11 Jun 2020 Parshas Beha’aloscha: Lessons in Gratitude
This week’s parsha, Parshas Beha’aloscha, begins with the command to Aharon regarding the kindling of the lamps in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ, אֶת-הַנֵּרֹת, אֶל-מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה, יָאִירוּ שִׁבְעַת הַנֵּרוֹת, Speak to Aharon and say to him: When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast light (Bamidbar 8:1-2).
Rashi (ibid) comments: לָמָּה נִסְמְכָה פָרָשַׁת הַמְּנוֹרָה לְפָרָשַׁת הַנְּשִׂיאִים – Why is the passage of the Menorah placed next to (right after) the passage that outlines the contributions of the Nisi’im (the tribal princes) at the inauguration of the Mishkan, as we read at the end of last week’s parsha, Parshas Naso? לְפִי שֶׁכְּשָׁרָאָה אַהֲרֹן חֲנֻכַּת הַנְּשִׂיאִים חָלְשָׁה אָז דַּעְתּוֹ, שֶׁלֹּא הָיָה עִמָּהֶם בַּחֲנֻכָּה לֹא הוּא וְלֹא שִׁבְטוֹ – Because when Aharon saw their contributions, he felt badly that he was not included with them, not he and not his tribe. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּבָּ”ה חַיֶּיךָ שֶׁלְּךָ גְדוֹלָה מִשֶּׁלָּהֶם שֶׁאַתָּה מַדְלִיק וּמֵטִיב אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת – Hashem promised him, Aharon, do not feel bad! Your reward is greater than theirs, for you will kindle and prepare the lamps (of the Menorah).
R’ Yitzchok Zilberstein asks: Why did Hashem console Aharon with the lighting of the Menorah and not any other avodah that he performed in the Mishkan? Why wasn’t the avodas ketores (daily incense offering on the golden altar) a consolation? What about the korban tamid, the daily sacrifice, offered every single day, morning and late afternoon? What is unique about menorah that it was the consolation to Aharon for missing out on the korbanos ha’Nisi’im?
R’ Zilberstein answers, “Apparently, lighting the Menorah involved something special that the Kohen Gadol’s other forms of service did not, and that something was gratitude.
“The Medrash gives a parable of a sighted person and a blind person who were traveling together. Throughout the journey, the sighted person led the blind person, helping him to avoid the obstacles in his path. When they arrived at their destination, the sighted person asked the blind person to light a candle for him.
“The blind person was surprised by this request, so the sighted person explained that he wished to give him an opportunity to do something for him, in order that he should feel good.
“Similarly, the Medrash continues, Hashem tells the Jewish people: ‘Illuminate for Me (keviyachol) just as I illuminated for you.’ The lighting of the Menorah is an expression of our gratitude to Hashem, and is therefore held in higher esteem that all of the korbanos (offerings)” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach, Bamidbar, p.112-113).
So fundamental is the middah of gratitude to our existence as ovdei Hashem (servants of G-d), that our people are known as Yehudim, after the tribe of Yehuda, and no other tribe. For when Leah birthed Yehuda, her fourth son, the Torah informs us that she said, הַפַּעַם אוֹדֶה אֶת-ה – this time I will thank Hashem, עַל-כֵּן קָרְאָה שְׁמוֹ, יְהוּדָה, therefore she called his name Yehuda (Bereishis 29:35).
Furthermore, the first word a Jew should utter upon awakening each morning is Modeh Ani – thankful am I before You, the Living and Everlasting King, for You have returned my soul to me with compassion, how great is Your faithfulness.
In regard to our morning prayers and the first utterance of the day, R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch teaches, “We recall to ourselves the independent nature of His essence and of His greatness, His eternity, His uniqueness, His infinity and His majesty. Remembering all this, we are confident that this One and Unique Being, though His glory is infinite, is still so very near that each of us may call Him his own G-d, the Sole Source of life and strength. From the Infinite Source of His Own Being, G-d gives to each man a portion in life and delivers him from death and mortality. He sustains him in times of trouble; He is his Guide and his Refuge. It is His nearness that man seeks as the only good, when he calls upon G-d to be gracious to him. It is to the protection and guidance of His hand that man, sleeping or awake, entrusts both his body and his spirit, and knows no fear” (The Hirsch Siddur, Feldheim, p.4).
Yes, the world around us seems to be upside down; yes, the future is uncertain and much is unknown; yes, we daven for better times and stabler days… but when we contemplate all the blessings the RS”O bestows upon us every day, how can we not be thankful for all that we have? The Creator, Sustainer, Provider and Guide gives us life anew each and every day – and for that alone – and so much more, it is incumbent upon us to be thankful.
One Purim, R’ Mosheh Twersky zt’l HY”D spoke emphatically about the topic of hakaras ha’tov. In that context, he applied it practically in terms of appreciating the Rebbetzin. She was, after all, the one who put together the whole meal.
A talmid relates: “It was probably the following Shabbos; he had many bachurim (yeshiva boys) over for the Friday night meal. As was often the case, it ended late. We said thank you and left. After exiting the building, I mentioned to the bachur who was walking with me, that we forgot to thank the Rebbetzin. He agreed with my assessment that, particularly given Rebbe’s comments on Purim, the right thing to do was to go back up and express our appreciation to the Rebbetzin as well.
“We climbed back up the six flights of stairs and knocked on the door. Rebbe opened it. When he opened the door and saw us, he gave us a confused look, trying to understand why we had returned. Very simply, I said, ‘We forgot to thank the Rebbetzin.’ I cannot describe the way his eyes lit up with joy. ‘Wow!’ he said.
“He invited us back inside, told us to take a seat, and began preparing bowls of ice cream for both of us. We protested, but to no avail. He felt that he absolutely had to reward what in his eyes was such wonderful behavior” (A Malach in Our Midst, p.147-148).
May we live up to the essence of our names, Yehudim, as we remember that to be thankful for all that we do have is to light our proverbial Menorah, in our proverbial Mishkan; our homes where the RS”O dwells, and blesses us with so much. For all that, and more, Modeh Ani.
With tefillos for safer and peaceful times, and blessings for a wonderful Shabbos,