The Parshah begins with Aaron HaKohen being charged with the task of lighting the Menorah. Rashi, quoting the Medrash Tanchuma, asks why is the Parshah of the Menorah juxtaposed to the Parshah of the Nesiim to which he answers לפי שכשראה אהרן חנוכת הנשיאים חלשה דעתו, שלא היה עמהם בחנוכה, לא הוא ולא שבטו, אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא חייך, שלך גדולה משלהם, שאתה מדליק ומטיב את הנרות.
The fact that the question למה נסמכה is asked indicates that this was not the proper place for the Menorah as we see in the Gemara in Gittin on 60 that the Parshah of the Menorah was given on Rosh Chodesh Nissan before the Nesiim began to bring their Korbanos and not after. Obviously, Rashi is teaching us that the Torah put the Parshah of the Menorah here to teach us that it was given to Aaron as a nichumim for not taking part in the Chanukas Hamishkan. Since he was no longer part of the group that offered to bring those Korbanos, he was no longer able to join once Hashem commanded Moshe קח מאתם. At that point he felt bad, and then he was given the Parshah of the Menorah as a Nichumim. But had it been written in the order that it happened, it would not have been clear that the Menorah was given to Aaron as a nichumim and therefore it had to be written in this order for it to be asked למה נסמכה to which we could answer it was given as a nichumim. Actually if one thinks about, it’s astounding to see that the reason Aaron was חלשה דעתו was because he and his tribe had no role in the inauguration of the Mishkan because this same day his two sons were burned alive. The more obvious reason why Aaron would be חלשה דעתו would be because of the enormous tragedy that two of his sons died. But Hashem knew that what brought him to חלישת הדעת was the לא היה עמהם בחנוכה.
This is for sure something very perplexing and foreign to us. However, it might be that to great people, what matters most is what interferes with the realization of their spiritual mission. The Gemara in Brachos 5b says that Reb Yochanan used to walk around with the bone of his 10th deceased son consoling others who were experiencing tragedy (דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר).
(It’s not entirely clear exactly how he consoled people like this. It could be the idea that misery likes company. There is an expression, צרת רבים חצי נחמה, which is mentioned in the Maharsha in Baba Basra 10a. (See also the Chinuch 331, who has a similar expression). It could be the reason why it’s a חצי נחמה is because when a person experiences a tragedy, there is always the added insult to the injury, the thought of why me. But by a צרת רבים, there is no insult, and therefore it’s a חצי נחמה. So when he went around with bone, it would comfort those by showing there is no insult being that it happened to me as well. Similarly, the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim Perek 40 discusses why a murderer goes out of the Ir Miklat when the Kohen Gadol dies, and he writes because it calms down the גואל הדם because he has the realization that everyone dies.)
The consoling Reb Yochanan would provide would be with the message that all this has happened to me and nonetheless I’m still here pushing forward. However in spite of the courage that he had to carry on and rise above after enduring and suffering such calamities in his personal life, when his Talmid Reish Lakish died, the Gemara in Bava Metziah 84a says that Reb Yochanan grieved over him greatly. The Rabanan attempted to console him by sending in others to talk in learning to console him. But he wasn’t consoled by anyone because Reish Lakish would ask 24 questions on something he said forcing him to answer them, furthering his clarity of the Halacha. The Gemara concludes that in the end, Reb Yochanan was שף דעתיה meaning lost his mind and בעו רבנן רחמי עליה ונח נפשיה. Although he was able to move on after losing ten children and he was able to console others, when it came to his talmids death, he couldn’t manage. Although difficult to understand, we see that this is how great people are, because they understand what is important. His ability to reach the greatest heights in the understanding of Torah added more than anything else
Similarly we see that Aaron HaKohen although he just experienced the loss of his two sons, what caused him חלשה דעתו most was שלא היה עמהם בחנוכה, לא הוא ולא שבטו.
In a similar vein, the Rav heard the following vort from Reb Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi at the Shiva of Reb Nochum Velvel Desslers, who was Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Desslers son. Reb Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi heard this vort when he went to visit Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler on שביעי של פסח in 1947 when Rav Dessler came to Eretz Yisrael for Pesach and stayed at the Amdursky Hotel on Rechov Ben Yehuda. He told him that because he came to visit, he’ll give him a מתנה and the following vort was the מתנה.
Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler was a son in law by Reb Nochum Velvel Ziv, the son of the Alter from Kelm. The Alter from Kelms son, Reb Nochum Velvel, was a merchant until he took over the Beis HaTalmud in Kelm. He was a more modern looking man whose behavior didn’t fit so much with the Beis HaTalmud in Kelm. (For example, he used to have a poodle sit under the table when he would give a schmooze and many of the Talmidim weren’t so comfortable with it.)
The Gemara in Brachos 17a says מרגלא בפומיה דרב: [לא כעולם הזה העולם הבא], העולם הבא אין בו לא אכילה ולא שתיה ולא פריה ורביה ולא משא ומתן ולא קנאה ולא שנאה ולא תחרות, אלא צדיקים יושבין ועטרותיהם בראשיהם ונהנים מזיו השכינה. The first question that could be asked is what was the major חידוש, as if to say that there is a legitimate הוא אמינא that those such things exist in Olam Habah. But furthermore, why did Rav feel it was necessary to repeat this?
Rav Nochum Velvel was from Lithuania but he lived for twenty years in Konigsberg, Germany. He had difficulty speaking the German language and he didn’t know Grammar. People looked down upon him because he came across as such an intelligent and successful person but he had a poor grasp of the German language because he didn’t know grammar. So he explained to them that he wasn’t German but a Litvak, and German was not his language but I know enough to get by-דיגרמאטיקא דארף איך ניט און וויל איך ניט (The Grammar I don’t need, and I don’t want).
With this he explained the statement of Rav that a person should view himself as a Ben Olam Habah who just has to get by in this world. But he only needs to get involved enough in this world to get by, but he doesn’t need the Grammar and details.
If a person lives in this world as a Ben Olam Habah, then his priorities and what’s most important to him will be very different than us typical mortals. Therefore, what was most important to Reb Yochanan and Aaron HaKohen was much different than what is important to us.
Towards the end of the Parshah, it discusses the complaining of food and the like. Seemingly very normal regular things to complain about, Moshe can’t handle it to the point where he throws in the towel as the Pasuk says לא אוכל אנכי לבדי לשאת את כל העם וכו' ואם ככה את עשה לי הרגני נא הרוג אם מצאתי חן בעיניך וכו' (יא:יד-טו). We see by something seemingly trivial, Moshe Rabbeinu can’t manage and he throws in the towel. Yet, at the end of the Parshah, when his own brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, are discussing his shortcomings on a delicate issue regarding Moshe and his wife, he remains silent. It would seemingly be much more hurtful coming from his own brother and sister. Yet All the Pasuk says to explain why he didn’t respond was והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה and Rashi says ענו מאוד-שפל וסבלן. So how could it be that when it came to a few complaints about food, Moshe completely gave up, but when it came to his own siblings talking about him, he was completely passive?
Moshe Rabbeinu was a man on a mission and he was completely removed from his personal interests. Therefore, when it came to Klal Yisrael complaining about the food, it was a complaint against Hashem and his entire mission and therefore he gave up. However, when it came to his sister and brother talking about his personal life, it didn’t faze him at all, because he completely removed himself and his personal interests. This is expressed in the Pasuk ענו מאוד, because his own self was irrelevant and he was completely amount the mission.
When Klal Yisrael begins complaining, the Pasuk says ויהי העם כמתאננים. The Pasuk doesn’t explicitly state what exactly they were complaining about. We can suggest that it’s because the “what” is almost an afterthought and it’s irrelevant. It’s not about the detail of the complaint to the point that even the complainer doesn’t know what he is complaining about, just that he is as it’s his way of life.
As we see that the next thing they complained about was food. But the מן, says the Gemara in Yoma, tasted like whatever the person wanted. So it would seem that if the complainer wants to complain, then he actually tastes everything in a negative way.
It’s not clear how to translate the word כמתאננים and the Rishonim debate its meaning. Rashi says אין מתאננים אלא לשון עלילה, מבקשים עלילה האיך לפרוש מאחרי המקום.
Sometimes, after a person enters into a relationship, it becomes too demanding what’s expected of him and he needs to come up with excuses or with things to complain about in order to take the heat of himself. That the reason why he isn’t living up to what is expected of him is because he says the other party isn’t living up to what’s expected of him.
Therefore, Rashi is explaining that although they were complaining, they weren’t really complainers, rather they were “like” complainers (כמתאננים). The complaining wasn’t a natural state, rather it could be that a person can become a complainer because after he enters into a relationship, he feels it to be too demanding so he looks for ways to take the heat of himself by complaining that the other party is living up to their side of the relationship.
The Sforno seems to say this idea: על טורח הדרך לא מתאוננים בלבם באמת כי לא היתה אצלם שום סבה ראויה לזה שיתאוננו אבל היו מתאוננים בדבריהם לנסות.
The Rav said from his father the following. The Pasuk says והאיש משה ענו מאד מכל האדם אשר על פני האדמה. How could Moshe be such a humble person if he knew what qualities he had and how special and unique he was?
Moshe saw so many confident people who believed that they were God’s gift to mankind so he started to think that maybe he isn’t so special and unique after all. This reads into to the Pasuk that והאיש משה ענו מאד, from where and how? מכל האדם, from all people, that from seeing how everyone else acted and what they believed about themselves that he started to think of himself as not so special. That’s why he was able to reach such a level of ענו מאוד מכל האדם even with the impressive qualities that he had.