July 15, 2024
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Zera Shimshon: Parshas Behaalosecha

וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר יְדֹוָד דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים וַאֲרוֹן בְּרִית יְדֹוָד נֹסֵעַ לִפְנֵיהֶם דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלשֶׁת יָמִים לָתוּר לָהֶם מְנוּחָה:  וַעֲנַן יְדֹוָד עֲלֵיהֶם יוֹמָם בְּנָסְעָם מִן הַמַּחֲנֶה:  וַיְהִי בִּנְסֹעַ הָאָרֹן וַיֹּאמֶר משֶׁה קוּמָה יְדֹוָד וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ:  וּבְנֻחֹה יֹאמַר שׁוּבָה יְדֹוָד רִבֲבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: וַיְהִי הָעָם כְּמִתְאֹנֲנִים רַע בְּאָזְנֵי יְדֹוָד וַיִּשְׁמַע יְדֹוָד וַיִּחַר אַפּוֹ וַתִּבְעַר בָּם אֵשׁ יְדֹוָד וַתֹּאכַל בִּקְצֵה הַמַּחֲנֶה:  וַיִּצְעַק הָעָם אֶל משֶׁה וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל משֶׁה אֶל יְדֹוָד וַתִּשְׁקַע הָאֵשׁ: וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא תַּבְעֵרָה כִּי בָעֲרָה בָם אֵשׁ יְדֹוָד: וְהָאסַפְסֻף אֲשֶׁר בְּקִרְבּוֹ הִתְאַוּוּ תַּאֲוָה וַיָּשֻׁבוּ וַיִּבְכּוּ גַּם בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמְרוּ מִי יַאֲכִלֵנוּ בָּשָׂר: (במדבר י:לג-לו ויא:א-ד)

It is written in this week’s parsha: “They traveled away from the mountain of Hashem a distance of three days. The ark of the covenant of Hashem traveled in front of them a three-day journey to seek out a resting place for them. Hashem’s cloud kept above them by day, as they moved on from camp. When the ark began to travel, Moshe said: ‘Advance, Hashem and let Your enemies be scattered, and Your foes flee before You!’ And when it rested, he would say: “Return, Hashem, and dwell among the myriads and thousands of Israel. You, upon Israel’s myriads of thousands!” And the people acted like complainers in the ears of Hashem. Hashem heard and was angered and a fire of Hashem broke out against them, ravaging the edge of the camp. The people cried out to Moshe. Moshe prayed to Hashem and the fire died down. He named that place “Tavaira” because a fire of Hashem broke out against them. The rabble in their midst cultivated a craving, and Bnei Yisroel also wept and said, “Who will feed us meat?”” (Bamidbar 10:33-36, 11:1-4)

A brief description of what happened in these eight pesukim. The Torah first relates that Bnei Yisroel left Har Hashem, Har Sinai where they accepted the Torah. After that the people complained to Hashem for no reason only in order to complain, and Hashem punished them by bringing a fire and killing some of the people. It only stopped when Moshe davened to Hashem. The Torah then writes something that is completely unrelated; the parsha of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe”—When Bnei Yisroel would travel in the desert from place to place, and the Aron began to move, Moshe prayed that Hashem should destroy and scatter all of their enemies. After that the “multitudes in their midst,” the eruv rav, and some of Bnei Yisroel who were influenced by them, had a tremendous craving to eat meat and complained to Hashem that they were only able to eat the manna and they were sick and tired of it and Hashem eventually punished them for this.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (Shabbos 115a) explains that the Torah includes the pesukim of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe”—and Moshe’s prayer to Hashem for the dispersal of their enemies in the middle of the narration of Bnei Yisroel’s misdeeds in order to separate between one calamity and the subsequent one. However, in the future, when there are no more calamities and we will no longer be affected by the yetzer hara, these pesukim will be moved to the more suitable location—specifically, the beginning of Bamidbar, where Bnei Yisroel’s desert journey is described. What exactly were the two calamities that the pesukim of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe” separate?

The Gemara goes on to explain that the second one was: “Vayehi hoam kemisohnnanim rah beeinai Hashem—And they acted as complainer in the ears of Hashem,” and the other one was, “Vayisu mayhar Hashem derech sholesses yamim—They traveled away from the Mountain of Hashem a distance of three days,” and Rabbi Chama bar Chanina explains that this means Bnei Yisroel turned away from Hashem. Rashi explains that this refers to the incident of “hahasfoos”—the eruv rav, who had a very strong craving, and Bnei Yisroel also wept and said, “Who will feed us meat?” (Maseches Shabbos 115a).

In other words, the pesukim of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe,” are written between “Vayisu mayhar Hashem derech sholesses yamim—They traveled away from the mountain of Hashem a distance of three days, which according to Rashi that the turning away from Hashem was the aveira of the eruv rav, who had a very strong craving for meat and complained, and “Vayehi hoam kemisohnnanim rah beeinai Hashem—And they acted as complainer in the ears of Hashem, in order to separate one from the other.”

Zera Shimshon asks two questions on Rashi’s explanation. Firstly, the question of the Ramban: How can the “first calamity” be referring to the to the aveira of “hahasfoos”—the eruv rav, who had a very strong craving for it, and the misohnnanim, those that complained for no reason, since the pesukim of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe,” are written before both of them and doesn’t separate them at all?

Secondly, Zera Shimshon himself asks: Why did the Gemara explain the two calamities out of order; the second calamity before the first one? Zera Shimshon explains the key to the answer of these two questions is to properly understand why Bnei Yisroel chose to specifically complain about the fact that they cannot eat meat. Why was this so important to Bnei Yisroel?

Zera Shimshon explains in light of the fact that after Bnei Yisroel received the Torah at Har Sinai, they were not allowed to consume regularly slaughtered meat; instead, they could only eat from the remaining meat of an animal that was partly sacrificed on the mizbeach (altar) as a korban (sacrifice) and partly given to the Kohanim.

The reason for this is that excessive meat consumption can lead one to be more influenced by their negative desires (yetzer hara) and become disconnected from their spiritual connection with Hashem. The Gemara (Brachos 32a) illustrates this concept with a metaphor: “A lion only roars when he eats a basket full of meat!” This, however, only applies to meat of an animal that was slaughtered solely for the consumption of a person. However, concerning the meat of a korban, since the primary portion of the meat from a korban is dedicated to fulfilling mitzvos, the remaining meat does not stimulate the yetzer hora.

From here—explains Zera Shimshon—we learn that Bnei Yisroel had a very strong craving to eat regular meat because they wanted to disconnect themselves from Hashem, but they didn’t have the strength to do this. After experiencing all that happened at Har Sinai, their awareness of Hashem was just too strong to allow them to do anything to distance themselves from Hashem. Therefore, they desired meat which would put them in the hands of the yetzer hara and then, they would be able to go through with their bad intentions.

Zera Shimshon explains, that this is also the meaning of the statement of Rabbi Chama, the son of Rabbi Chanina, that the aveira of “Vayisu mayhar Hashem derech sholesses yamim,” was that Bnei Yisroel turned away from Hashem; their aveira was that they didn’t want to feel and be close to Hashem, in order that they would be able to sin without feeling bad.

According to this, we can now answer the question of the Ramban on Rashi. If the first calamity was, “Vayisu mayhar Hashem derech sholesses yamim,” and according to Rashi, this means the aveira of the “hahasfoos,” how do the pesukim of “Vayehi binsoya haaron vayomer Moshe,” separate the “hahasfoos” from the aveira of the misohnannim?

The answer is that Rashi didn’t mean that the aveira of “hahasfoos” was the aveira of leaving Har Sinai, rather they were two separate incidents that shared the same intention—to distance themselves from Hashem.

Therefore, since, “Vayehi binsoya haaron,” separates “Vayisu mayhar Hashem derech sholesses yamim,” from the misohnannim and the “hahasfoos” is the result and continuation of the turning their back on Hashem when they left Har Sinai, it is considered that it also separated the aveira of the “hahasfoos” from the misohnannim even though they are written next to each other! This is also why the Gemara explains the second calamity before the first one; since the root of the second calamity, “hahasfoos” started before the misohnannim—at the time they left Sinai, it is if it began at that time and, therefore, mentioned first!

HaRav Shimshon Nachmani—author of Zera Shimshon lived in Italy—about 300 years ago, in the time of the Or HaChaim HaKodesh. The Chida writes that he was a great mekubal and wrote many sefarim—including sefarim about “practical Kabbalah”—and asked that all of his sefarim be buried after he passes away, except for Zera Shimshon and Niflaos Shimshon on Avos. HaRav Shimshon Nachmani had one child who died in his lifetime (hence the name “Zera Shimshon”) and in the preface, he promises for people who learn his sefarim after he dies, “ … And your eyes will see children and grandchildren like the offshoots of an olive tree around your tables, wise and understanding with houses filled with all manner of good things … and wealth and honor … ”

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