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Parshas Nasso - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
V’samu es Sh’mi al B’nei Yisroel v’ani avar’chem (6:27)
The Brisker Rav was once praying the morning prayers in a synagogue. When the time came for the Kohanim to recite the Priestly Blessing (which is said daily in Israel), it was discovered that there were no Kohanim present. The Brisker Rav instructed somebody to go to Zichron Moshe, a large synagogue nearby, to bring Kohanim from there to give the Priestly Blessing.
Although the other synagogue was close, the entire process required close to 15 minutes of idle waiting. Some of those present grew impatient and began to complain that the wait entailed a legal difficulty since it is forbidden to delay longer than the amount of time required to say the entire Shemoneh Esrei. Additionally, they argued that the wait constituted an unnecessary burden on the congregation.
The Brisker Rav answered that legally, there were no grounds for concern since the Rema rules (Orach Chaim 65:1) that a lengthy delay is only problematic in the event that it is involuntary. In this case, there was technically nothing preventing them from continuing the prayers, so their voluntary choice to wait didn’t constitute a legal problem.
As for their second concern, regarding the significant inconvenience for the assembled, the Brisker Rav expressed astonishment at their argument. He noted that people regularly travel days and even weeks to request a blessing from a Chassidic Rebbe or other pious Jew. Upon their arrival, they often wait in line for hours until it is their turn to enter to receive a blessing which emanates from a mere mortal no matter how righteous he may be. In the case of the Priestly Blessing, regarding which Hashem writes in the Torah a guarantee that its proper recital will bring forth Divine blessing, isn’t it surely worth a short wait of 15 minutes!?
Vayehi hamakriv b’yom harishon es korbano Nachshon ben Aminadav l’mateh Yehuda (7:12)
The Gemora is replete with laws derived from seemingly superfluous words in the Torah, based on the principle that the Torah doesn’t contain even a single unnecessary letter. It is therefore difficult to understand why the Torah repeats at excruciating length the offerings brought by each of the 12 tribal leaders, when they were all identical to one another. Wouldn’t it have been much more concise to list the offering brought on the first day and to add that each subsequent leader brought the same offering on the succeeding days?
The Ramban explains that although their actions appeared identical on a superficial level, Hashem knows the inner thoughts motivating every action. He recognized that each leader had a unique intention behind his selection of the items brought in his offering. Because their personal motivations were unique, the Torah wrote out each one separately as if their offerings were completely different.
Rav Reuven Leuchter posits that because the Torah is the blueprint of the universe, the expression of any genuine concept can be found in the Torah. He suggests that the source for the idea of “creativity” may be found where one would least expect it – in the section recounting the offerings of the tribal leaders! The Ramban teaches us that although the Torah requires us to do certain concrete actions, we are still able to imbue them with our own individual perspectives and to find in them an expression of our own unique personalities.
Many people today complain that they feel constrained by the standard text of our daily prayers, which was established almost 2000 years ago. They feel that as our daily needs change, so too should our expression of them. However, the Ramban’s explanation can be extended to teach that we need not feel stifled by the repeated expression of our needs and entreaties using identical phrases.
Just as the tribal leaders brought identical offerings and still found room for creative expression by doing so with their own unique intentions, so too our Sages established the standard wording of the prayers with Divine Inspiration, articulating within them every feeling we may wish to express. Many times, in the midst of a difficult situation, we begin the standard prayers with a heavy heart, only to find a new interpretation of the words which we have recited thousands of times jump out at us. This newfound understanding, which has been there all along waiting for us to discover it in our time of need, is perfectly fit to the sentiments we wish to convey, if we will only open our eyes to see it and use our Sages’ foresight to express ourselves.
Vayomer malach Hashem el Manoach mikol asher amarti el haisha tishamer (Haftorah – Shoftim 13:13)
After an angel appeared to the heretofore barren wife of Manoach to inform her that she would give birth to a son and to instruct her to raise the child as a nazir, she proceeded to relate the good news to her husband. Manoach requested that Hashem send the angel back to instruct him how to raise his future son. The angel returned and reiterated to Manoach the pertinent laws of a nazir, which seemed to satisfy him.
This episode is difficult to understand. As Manoach’s wife had already informed him of the angel’s instructions regarding the nazirite status of their future son, what room was there for confusion? The laws governing the conduct of a nazir are clearly outlined in the Torah. Further, upon coming back, the angel simply repeated what Manoach had already heard from his wife without adding any new information. In what way was the angel’s return helpful?
The following humorous story will help us appreciate the answer to these questions. Rabbi Pesach Krohn tells of a teacher who caught one of his students stealing pencils from the other children. After reprimanding him, the behavior continued. Finally, after the student ignored repeated warnings from the teacher, he had no choice but to call the boy’s parents to discuss the issue. Much to the teacher’s surprise, after listening to the problem the boy’s father revealed the true source of the behavior by exclaiming, “Why in the world would he need to steal pencils!? I bring home more than enough from the office to supply the entire class!”
In light of this amusing lesson about the power of parents teaching by example, we can now appreciate the answer given by Rav Shimon Schwab to our original questions. He explains that Manoach’s confusion wasn’t related to the laws pertaining to his future son, which he could learn himself. His dilemma was of an educational nature. After hearing that his son would be a nazir, unique and different from his peers, Manoach was unsure how to properly raise a son who would have no role model from whom he could learn the behavior expected of him.
In response to Manoach’s query, the angel came back to give him the requested guidance. The angel acknowledged that his question was quite valid, and instructed him that the proper way to raise such a son was to give him an adult nazir as a role model – by Manoach becoming a nazir himself! The angel’s instructions to Manoach can be read, “Everything which I instructed your wife (regarding your future son), you should observe” – by becoming a nazir. The lesson to be derived from this beautiful explanation is that the only successful way to educate children is for the parents to serve as living role models of the values and priorities they wish to impart to them.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) In dividing the tasks among the Levites, why were the most holy tasks – the responsibility for the Aron, Menorah, and Altars – assigned to the descendants of Kehas (4:1-20) and not to the children of Gershon, who was the oldest of Levi’s children? (Darkei HaShleimus)
2) The Gemora in Kesuvos (72a?) derives from 5:18 that a married woman is obligated to cover her hair. Is a bride required to cover her hair at her wedding, and if not, at what point does the obligation begin? (Shu”t Rav Akiva Eiger 2:79, Shu”t Shevus Yaakov 1:103, Be’er Heitev Even HaEzer 21:5, Mishnah Berurah 75:11, S’dei Chemed Vol. 6 pg. 359-362, Shu”t Yechaveh Daas 2:62, Halichos Bas Yisroel 5:8, Torah L’Daas Vol. 8)
3) Rashi quotes (6:2) the Gemora in Sotah (2a), which explains the juxtaposition between the portions dealing with the laws of the sotah and the laws of the nazir as coming to teach that one who sees the sotah in her degraded state should become a nazir and forbid to himself the wine which causes adultery. Why isn’t witnessing the degrading punishment and excruciating death suffered by the sotah sufficient to deter somebody from following in her footsteps even without abstaining from wine? (Me’Rosh Amanah, Noam HaMussar)
4) The Arizal teaches that Shimshon was a combination of the souls of Yefes and Eisav. What similarities and parallels can you find between them?
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