Parashat Beha’alotecha- Don’t “Kick” the Misvot!
We read in Parashat Beha’alotecha (chapter 9) of the law of Pesach Sheni – the opportunity given to those who were unable to bring the Pesach sacrifice at its normal time – on the 14th of Nissan – to bring the sacrifice one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. The Torah tells that G-d commanded Beneh Yisrael to offer the Pesach sacrifice in the desert one year after the Exodus, but there was a group of people who were Tameh (impure) at the time, and thus unable to offer the sacrifice. They approached Moshe and asked, "Lama Nigara" – "Why should we be deprived" of the privilege of offering the Pesach sacrifice?
G-d spoke to Moshe and instructed that those who are impure at the time of the Pesach sacrifice, or are far away from Jerusalem at that time, and thus cannot offer the sacrifice, may bring the sacrifice one month later, on Pesach Sheni, the 14th of Iyar.
Imagine a group of high school students coming to Yeshiva one morning in the winter, only to be told upon arrival that the heating system in the school was not working, and so school was cancelled. The students then protest, insisting that they want to learn. "Why should we be deprived of a day of Torah learning?" they ask.
This is hard to imagine, but this is, in essence, what happened in the desert when Beneh Yisrael offered the Pesach sacrifice. A group of people were exempt from this Misva due to their circumstances, and they complained. They were not relieved to be exempt from the Misva; to the contrary, they were distraught. And in the merit of their strong desire to perform this Misva, a new law was instituted – the law of Pesach Sheni.
The Gemara in Masechet Aboda Zara tells that in the future, the other nations are going to come before G-d and demand a share in the great blessings that will be granted to Am Yisrael at that time. G-d will respond by giving them just one Misva to fulfill and thereby earn reward – the Misva of Sukka.
The gentile nations will then go and build Sukkot. But as they eat in their Sukkot, G-d will bring a heatwave, making the conditions in the Sukka very uncomfortable. The people will leave their Sukkot, giving a "kick" to their Sukkot on their way out. G-d will have thus proven that they are unworthy of the great rewards granted to the Jewish People.
A well-known Halacha absolves one of the obligation to eat and reside in the Sukka if the conditions in the Sukka are very uncomfortable ("Mista’er Patur Min Ha’Sukka"). The non-Jews will thus be justified in leaving their Sukkot due to the oppressive heat. However, their attitude – kicking the Sukkot as they leave – will demonstrate their lack of commitment. We are to relish opportunities to fulfill Misvot, and feel deprived when such an opportunity is lost.
We might draw a comparison to an employee who shows up exactly on time and leaves exactly when the workday ends, each and every day. If he happens to arrive early, he waits outside the office and relaxes until he needs to show up. And if he is given an assignment to complete at the end of the day, he doesn’t finish it if this requires him to stay overtime. A second employee, by contrast, is always eager and enthusiastic, and firmly devoted to the company. He is happy to begin his workday early, and volunteers to stay late to complete pressing tasks. When the time comes to choose an employee for a promotion, it is not hard to guess which employee is more likely to be selected.
Later in the Parasha, we read of Beneh Yisrael’s departure from Mount Sinai: "They journeyed from the mountain of G-d" (10:33). The Midrash famously comments that Beneh Yisrael left Mount Sinai "like a child fleeing from school." They were excited to leave, and relieved that they would not be receiving more Misvot. This joyful departure from Sinai is considered by our Rabbis a great calamity, as Beneh Yisrael should not have celebrated leaving Mount Sinai. Significantly, Beneh Yisrael did not leave Mount Sinai one moment earlier than they were supposed to. They did not "escape." They did not leave until the special cloud – signifying Hashem’s presence – arose, indicating that they should journey. And yet, Beneh Yisrael are criticized because of their attitude, their feeling and their mindset. We must always feel excited about Misvot, and not relieved when we are exempt from them.
All this shows us the extent to which we are to appreciate the precious value of each and every Misva, and embrace and even pursue every Misva opportunity. Rather than disdainfully "kick" Misvot, we are to cherish the Misvot, and eagerly seek as many chances as we can to serve Hashem through the fulfillment of His commands.