|Shavuot Between P' Naso and P' B'Haalot'cha|
|Written by Rabbi Joshua The Hoffer Hoffman|
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, in his commentary to parshas Beha'aloscha, writes that the beginning of pashas Beha'aloscha is connected to the end of parshas Naso in that Naso ends with a description of God's speaking to Moshe from above the keruvim of the aron, and parshas Beha'aloscha begins with a description of the lighting of the menorah in the mishkan, thus teaching us that God spoke to Moshe at night, and not only during the day. The Ramban disagrees and says that if Ibn Izra would know the difference between Moshe and the other prophets he would not have said that, meaning, that God spoke to the other prophets in a dream, which comes at night, but he spoke to Moshe directly, when he was awake, and, thus, spoke to him during the day. The Netziv, in his Ha'amek Davar, however, agrees with the Ibn Ezra, and says that God did speak to Moshe at night, but what He spoke to him then was not prophecy, as the Ibn Ezra seems to imply, but, rather, words of Torah.
The Netziv explains further that the menorah represents, according to the midrash, the 'pilpulah shel Torah, meaning the intricate discussions of the oral law and the innovative ideas derived form this kind of study. This would be in line with what the Rambam says in his Laws of Torah Study, in which he says that a person's main Torah learning is done at night. In this way, says the Netziv, we can understand the midrash, brought by Rashi, which says that the menorah is mentioned here, after the offerings brought by the nesi'im, or princes of the various tribes, as recorded in parshas Naso, because Aharon was disheartened when he saw that of all the tribes, it was only his tribe, that of Levi, that did not bring an offering at the inauguration of the mishkan. God therefore told Aharon that he would light the menorah, and the light of the menorah would endure forever. While the offerings were only temporary, the light of the menorah will exist far into the future. Ramban brings this midrash, and brings sources to show that it is an allusion to the light of the Chanukah menorah, which will exist long after the destruction of the Temple. According to the Netziv, on the other hand, the midrash means that the light of the pilpul of Torah will exist long after the Temple is destroyed. These two explanations of the midrash, I believe, can be reconciled based on a comment of the Ramban in his introduction to his commentary on the Torah.
The Ramban says that the entire Torah consists of names of God. If the letters of the words of the Torah are combined differently than they are combined in the sefer Torah, they all spell out names of God. Some commentators have pointed out that this is why the source brought in the Talmud ( Berachos 21A) for the requirement to make a blessing before studying Torah is the verse in Ha'azinu which says, "When I call out the Lord's name, attribute greatness to our God." This means , according to the Ramban, that when one studies or reads Torah, which consists of names of God, one must make a blessing. Rabbi Don Blumberg, dean of the Kollel on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, pointed out, in a recent pre- Shavuos shiur, that in this way we can understand the suggestion- later rejected- in the Talmud ( Berachos 5) that perhaps one only makes a blessing on studying the written Torah, and not on the Talmud. The idea behind this proposal is that it is the reading of God's name that obligates us to make the blessing, so perhaps it is only on the written law that we do. The suggestion is rejected because, in he end, the intricate discussions in the Talmud ultimately go back to the Torah text, and so also constitute calling out the name of God. Even the laws of rabbinic enactments, which are not explications of verses in the written Torah, still base their authority on the Torah verse which tells us not to sway from what the judges of the beis din tell us. The Talmud in Shabbos, in fact tells us that the reason we recite a blessing over the lighting of the Chanukah candles and say, in reference to God, " Who sanctified us and commanded us to light the Chanukah candles,' even though that particular commandment is not found in the written Torah, is that God wrote, in His Torah, that we should not sway from what the judges tell us.
Perhaps, then, when the the Ramban says that the eternal honor that Aharon and the tribe of Levi received through the menorah refers to the lighting of the Candles, included in this honor is the fact that the rabbis, through the light of the menorah and the Torah it represented, enacted the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah candles throughout the generations. In this way, we can connect parshas Beha'aloscha both to parshas Naso and to Shavuos, which, this year, atypically, comes out, on the calendar, before Beha'aloscha. The two parshiyos are connected by God teaching Torah to Moshe, and the innovations, which are actually inherent in the written Torah, to be uncovered in future generations through the intense involvement in Torah study, all going back, ultimately, to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps we can add that the custom of studying Torah all night on Shavuos is a way of connecting to the form of intensive Torah study alluded to by the Ibn Ezra and further explicated by the Netziv.
.Best wishes for a good and healthy summer (a gezunte zummer, in the vernacular) from Netvort International