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Parshas B'Haaloscha - Strengthening the Weak Brings Success to the Strong                  16 Sivan 5781

05/27/2021 04:03:10 PM


In business, people’s attitudes, and strategies are focused upon improving the successes and ditching the failures. This may be a great and important model designed for the physical world of Olam Hazeh - this world - but not necessarily applicable towards  attaining Olam Habah in the spiritual realm of the next world. Spiritually speaking, we need to focus on the times we stumble and fall to insure we do not fail again. I will share two stories to illustrate my point, one from a major athlete, the other a master Torah educator. The irony of these individuals is they both rank at the very top of a sport, albeit one professional and not Jewish, the other an amateur but an Orthodox Rabbi.

There is a debate between the generations as to who the GOAT in basketball is.  I, who hails from the older generation, will tell you it is hands down Michael Jordan. But I discovered an entirely different angle as to why he was the greatest. The following says it all.  "I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." Jordan's penchant for taking his failures and perceived slights and turning them into fuel for his success is one of his most notable traits. Although he is arguably the closest thing to a basketball immortal in the sport's history, he did have some ugly games. However, he has been able to learn from those performances, always improving  for the better. Michael Jordan did not focus on the great games; he focused on the average games.  The second individual, Rabbi Gershon Kramer, was undeniably the best overall well -rounded Jewish ball player. His name was synonymous with basketball in the Catskill Mountains for over three decades. During the year he was the best eighth grade Rebbi in the Tri-State area. Every year he took his class to visit Reb Moshe Feinstein zt”l on the lower East Side of Manhattan. While introducing the students, it was apparent that he mentioned that thirteen of the fifteen students were doing exceptionally well. He kept on lauding the praises of the thirteen to Reb Moshe at which point Reb Moshe grabbed the hand of Rabbi Kramer. He stared into the eyes of Rabbi Kramer and in a gentle soft touch and tone said, “It is so wonderful to hear how well these thirteen boys were doing…but what about the other two? Rabbi Kramer suddenly realized how easy it was to celebrate the successes, but how critically and perhaps more importantly it is to focus on the weaker students. Hashem wants the average under-dog to rise up and succeed as well. The Torah is replete with examples of seeking out the “not” in contrast with the “have” Here are two examples from this week’s reading.    

The first, in this week’s Parsha B’Haaloscha, the Torah states in Bamidbar 9:1-9 the situation of someone who did not participate and partake of the Paschal lamb on the Seder night. As the issue is brought up to Moshe Rabbeinu, Moshe tells them to wait as he retrieves the answer from Hashem. The results came in that there would be a second opportunity known today as ‘Pesach Sheni’, the second Pesach. The passuk states 9:7 "ויאמרו האנשים ההמה אליו אנחנו טמאים לנפש אדם, למה נגרע לבלתי הקריב את קרבן ה' במעדו בתוך בני ישראל"  “We are ritually unclean as a result of contact with the dead. Why should we lose out and not be able to present God’s offerings at the right time, along with the other Israelites?” The great Chaisidic master Rebbi Shlomo Rabinowitz of Radomsk* explains the words “why we lose out” as unique in the Torah. He writes we never find any other Mitzva in the Torah which is fixed on a holiday that has a “make-up” at a completely different time except for the Korban Pesach, the Paschal lamb. The Paschal lamb provides opportunity to fulfill the Mitzva one month later. The question is why? Rav Rabinowitz explains that the Jewish people were strong in their commitment to fulfill this Mitzva. They pleaded, beseeched, requested, and just about demanded a solution to their losing out on this Mitzva.  In this case the Rebbe points out that this as a sign for the future of Klal Yisroel to be stubborn and adamant with a strong heart and soul to inherit the land of their forefathers. In doing so it will form the impetus for Hashem to bringing the salvation.

The second incident is at the end of the Parsha when Miriam is stricken with Tzoraas, leprosy. The Torah states in Bamidbar 12:15 "ותסגר מרים מחוץ למחנה שבעת ימים, והעם לא נסע עד האסף מרים"   “For seven days, Miriam remained quarantined outside the camp, and the people did not move on until Miriam was able to return home”. Rashi explains the cloud of glory did not move, so the people obviously had to wait. But the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the passuk says, "והעם לא נסע"  -“the people did not travel.” The matter was not because of the cloud; rather it was because they [Bnei Yisrael] themselves had agreed not to travel without Miriam, so as a sign of honor to her they waited. Imagine! An entire nation of over three million people waiting for just one person! Nevertheless, everyone recognized how Miriam would have felt being left behind and the embarrassment it would have caused.

We have two prime examples in this week’s Parsha: showing sensitivity for Miriam while also showing the drive to perform a Mitzva of Korban Pesach. I see the Korban Pesach related to, L’Havdil, the Michael Jordan story of pursuing that which is lacking and finding ways to improve and accomplish more. The story of Klal Yisroel waiting for Miriam relates to Rabbi Kramer understanding the importance of the ‘other’ two students who might have been left behind. They too are important and need sensitivity in making sure we wait for them to catch up, not leave them behind like Miriam.

We too should take the lessons from the great ones both in the physical and spiritual worlds. No one in Klal Yisroel should be left out or left behind. We should all strive to perfect our imperfections and lift those who are down. Through both means we will collectively build our people and reach the greatest heights of who every one of us is capable of becoming.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782