> Weekly Torah Portion > Intermediate > Reflections

The Right Outlook

Be'halot'cha (Numbers 8-12 )

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

"And Hashem said to Moshe in the Sinai Desert in the second year from their exodus from Egypt, in the first month, to say. And Bnei Yisrael shall carry out the korban Pesach in its time..." (Bamidbar 9:1-2)

A few verses later, we find a very intriguing dialogue. "And there were men that were tamei by [coming into contact with a] corpse and they were unable to carry out the korban Pesach... And these men said to him (Moshe) 'we are tamei by [coming into contact with a] corpse, why should we be detracted to not be able to offer the korban of Hashem in its time amongst Bnei Yisrael?' " (Bamidbar 9:6-7)

This is quite an interesting claim. These men are obviously well aware of the halacha that one who is tamei cannot bring the korban Pesach. So what exactly are they trying to accomplish? What is there to do? Isn't it true that sometimes things do not work out exactly the way we would want them to, at which point it is our duty to inwardly proclaim and affirm that 'all that Hashem does if for the best'? Where is there room for them to protest, "Why should we lose out"?

Amazingly, though, Moshe tells them to wait while he asks Hashem what the halacha is regarding their situation; and lo and behold, Hashem responds by commanding Moshe that they should bring the korban Pesach in the next month, on the 14th day thereof, with all the same halachos!

Of course, the fact that Hashem gave this halacha means that it was going to be given no matter what. The Torah is the wisdom of the Almighty - absolute, objective truth; not a whim or passing interest of a human being.

So what happened here?

Rashi explains that of course the mitzvah would indeed otherwise have been given through Moshe like normal; just that because of their great enthusiasm to fulfill ratzon Hashem, these men merited that this mitzvah was given as a response to their plea.

Why, though, in the first place did they have any reason to believe that there indeed would be a solution to their dilemma?

Perhaps the answer to this question is based on a statement of Chazal. Chazal tell us that "shluchei mitzvah einon nizokin, messengers of doing a mitzvah do not come to harm[1]." This statement of Chazal echoes the pasuk in Koheles that says, "Shomer mitzvah lo yeidah davar ra, One who guards (i.e. observes) a mitzvah will know no evil...(Koheles 8:5)"

What this essentially means is that one never loses out by fulfilling a mitzvah properly[2].

There is a discussion in the Gemara[3] regarding how these men became tamei. According to one opinion, these were the men that were carrying the bones of Yosef. There is a different opinion that these were Mishael and Eltzafan who carried out the burial of Nadav and Avihu[4]. Yet another opinion maintains that these were people who found a meis mitzvah and carried out the burial themselves accordingly.

One thing is clear; these men became tamei as a result of being occupied in a mitzvah. Therefore, they were completely justified in asking how is it possible that they could lose out the opportunity of doing the mitzvah of korban Pesach as a result of doing the mitzvah of taking care of the deceased. Isn't it true that one who performs a mitzvah does not lose out by doing so?! Furthermore, Chazal teach us[5] that the reward of doing a mitzvah is another mitzvah. So, on the contrary, their having performed the mitzvah of taking care of the deceased should have been a positive reason for them to have the opportunity to do more mitzvos, not the reverse!

So, now we can understand what their logical basis was in the first place for having such a claim. There is still another important point, though, that demands our consideration.

These people knew that someone who is tamei is patur from the korban Pesach. They very well could have thought to themselves, "Hey, I am completely exempt. Hashem Himself is the one who mandated that I cannot bring the korban because of my tumah, so why should there be any reason to feel bad about the situation. Isn't my job simply to follow the word of Hashem precisely as He commanded me, no more and no less?!" Certainly, if they had just kept quiet they would not have been to blame for anything.

But, no. Their outlook was not one of perfunctory, complacent observance of mitzvos. Rather, they perceived mitzvos for what they really are, golden opportunities to achieve closeness with the Creator by carrying out His will. Therefore, the prospect of losing out on a mitzvah deeply pained them; they felt robbed.

"Lamah nigarah?! Why should we be left out?!"

This was the painful cry of people who truly understood what mitzvos are.

They truly lived the message of Chazal that "the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah." They genuinely felt that to be able to carry out ratzon Hashem is the greatest treasure that a human being possesses. They understood that it was not that they were being exempted from "paying their dues", rather, that a great privilege was being withheld from them. Someone who understands mitzvos in this true light and finds himself in a situation wherein he is patur because of extenuating circumstances, will not say, "Oh well. It's Hashem anyway that is running the show." Rather, he will try with all his might to find a way to reinstate himself into the category of those that are able to do the mitzvah.

This proper attitude towards Torah and mitzvos is a focal message of this episode. As the Ramchal explains, the truly appropriate way to serve Hashem is to do so because you want to. "Banim atem la'Hashem Elokeichem, Children are you to Hashem your Lord[6]." Just as a child naturally wants to please his parents, so too must we as Jews, explains the Ramchal, strive to achieve this feeling of wanting to carry out the will of the Creator, and actively look for every opportunity to do so[7].

When we properly internalize that Hashem is the source of all existence, and that to attain closeness with Him is the greatest ecstasy possible, then will we truly understand what mitzvos are: the most treasured possession that one can have[8].

Ki heim chayeinu v'orech yameinu, For they are our life and the length of our days!


[1] פסחים ט: וע"ש שמחלק בין היכא דשכיח היזיקא או לא שכיח היזיקא ואכ"מ

[2] ועיין עוד בפירוש ר'יונה על משלי ג:ט

[3] סוכה כה:

[4] See Vayikra, parshas Shmini 10:4

[5] Avos 4:2

[6] Devarim, parshas Re'eh 14:1

[7] וז"ל הרמח"ל במסילת ישרים פרק י"ח "מי שאוהב את הבורא ית"ש אהבה אמיתית לא ישתדל ויכון לפטור עצמו...אלא יקרה לו כמו שיקרה אל בן אוהב אביו שאלו יגלה אביו את דעתו גילוי מעט שהוא חפץ בדבר מן הדברים כבר ירבה הבן בדבר ההוא ובמעשה ההוא כל מה שיוכל...כיון שיכול לדון בעצמו שיהיה הדבר ההוא נחת רוח לפניו...כללו של דבר בין כל מי שהאהבה ביניהם עזה באמת שלא יאמר לא נצטויתי יותר די לי במה שנצטויתי בפירוש אלא ממה שנצטוה ידון על דעת המצוה וישתדל לעשות מה שיוכל לדון שיהיה לו לנחת." עכ"ל. ובאמת הרמח"ל מתאר דרגה הרבה יותר גבוהה ממה שמדובר בפנים, שאלו אנו תארנו דרגה של מי שמכיר יקרת וערך כל מצוה ומצוה ולכן מהדר אחריהם בחשק רב, ומ"מ יכול להיות שעדיין עיקר כוונתו לטובת עצמו, משא"כ הרמח"ל מתאר דרגה שכל עיקר כוונתו לעשות נחת רוח ליוצרו כמבואר שם. ומ"מ עיקר היסוד שצריך לשאוף לצאת מהשקפה של "לצאת ידי חובה" גרידא ו"פטור אני, למה לי ליטרח יותר" מבואר היטב בדבריו והוא מה שנוגע לעניינו, וק"ל.

[8] In this context it is important to note that one who feels in his heart that his Yiddishkeit is a burden to him, and not something that he really desires and wants, must come to terms with the fact that something is seriously amiss. Torah and mitzvos are sweet, and if one does not feel that sweetness there must be something that has gone awry. Appropriate steps must be taken to correct this problem. Unfortunately, it seems that many people - across the spectrum - suffer from this problem. There is no such thing as "well, I guess it must be that I'm just a lowly person who is not capable of experiencing the joy of Yiddishkeit"; every single Jew is eternally precious and fully possesses the ability to connect to Torah and mitzvos on his level. The question simply is are the right steps being taken to make that happen.

By way of illustration, imagine a child who is learning how to swim - an activity which should be quite enjoyable - but has somehow gotten stuck into a rut of taking deep breaths when his mouth and nose are underwater instead of when his head is turned to the side. Obviously he is going to hate swimming and will terribly resent those who force him to swim! If only he would be properly taught by a truly skilled instructor how to do it right, his experience would dramatically change from agonizing and excruciating to exhilarating and extremely enjoyable.

So, coming back to one's negative relationship with Torah and mitzvos - obviously, something is askew that needs fixing. Perhaps you (or others) are being too demanding and expecting too much of yourself. Perhaps you are too hard on yourself and view yourself through too critical a lens. Maybe you are studying Torah in a way that is not suited to your unique, individual capabilities and talents and that is creating a terrible sense of frustration within you (i.e. learning too slow or too fast, or learning topics that do not pique your interest, etc.); or it could be that you are missing certain, vital skills that are necessary to make one's learning truly successful (i.e. an appropriate system of review to ensure proper retention of the material). Yet another, fundamental point is: do you feel that Hashem loves you? Are your emotions fully convinced that Hashem's love for you is infinite and unconditional? Someone who is under the impression - however deep and hidden within him it may be - that Judaism is an exacting, punitive religion and its Giver is essentially "out to get you", chalilah, is obviously going to have a very hard time relating to it with simcha. Any one of these serious errors or glitches - along with a myriad others - can rob you of your rightful simchas ha'chaim in living as a Torah Jew. So, if you realize within yourself that your Yiddishkeit feels more like a burden than an asset, do something to correct the glitch, fast! Find the right Rav, seifer, class, therapist, support group, chevrusah, yeshiva, kehilla, etc. that will bring you to feel that your Judaism is truly a treasure. And don't delay; it's your whole life that we're talking about here!.

Related Posts

1 2 3 2,887

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram