Parsha Behaalotcha: Religious Robots

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

In parshat Behaalotcha, Aharon, the Kohen Godel was charged to light the menorah, “V'yat k'ein Aharon, Aharon did so.” Rashi comments when Aharon lit the menorah, he did not deviate from Hashem's command even one iota. However, isn’t this obvious? If Aharon received instructions from Hashem Yisbarach, of course he would not change or differ from Hashem’s direction.

My father, Rav Yitzchok Fingerer shlit"a, related in the name of Kotzker Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, something incredible. The gravity of Aharon not changing means that the same enthusiasm felt the very first time he did the mitzvah, is the same zeal that Aharon HaKohen felt each subsequent occurrence. Aharon felt that same initial excitement every single day, for the rest of the 39 years that the Jewish people were travelling in the desert. Aharon never altered from the initial inspiration, fervor, and energy. Every day Aharon said, “I’m not going to become habitual. I am going to find new meaning or new purpose in this mitzvah. I'm going to connect to the good deed on a deep and passionate level.”

We deduce that very often, perhaps even daily, we become stale in our observance of Hashem's mitzvot, and become apathetic. We don our tefillin, but we place them on with barely any meaning. We dress modestly, but we do so out of habit becoming robotic as if it is almost a burden. Our charge as religious Jews is to find daily meaning. We cannot act spiritually dead, merely religious robots. Each day, we must find a new way to connect to Hashem with renewed meaning to the mitzvot bring them alive.

The story is told of a man who once came to Rav Avraham Pam zt”l explained the unfortunate circumstances of his father being in the hospital. The gentleman expressed how honored his father would be if the Rosh HaYeshivah would visit, "It would mean the world to my dad." However, since Rav Pam was a Kohen, he was unable to visit this man. Kohanim cannot become tamei, impure, to a potential corpse that more than likely would be at the hospital. Yet, the venerable Rosh HaYeshivah did the incredible. The following day the hospital-bound man was informed that he would witness an awe-inspiring surprise right outside his window. As expected, the man peered out and could not believe the sight before his eyes. There standing outside many tens of stories below was the saintly gadol Rav Pam waving to him way upstairs, smiling ear to ear!

Rav Pam journeyed to the hospital and found the exact spot to place himself on the ground below simply for this man to make out his presence. Ultimately, Rav Pam had little reason to make such a trip altogether. After all, the Rosh HaYeshivah was a  Kohen, and could easily have been exempt from the mitzvah because there was no way for him to enter the hospital. Like Aharon Hakohen, Rav Pam did this mitzvah the best way he could and with much enthusiasm and excitement!


Parshat Shelach: The Spies Mistake

Parshat Shelach offers the mission of the spies charged with staking out the land of Eretz Yisrael. Yet, despite being great people, the investigators miserably failed at their task providing a false and negative report of the region. How could these snoopers make such a detrimental error if they were such fantastic people?!

My father, Rav Yitzchok Fingerer shlit"a, quotes Rav Chanoch Henoch of Alexander with an important lesson for life. Shlach lecha means if one is in the service of Hashem on a mission, then a person must be G-d-centered and not self-centered. When working for Hashem, an individual is not working for themselves. Shlach lecha, send forth the part of oneself that is all about them, and work for the Almighty. A person should not dwell on their own self, nor their stature, or reputation. One must think about their Creator.

The spies fell short becoming overly involved in themselves leading to a great mistake. Rav Chanoch Henech of Alexander taught that as much as we have to believe in ourselves, we have to believe more in Hashem and understand that sometimes there is a part of us that just gets in the way.

One night, Tzemach, a nice young man was departing the Yeshiva Torah Vodaath Brooklyn campus when he noticed his friend Avraham, who was studying at a different yeshivah, also leaving the building. Tzemach shouted, “Good night, Avraham.” Rav Avraham Pam zt”l, the Rosh HaYeshivah and saintly gadol, happened to also be leaving yeshivah at the same moment. What were the chances! Without missing a beat, the rav turned to Tzemach, and exchanged the greeting, also offering him a “good night” wish. Mortally embarrassed, Tzemach apologized to his Rosh HaYeshivah the next day explaining that he had been calling out to an old friend who also shares the rebbe's first name. Rav Pam assured Tzemach that he had done nothing wrong. Realizing that Tzemach felt terrible, the Torah giant invited his talmid for a Shabbat seudah. Such is the reaction of a person who has spent a lifetime in complete service of Hashem, not simply focusing on his own personal needs.

Jewish n’ Joyful podcast and its videos are available on all main streaming platforms. Subscribe, sponsor a week of Parsha Knowledge, or send feedback on our newsletter packed with Torah thoughts, stories, and inspiration on the weekly parshah at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or visit