“On the Day of Your Rejoicing”
In the Torah portion of Behaalos’cha, we read: “And on the day of your rejoicing, on your festivals and on your Rosh Chodesh days, you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings, and they shall be a remembrance for you before your G-d.”
It is Rashi’ s custom to explain things in the simple context of the verse.1 Accordingly, we must understand why Rashi fails to explain the words “on the day of your rejoicing” — exactly what day is the verse referring to? It cannot refer to the various festivals, for they are specified after “the day of your rejoicing.”
The Sifri explains “the day of your rejoicing” to mean “the days of Shabbos.” However, we cannot say that Rashi would apply this to the simple meaning of the text for: a) If this were indeed the case, Rashi would have said so, and b) in the simple context of the verses, we don’t find that the Torah ever refers to Shabbos as a “day of rejoicing.”
Since Rashi mentions absolutely nothing at all regarding the meaning of “the day of your rejoicing,” we must conclude that he finds this so easy to understand that no explanation is needed. (If Rashi had not known the meaning, he would have said, as in other places,2 “I do not know.”)
The verse preceding “On the day of your rejoicing….” states: “When you go to war against an enemy who oppresses you in your land, you shall sound a staccato on the trumpets. You will then be remembered before G-d your L-rd, and will be delivered from your enemies.”
Thus the words “On the day of your rejoicing….” continues the theme of the previous verse, and is simply stating, according to Rashi, that victory in battle results in a “day of rejoicing,” during which the Jewish people gave praise and thanks to G-d for their salvation.3
In the context of our spiritual service, these verses convey the following instruction:
“When you go to war against an enemy who oppresses you” alludes to the constant war man wages with his evil inclination,4 for “no other enemy oppresses us as he does.”5
This is especially true during the time of prayer, for “the time of prayer is the time of battle.”6 At that time, the evil inclination exerts all its power in endeavoring to take a person’s mind off his prayers.
The Torah teaches us that victory can be achieved by “sounding a staccato,” i.e., by becoming contrite and brokenhearted — a state that leads to the short staccato notes of weeping. The person will then be humbled before G-d, beseeching Him to “have mercy upon his soul and save it from the ‘turbulent waters.’ ”7
Doing so means that “you will then be remembered before G-d your L-rd, and will be delivered from your enemies.”
A person may think that humility and self-nullification are necessary only at the outset of his spiritual service, and that once he has vanquished the enemy and serves G-d with a greater measure of comprehension and emotion, deriving a great deal of pleasure and joy from his service, then self-nullification and subservience are no longer needed.
The Torah therefore tells us: “And on the day of your rejoicing…, you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings.” The verse is telling us that, even after a person has overcome the enemy and achieved a state of union with G-d (the spiritual equivalent of bringing offerings), the trumpets must still be sounded.
Self-abnegation, humility and contrition remain a necessary ingredient in divine service, no matter how much a person has already achieved.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIII, pp. 24-28
An Emanation of Spirit
In the portion of Behaalos’cha, Moshe tells G-d that he cannot bear responsibility for the Jewish people all by himself. G-d responds by saying: “Assemble 70 of Israel’s elders… I will cause some of the spirit that you possess to emanate, and I will place it upon them. You will then not have to bear the responsibility alone.”8
Concerning the emanation of Moshe’s spirit to the elders, Sifri notes:9 “What did Moshe resemble at that time? He resembled a candle placed on a candelabrum, from which many additional candles were lit — which did not diminish its own light at all. So too, Moshe’s wisdom was not diminished at all [by the emanation of his spirit.]”
A similar comment is found in the Midrash :10 “Did this [emanation] possibly affect Moshe’s degree of prophecy? Not at all! Rather, this was similar to a burning candle from which many other candles were lit, and whose own light was not diminished. Here as well, nothing became lacking in Moshe, for the verse attests:11 ‘No prophet like Moshe has arisen in Israel.’ ”
Although the Sifri and the Midrash seem to convey the same thought — that no diminution in Moshe resulted from the emanation of his spirit upon the elders — a closer examination of the wording used reveals that they differ in their reasoning as to why there was no diminution in Moshe.
Sifri states that Moshe “resembled a candle placed upon a candelabrum.” What difference does it make whether the candle was placed on a candelabrum or not? Evidently, this placement is crucial to the Sifri ’s explanation as to why Moshe was not diminished.
The Midrash , in turn, buttresses its statement that “nothing became lacking in Moshe” with the testimony that Moshe was the greatest prophet of all. What proof is there from this verse? Was it not possible for “something to have become lacking in Moshe” without affecting his stature as the greatest prophet? Clearly, according to the Midrash, the degree of Moshe’s greatness was the reason why no change occurred in him.
How are we to understand this?
In light of the fact that Moshe was so much loftier than the elders, logic would dictate that it would be necessary for him to descend from his natural level in order for his spirit to be imparted upon them.
That this descent did not occur can be attributed to one of two factors: a) at that time, Moshe was on a lower plane than he normally was — already on a level comparable to that of the elders, or b) Moshe was so great that, even though he remained on his rarefied level, he was still able to impart his spirit upon others without causing a change in himself.
Herein lies the difference between the commentary of the Sifri , a book of Jewish law that views matters from a simple and more practical outlook, and the Midrash , a book of Aggadah that views matters from a more spiritual perspective:
Moshe’s plea to G-d that others share the responsibility came as result of and immediately after the sin of the “complainers” — individuals who came forward with perfidious complaints and made spurious demands. Since Moshe’s greatness was a direct result of his leadership role,12 it is understandable that the descent of the Jewish people because of the “complainers” caused a corresponding descent in Moshe as well.
Thus, according to the Sifri , “At that time Moshe resembled a candle placed upon a candelabrum,” i.e., readily accessible to all, for Moshe too had undergone a descent, so sharing his spirit with the elders would not cause an additional descent.
According to the Midrash , however, the emanation of Moshe’s spirit didn’t affect him because he was so lofty — “No other prophet like Moshe has arisen in Israel.” He thus was able to remain on his rarefied level even as his spirit spread to others.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, pp. 75-81
1. See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. X, p. 13, and places cited in fn. 1.
2. Rashi, Bereishis 28:5. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, p. 1, and places cited there.
3. The Ibn Ezra explains the verse in this manner as well.
4. Sheloh, Cheilek Torah Shebichsav, Behaalos’cha, 351a.
5. Sheloh, ibid. See also Tzror Hamor on this portion, quoting Midrash HaNe’elam.
6. Zohar — quoted and explained in Likkutei Torah, Teitzei (34c, 35c) et al.
7. Tanya, ch. 28.
8. Bamidbar 11:11-17.
10. Midrash Rabbah, Bamidbar 15:19.
11. Devarim 34:10.
12. Berachos 32a.