This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua for Beha’aloscha is being co-sponsored anonymously by two families from Ramat Beit Shemesh. One of the families dedicates the vort lilui nishmas their Father, Micha’el ben Avraham. To our two anonymous sponsor families, many thanks for your co-sponsorships 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.
Our Parshat opens with Hashem Speaking to Moshe Rabbeinu:
“…Saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward thev face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light.’ Aaron did so: toward the face of the Menorah he kindled its lamps, as Hashem had commanded Moshe.” (Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 8, posukim 1-3 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary)
Rashi asks on “When you kindle”:
Why was the passage dealing with the kindling of the Menorah put next to the passage dealing with the contributions and offerings of the princes [Nasi’im]? (Rashi on Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 8, posuk 2 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary, page 88)
Toward the end of Parshat Naso, Torah enunciates the gifts brought to the Mishkan by the princes of the Shevatim upon their inauguration.
Rashi then answers:
Because when Aaron saw the inauguration of the princes, i.e. the contributions and offerings made by the princes at the inauguration of the Mishkan, he felt badly about it, for neither he nor his Shevet was with them at the inauguration. HaKadosh Baruch Hu to him [Aaron]: “By your life, your [role] is greater than theirs, for you kindle and prepare the lamps.” (ibid, page 88, Rashi, from Midrash Tanchuma 5)
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 epitomization of the enthusiasm and constancy of Aaron HaKohen’s Service in the Mishkan as a paradigm for B’nei 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’nei 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, may be more concerned either with the “two-hour ceiling” or with his own melodiousness than with making an effort to pronounce each word fluently and distinctly.
Why should Aaron have felt dispirited, given that the number of offerings which he brought during the seven days of inauguration far exceeded those of the Nasi’im?
This author would answer the above question with another question:
What does Aaron Hakohen’s enthusiasm and constancy of service, and the respective services of the Kohanim and the Lev’im have to do with our tefillot today, such as with Aleinu?
Regarding Aleinu, in many venues, if it weren’t for Kaddish afterwards, gang-way for the stampede! So, from the beginning of Aleinu, the main focus of those saying Kaddish seems, bearing in mind the break-neck speed with which the Shaliach Tzibbor completes his Aleinu, to rush in a frenzy to surround the Bima — their minds and focus seemingly very far from the mission at hand — Aleinu: “Our Duty” — both paragraphs of it.
Rabbi Ari Enkin makes this compelling statement regarding Aleinu in his Halacha Sefer (”Daled Amos” page 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 in 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 and 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 Gaonim felt can’t be appreciated in any other locale. This testifies to the deep and special meaning of Aleinu.
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 Keilokim — 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. [Can this be done at break-neck speed?]
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.
Finally, Rabbi Asher Baruch Wegbreit of Yeshivat Birkat HaTorah, wrote in the forward to his sefer, “The Power of Aleinu” (page 23):
I am not aware of any other single prayer that… enables you to fulfill a total of 30 mitzvot d’Oraisa (Torah Commandments). These mitzvot include two of the Ten Commandments, and all of them are fundamental components of our faith and existence as Jewish people. And since reward for the fulfillment of just a single Torah mitzvah is limitless, think what you can accomplish every time you recite Aleinu in a proper manner.
It is clear that the general public is not aware of this…, as most of the time they breeze through these holy words while rushing out of shul.
But, yet we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu and then flee out of Shul three times a day. People don’t seem to realize, or they seem to discount, that Aleinu is an integral part of Our Service — Our individual and collective Divine Service. It’s Our chance to emulate Aaron HaKohen and pray for the world to cleave to Hashem — the Creator of the world and all that is in it..
Shouldn’t B’nei Yisrael always treat Aleinu, and for that matter, all designated tefillot with the same degree of seriousness and relentlessness to which Aaron HaKohen treated his daily service, as well as his pursuit and performance of Mitzvot; to the same degree to which Kohanim and Levi’im throughout our generations treated their respective service, with or without the Beit HaMikdash??
Rabbi Goldin makes these points in his Sefer, “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Bamidbar, in his vort regarding Pesach Sheini. which seem to this author to be applicable to saying Aleinu, as well as other tefillot and learning (pages 80-81):
…When you perceive participation with your people to be a cherished gift worth fighting for; when you feel diminished by an inability to take part in a Torah ritual; 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.
With the investment of time and effort, the observance of Mitzvot can deeply enrich our personal and family lives.
When we learn to view Mitzvot as opportunities and not burdens, we too will merit inscription in the unfolding scroll of our nation’s story.
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 thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five and a half 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. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!
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.