifsei Chachamim explains with this pasuk, “וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר יְהֹוָה” And they traveled from the mountain of Hashem” (10:33). The medrash explains that Bnei Yisrael left Har Sinai as fast as they could, “like a little child runs away from school”, in order that Hashem should not give them any more mitzvos. They ran away from the place where they received the Torah, where they had seen the presence of Hashem the way It has never been seen in all of history, in order that they shouldn’t receive any more commandments, any more pieces of the Torah. The Ramban explains that even though the Torah records no punishment for this action, it is still referred to as a punishment by the commentaries. The Ramban suggests that the punishment may have been that they could not enter Eretz Yisrael immediately, but perhaps the commentaries refer to it as a punishment since the disappointment of Hashem is punishment enough.
Shavuos has passed, but we still remain in the month of Sivan, the month we received the Torah. As the summer draws closer, we look forward to vacation; some of us from work, some from school, but for all of us, vacation means a break from our regular study of Torah. Let’s not make the same mistake twice, let’s not run away like little children from what makes us great. We can and should use the summer to have a great time and enjoy ourselves. But let’s not lose that connection; let’s make sure our lifeline is constantly pointed in the direction of Hashem and the Torah, let it direct our actions and our thoughts. And who knows, perhaps the summer can be the time of our greatest connection to Torah!
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