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Posted on June 20, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1340 – Bringing a Sefer Torah to the House of an Avail or Temporary Minyan. Good Shabbos

The pasuk in Parshas BeHa’alosecha says, “And the people were k’mis’onenim (as murmurers), speaking evil in the ears of Hashem; and when Hashem heard it, His anger was kindled; and the fire of Hashem burnt among them and devoured in the uttermost part of the camp.” (Bamidbar 11:1). The Ribono shel Olam became very angry. Moshe Rabbeinu had to pray to Him, and the fire was extinguished. What exactly is the meaning of the word “mis’onenim“? The Ramban quotes the Ibn Ezra that it comes from the word aven (sin), meaning that the people said “sinful things.” The Ramban disagrees with the Ibn Ezra because the Torah did not mention any “sinful things” that the people spoke, and the Torah is usually not shy about mentioning what aveira is being punished when there is a Divine punishment.

The Ramban suggests that when the people distanced themselves from Har Sinai and moved deeper into the vast and awesome desert, they panicked and did not know what to do. “How are we going to survive in this desert? What are we going to eat and drink? How will we manage through all the depravation and suffering that exists in this barren stretch of land? How are we ever going to get out of this place?” According to the Ramban, the etymology of the word “mis’onenim” is the same as the expression “Mah yis’onen adam chai” (Of what shall a living man complain) (Eicha 3:39), which connotes pain and complaint about a person’s situation. A mis’onen is a person who is feeling sorry for himself. “Woe is me that I have such tzores.”

The Ramban explains that the Torah is thus teaching us what they did wrong: They acted like the worst thing had just happened to them. The Torah uses a simile here “like mis’onenim.” They were not people in desperate straits, but they acted LIKE such people! This upset the Ribono shel Olam, who felt that they should be following Him in joy and rejoicing by virtue of all the positive things they had experienced: Yetzias Mitzrayim (The Exodus from Egypt), Krias Yam Yuf (the splitting of the Red Sea), Kabbalas HaTorah (receiving the Torah), as well as being provided with the mann and the be’er (well)! How dare they complain after all that?

Hashem said that someone who has it so good and nonetheless complains as if he has it so bad is guilty of a terrible aveira. That aveira is the inability to be ‘makir tova‘ (recognize favors), failing to appreciate the positive. The Ribono shel Olam cannot tolerate ingratitude and therefore punishment immediately followed.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, once said that if a person has a bad character trait (such as being haughty, or having a bad temper), we judge him as an imperfect human being (not an ‘adam shalem‘), a person who has a fault – perhaps even a bad fault. However, if a person is not makir tova, the Brisker Rav said that he is not merely not an ‘adam shalem,‘ but rather, he is not an adam at all. He lacks the most basic component of humanity! We all have our challenges with certain ideal character traits. We need to work on them. But someone who is an ingrate is not a mensch at all!

The truth of the matter is that the Ramban alludes to this in Parshas Ha’Azinu. The pasuk there says, “Is it to Hashem that you do this, O’ vile and unwise people?” (Devorim 32:6) The Ramban writes that Moshe Rabbeinu is chastising the people: “This is how you treat the Ribono shel Olam after all that he did for you?” What does Moshe Rabbeinu call them? Am naval. The Ramban notes that when an animal dies, it is called a neveilah, indicating it is no longer an animal, but rather it is a dead carcass. So too, a person who is not makir tova is a naval, because he ceases to be a human being. He is no longer a mensch.

That is the meaning of “Vayehi ha’am k’mis’onenim“.

In truth, this is not the only example of ingratitude in Parshas BeHa’aloscha. There is a second incident as well:

“And the mixed multitude that was among them felt a lusting; and the children of Israel also wept on their part, and said: ‘Would that we were given flesh to eat! We remember the fish, which we used to eat in Mitzrayim for free; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all; we have only this mann to look to.” (Bamidbar 11:4-6) The next pasuk, after those three pesukim is “Now the mann was like coriander seed and the appearance thereof was like the (white and sparkling) appearance of bdellium” (Bamidbar 11:7). The Jews are complaining about their lack of onions and garlic and then suddenly, the Torah makes an editorial comment. What is that all about? Rashi clarifies: In the first three pesukim, Bnei Yisrael were talking. Pasuk 7 is Hashem talking! They are complaining that all they have is mann and then Hashem inserts into the Torah the divine character of the mann, as if to say, “Let the world come and see about what My Children are complaining. The mann is so so special!” If you can complain about mann, you can complain about anything!

I once heard a schmooze from Rav Pam, zt”l (subsequently printed in his sefer), in which he says that he often hears such a bas kol (heavenly Voice) proclaiming “Look at what my children are complaining about!” When a young man comes and complains to him that he comes home from yeshiva or from work and finds the house strewn with toys all over the place, he complains to his wife, “Why can’t you keep a neat house?” Rav Pam says that when he hears such complaints, he hears the bas kol: “Look at what my children are complaining about?” How many infertile couples are there who would give their right arms to have a house full of strewn toys lying around! And these fellows are complaining that the house isn’t neat!

He goes through several examples in his sefer: A child comes home from school at 5:30. Supper is ready on the table. The mother prepares meatloaf and a plate of vegetables, the child comes home to a set table and a hot meal and he complains. “I hate meatloaf!” Look at what my children complain about!

The following very instructive Medrash is not located in Parshas BeHa’aloscha, but I feel it is appropriate to share at this time. The Medrash is in Sefer Shemos (Parsha 4): When Hashem told Moshe that it was time to take the Jews out of Mitzraim, Moshe responded, “Master of the Universe, I am not able to take on this job. I need to ask permission from my father-in-law, Yisro. If he will not give me permission, I guess You will need to get another man.”

The baalei mussar make two very interesting comments on this Medrash: It is our assumption that it is only necessary to show hakaras hatov to someone who is doing something positive for you out of the goodness of his heart. But if a person is doing something because it is his job or it is for his or her own personal reasons, then he or she does not deserve my hakaras hatov. They are just doing what they need to do or what they really want to do anyhow! The baalei mussar infer just the opposite from this Medrash:

Consider: Who owed whom? Moshe did not owe Yisro. Yisro owed Moshe. First of all, Moshe saved Yisro’s daughters (Shemos 2:17). But moreover, Yisro could not get a shidduch for his daughters for all the money in the world because he was a pariah. He was ostracized by his community. He had been an idolatrous priest and suddenly, he adopted Judaism! Who wants to marry into his family? Moshe Rabbeinu did Yisro a great favor by marrying his daughter. Nonetheless, Moshe Rabbeinu did not say, “He owes me. I do not owe him.” The lesson is that it does not make a difference. If someone has benefited from someone else, he must show gratitude no matter why the other fellow did what he did.

I saw the following incredible story in a sefer:

A Jewish fellow in New York was going to work by subway. He was standing by the side of the tracks and suddenly, he fell onto the tracks and could not get up. Everyone was paralyzed after having witnessed what just happened. An African-American man standing on the platform with everyone else jumped onto the tracks, pulled the fellow up, and saved him, shortly before the next train came riding right over the tracks where this fellow had fallen. The news crews of the New York papers tracked down this fellow and told him, “You are a hero!” He responded “I am not a hero. I did not do this to be a hero. I have a job. I am a dishwasher in a restaurant earning ten dollars an hour. I knew what would happen if this fellow had been run-over. The train would have been delayed for two hours. I would lose twenty dollars off my salary. I did not jump down onto to the tracks to save him. I jumped down there to pull him off the tracks so that the train would not be delayed and I could get to my job on time.”

This is not the end of the story. This Jew who had fallen onto the tracks made a neder (vow) while lying on the tracks: “If someone will save me, I will give him $100,000.” He now read the newspaper account where he learned that his savior did not do what he did to save him, but in order to not lose the $20 from his job! He sent the shaylah to Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein: Does he need to give the $100,000 or not?

Rav Zilberstein paskened that he needed to give 1/3 of that amount. (I am not certain about the logic Rav Zilberstein used to come up with this specific figure.) Rav Zilberstein, however, then took the shaylah to his brother-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky to see if he agreed with his psak. Rav Chaim told him: The fellow needs to give the entire $100,000! Rav Chaim ruled that it does not matter why the fellow did what he did. He could have done it to become a hero or he could have done it to save $20. The reason he did it is not relevant. He saved this Jew’s life. The Jew said that if someone will save his life, he will give him $100,000. The Jew has to keep his neder.

Hakaras hatov does not depend on why the person does it. Hakaras hatov is an obligation regardless of the motive. A person must be a mensch. As the Brisker Rav said, a person who does not appreciate, iz nit kin mensch (is not a person).

Over the years, I have read dozens, scores, and perhaps hundreds of stories about how great people were makir tova over things that we might take totally for granted, perhaps not even considering them favors at all. And yet, great people consider these things favors and remember them forever. The understanding of this is simple: Someone who is not a makir tova is not a mensch, and the bigger the mensch, the bigger makir tova a person is. The two go hand in hand. People who are literally gedolim, know what it is to be a makir tova.

I once mentioned the story of a bochur in Yeshiva Torah Voda’as who was not coming to minyan. No matter what they tried to do, they could not get him out of bed. The dormitory supervisor came to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, who was the Rosh Yeshiva at the time, and requested to throw this fellow out of the dormitory for not coming to minyan. Rav Yaakov said, “Yes. If his not coming to minyan affects other people, you can throw him out of the dormitory.” But first, Rav Yaakov said, send him in to see me. I want to speak with him.

The head of the dorm told the fellow, “You are being kicked out of the dormitory and Rav Yaakov wants to see you.” The fellow was literally shaking in his boots. Rav Yaakov said to him, “I understand that you need to leave the dormitory because you do not come to minyan, but tell me, where are you going to sleep from now on?” The boy said, “I don’t know. I have no back-up plan.” Rav Yaakov said, “You will come to my house. You will sleep by me.” (This is what we call an ‘upgrade.’)

The boy was astonished: “The Rosh Yeshiva said that I am being thrown out of the dormitory and now he is telling me that I am going from the dormitory to the Rosh Yeshiva’s house?”

Rav Yaakov explained, “Yes. It is because I learned in the Kovno Kollel when I was a young man in Lithuania. Your grandfather used to give money to the Kovno Kollel. Therefore, I feel I owe you a debt of gratitude and so therefore, if you don’t have a place to sleep, you can sleep by me.” This grandfather was not the sole supporter of the Kovno Kollel, but he was on their contributor’s list.

This is just an example of the maxim: The bigger the mensch, the bigger the makir tova and the lesser the mensch, the lesser the makir tova.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Beha’aloscha is provided below:

  • 015 Reinstituting the S’micha
  • 060 Waiting Between Meat and Milk: Adults and Children
  • 104 The Seven-Branched Menorah
  • 149 Bringing the Sefer Torah to a Temporary Minyan
  • 196 Vegetarianism
  • 242 Military Service and Potential Halachic Problems
  • 286 When Do We Stand in Honor Of a Sefer Torah?
  • 332 Tefilas Tashlumin: Making Up a Missed Davening
  • 376 Davening For A Choleh
  • 420 Fish and Meat
  • 464 Honoring Levi’im
  • 508 The City of Yericho
  • 552 Kavod Sefer Torah Vs Kavod Talmid Chochom
  • 596 Sitting on Top of Seforim
  • 640 Lox and Cream Cheese
  • 684 Kissing A Sister
  • 728 Lechem Mishna Revisited
  • 772 Simchas Shabbos – Is There Such a Thing?
  • 816 Niduy – Excommunication
  • 860 Standing For A Sefer Torah On Simchas Torah
  • 904 Women and Birchas HaGomel
  • 948 The Ba’al Shacharis Who Forgot Maariv
  • 991 The Shabbos Bar Mitzva in the Good ‘Ole Summertime
  • 1035 Davening that the Suffering Patient Should Die – Permitted or Not?
  • 1079 Does A Grandfather Have To Pay For His Grandson’s Tuition?
  • 1122 Meat and Fish – Must You Have A Separate Fish Pot?
  • 1164 Davening For A Choleh: Must You Mention Father’s or Mother’s Name?
  • 1252 The Dilemma of the Baalas T’shuva at her Non-Frum Brother’s Wedding
  • 1296 Should You Daven for the Same Choleh Over and Over Again?
  • 1340 Bringing a Sefer Torah to the House of an Avail or Temporary Minyan
  • 1384 Can You Be Mechallel Shabbos To Send A Kevital To A Rebbe?
  • 1428 Health Care Professionals – Treating and Touching People of Opposite Gender: Problem?
  • 1472 Davening for a Choleh: Should You Use the Person’s Father’s Name or Mother’s Name?
  • 1516 Pets on Shabbos – Are they Muktzeh?
  • 1558 MeShebairach for a Sick Person on Shabbos -Not As Simple As You May Think

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