Two events from this week's parashah occurred on the twentieth
of Sivan, the date of this Erev Shabbat. One is the end of the
month-long miracle of the slav / the birds that miraculously
rained down on the Jewish camp to be eaten. The other is that
Miriam was quarantined for speaking lashon hara against Moshe.
According to many authorities, we are required by the Torah
(Devarim 24:8-9) to remember daily the punishment which Miriam
suffered for her sin. However, writes the Chafetz Chaim, even
among those who observe this practice, there does not seem to be
less lashon hara spoken. Why?
He answers: There are several reasons for this, each of which
may be understood by a parable. If one ignores his doctor's
instructions on how to take a certain medication, the medication
may not help him. Similarly, remembering Miriam's fate is not a
magical cure; it comes with instructions: do not engage in idle
talk, avoid situations where lashon hara is common, etc. Many
people do not heed these instructions. Also, if a person ignores
his illness until disease has spread to his whole body, medicine
may be useless, or will at least take longer to have any effect.
This is unfortunately the case with lashon hara, a prohibition so
neglected that no easy cure is possible. Instead, one must
recognize the extent to which he has become entrapped by this
sin, and only then will true and complete correction be possible.
(Kuntres Zechor L'Miriam, ch.1)
"This is the workmanship of the menorah, [hammered-out of] a
block ('mikshah') of gold . . ." (8:4)
The word "mikshah" / "a block" is related to the word "kasheh"
/ "difficult." Midrash Bemidbar Rabbah (46:10) explains as
R' Levi bar Rabbi said: The pure menorah came down from heaven,
for Hashem told Moshe (Shmot 25:31), "You shall make a menorah of
Moshe responded, "How shall I make it?"
Hashem answered (in the same verse), "Mikshah shall the menorah
be made." However, Moshe found this difficult, and when he
descended from Har Sinai, he forgot how to make it.
This was repeated several times until finally Hashem showed
Moshe a picture of what the menorah was to look like. Again,
however, Moshe forgot, and again, Hashem showed Moshe the image
of the menorah.
Finally, Hashem said to Moshe, "Go to Betzalel; he will make
it." So Moshe instructed Betzalel, and immediately, Betzalel
made the menorah.
Moshe was shocked, and he said, "Hashem showed me the menorah
several times, yet I was unable to make it, and you, who did not
see, made it on your own! Were you perhaps in the shadow of
('B'tzel') G-d ('El') [a play on the name Betzalel, meaning, were
you so close to G-d that you could eavesdrop when He spoke to
This is what the midrash relates about the making of the
menorah. What, however, was the purpose of Moshe's difficulty?
R' David Luria z"l (see page 4) explains: Man must prepare
himself so that the light from Above can rest on him.
Nevertheless, all a person can do is prepare; he cannot ensure
that the light will, in fact, rest upon him. (Rather, we are
taught that the yetzer hara would defeat man if Hashem did not
come to his aid.)
Moshe, who prepared himself by studying the menorah over and
over, could not make the menorah. Betzalel, who was given wisdom
as a gift from G-d, was able to make the menorah.
"According to the word of Hashem Bnei Yisrael would journey
and according to the word of Hashem they would encamp . . .
When the cloud lingered upon the Tabernacle many days, Bnei
Yisrael would maintain the charge of Hashem and would not
journey. Sometimes the cloud would be upon the Tabernacle
for a number of days . . . and sometimes the cloud would
remain from evening until morning . . . or for a day and a
night . . . or for two days, or a month, or a year . . ."
Hashem's intention was to teach Bnei Yisrael three traits --
patience, restraint, and alacrity. They learned patience from
staying in undesirable places longer than they wished. They
learned restraint by staying in pleasant places a shorter time
than they would have liked (and thus being restrained from
enjoying whatever fruits that particular oasis offered).
Finally, they learned alacrity by having to pack and unpack in a
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Baranovitch p. 222)
"Make for yourself two silver trumpets . . . and they shall
be yours for the summoning of the assembly." (10:1)
The gemara (Menachot 28b) teaches that all of the vessels that
Moshe made could be used by later generations as well. However,
the trumpets were for Moshe to summon the nation and could not be
used by subsequent leaders.
R' Eliyahu Schlesinger shlita (rabbi of the Gilo neighborhood
of Yerushalayim) suggests that there is a simple lesson here.
The way that the leader of one generation calls his flock and
relates to his congregants will not necessarily work for the
leader of the next generation.
From the same work:
"When the ark would journey, Moshe said, 'Arise, Hashem, and
let Your foes be scattered; let those who hate You flee
before You.' And when it rested, he would say, 'Reside,
tranquilly, Hashem, among the myriads of thousands of
In the Sefer Torah, these verses are set off by special symbols
to highlight that they form a separate "book" on their own. What
is so important about these verses that the midrash would refer
to them as a separate book?
R' Schlesinger explains: These two verses contain the
fundamentals of our existence in exile. At times, the "ark
journeys," and the Jewish people are tossed about from one exile
to another. At such times, our primary concern is our physical
safety, and we pray that Hashem's foes will be scattered and
those who hate Him will flee before Him.
On the other hand, when the ark rests, i.e., when the Jewish
people are living peacefully in their own land or in a benevolent
kingdom, the primary threat is spiritual. It is primarily in
those nations which have treated us well that the threat of
assimilation has been greatest. Therefore we pray, "Reside,
tranquilly, Hashem, among the myriads of thousands of Israel."
R' Schlesinger adds: We read a few verses earlier that Moshe
asked his father-in-law Yitro to accompany Bnei Yisrael to Eretz
Yisrael, and he told him (10:31), "You will be as eyes for us."
Moshe knew that Bnei Yisrael would be in grave spiritual danger
once they had settled peacefully on their land, and he therefore
wanted Yitro among them so that Bnei Yisrael could look upon him
-- they could set their "eyes" upon him -- as an example. What
had Yitro done that could serve as an example? He had been
living tranquilly in Midian -- indeed, he had been the high
priest of Midian -- but he gave it all up and went "against the
flow" once he realized that the prevailing beliefs were wrong.
R' David Luria z"l
"And the sun rises and the son sets" (Kohelet 1:5) - so it was
said of R' David Luria ("Radal"), who was born in 5598 (1797),
the year that the Vilna Gaon died. Although he was a businessman
who never held a rabbinic position, Radal was recognized as a
leading Torah scholar in his day. In 1854, he was elected rabbi
of Warsaw in place of R' Chaim Davidson, but he did not accept
the appointment. Despite not holding any official position,
Radal did participate in rabbinic conferences relating to issues
affecting Russian Jewry and he represented the Jewish community
before the Czar's government.
Although he had no formal secular education, Radal was fluent
in several languages. In 1838, he was arrested on false charges
of spying and was imprisoned for 105 days. It is told that
during Radal's interrogation by Russian officers, the latter
began speaking amongst themselves in French in order that their
prisoner would not understand. Suddenly, Radal began inching
toward a corner of the room. "Why don't you stand still?" the
commanding officer bellowed, and Radal's explanation that he
understood French and did not want to eavesdrop earned him the
respect of the officers and facilitated his release.
Radal was a prolific writer. His works include Talmud
commentaries, kabbalistic works, halachic responsa, glosses to
several works of Jewish history, and commentaries on midrashim,
including Midrash Rabbah, Midrash Shmuel, Pesikta, and Pirkei
D'Rabbi Eliezer. (The last of these is the leading commentary on
that midrash, and it not only explains the text but cross-
references related sources in the Talmud and other midrashim.)
The first work that Radal published was Kadmut Sefer Ha'Zohar,
whose purpose was to establish the antiquity of the Zohar. (The
Zohar is classically attributed to the Tanna/Sage of the Mishnah
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. However, because it was never published
before the 13th century, some have questioned that attribution.)
Radal died at the age of 58 on 5 Kislev 5616 (1855). (Sources:
Rabbotenu She'ba'golah p. 29; Gedolei Ha'dorot p. 618)
Robert and Hannah Klein
on the 90th birthday of mother Dorothy J. Klein
The Vogel family
on the yahrzeit of Rabbi Joseph Braver a"h
(R' Yosef Leib ben Harav Yehuda)