Parsha Beha’aloscha 5771 — Trickle-Up Leadership: Mirror Reflection of Us and Our Tefillot?

by Moshe Burt

Commentators discussing our Parsha speak about the reasons for the separate section delineated by the inverted “nuns”:

“When the Aron (the Ark) would journey, Moshe said, ‘Arise Hashem, and let your foes be scattered, let those who hate you flee from before you.’ And when it rested, he would say, ‘Reside tranquilly, O, Hashem, among the myriad thousands of Israel.’” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 10, posukim 35-36)

Preceding these posukim are the posukim which speak about the journey of the Aron and of B’nai Yisrael from Har Sinai to their next resting place, “…a three day distance…” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 10, posukim 33 & 34).

Many commentators speak of the section delineated by the inverted “nuns” as a separation between the aveirot of B’nai Yisrael so as to not bring about a Chazaka (recording of three Jewish sins in succession).

We learn subsequently about the people’s complaints about lack of quail and in next week’s parsha Shelach, about the sin of the Miraglim (the spies). But what was the first aveirah which brought about the separation, by inverted “nuns”, of “VaYehi B’nso’a HaAron V’yOmer Moshe…”? (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 10, posukim 35-36)

Rabbi Artscroll mentions a Ramban on posuk 35 which cites a Midrash which indicates that the B’nai Yisrael:

“… fled from the mountain of G’d like a child running away from school.”

The Midrash indicates that they were:

“Happy to leave that holy place because they afraid that Hashem might give them more and more commandments. Thus, although they traveled in compliance with Hashem’s will, their attitude made a sin of a journey that should have been the fulfillment of Hashem’s oath to the Avos.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 787, commentary on Perek 10, posukim 33 & 34)

In addition, the Rashi on posuk 33 indicates that:

Although the posuk says that the journey “… was a distance that normally would have required three days of travel, … they (the B’nai Yisrael) covered it in one day.” (Artscroll Stone Chumash, page 787, commentary on Perek 10, posuk 33)

It seems that the attitude of B’nai Yisrael in departing from Har Sinai is totally at odds with Moshe Rabbeinu’s paradigm derech of showing HaKaras HaTov such as by the Maka of Dom (the plague of blood) where he showed his thankfulness for the water which protected him as a new-born.

As we watch today’s history unfold, we find that the functionaries of Israel’s contemporary governance, and indeed significant segments of the B’nai Yisrael have lost sight of our history and take lightly the significance of our traditions, our commemorations, our Yomim Tovim — our Shalosh Regalim.

What do we see today? We observe how the current Memshelet Yisrael, once the vehicle to build and ingather a scattered nation and make the land bloom as it hadn’t in nearly 2,000 years, has become obsolete due both to the cancerous growth of it’s disdain for Torah, and due to its anti-Torah ways. We see how they have apparently abandoned the MIA soldiers to their captors with little care to find conclusive proof as to whether they have remained alive or have died in captivity. We have noted their abject failure to even attempt to gain intelligence as to possible rescue of Gilad Shalit, even as they resorted to trading hundreds of terrorists for body-bags containing the remains of soldiers Regev and Goldwasser.

We see how they have, and still do benignly neglect Jonathan Pollard, who saved countless Jewish lives by his actions. Successive Israeli governments left him to rot in an American prison, hoping for Chas V’Challila his death which will forever conceal their nasty little secrets, while feigning efforts on his behalf. Only belatedly has the present Prime Minister Netanyahu make a public appeal on Pollard’s behalf. We see how they have lied to, misled and neglected the members of the former South Lebanon Army who previously fought alongside and supported Israel for decades.

And finally, having displayed utter disrespect to those who aligned themselves with, fought alongside of and for Israel, whether in Northern Israel, South Lebanon or whether they are members of the Republican party who have fought in the halls of the United States Congress and Senate; Memshelet Yisrael now totally disrepects it’s land, a land which has bloomed and represents a significant part of it’s economy and disdains the population it “governs.”

The day when an attack on any Jew anywhere in Israel, or, for that matter, anywhere in the world was seen as an attack on every Israeli’s doorstep has passed to a time of total selfishness, self-interest and disloyalty toward our brethren and Chillul Hashem. The time has passed to a governance “too tired to win, too tired to fight, too tired, too tired, too tired.” If Entebbe were to have occurred today under a Barak, an Olmert, a Livni, or a Bibi Netanyahu, the 100 or so Jews saved in the raid on Entebbe would have long-since rotted to death.

It disrespects the people who elected it to govern — the Jewish people with it’s lies, falsehoods and corruption. It ditches on Eretz Kedusha, on their solemn obligation of national security and on the Jewish people in order that its leaders avoid prosecution and possible prison for their multitudes of wrongdoing.

Just as Hashem provided Moshe Rabbeinu with 70 elders — the Jewish overseers who, rather than report to Pharoh ratting on their Brethren, took the lashes of Pharoh’s whippings themselves for the failure to satisfy quotas, so too, must real Jewish leadership today be morally and ethically pure, honest and beyond reproach. As such, they MUST be capable of placing the security and welfare of the Jewish people who they would govern above and beyond personal self-aggrandizement and self-perpetuation in power. Real Jewish leadership, by its very nature, recognizes the necessity of national unity and that the building and ingathering of the Jews to modern-day Israel and success in conflicts with enemies bent on our destruction are in the Hands of Hashem, not merely in the plans and hands of moral man.

But isn’t today’s corrupt, evil and pretentious governance but a mirror reflection of us — our self-centeredness, our insensitivity and indifference. Just as our ancestors who “fled from the mountain of G’d like a child running away from school”, don’t WE act the same way?

After a typical no-kavanah (no-thought, no-contemplative) 6 minute Shemoneh Esrei, we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu at the speed of a 100plus mph Arnoldis Chapman fastball and then similarly flee out of Shul like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework?

Aleinu L’Shabeiyach: The verbalization of OUR Chiyuv — our obligation as Jews to praise and glorify Hashem’s name. Aleinu is the most often said, the most repetitious and unchangeable, yet the least respected of all of our tefillot. Noone even bothers to take the time, when vocalizing the tefillah, to even focus on the meanings of it: that Yehoshua davened it forwards, backwards, sideways through as the Jews encircled Yericho and the Shofars blew until Yericho’s walls fell in heaps.

Rabbi Ari Enkin makes this compelling statement regarding Aleinu in his Halacha Sefer (”Daled Amos” pge 24):

I have heard interpretations that the entire prayer service is simply one gigantic preparation for the recitation of Aleinu.

Rabbi Enkin then includes a reference footnote to the Mishne Berura 132:8A where the Rama tells us:

Say “Aleinu L’Shabeiyach” while standing after tefillah and be careful to daven it with kavanah.

From where and from whom did the impetus for Rabbi Enkin’s compelling statement come? R’Shimshon Pincus, who asks a startling question and his well-known and oft-referenced sefer on Tefillah; Nefesh Shimshon, as well as other sources, provide jaw-dropping citings, some of which are para-phrased here give clues to back Rabbi Enkin’s compelling statement:

  • 1/ R’ Pincus cites a responsa of the Gaonim from sometime between 500 to 1,000 CE where someone asks: How is it possible that Aleinu is said in Chutz L’Aretz? Such a high-level tefillah shouldn’t be permitted to be davened except in a place close to Hashem, Yehoshua only davened Aleinu upon entering Eretz Yisrael.

    From this question, we see the specialness of Aleinu — that on no other tefillah is such a question asked. There must be something great, mighty and elevated in Aleinu which can’t be appreciated in any other locale.

  • 2/ R’Pincus cites the Gry’z Z’l as noting that the whole power of the Yetzer Hora and its troops on the human mind is through the imagination, convincing man that he (man) is in control.

    If only man would say with vigor and strength that… [all that the Yetzer Hora has convinced man of man’s control of] are Hevel V’rik — vanity and emptiness and that there is nothing real in them, he (man) would then find it easier to recognize that… Hashem Ke’ilokim — that there is nothing else. Afterwards, Satan would not have power to mess with man’s mind because man realizes that everything is dependent upon Him. R’Pincus brings as Aleinu’s purpose that it reinforces the feeling of the Jew, as he leaves tefillot, that he is totally dependent upon Hashem.

  • 3/ Another Sefer, L’David Shiur by Asher Elbaz seems to answer R’Pincus’ citing from Gaonim responsa citing R’Hai Gaon which indicates that by those in Chutz L’Aretz aiming their tefillahs toward Israel and toward the Beit HaMikdash, the Jewish world’s tefillahs rise to Shemayim from the Mikdash.
  • 4/ Sefer L’David Shiur cites the Rokeach who notes that Yehoshua Ben Nun repeated Aleinu on his knees in awe and in a loud voice in a tune which makes the heart rejoice. Therefore, a person should have kavanah to sing Aleinu with all of his might to his Creator.
  • 5/ Sefer L’David Shiur cites the Chida which says to say Aleinu word-by-word [seeming obvious to not slur or mumble-jumble them] because it is a very awesome praise full of very high secrets.
  • 6/ L’David Shiur also cites the M’Chazik Bracha (Koof, Lamed, Bet) which indicates that there is no other praise to our Creator like Aleinu and that it is higher than all of the praises in the world.

But, yet we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu and then flee out of Shul like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework? Indeed! Is it any wonder why we get the governance that we have? Is our governance not a reflection, the trickle-up of who we are?

And when someone questions why or how it is possible to give such short shrift to Aleinu, the response seems with defensiveness, invoking oft-overused expression: “ti’erka b’tzibbor”, and with rationalization about how they have to get to work, drive the kids to Gan or to Yeshiva Ketanah — as they run out of Shul in the morning like a bunch of scared rabbits, afraid of their shadows, in dread fear of being fired, instead of acting like men.

But whose time is it anyway?? And if Hashem controls all, might it then stand to reason that, if they took a little more time — if the Shaliach Tzibbor slowed down and properly pronounced the repetition of Shemonah Essrei and didn’t rush through Aleinu, to get to the Kaddish afterwards, so that everyone could then flock out of Shul like a buffalo herd, that Hashem would then bring a reconfiguration to our day such that the extra time wouldn’t make kids late for school, wouldn’t make adults late for their jobs, that all of their work would get done on time and that noone would fear for their jobs?? Or, if things didn’t happen precisely that way, that what did happen would show for the best anyway?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.