Parshat Beha’aloscha 5778: Emulating Aaron HaKohen’s Enthusiasm, Dedication, Constancy of Service and Fulfillment of Mitzvot vs By Rote Observance

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Beha’aloscha is being sponsored by Loren and Sora Deetza Spigelman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated for a full and complete Refuah Shleima for Shir li Malka bat Aliza who was injured critically in an auto collision in January, 2018 at the entrance to Yishuv Shavei Shomron. To the Spigelman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Beha’aloscha 5778: Emulating Aaron HaKohen’s Enthusiasm, Dedication, Constancy of Service and Fulfillment of Mitzvot vs By Rote Observance

by Moshe Burt

The opening posukim of our Parsha teach us:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe, telling him to speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall illuminate the menorah.'” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 8, posukim 1-2, translation as rendered by R’ Aryeh Kaplan, z”l in “The Living Torah” Chumash)

“And Aaron did so, toward the face of the Menorah he kindled the lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 8, posuk 3 translation as rendered in the Artscroll Chumash, page 775)

Many commentators including Rashi and the S’fas Emes, as cited by by R’ Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah”, note that this latter posuk expresses the enthusiasm and constancy of Aaron HaKohen’s Service in the Mishkan as a paradigm for B’nai Yisrael to emulate.

R’ Pliskin writes (Sefer “Growth Through Torah”, Parsha Beha’aloscha, page 318):

Rashi comments: “This is to tell the praise of Aaron that he did not change.”

The S’fas Emes explained that usually when a person starts something new, he feels very enthusiastic about what he is doing. He is excited about the good he is doing and feels very motivated. But after some time passes the enthusiasm and excitement get lost. This is the praise of Aaron. Every time he lit the lamp in the Tabernacle [Mishkan] he did so with the same enthusiasm as on the first day.

R’ Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’lmode U’lamed (page 136) expands on the citings from R’ Pliskin in citing an unnamed commentator who provides a “psychologically-based explanation” of Rashi’s comment:

It is human nature to begin an assignment with the greatest enthusiasm. Gradually, however, this initial ardor cools. After a while, the person performs this task more out of habit than out of devotion. But this was not the case with Aaron. He began his duties in the Mishkan with the most fervent of devotion and maintained that devotion throughout his years of service. His enthusiasm for serving Hashem never wavered. This then is what Rashi is informing us here.

Therefore, it seems clear that Aaron HaKohen’s lifetime constancy of service is l’chatchila (the way things ought to be), the paradigm for all of B’nai Yisrael to emulate for all time and beyond only tefillot. But for many, tefillot (prayers), Brachot, Aliyah B’Torah and other forms of service often seem, through the generations, to have been reduced to automatic-pilot, with words of tefillah slurred and unintelligible and/or blown through at a speed which could make one’s head spin. And, in some locales, it often seems as if the one davening for the tzibbor (for the kehillah), even Chazarat HaShatz (repetitions of Shemonah Esrei) on Shabbos, i.e. Shacharit or Mussaf, for the tzibbor may be more concerned with either the “two-hour ceiling” or with his own melodiousness than with making an effort to pronounce each word fluently and distinctly.

We learn that Aaron HaKohen’s service of kindling of the menorah follows immediately after offerings brought by the Nesi’im of the Shevatim (Tribes) for the dedication of the Mizbeiyach (Altar). The sefer “Inspiration and Insight — Discourses on the Weekly Parashah”, by the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, Rabbi Yehudah Zev Segal, Shlita, z”l (Translated by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman) discusses the importance of having the right desires (pages 215-216):

In the book of Koheles, Shlomo HaMelech declares; “A lover of money will never be satisfied with money.” (Koheles 5:9) In the words of Midrash Rabbah 1:13, “He who has one hundred wants two hundred, and he who has two hundred wants four hundred.”

One can develop within himself a relentless desire to fulfill the word of Hashem, to strive to do mitzvah after mitzvah without ever wearying of this lofty service…. “A lover of money will never be satisfied with money; a lover of mitzvot will never be satisfied with mitzvot.” (Midrash Rabbah to Koheles 5:9)

Aaron HaKohen epitomized the latter half of the above Midrash. No matter how many mitzvot he performed, it was never enough. Though he had been anointed as Kohen Gadol, had already brought numerous offerings, and would be privileged to perform services that no other Jew could perform, he nevertheless experienced a dispirited feeling because he and Shevet Levi had not been able to participate in the dedication of the Mishkan by the Nesi’im.

So this author asks; Just as Torah learning is a Mitzvah, are not tefillot also considered Mitzvot every bit as much? Are we not strongly encouraged to say at least one hundred Brachot per day, of which our three Shemona Essrei’s make up over fifty percent?

To illustrate where this is going, years ago back in Philadelphia, it was suggested that this author arrive at Shul on Shabbos morning up to a half-hour before the Shaliach Tzibbor pronounces morning Brachot in order to be able to keep pace with the Shaliach Tzibbor through P’sukei D’Zimrah. Here in Israel, this author finds the need to have at least a fifteen minute head-start on the Shaliach Tzibbor just to keep up. And in the rush to keep pace with the Shaliach Tzibbor, various Shul facilities are often left in a deplorable state after multiple use. Isn’t keeping Shul facilities in neat condition to be considered a Mitzvah?

In the end, many Kehillot continuously complete a full Shabbos tefillah in under two hours, not including the Rav’s drasha, and then blow through Aleinu at “mach 1” speed.

Then, in their mad dash out of Shul, they either replace their siddurim and Chumashim on shelves in an unthinking, haphazard manner, unbecoming these holy siddurim and s’forim, or they simply leave the.siddurim, Chumashim and s’forim where they sat.

R’ Mordechai Katz provides this jaw-dropping comment and citation (“L’lmode U’lamed, page 136):

It is sad but true that we have become so used to many of our activities that we perform them mechanically, without any feelings whatsoever. This is why our Tefillos sometimes [?] become exercises in reading Hebrew rather than emotional communications with Hashem.

“Prayer without devotion is like a body without a soul.” (Yeshuos Meshilo)

This mad dash described above sounds more like what R’ Pliskin subsequently writes on the above posuk (ibid – Sefer “Growth Through Torah”, Parsha Beha’aloscha, page 318):

…After doing the same thing over and over, people get bored… In order to accomplish anything, one needs to master the ability of sustaining enthusiasm…. as if it were the first time.

The topping on the proverbial cake is this. Recently, this author celebrated his seventieth birthday and friends made a celebration at seudah sh’lish’t and made a present of the five volume set “Unlocking The Torah Text” by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin which is deeply appreciated. IY’H, these s’forim will be cited repeatedly, as with other s’forim cited throughout these Parshat HaShevua over the years.

Rabbi Goldin makes a point on our Parshat (“Unlocking The Torah Text”, Sefer Bamidbar, page 81) which is cited in part, in keeping with the theme of this vort and guaranteed to “knock your socks off”:

…When you view a Mitzvah as an opportunity and not as an obligation, you are worthy of a portion of the Torah inscribed in your name.

Our age of immediacy — in which time is measured in milliseconds, easier is automatically viewed as better and goals must be instantly attained — inexorably shapes our religious attitudes. We find ourselves seeking quicker prayer services, devising shortcuts in Yom Tov preparations and engaging in rote, undemanding ritual observance…. Anything to make our lives a little easier as we balance multiple obligations and, at the same time, struggle to fulfill the letter, if not the spirit, of Halacha.

In the process, however, we miss the whole point.

For while these commandments are obligations, they are also opportunities: prayer an opportunity to talk to Hashem, Shabbos an opportunity to regain perspective, the Yom Tovim opportunities for shared family experience. All Mitzvot are opportunities to glimpse the world that lies beyond, to connect with Hashem, to sanctify our existence.

With the investment of time and effort, the observance of the Mitzvot can deeply enrich our personal and family lives.

When we learn to view Mitzvot as opportunities and not as burdens, we too will merit inscription in the unfolding scroll of our nation’s story.

With all this having been noted, isn’t it time to turn off the automatic-pilot?

May we, the B’nei 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 and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — 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.