V’heivee es korbanah aleha aseeris ha’eifah
kemach s’orim lo yitzok alav shemen v’lo yitein alav levonah ki minchas kina’os
hu minchas zikaron mazkeres avon (5:15)
Parshas Nasso discusses the laws governing a sotah, a woman who is suspected of
infidelity. She must bring an offering to the Temple, but it is unique in
several respects. Her meal-offering is brought from barley instead of wheat, and
it contains neither oil nor frankincense. Rashi explains that these requirements
are symbolic comments on her actions. Her offering is brought from coarse flour
because she acted coarsely. It is made from barley, which is normally used as
animal feed, because she acted in a degrading, animalistic manner.
Although other meal-offerings are beautified with oil and frankincense (Vayikra
2:1), her offering contains neither. Oil symbolizes light, while she acted in
darkness in an attempt to conceal her sin. Frankincense represents the
righteousness of the Matriarchs, but she veered from their path of piety.
Rav Ben-Tzion Brook derives from here a refutation of a common mistaken
attitude. People presume that they will be judged by the Heavenly Court based on
the level they reached during their lifetimes. They assume that they will be
rewarded for their good deeds and punished for their sins, but never do they
entertain the possibility that they will be held to the strict standards of the
righteous Chofetz Chaim, who grew to levels of piety unthinkable for the average
person. However, Rashi teaches us that at the same time the suspected adulteress
is punished for acting like a lowly animal, she is simultaneously held
accountable for her failure to reach the high levels attained by the Matriarchs.
Rav Shimshon Pinkus was once giving a lecture in South Africa about the
importance of growth and change. After the lecture, a man came over to ask for
guidance, as no matter how hard he tried to implement a regimen of daily Torah
study, he never succeeded.
Rav Pinkus answered him with a beautiful parable. When a person drives a
stick-shift car, he starts out in first gear and accelerates until he reaches a
certain speed. At this point he switches to second gear, until he again reaches
a speed which requires him to shift to third gear. If the driver attempts to
continue accelerating while remaining in first gear, he will eventually overheat
Similarly, Rav Pinkus noted that while he had his own challenges in
spirituality, finding time to study Torah daily wasn’t among them. Because his
mind was in “Rabbinical gear,” the idea of passing a day without studying Torah
This man was stuck in “spiritual first gear.” Every time he attempted to
“accelerate” his Torah study, his engine “overheated” and the project was doomed
to failure. Rather than redouble his efforts to fit Torah study into his daily
routine, Rav Pinkus suggested the better approach would be to switch his
self-view by shifting into spiritual second gear. At this point the Torah study
regimen would naturally fall into place as conducive with his new self-image.
A person spends his time in this world trying to improve his ways; according to
his level, he attempts to do more of the things he knows he should and to
refrain from the actions he knows are beneath him. The lesson of the sotah is
that a person should raise the spiritual bar by shifting gears and setting his
sights even higher than he presently thinks feasible.
V'samu es Sh'mi al B'nei Yisroel v'ani avar'cheim (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
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!?
V’lo Yosef od Malach Hashem l’heiraos el Manoach v’el ishto az yada Manoach
ki malach Hashem hu (Haftorah – Shoftim 13:21)
After an angel came to inform Manoach and his wife that they would finally merit
to give birth to a son (Shimshon) and to educate them about the special nazirite
status he would have, they doubted whether this had truly been a Divinely-sent
angel or a person playing a cruel trick on them.
Our verse records their resolution to this question. However, the logical flow
of the verse seems difficult to follow. It relates that as a result of the fact
that the angel no longer appeared to Manoach and his wife, Manoach therefore
knew conclusively that it had indeed been a Heaven-sent angel and not a human
playing a trick on him. Why did the fact that the angel didn’t continue
appearing to them constitute a proof regarding its true identity?
Rav Shalom Schwadron explains that human nature is such that a person who has
the fortune to inform his friend of good news will be subconsciously pushed to
“bump into” his friend to regularly “remind” him of the incident and his
friend’s obligation to express gratitude. He will take the long way out of the
synagogue to pass by his friend and wish him a warm “Gut Shabbos,” carefully
pausing just long enough to make sure that his earlier good deed is properly
When Manoach realized that the angel who had come to herald the miraculous news
about the impending birth of his son, who wouldn’t be a typical child but rather
a nazir who would lead the Jewish people, didn’t reappear to him even once, not
even “by accident,” he knew that no human being could restrain himself so, and
he concluded that it had surely been an angel.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 75:2) rules that it is forbidden to recite
holy words of Torah or prayer in the presence of a married woman’s uncovered
hair. How was the Kohen permitted to say Hashem’s name (5:21) when administering
the oath to the sotah after he uncovered her hair (5:18)? (Tosefos Sotah 8a,
Chasam Sofer, Taam V’Daas, Chavatzeles HaSharon, M’rafsin Igri)
2) Why are the blessings of Birkas Kohanim, which are only recited in the
presence of at least 10 males, worded in the singular and not in the plural? (Darkei
3) May a Kohen who has never been married, or who was widowed or divorced,
recite the Priestly Blessing? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Mordechai Sotah 815, Shu”t
Rashba 1:85, Beis Yosef and Darkei Moshe Orach Chaim 128, Shulchan Aruch Mishnah
Berurah 128:162, Matamei Yaakov)
4) Rashi explains (7:19-23) the symbolism of the offerings brought by each of
the tribal leaders. Given that each of them brought identical offerings, why
does Rashi explain the symbolism regarding the offering brought by the leader of
Yissochar on the 2nd day and not regarding the offering brought by the leader of
Yehuda on the 1st day? (Chiddushei HaRim, Ayeles HaShachar)
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