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Dvar Torah - Beha'aloscha

At the end of Parshas Beha’aloscha, the Torah tells us about the disparaging words (lashon hora) that Miriam told Aharon regarding their brother Moshe. (See Bamidbar 12:1-2). Consequently, Miriam was afflicted with the Biblical disease tzaraas (Pasuk 10). Indeed, Hashem was quite angry with both Miriam, who spoke the negative words, and with Aharon, who listened to those words. The Torah explicitly states: “How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses! Still incensed with them, Hashem departed.” (10:8).

Nevertheless, despite Hashem’s anger, the Torah tells us that “Miriam was shut out of camp seven days; and the people did not march on until Miriam was readmitted.” (10:15). The Torah goes out of its way to tell us that Hashem could have continued to lead the people towards Israel and force Miriam to travel with them while she was ill. Instead, everyone waited for her disease to abate before continuing to move forward. Rashi understands that Hashem himself bestowed this honor on Miriam because of the one hour that she waited for and watched over baby Moshe when he was placed into the river. (See Shemos 2:4). This is puzzling. Why did Hashem wait perhaps 81 years until Miriam sinned in the desert before honoring her? If Miriam had not said loshon hora, would Hashem have ever honored her?

Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT”L answers that certainly Miriam was beloved to Hashem for her righteousness and for watching over baby Moshe. However, the Torah wants to teach us that even at the time she sinned, Hashem wanted to show that He still loved her and wanted to honor her. Therefore, Hashem waited until she sinned regarding her brother Moshe to honor her. Rashi emphasizes Hashem’s tremendous love for her, because for the one hour that Miriam waited for Moshe in the river, the people waited for her one full week (168 hours)!

We see how the Torah teaches the proper response when people that we love make mistakes. Sometimes we need to take actions to chastise or punish these people, such as when a child does something hurtful to another. Nevertheless, it is important to apply the punishment with love and respect for that person, adult or child, and to emphasize that person’s positive accomplishments and character. Rav Moshe concludes that because this is such an inyan gadol (fundamental matter in the Torah), Hashem honored Miriam at this time, after she sinned. We should never lose sight of each person’s positive middos, even when we believe that they have acted wrongly. As it says in Mishlei (3:17) regarding the ashes chayil, “Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths, peaceful.”


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