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Scatter Thine Enemies

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat B'haalosecha

Jun 6, 2014

Parshas BeHa’aloscha 5774

It came time for the Bnei Yisroel to leave the confines of Har Sinai. It is time to go forth to their destiny which awaits them in the Land of Canaan.

They are told to assemble. It is time to depart. Rather than taking leave of the mountain, where they attained their very essence, in reluctance and sorrow, they left the presence of Har Sinai as a young one flees the bais hasefer. They had studied and absorbed a massive amount of Torah. They were saturated. They had enough and could take no more. They ran from further revelations of the Torah.[1]

They journeyed for three days without respite. The wicked among them complained. They complained against G-d who was driving them so mercilessly. In a display of anger, G-d struck them down with a column of fire.[2]

The two calamities occurred one after the other. In the Torah they are reported as separate calamities. 

Juxtaposed between the two incidents is a detailed telling of the manner the Jews would set out on a journey in the desert. The Aron containing the Luchos would first depart, and then the nation would follow. The Aron would clear the way before them a distance of three days. Moshe would call out to the Aron saying, “Go no further. Stay within three days distance. Scatter your enemies. Let your hated ones flee from before you.”

The account of the Aron’s travels is out of place. It belongs in Parshas BaMidbar which deals with the encampment of the Jews.

The gemara tells us that the passages dealing with the Aron are deliberately inserted out of place. G-d uses these passages to interrupt between the account of flight of the Bnei Yisroel from Har Sinai and the complaining of the wicked ones.[3]

There is obviously a connection between the two calamities if there is a need to separate them.

My rebbe, Rav Chaim Stein, z”l,[4] explained.

When, for example, one is lost in a forest, when one has lost sight of where he came from and cannot see where he is going, then all confidence is lost. Upon coming to a crossroad, even where there is ample evidence of which road to choose, one will be overcome by doubt and confusion and will be unable to choose. Every situation which presents a choice will be an insurmountable challenge. One choice is just as legitimate as another.

This confusion is compounded when one no longer remembers where he came from or where his ultimate goal is.

The Jews travelled for three days. It was a harsh journey. It was a journey without rest. There are two ways to view this.

G-d hates the Bnei Yisroel. He wishes to visit suffering upon them. 


G-d loves the Bnei Yisroel. He gave them a Torah. The Torah is to be fulfilled by the Bnei Yisroel in the Land of Israel. The longer it takes for the Bnei Yisroel to reach the Land of Israel the more the risk that they won’t arrive there at all. G-d wishes to shorten the journey in order to avoid complications.

Anyone with a strong connection to the words of the Holy Torah realizes that the Torah was given for a reason. They are being entrusted with a mission. It is a mission which requires a journey. They must bring the Torah from the desert into Eretz Yisroel, thus forming a bond between Har Sinai and the Land of Israel.

Those with a clear vision of their point of origin and their destination are enabled to make the proper choices. Even when they come to a crossroad, they can glean the true path from the confusing one.

The departure of the Bnei Yisroel from Har Sinai as a tinok haborayach mibais hasefer is what gave fuel to the argument of the wicked ones. They imposed limits on their bond with the Torah. The connection between the Bnei Yisroel was a flawed one. Only then could they believe that Hashem sought to harm them.

And the chasm grew.

They pined for the delicacies of Egypt. The ones they ate “free.“[5]  Chazal reveal what “free” means. It means “free” from the mitzvos.[6] They are poised to enter the Land of Israel. It is not like other lands. The land itself is a holy one. Everything that grows within is invested with holiness. Even the mundane is an expression of divrei Torah. The very fruits of the land proclaim, “Torah!”

And yet they were repulsed by this very holiness. They ran from Har Sinai. They had enough Torah. It was too much for them to bear any more Torah.

One thing leads to another.

They wished to return to Mitzrayim with the Torah that they had already. In Mitzrayim there would be no more additional Torah.

The flaw affects even the great ones.

Moshe Rabeinu separated from his wife. He did so upon the word of G-d.[7] His brother and sister suspected him of doing so out of a mixture of motives, both G-dly and personal. They vocalized their opinion thus slandering Moshe.

Moshe Rabeinu is the mekabel haTorah. He was chosen because only he could be trusted to bring the Torah down to this world in its complete form, undistorted. He was the most humble of men. He had no ego. He took up no space. Moshe and the Torah are one entity. It is not possible for Moshe to have his own motive for what he does.

And yet, Aharon and Miriam suspected Moshe of doing so. Only a flaw between one and the Torah can drive a wedge between one and the mekabel haTorah.

The fissure widens.

The men sent out to spy out the land saw horrific things. They saw mighty giants. They saw raw power. And they saw death everywhere.[8]

There are two ways to view this.

Hashem hates the Bnei Yisroel. He is angry with them and wishes to destroy them. The jewish nation will enter Eretz Canaan and will be slaughtered by the powerful beings or die by plague.


G-d loves the Bnei Yisroel. He has mapped out a plan, a journey leading from kabbalas haTorah to Eretz Yisroel. This is a part of his plan. The death and destruction that was seen in the land was a part of G-d’s master plan. It was G-d’s way of dealing with the powerful beings. It was meant to distract them. It was meant to keep them involved in their grief and the burial of their dead.[9]

But the meraglim didn’t see things that way. They slandered G-d and His land. They were blind to the lesson of Aharon and Miriam.

In order to have confidence in G-d’s plan one needs to have an unlimited relationship with the Torah.

The rebellion of Korach against the leadership of Moshe Rabeinu followed. It was a natural consequence of running from Har Sinai. Korach never would have found popular support among a people whose connection with the Torah totally defines them. It would have been clear to all those who know what Torah is that the Torah is Toras Moshe and not Toras Korach.

And so, Hashem inserted the passage dealing with the Aron between the calamities.

He intended this as more than a moral lesson.

It is a practical lesson.

Rabi Levi bar Chama said in the name of Rabi Shimon ben Lakish, “One should constantly exert the force of the yetzer tov over the yetzer hora etc. If he is victorious, fine. If not, then he should totally immerse himself in Torah study.”[10]

When one is beset by enemies, when one is engaged in combat with the yetzer hora, by all means, fight, fight with every means at your disposal. But when one sees that one is losing, when one sees that the yetzer hora has the upper hand, it is time to switch tactics.

Then it is time to run towards Har Sinai. Forget about the yetzer hora, forget about the war, it is time to connect to Torah without holding back. It is time to immerse in the waters with one’s entire being.

When the Aron would travel, Moshe would exclaim, “Scatter your enemies”.

Then, all doubts and all opposition will fade away …..




[1] Tosafos, Meseches Shabbos, daf 116a

[2] Parshas BeHa’aloscha, perek 10, posuk 33 – Perek 11, posuk 1

[3] Meseches Shabbos, daf 116a

[4] Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Cleveland

[5] Parshas BeHa’aloscha, perek 11, posuk 5

[6] Sifri quoted by Rashi, perek 11, posuk 5

[7] Tosafos, Meseches Shabbos, daf 87a

[8] Parshas Shlach, perek 13, posuk 32

[9] Rashi, Parshas Shlach, perek 13, posuk 32

[10] Meseches Brachos, daf 5a


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