A Reversal of History by Ari Michael


A question everyone who learns Chumash has is what the reversed ‘נ’ on either side of the Pasuk,  ויהי בנסע הארון (י:לה-לו), “And when the Ark would travel…”(10:25-26), is for.  Rav Soloveitchik zt”l had a unique view of what they meant.  The stories in Parshat Behaalotcha seem to be totally unrelated and without continuity.  At the end of Parshat Naso and the beginning of Parshat Behaalotcha we see the completion of the Mikdash through the Korbanot Hanesiem and the commanding of Aharon to light the Menorah.  Then comes the commandment to bring the Korban Pesach and the Mitzva of Pesach Sheni.  There is a description of how the Machaneh the camp would travel: either through the ענני הכבוד or the חצוצרות.  Then, the Torah shows us the entire parade of the מחנה in its first movement.  Moshe then has a conversation with his father-in-law, Yitro, and the people who are מחוץ למחנה are incorporated into the camp.  This was followed by the story of the Asafsuf and Mitoninim.  Then, the Parsha ends with the complaint of Miriam against her brother, Moshe.  In reality, though, all of these seemingly unrelated stories form one tragic tale.  The reason Bnai Yisrael were in the Midbar was to receive the Torah and build the Bait Hamikdash.  With the sacrificing of the קרבנות הנשיאים, their responsibility was discharged and they were ready to enter ארץ ישראל.  However, since they had been delayed in the Midbar because of the Egel, they had to bring the Korban Pesach.  The Torah then shows us the camp as it prepared to move out and Hashem gives Moshe a means by which to communicate with Bnai Yisrael while traveling: the חצוצרות.  Tension and excitement filled the air as Bnai Yisrael awaited Hashem’s word to set out, which can be readily seen from Moshe’s conversation with his father in law in which he sounds like a kid who has been promised candy and knows he will be getting it very soon.  Then, “And when the Ark would travel Moshe would say, Arise, O Lord, let your enemies be scattered and your foes flee before you.”  This is the story of what was supposed to happen.  Bnai Yisrael were supposed to march right into ימות המשיח.  However, the people began to complain and lust for material things and this greatly angered Hashem and Moshe.  What angered Hashem so much was that they started living the lifestyle of idol worshippers.  This complaint was worse than the Egel because idol worshippers will realize the idol is worthless, but the adoption of the pagan way of life is far worse.  That is why even Moshe was unable to defend Bnai Yisrael: there is no excuse for what they did.  Their adoption of the pagan way of life was the reason Moshe asked Hashem to give him helpers or give him death.  He found out now that he was going to take on the role of the יונק and give up his private life.  Finally, the Parsha ends with Miriam questioning her brother’s reasons for separating from his wife.  Hashem then explained that with Moshe’s new responsibilities, he has no time for a private life.


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