Torah Reading: Beha’alotecha (Numbers 8:1 - 12:16)  
Haftorah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7  
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 8:06 PM 
Shabbat ends: 9:16 PM 
Free Fish in Egypt?
This week’s parsha Beha’alosecha, relates how the erstwhile slaves complained about their food. They fondly remembered the fish they had eaten gratis in the “good old days” when they were slaves in Egypt.
Commentators are puzzled by the bizarre sense of gastronomic nostalgia the Jews in the desert had for the fish they received gratis when they were slaves in Egypt! Was it really gratis? They were brutally subjected to torturous slavery? What was so free about their existence in Egypt?
The Talmud addresses this question and redefines the word “free.” Free meant they had no Mitzvos, no obligations. Now that the Torah was given, they had obligations they did not have previously, and it was the absence of these obligations when they were in Egypt for which they longed.
Their desire to suffer as slaves fed a paltry supply of food rather than enjoy G‑d’s abundant gifts of Manna from heaven simply because there were obligations that went along with it is totally irrational. The institution of slavery is indeed the most restrictive form of existence; yet that was preferable to them to a Jewish life with considerable fewer, and far less painful, obligations!  
Furthermore, a slave serves an evil and cruel tyrant, whereas a Jew who follows the commandments serves G‑d, the ultimate source of kindness and blessing. How can we understand the bizarre psychological phenomenon whereby otherwise sane and rational people prefer servitude to Pharaoh over following the limited restrictions that G‑d places upon us.
Physical versus Psychological Pain
One answer is that in Egypt the Jews’ bodies were enslaved, but their minds were free to think. After the Torah was given at Sinai, Jews were also told how to think. While a human being can overcome physical pain, he or she is vulnerable when subjected to psychological torture.
An experiment was conducted with rats. When they were subjected to physical pain they did not do as well as the control group of rats that did not experience pain. The same experiment performed with humans did not yield the same results. Even when experiencing pain, the human subjects did not suffer any loss of mental acuity. However, when they substituted mental anguish for physical pain, the researchers discovered that it did in fact slow them down. Those who suffered mild mental anguish did not do as well as the control group of individuals who did not experience that uncomfortable feeling.
This answer, however, is not sufficient to help us understand how it was possible for the Jews to prefer abject slavery over a G‑dly life. Moreover, even if the objective of Torah observance is to change our way of thinking, G‑d never took away our ability to choose freely and think freely. So what was really the difference between the “freedom” of thought they experienced in Egypt and the freedom of thought they still had in the desert?
The Paradox
The way to answer this question is to reflect on the paradoxical view Torah has on our role in procuring our needs. On the one hand we must acknowledge G‑d’s exclusive role as our Benefactor. On the other hand we cannot deny the natural resources that are responsible for our lives. To best illustrate this point let us reflect on the role of medicine and healing in Torah literature.
Nachmanides the great Jewish leader of the 13th century cites Biblical sources that inveigh against medical intervention. King Asa is faulted for turning to doctors to treat his leg ailment. King Chizkiyahu destroyed the medical books because people were relying on them and not on G‑d.  
On the other hand, the Talmud makes it clear that “permission has been granted (by the Torah) for the physician to heal.” This and many other sources, including Nachmanides’ own writings elsewhere (and, indeed, Nachmanides himself was a practicing physician), make it demonstrably clear that one may, nay one is obligated, to turn to the medical profession for healing. How do we reconcile the apparent contradictory statements in the Torah, Talmud and other classical Jewish writings about the role and propriety of medicine?
Two Channels
The following exposition is based on a letter penned by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the founder of the Chabad movement, known as the Alter Rebbe) to a physician:
The Alter Rebbe explains that there are two modes and channels of energy that comes to us from their source in the spiritual realm. In the era of prophecy, there was a direct channel between the spiritual realm above and our physical existence below. If one was in touch with the spiritual power of healing above there would be automatic healing below. There was a complete alignment between the spiritual and the physical. Thus, the straightforward approach to good physical health was to enjoy good spiritual health.
However, if one refused to lead a G‑dly life, he or she was still able to access the power of healing in an indirect fashion by using the forces embedded within nature. To facilitate free choice, G‑d always gave a person an alternate and circuitous route to be healed.
In those days of spiritual domination, if someone was ill, it was a sign of a spiritual misalignment or a blockage in the direct channel caused by one’s wanting behavior. The straightforward remedy was to clear the blockage and realign oneself with the spiritual realm by returning to G‑d. The very word Teshuvah, which means return, can also be understood as restoring the alignment between the physical and the spiritual.
Kabbalah and Chassidus refer to the word Teshuvah as a composite of two words Tashuv Hei, returning the G‑dly energy that is represented by the Hebrew letter hei, back to its original position. By virtue of our sins we cause a misalignment of G‑d’s name.
If, however, a person refused to mend his ways, G‑d provided an alternate system where even one who was “disconnected” from the spiritual realm could still restore his heath by availing oneself of the powers contained within nature. However, to follow this circuitous route it was an admission that he or she refused to reconnect with G‑d, preferring to live off the Divine energy that was disconnected from its source and diverted into the physical realm. In this modality one is empowered to recover from illness without treating its root cause. Circumventing the straightforward path of healing by realignment was an affront to G‑d.
However, once the era of prophecy ceased and particularly after the Holy Temple was destroyed and the period of Galus/exile began, the spiritual and physical worlds drifted apart. In the present period of exile misalignment, the “direct” approach to healing is to find the G‑d given properties of healing within nature. Only a towering spiritual personality whose connections to G‑d now are like those enjoyed in the days of the prophets, can heal without the use of conventional means. Absent their special powers we must follow the Torah that granted the physician the license to heal.
In summary, for a person in the days of old to take medicine was akin to a doctor today who performs surgery when a relatively harmless dose of medicine would have sufficed.  
Stockholm Syndrome
We can now return to the question posed at the beginning: Why did the Jews in the desert crave the fish they had for nothing in Egypt? How could they prefer the paltry rations of fish they had as slaves with the Manna from Heaven they had in the desert?
The answer is that in those days a Jew had only one choice; to align themselves with G‑d’s will or else they would be hard pressed to get their needs taken care of. The pressure of surviving compelled them to follow G‑d’s commands.
In later times a Jew had free choice. He could decide that he wanted to receive his sustenance and healing directly from G‑d’s kindness by “plugging” in to the system which aligns every aspect of one’s life with G‑d’s will. Or he can decide to circumvent that system and follow the dictates of his heart and obtain his needs from conventional sources.
They therefore felt this nostalgic feeling for the “free fish” they received in Egypt. This means they did not have to commit themselves to fulfilling G‑d’s will. Instead they would receive their sustenance through the channels that do not require fidelity to G‑d.
The fact that in Egypt they had to slave for their food didn’t bother them as much as having to do Mitzvos to get their food. Even a slave begins to identify with the task master and regards him as the source of benevolence. He was the benefactor.
Indeed, this so-called “Stockholm Syndrome” is the essence of exile; the true source of our existence is either denied or ignored. In its place we create and identify with new imaginary sources.
The Irony of Galus
The irony of exile existence is that we tend to glorify and revere the very forces that withhold all of the kindness to which we are entitled. This is reminiscent of the story in the Talmud of one who practiced witchcraft causing women to have severe complications in childbirth. She would then remove her spell but pretend that it was her prayers that helped the women give birth...
In the future Messianic Era we will again return to a state of complete alignment. The physical world will mirror the spiritual world and there will be no need for correction.
When we open our eyes to the reality that exile forces give us nothing—it all comes from G‑d—we then realign ourselves with the true source of G‑d’s beneficence. We then discover that leading a Torah true life is the most efficient and effective method of procuring our needs. We are then ready for the Redemption when all collateral channels will cease and we will see how everything flows directly from G‑d to a realigned physical world.   
Moshiach Matters
Our generation, the generation privileged to usher in the New Dawn of Moshiach, is the reincarnation of the generation of the Exodus. Now, as then, "in the merit of the righteous women" will the Redemption be realized. Now as then, the Jewish women's yearning for Moshiach — a yearning which runs deeper than that of the men, and inspires and uplifts it — will form the dominant strain in the melody of Redemption.