Studies in the Torah Portion> BeHaalotcha (Numbers 8:1–12:16)

Moshe Kempinski,

In every soul there is a spark. In every created being there is a whisper of the breath Hashem breathed into His creation. It is that spark that moves us forward and upward.

We first must ask the question as to why Hashem asked that a house be built for Him, even though He clearly knew that it would be destroyed. In the same vein, why did Hashem plant Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden whilst fully knowing that they would fail and be expelled? Why did Hashem create Man and Woman as one, only to then separate them again?

The answer to all those questions is connected to “the power of yearning”. The greatest spiritual force in the Universe is yearning. The world and reality is built along a framework where perfection is displayed and then hidden, where paradise is revealed then lost. The Garden of Eden is revealed and then lost. Man and Woman are created as one and then they are separated. G-d reveals Himself in all His power and Glory during the Exodus in Egypt, and then goes into hiding. The First and Second temples are built and experienced, and then they are lost.

Spiritual existence is about the yearning to reveal that which was hidden and find that which was lost. It is that spiritual force of yearning that fixes the world and restores it to its purpose. G-d created a reality that would provide need and imperfection and therefore fire up the yearning to restore the world to perfection.

A deeper level is found in a powerful statement by the Rebbe of Kotzk:

“Where is G-d to be found?” He asked. His answer was that “He is found in the place where He is given entry.”

His Presence may in fact be everywhere but it is only revealed in a place that “makes room for Him” in awareness.

We can truly understand that power of yearning in the Torah portion of Beha’alotcha. Before this we read in the book of Shmot/ Exodus that the people of Israel were meant to observe the Passover “When you come into the land that G-d shall give to you” (Exodus 12:25).

As a result since the first Passover in Egypt and throughout their sojourn through the wilderness the Passover was not celebrated. Yet in the Torah portion of BeHa’alotcha we read of an exception;

Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the second year of their exodus from the land of Egypt, in the first month, saying: The children of Israel shall make the Passover sacrifice in its appointed time. (Numbers 9:1-2)

Yet at this time a group of Jews found themselves in a difficult situation.

There were men who were ritually unclean [because of contact with] a dead person, and therefore could not make the Passover sacrifice on that day. So they approached Moshe and Aaron on that day. Those men said to him, “We are ritually unclean [because of contact] with a dead person; but why should we be excluded so as not to bring the offering of Hashem in its appointed time, with all the children of Israel. (ibid 6-7)

Their very bold declaration produced Divine results;

Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the children of Israel saying, Any person who becomes unclean from [contact with] the dead, or is on a distant journey, whether among you or in future generations, he shall make a Passover sacrifice for Hashem. In the second month, on the fourteenth day, in the afternoon, they shall make it; they shall eat it with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs. (ibid 9-11)

Their dramatic and courageous declaration of yearning “but why should we be excluded” revealed new Torah into the world.

Similarly we read regarding the daughters of Tzlofchad

And the daughters of Tzelofchad…stood before Moshe, saying: Give us a portion among our father’s brothers. (Numbers 27:1-4)

G-d immediately responds “Rightly do the daughters of Tzelofchad speak. You shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them.” (ibid: 7)

The implication here again is the distress and the yearning of mortals prompted newly revealed heavenly direction.

Hassidic lore tells the story of Rebbe Reb Baruch, the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. Rebbe Reb Baruch was himself already a grandfather as he sat studying in the garden. Suddenly his grandson, Yankele, comes bursting into the garden in tears and fell into his grandfather’s arms.

Rebbe Reb Baruch tried to comfort him and asked Yankele what had happened. Yankele explained that he had been playing a game of Hide and Seek, and nobody came to look for him.

Rebbe Reb Baruch smiled and wiped away his grandson’s tears and distress with a sweet candy he pulled out of his pocket.

Several moments later Rebbe Reb Baruch’s wife came out to the garden and found her husband in tears. “Baruch what’s wrong…if you’re worried about Yankele. I just saw him playing with his friends,” she said.

Rebbe Reb Baruch sighed and said, “That’s not it…but I just thought that G-d went into hiding and is expecting us to look for him. So few of us are…and I just realized how sad that is.”

It is that sadness and yearning that sends the searching soul onto its journey of prayer and action.

We do not really know when all of our prayers, and our strivings make a difference. Yet, if nothing else, it is a consistent and ever present cry of yearning. Yearning never remains orphaned as all is recorded in the heavens

“You have counted my wanderings; and have placed my tears in Your flask. Are they not all inscribed in Your book.” (Psalm 56:9). No tear is ever shed in vain, no prayer left unanswered.

May we be granted the strength and courage to continue to strive and yearn and may we taste of its fruit speedily in our days.

LeRefuat Yehudit bar Golda Yocheved

Lerefuat Kol hacholim vehaptzuim.

Leave a Comment