Friday, June 1, 2018

Dvar Torah for Parshas Behaloscha

       If you compare the parshiyos in Sefer Bamidbar with the rest of the Torah, you find the amount of storylines per parsha is much higher than everywhere else. Each parsha has so many topics to speak about, some easily missed if you don’t look hard enough.
       With millions of men, women, and children to take care of, the travel methods for Bnei Yisrael through the desert were very important. This week’s parsha discusses how the nation planned their travels and its implementation, culminating in a description of their first journey as a nation.
       The Bnei Yisrael spent a year at Har Sinai after Matan Torah studying the Torah, learning how to keep the mitzvos, and building the Mishkan. Finally, it was time to leave. The pasuk describes their first journey, “וַיִּסְעוּ֙ מֵהַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה דֶּ֖רֶךְ שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים וַֽאֲר֨וֹן בְּרִֽית־יְהֹוָ֜ה נֹסֵ֣עַ לִפְנֵיהֶ֗ם דֶּ֚רֶךְ שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים לָת֥וּר לָהֶ֖ם מְנוּחָֽה“They traveled a distance of three days from the mountain of Hashem, and the Aron of Hashem’s covenant traveled three days ahead of them to seek a place for them to settle” (Bamidbar 10:33). While the beginning of the pasuk is simple, the second part of the pasuk is incredible! The Aron, not the one in the Mishkan, but a second Aron, would travel ahead of the nation a distance of three days, in order to smooth out the road ahead of them so travel would be as easy as possible; even easier. Any mountains, valleys, dangerous animals, were all removed so the Bnei Yisrael could stroll ahead with no worries or extra effort.
       Chazal explain, however, that these two statements of traveling in the pasuk are in contrast to each other. While the Aron traveled three days in order to make things easier for travel to Eretz Yisrael, the Bnei Yisrael traveled three days to escape Har Sinai. After being there for a year and soaking up the kedushah of the place, we would expect Bnei Yisrael to not want to leave. Even excluding their amazing experiences, who wants to leave a place which after years in slavery, probably felt like home! But the truth was that the nation had gotten tired of all the work they were doing learning how to practice follow the Torah and they believed the longer they stayed there, the more laws would be given to them. So the first chance they had, they didn’t just leave, they ran away!
       How ironic is this the pasuk; while the Aron traveled three days ahead to make things as easy as possible for the nation, they traveled three days as well, to make things easy on themselves by abandoning the Torah! Even more so, the Aron was leading the way to Eretz Yisrael, the place where it would easiest and best for them to practice the Torah, while all they wanted to do was escape it! Both parties may have been physically travelling in the same direction, spiritually they were opposites. Instead of a three day distance between them, there was actually a six day distance getting farther and farther all the time, until it comes to a head later in the parsha when the nation is punished.
       The Kli Yakar explains that this is the same principle that keeps us in galus after all these years. It may look like we are physically headed in the same direction, we all do mitzvos and follow the Torah. But when we look into our thoughts and minds, are we still heading the same way? We are after Shavuos and have reaffirmed our connection to the Torah. Let’s solidify that affirmation both in our actions and in our hearts. With that, we can recalibrate our direction in congruence with Hashem and the Torah, and bring the geulah.
Shabbat Shalom!

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