Leaving Hashem Behind by Rabbi Raphi Mandelstam


In Parashat BeHa'alotecha, we see a most shocking transition. The Parashah begins by describing the height of our relationship with Hashem in the Midbar. I would argue that in this week’s Parashah we see the most religious thing Bnei Yisrael  has ever done. After those who are Tamei, spiritually impure, are told that they cannot bring a Korban Pesach, they do something incredible. Instead of just accepting their situation, they protest, asking, “Lama NiGara,” “Why should we be left out?” (BeMidbar 9:7) We, too, wish to perform this beautiful Mitzvah. As we know, Hashem instituted Pesach Sheini as a response to the desires of those who wished to fulfill the Mitzvah. However, at the end of the Parashah, something radical happens when the people start complaining. The Pasuk informs us, “VaYehi HaAm KeMit’oninim,” “And the people were like murmurers” (11:1). What happened? What were they complaining about? We know that the next episode describes the people's new desire for meat. Why, all of a sudden, was meat so essential? What was wrong with the Man that was enjoyed for so long? 

Chazal give us a hint by comparing the transition of the Jewish people to a child who runs home from school simply because after a long and hard day of working, he just needs to get away! So, too, the Jewish people, after experiencing Matan Torah and the building of the Mishkan, simply needed a break. Rav Shimshon Pinchas expands on this, explaining that the Jewish people, at that point, just wanted to be a normal nation like all others. This helps us explain why the Jews no longer wanted the Man. It had nothing to do with the taste or a true desire for meat. Rather, their sole complaint was that it was a special food which came directly from Hashem. At that point, they weren't interested in food from Hashem; they just wanted to eat normally as all the other peoples ate. They didn’t want to be the special nation, because being special meant carrying a burden. This burden can be acute at times in our own lives when the Torah’s Mitzvot are difficult for us to keep.

Rav Pinchas adds that this same idea explains the sin of the Meraglim in next week’s Parashah, Parashat Shelach. Why did the Jewish people think it was necessary to send spies into Eretz Yisrael? After all, they had seen Hashem perform wonders in Mitzrayim and they had easily won every war they faced. What were they worried about? Rav Pinchas explains that a miraculous victory is not what they wanted. They wanted to win the war themselves, and a typical army needs to spy on the enemy first. Although at times we may find the Torah difficult to keep, we must realize the beauty of living a life close to Hashem. We should only yearn for more opportunities to go beyond what’s normal and truly feel connected to God, as David HaMelech writes in Sefer Tehilim, “Kirvat Elokim Li Tov,” “For me, closeness to Hashem is what is good” (Tehilim 73:28).

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