Parashas Behaalosecha

This week’s parashah recounts the episode when the Jewish People, during their travels in the wilderness, clamored for meat. Hashem, in a demonstration that nothing is beyond His capability, caused a large amount of quail to descend on the Jewish People’s camp, enough to supply the entire nation amply for a full month. He then smote the people for their inappropriate demand. The Torah concludes its account of this episode as follows (Bamidbar 11:34): “He [Hashem] named that place Kivros HaTaavah (“the graves of desire”), for there they buried the people who had been craving.” The Maggid points out that, from the explanation at the end of this verse, it seems that the place should have been named Kivros HaMitavim: “the graves of the desirers.” Why instead was it named “the graves of desire”?
The Maggid answers this question via one of Shlomo HaMelech’s teachings (Koheles 8:11): “Since the sentence for an evil deed is not quickly carried out, men’s hearts are therefore fully set upon evildoing.” It is Hashem’s way to delay punishment for an evil deed in order to give man the opportunity to choose freely between good and evil. If people were punished immediately after doing wrong, no one would be so foolish as to turn to evildoing, and thereby bring havoc on himself. So there would be no free choice. Hashem therefore postpones the punishment to a time well beyond the scope of our attention, to make evildoing look like a viable option. It is this delay mechanism that allows improper desires to hold sway over us.
In the episode of the craving for meat, however, Hashem punished the people right away. Thus the Torah relates (Bamidbar 11:33): “The meat was still between their teeth, not yet chewed, when Hashem’s wrath flared against the people – and Hashem struck the people a very great blow.” The swift show of wrath crushed the people’s desire into the ground. The name Kivros HaTaavah hints at this result: When the cravers were swiftly struck down and buried, the force of desire within the remaining people was struck down and buried as well.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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