Parshas Beha'aloscha 5758 - '98
Outline Vol. 2, # 32
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
The Alter of Kelm asked, since character attributes are so important,
why aren't they discussed openly in the Torah? For example, the Torah doesn't
The tailor must have various skills that we don't usually think about.
He must hold the needle in the proper way. He has to grasp the material
correctly, and stitch properly. Imagine someone coming to the tailor and
saying, "I need a stitch in this material. Make sure you hold the
needle like this -- grasp the material in such a manner, stitch in such
and such a fashion." The tailor would certainly answer: "I am
a tailor, not a shoe-maker! I know how to do these things! Just tell me
what you want sewn, and I will do it!" The tailor is prepared to do
his work -- he has the necessary requirements and training.
In the same way, Hashem does not command us how we should behave. He
has certain work He wants accomplished; we are expected to have undergone
the training, and have fulfilled the basic requirements. These requirements
are called Midos -- character attributes. They are assumed; it is necessary
to have these qualities in order to do the work which we are commanded
What is the work? "Be a Kingdom of Kohanim and a Holy Nation..."
(Shmos [Exodus 19:6])
The Midos are all important. In the story of Yoseif [Joseph] and his
brothers, when the brothers realize their guilt and shame, they don't mention
the hideous sale of their brother. Rather, their remorse was over their
cruelty -- the essence of their crime. (Daas Torah, Naso and Beha'aloscha)
2. Moments Before Reacting
In the parsha, seventy men were taken out from the camp, and the spirit
of prophecy came upon them. Two remained in the camp, and when they also
prophetized, Yehoshua, Moshe's student, called to Moshe to silence them.
"Are you jealous for my sake?" asked Moshe. "If only all
the people would be prophets." There is no monopoly on religious leadership.
(Rav S. R. Hirsch.) Still, Moshe's calm is remarkable when we realize what
the men left in the camp said: "Moshe will die, Yehoshua will lead
Further, Miriam and Aharon unfairly chastised Moshe. After the Torah
mentioned Moshe's humility, Hashem Himself defended Moshe. Moshe, however,
said nothing. "If you want to test someone's conceit, see how he reacts
when unfairly slandered."
Anger is inimical to humility. (Daas Torah, Beha'aloscha)
Stephen Covey writes that there is an interval between stimulus and
reaction. Herein lies human choice. The stimulus may naturally upset you,
but you may nonetheless choose your response during the interlude between
the stimulus and the reaction. You can go with the tide, or you can control
Victor Frankel, a Jew in a concentration camp, had suffered near complete
loss of family and human dignity. Alone with his thoughts, he came to the
realization that human freedom involved more than control of external environment.
It is not externals, but the internal climate that falls under one's domain.
The Nazis would do whatever they would, but he would maintain his own internal
climate. He succeeded to such an extent, that even his Nazi captors were
The weather, your health, your childhood are not responsible for your
moods; you can create your own climate. (See Covey, The Seven Habits of
Highly Successful People.)
3. The Wise Man and the King; Happiness
There are many episodes of complaints and grumblings, beginning with
this parsha. The Rabbis explained that the people were really not missing
the servitude of Egypt, but were complaining about the commandments.
Rav Yerucham Lebovitz asked, "Who is happier, the simple Jew with
his religious obligations, or the nations of the world?" We are not
discussing the next world, but simple pleasures in this life. "There
is no doubt about this," he answered. "The Jews have the greatest
The Alter of Kelm told the story of a gentile philosopher who was extremely
impoverished. The king took pity on him, and sent him a large endowment.
The next day, he returned the money. In reply to the king's surprise, the
philosopher replied: "I have always led a simple life, enjoying the
study of wisdom, divorced from the pressures of everyday life. After His
Majesty presented his gift, I found myself in a quandary. Should I invest
the money? Perhaps I should purchase property or merchandise? Perhaps I
should find a trustworthy person to safekeep the large sum? I found I could
not sleep at night from anxiety. Please, your Majesty, take the money back..."
Rav Lebovitz said that there are many such stories about the wise men
of the world. But the Torah has a different attitude. "When the salve
is on your wound (i.e. Torah study is active), eat what you desire, drink
what you desire, bathe in cold or warm water, and you have nothing to be
afraid of." (Tractate Kidushin, 30b.) "One who refuses to drink
wine is called a sinner; one who sits in fast is called a sinner."
(Tractate Nedarim, 10a.) Although the Torah tells us to sanctify ourselves
through that which is permitted, this means simply that we should not act
Who is like Yisrael, who enjoys the greatest happiness, not only stored
for the world to come, but right here, in this world. Yes, we can enjoy
the pleasures of life to the fullest extent. We are the happiest people.
(Daas Torah, Beha'aloscha)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Kollel of Kiryas Radin
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156
Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.