Category Archives: Parshas Beha’aloscha

Parshas Beha’aloscha: Hurdle to Greatness!

Parshas Beha’aloscha

Hurdle to Greatness!


“It sometimes happened that the Cloud was [there] [but] from evening until morning, and then the Cloud rose in the morning, and they traveled; or [the Cloud was there] for a day and a night and the Cloud was lifted, and they traveled.” (Bamidbar 9:21)

A student of the Chozeh of Lublin once davened to Hashem, asking that he earn his weekly livelihood early in the week. Then he would have the peace of mind to learn Torah the rest of the week. The Chozeh told him that, of course Hashem could provide his livelihood earlier in the week. However, that may not be what Hashem wanted. Hashem wanted this student to be able to learn Torah and do mitzvos under less than desirable conditions. His Torah learning and his mitzvos, when done under the trying conditions, were more holy and more pleasing to Hashem. “Maybe Hashem has more satisfaction in how you overcome your burdens and create light in the midst of darkness.” (The Pirkei Avos Treasury by Rabbi Moshe Lieber)

After leaving Egypt, the Jewish People traversed the desert. Hashem guided them with a Pillar of Cloud during the day and a Pillar of Fire at night. Whenever the Cloud rose from the Mishkan, it indicated that it was time to leave. Then the Jews packed their belongings and left. The Bekhor Shor says that Hashem did not inconvenience the people by making them break camp at night. However, sometimes the Cloud signaled to the Jews to leave after one day, sometimes after a month, and sometimes after a year. The Sforno says that it was impossible to predict with any degree of probability how long they would stay in one location. Sometimes the Jewish People arrived at a location, unpacked, and then had to leave hours later. The Ramban says that sometimes they arrived at an unpleasant place to camp. They wanted to leave right away but the Pillar of Cloud did not move for a long time. Other times, they came to a beautiful site. They wanted to remain there for a long time. They would unpack and settle in. However, the very next morning, the Pillar of Cloud rose, indicating that they had to leave. They had to repack all their belongings and continue traveling. The Ramban says that this was very bothersome.

What was Hashem’s purpose in doing this? Why was the trip through the desert so difficult, as the Jewish People never knew how long they would be remaining in one place?

Rav Eliyahu Dessler zt”l in Michtav m’Eliyahu explains that Hashem may have done this to teach the Jewish People a very important lesson. Learning Torah and doing mitzvos should not depend on external conditions.

One is apt to say, “If Only”. “If I only had a little-more free time, then I would learn Torah. If only I didn’t have to go to my job early in the morning, then I would be able to daven with a minyan or then I would be able to daven slower, with more concentration. Or if only I didn’t have to work so hard to earn a living, worry so much about my children, be busy with homework, be busy with shidduchim, or be busy with medical troubles, then I would do so much more.”

Life is never perfect. It is full of disturbances and challenges.

That is what Hashem was teaching us with the unpredictable travels in the desert. Life in the desert was not easy at times. However, Jewish life does not depend on conditions improving. A Jew must learn Torah and do mitzvos under all conditions, even difficult ones. One can’t wait until he gets comfortable before learning Torah or doing other mitzvos.       (based on Rabbi Yissocher Frand, Rabbi Frand on the Parasha)

It says in Pirkei Avos (2:5), “Don’t say ‘When I am free then I will learn’, for perhaps you will not become free.” One should never postpone learning Torah to a more opportune moment, for that moment may never come.

“I don’t know how, but someone had managed to smuggle in a pair of tefillin by bribing a kapo with dozens of bread and margarine rations. I only know that every morning many of us rose before the call-up to perform this mitzvah….  Jews who did not know each other, who perhaps did not even speak the same language, met each morning at dawn, exposed themselves to nameless dangers for the sake of doing this mitzvah.” (Professor Eli Wiesel, in a 1982 article)

A Jew must learn Torah and do mitzvos under all conditions, even difficult ones. Mitzvos done in trying circumstances give Hashem even more pleasure than those done when all is calm. We have the opportunity, to achieve greatness and holiness when we do mitzvos despite our challenges.


Parshas Beha’aloscha: Pawns in the Hands of Hashem

Parshas Beha’aloscha

Pawns in the Hands of Hashem


“For every first-born of the Children of Israel became Mine, of man and livestock; on the day that I struck every first-born in the land of Egypt….” (Bamidbar 8:17)

We are pawns in Hashem’s hands. We may have plans to do something, but Hashem controls our destiny.

A group of four religious Jews traveled by plane from Cleveland to NY to go to a trade show. When they left it was too early to daven Shacharis. They had planned on davening at one of many minyanim in Manhattan. While on the plane, the pilot announced that due to heavy fog they would be unable to land in New York or even in New Jersey. They were going to land in Washington DC. Luckily, there were six other Jews on the plane. They decided to daven as soon as they had landed. As they were davening, a man who hardly looked Jewish asked if he could say kaddish. Apparently, his father had passed away just a few days before. Since he was not observant, he was not saying kaddish. One of the men helped him say the kaddish. He told the men at the minyan that his father had come to him in a dream, asking why he was not saying kaddish. He had told his father that he hardly knew how to say it and there were no synagogues in the area where he lived. His father had said that his soul needed his son to say kaddish for him. He had asked his son to please say kaddish if he would send a minyan to his son. His son had agreed. He woke up from the dream and discounted it, until he saw a minyan at the airport. It was a clear sign to him that his father had sent him a minyan. Accordingly, he said kaddish. After the story, the travelers understood why their flight was diverted. Hashem had plans for them, to help someone say kaddish. (Around the Magid’s Table by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

The Midrash Rabba (Bamidbar 15:12) says that Hashem does not elevate one to a position of prominence, until he passes the tests that Hashem gives him. The purpose of the tests is not to determine what level one is currently on. Rather, the purpose is to elevate the person after he passes the tests. Once he is on a higher level than he was before, Hashem gives him the position of prominence. Hashem gave our forefather Avraham ten tests after which Hashem gave Avraham a special blessing,”And Hashem had blessed Avraham with everything.” (Bereishis 24:2) Hashem also gave Yitzchak various tests. The Maharzu elaborates on those tests. Yitzchak was forbidden to leave the Land of Israel when a famine struck, the Plishtim kept chasing him from place to place, and he was afraid that he would be killed for the King to take his wife. Yitzchak passed all the tests, without voicing or even feeling any complaints against Hashem. He never questioned or even wondered why Hashem had caused these events to occur. After passing the tests, Hashem blessed Yitzchak, “Yitzchak sowed in that land and in that year, he reaped one hundred-fold; thus had Hashem blessed him.” (Bereishis 26:12) Yaakov & Yosef were given their own challenges. They passed their tests and Hashem blessed them. The entire shevet (tribe) of Levi was tested. They lived in an environment in Egypt where the other shevatim (or at least large parts of the shevatim) succumbed and did not learn Torah or perform the mitzvah of bris mila. Yet, the tribe of Levi remained true to Hashem. Even in Egypt, they learned Torah and performed the mitzvah of circumcision. Later, they were the only shevet from whom not even one member participated in the sin of the Golden Calf! The entire shevet was righteous!  Therefore, Hashem chose them to serve in the Mishkan.

Rashi (Bamidbar 8:17) says that, by rights, the first-born Jews belonged to Hashem. Hashem had killed all the firstborn Egyptians and had spared the first-born Jews. Therefore, the first-born Jews owed their lives to Hashem. Thus, Hashem took them for Himself, so to speak, to serve Him in the Mishkan. However, the firstborn forfeited their rights when they sinned with the Golden Calf. The Leviim took the place of the firstborn in serving Hashem in the Mishkan because of all their righteousness. They showed righteousness in Egypt and none of their shevet sinned with the Golden Calf.

Rashi seems to be in contradiction to the Midrash. The Midrash says that Hashem gives prominence and blessing AFTER one passes tests. If so, how can Rashi say that the firstborn merited prominence simply because they were saved from death? What tests did they pass to deserve the honor of serving Hashem?

Rabbeinu Bachya in sefer Chovos Halevavos (in the unit, Faith in Hashem) says that one should surrender his entire being to Hashem. He should realize that even after much thinking and planning, he isn’t the one in control of his actions. Rather, Hashem is in total control of his destiny, of what happens to him. Although one has the freedom to choose, the result of his actions is determined by Hashem. When one reaches this level of belief, that he is steered and guided by Hashem, that is passing the greatest and most difficult test. When he feels that there is no longer a “me” but that he is in the hands of Hashem, then he is ready to pass any test that Hashem would give him. Ordinarily, if a situation would occur, he would be hesitant to act in a way which could cause himself harm. Once he realizes that he is in Hashem’s hands, he will do whatever is right, even if it seems that it may be harmful to himself.

This is the explanation of Rashi. The Jewish firstborn were close to death. They realized, with every fiber of their being, that Hashem is the One who gives life and controls destiny. That, in of itself, enabled them to attain this high level of faith in Hashem. They did not need any outside stimuli or any other tests to elevate them. Thus, being on such a high level, they already deserved the special privilege and prominence of serving Hashem.

We should strive to reach this high level of faith.

Although we have freedom to choose our actions, we must realize that Hashem controls our destiny.


Based on a dvar Torah by Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l