Sharing Torah Insights

Smelling the Roses

Posted on י״ד בסיון ה׳תש״ע (May 27, 2010) | in Behaalotcha | by

In this week’s parsha we are presented with the famous Pesukim said when taking out and returning the Torah from the Ark in shul.

וַיְהִי בִּנְסֹעַ הָאָרֹן, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה: קוּמָה יְהוָה, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ.
וּבְנֻחֹה, יֹאמַר: שׁוּבָה יְהוָה, רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.

And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O LORD, and let Your enemies be scattered; and let them that hate You flee before You.’
And when it rested, he said: ‘Return, O LORD, unto the ten thousands of the families of Israel.’

The Gemarrah (Shabbat 116a) notes that these pesukim appear entirely out of context. It would have made more sense for them to be in parshat Bamidbar, when the camping and traveling arrangement of the Jewish people were discussed. The Gemarrah says:

למה כתבה כאן כדי להפסיק בין פורענות ראשונה לפורענות שנייה פורענות שנייה מאי היא (במדבר יא) ויהי העם כמתאוננים פורענות ראשונה (במדבר י) ויסעו מהר ה’ וא”ר חמא בר’ חנינא שסרו מאחרי ה’

Why [are these pesukim] mentioned here? In order to separate between the first calamity and the second calamity. What is the second calamity? “And the people were complaining.” [What about the] first calamity? “And they traveled from the mountain of Hashem” and Rabbi Chama b’Rabbi Chaninah says “[this means they] turned from following Hashem.”

This is very peculiar, as in the Chumash we don’t see any explicit mention of any sinning done by the Jewish people immediately preceding these verses. What exactly was it that the Jewish people did to “turn from following Hashem”?

Tosfot and the Ramban explain that the Jewish people ran away from Mount Sinai “like a child running out of school.” This urgency to leave the holiness of having just received the Torah was sinful and thus Hashem needed to put a break between the first sin and the second to avoid having 3 sins in a row (running from the mountain, complaining and desiring meat).

I think this inappropriate attitude is highlighted by a matter that happened earlier in the Exodus story. In Parshat Bo I wrote about how Moshe had to actively lead the Jewish people away from the coast of the Yam Suf, as they were busy collecting the wealth of Egypt that had washed ashore. The Jewish people had shown that they were willing and desired to stay longer searching after things they valued, yet they failed to show that same concern towards the Torah.

The Gemarrah in the first perek of Brachot says that a person must stand at least 3 steps away from the door to the shul when they’re davening so it doesn’t look like they are trying to rush out as soon as davening is over. It seems that today more than ever, everyone is continually in a rush to get to their next activity. We see from this incident that the way we demonstrate something’s importance is by lingering for a moment before going on to our next obligation.

[Note: For a very interesting and in-depth analysis of these 2 pesukim, see Rabbeinu Bachaye]

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