Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 13   No. 31

This issue is sponsored by
Rabbi Chaim and Mrs. Eva Wilschanski shlita
in honour of the birth and Bris of their great grandson
Meir Aharon n.y.
son of Zvi and Shoshana Yeres n.y.
she'yizku legadlo le'Torah, le'Chupah u'le'Ma'asim tovim

Parshas Bamidbar

From the Haftarah
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Numberless Numbers

"And the number of B'nei Yisrael will be like the sand by the sea-shore which cannot be counted" (Hoshe'a 2:1).

How strange, asks the Gemara in Yuma (22). The Pasuk begins with a distinct reference to the aggregate of B'nei Yisrael, and goes on to say that they are too numerous to count, a contradiction in terms?

The Pasuk first refers to Yisrael when they are not doing the will of G-d, answers the Gemara, and then switches to Yisrael, when they are.

What, ask the commentaries, is it feasible that one minute Yisrael are countable, and then when they do Teshuvah, they increase to such an extent, that they can no longer be counted - from one minute to the next?

One Ba'al Musar answers this question with Chazal, who say for example, that Moshe Rabeinu was equal to the whole of K'lal Yisrael and that Ya'ir ben Menasheh was equivalent to the majority of the Sanhedrin (Bava Basra 121).

From here we see that although a person is only one physical being, spiritually, he can be equal to many people.

And that is precisely what Chazal mean here. As long as Yisrael do not fulfill the will of G-d, they may well be a large nation, but they are countable. The moment however, they begin to fulfill the word of G-d, they will become innumerable. How is that? Because each of them will increase manifold in spiritual value, so that he becomes hundreds, even thousands, of times what he was before.


Dual Characteristics

The Kometz ha'Minchah explains the dual characteristics of K'lal Yisrael in the following manner.

Whatever is counted, he says, has at one and the same time an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that the demons and other destructive agents do not have power over it, as the Gemara says in Chulin (105). On the other hand, the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a explains that a Divine B'rachah will only take effect on something that is hidden from the eye (i.e. whose amount is unknown).

The Torah ordered the counting of Yisrael, he explains, so that the destructive agents should not have any power over them. On the contrary, the nations of the world will bless them, as the Pasuk writes "You will be blessed from all the nations" (i.e. the nations of the world will bless you [Eikev 7:14]).

On the other hand, it declares that Yisrael are numberless, so that they should be able to receive the Divine blessing.


Like the Sand by
the Sea-Shore ...
Like the Stars in the Heaven

"And the number of Yisrael will be like the sand by the sea-shore" (2:1). In Bereishis (22:17), the Torah also compares them to the stars in the Heaven.

Yisrael, one great Ba'al Musar explained, possess two inherent qualities ... On the one hand, each Jew has a distinctive Neshamah, which imbues him with potential greatness, with sterling qualities, an individual world unto his own, like a star, which shines, brightly and individually.

On the other hand, his survival depends on his acknowledgement that he is part of the community, and the extent to which he works with them, for without them, he cannot survive - just like the particles of sand by the seashore, which prevent the sea from engulfing them only because they combine to form a barrier. Individual particles of sand are washed away with ease.


Sand and Lime

If Yisrael are compared to sand, says the Medrash, then the nations of the world are compared to lime. If sand is not added to lime, then it will soon disintegrate. And so we find with regard to Egypt and Bavel, which prospered and survived only due to the efforts of Yosef and Daniel respectively.

It is thanks to the wisdom, the ability and the loyalty of our Chachamim that the gentile kingdoms not only survive, but thrive and expand with regard to their economic and their social wellbeing.

What invariably happens is that ultimately, just when the nations of the world reach the peak of success, they look at us with jealous eyes and turn against us, on the understanding that they no longer need us, and that they can manage their affairs just as well without us. And that's when they begin to drive us out, or force us to leave of our own accord. That's when their success story comes to an end, and the decline sets in, until they no longer count among the major powers of the world.

And that's exactly what happened to Egypt and to Bavel, respectively. The one reached its peak through the efforts of Yosef, the other, through those of Daniel. Both nations became world superpowers.

Yet the moment Yisrael left, their importance began to wane, until they ended up as secondary nations with minimal influence in world affairs (Divrei Sha'arei Chayim).

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Like a Desert

"And G-d spoke to Moshe in the Desert of Sinai" (1:1).

The Parshah of Bechukosai ends with the Pasuk "These are the Mitzvos ... ", whilst this Parshah begins with " ... in the Desert of Sinai ... ", to teach us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that unless one makes oneself like a desert (devoid of other interests) one will never fully understand Torah and Mitzvos.


Permanent Status

"Count the congregation of B'nei Yisrael ... ." (1:2).

To make sure that Yisrael never becomes Bateil (nullified) among the nations, G-d ordered them to be counted, and we have a principle 'Something that is counted cannot become Bateil!'


The Three Countings

Three times Yisrael were counted in the Desert, once, in Parshas Ki Sissa, once in Parshas Bamidar and once in Parshas Pinchas.

The Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos citing the Rav B'chor Shor, comments that the first time they were counted by means of the half-Shekel that everyone had to give (and not according to their tribes). This is because the motive for counting them was to ascertain how many survived the plague that followed the sin of the Eigel ha'Zahav, as Rashi explains there (whilst simultaneously, the half-Shekel served to atone for the sin).

The second time, which like the first, took place at Har Sinai, was in order to arrange the Camp of Yisrael according to the tribes, to encamp around the Mishkan in similar formation to the four camps of holy Angels that surround G-d's Throne.

Whilst the third time they were counted, at Arvos Mo'av (where the only two people who remained from the previous counting were Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua bin Nun), it was to prepare them for the imminent conquest of Cana'an and the distribution of the land.


Atoning for the Counted

" ... and he counted them in the Desert of Sinai" (1:19).

The only other time that these two words appear at the end of a Pasuk is in Parshas Tzav (7:38), where it writes " ... on the day that He commanded B'nei Yisrael to bring their Korbanos to Hashem in the Desert of Sinai".

We can learn from here, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that since Yisrael were counted, and were in need of an atonement (as the first Pasuk in Ki Sisa indicates), they brought Korbanos in order to attain it.


Tribes & Families

"Count the congregation of B'nei Yisrael to their families to the house of their fathers ... ." (Ibid).

Regarding the tribe of Levi, the Torah inverts the order to the house of their fathers to their families ... ." (3:15).

The Sha'ar bas Rabim ascribes the inverted expression to the fact that whereas all the families of the tribes of Yisrael were counted as part of the tribe, Levi was first counted family by family, and only later, were the families counted.


An Integral Part of Yisrael

"And as for Me, I have taken the Levi'im from the midst of B'nei Yisrael ... " (3:12).

Whenever the Torah refers to the division of the Levi'im from Yisrael, it adds "from the midst of (mi'toch) B'nei Yisrael". (See Bamidbar 8:6, 8:16 and 18:6).

The Torah wants to stress, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld explains, that, in spite of their additional sanctity and extra duties, the Levi'im remain an integral part of K'lal Yisrael.

Indeed, he points out, this is hinted in the words Levi'im and Yisrael. How is that?

Take the middle letters from the letters of 'Yisrael' written out in full ('yUd = 'Vav'; 'sIYn' = 'Yud'; 'r'EIsh = 'Yud; 'aLef' = 'Lamed' and 'laMed' = 'Mem') and they spell 'Levi'im'!


Or Perhaps Not


The K'sav ve'ha'Kabalah on the other hand, cites the Pasuk in Tehilim (chapters 10 & 55), where "Toch" adopts a meaning of trickery or cunning. In that case, what the Pasuk is saying here is that G-d separated the Levi'im from Yisrael, because the latter were full of cunning and guile, whilst the Levi'im remained steadfast in their faith.


The Son of a bas Levi ...
Then and Now

"Count all the firstborn males for the sons of Levi ... " (3:40).

Surely, asks the Meshech Chochmah, the Torah ought to have written "mi'Bnei (from the sons of) Yisrael", rather than "li'V'nei (for the sons of) Yisrael"?

And he answers with the Din that the firstborn of a bas Levi does not need to be redeemed, since the Torah refers to a Bechor as "Petter Rechem", connecting him with the tribe of his mother as well as that of his father.

But that only pertains to subsequent generations, after the initial generation of children whose mothers were born Levi'im. The mothers of the firstborn who were being redeemed in the Desert may well have been B'nos Levi at that time, but they had not been sanctified from birth as such. Consequently, their firstborn sons, would have followed the tribe of their fathers exclusively, in which case they would have required redemption, even if their mothers were from the tribe of Levi. That is why the Pasuk writes "li'V'nei Yisrael", to include all sons of a Yisrael (even those whose mothers were B'nos Levi) for redemption, and not just some of them ('mi'B'nei Yisrael'), whose mothers were not from the tribe of Levi.


Avodah and Melachah

" ... all those who come to do work (Melachah) in the Ohel Mo'ed" (4:3).

Why, asks the Meshech Chochmah, does this Pasuk describe the work of the B'nei Kehas as "Melachah", whilst that of the B'nei Gershon and Merari it refers to only as "Avodah"?

And he answers with regard to the particular task of transportation, which the latter performed by means of wagons, whilst the former carried the holy vessels on their shoulders. Now bearing in mind that carrying on the shoulders classifies as a Melachah on Shabbos, whereas transporting by means of wagons (may well be forbidden, but it) does not fall under the category of Melachah, the distinction is easily understood.


The Or ha'Chayim explains the distinction with regard to the actual work involved. On the assumption that 'Avodah' applies to labour, and 'Melachah' to lighter work, he cites the famous Medrash, that the Aron carried those who carried it, and it is in connection with that particular task that the Torah uses the term "Melachah", seeing as they did not really do anything.

Alternatively, he suggests, 'Melachah' implies more respectable work, and since the B'nei Kehas carried the Aron on their shoulders, it is comparable to someone who is transporting his master, ke'Vayachol.

In the following Pasuk, the Torah inserts "Avodah". One may assume that it does so with respect to the other tasks that the B'nei Kehas had to fulfill, according to both the Or ha'Chayim's explanations and that of the Meshech Chochmah.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 339:
Not to Sell a Field in Eretz Yisrael Permanently (cont.)

Another Din in connection with this Mitzvah is ... that someone who sold a Sadeh Achuzah (an inherited field), and who possesses purchased fields or fields that he received as a gift, is not permitted to sell one of the latter in order to redeem the former. And the Chachamim learn this from the Pasuk in Behar "and he finds sufficient funds to redeem it", implying that the money must come from a new source, and not from one that was available to him at the time of the sale. Likewise, he is not permitted to use money from a loan that he subsequently takes out, as the Pasuk says "and he obtains the means ... ", to preclude borrowing for that purpose ... 'Fields of inheritance' refers to fields that were distributed to the tribes following the conquest of Cana'an and that were subsequently passed on to the sons of the original owners, or even through only daughters, who then married someone from another tribe. Because the prohibition of passing over the inheritance to another tribe was confined to the generation that entered Eretz Yisrael. The difference between a Sadeh Achuzah and other fields is that whereas in the case of the former, the seller may redeem his property the moment two years have passed, even against the wishes of the purchaser, in the case of the latter, he may do so only with his consent. Should he not agree, then he may retain the field up until the Yovel, at which point it reverts to the original owner ... Regarding the Din of houses, the author has already explained (earlier in the Parshah) that a house in an open city has the same Din as an inherited field, which may be redeemed against the will of the purchaser, only unlike a field, it may be redeemed even within the first year, like a house in a walled city ... The Din of a house in a walled city is mentioned explicitly in the Torah, and we dealt with that earlier, too ... Chazal have said that if someone planted trees in a Sadeh Achuzah that he purchased, thereby improving the field, when he returns it, the owner must assess the improvement to the field and pay the purchaser, as the Torah writes "And the sale of the house shall go back ... " (implying, but not the improvements to the field) ... The Chachamim also said that the prohibition of redeeming a Sadeh Achuzah until two years have elapsed applies even with the consent of the purchaser. Presumably, the reason for this is to discourage the owner from selling his inherited property, due to the knowledge that it will not be so easy to redeem it, because he will have to wait a full two years to the day from the time of the sale, before being able to do so. And not only that, but the purchaser is also entitled to at least two crops, since the Torah writes "sh'nei tevu'os", which besides meaning 'the years of produce', can also be translated as 'two produces'. Consequently, a year of drought, one on which the corn withers or a Sh'mitah year, are not counted in the two years. However, if the purchaser leaves the land fallow, he is not entitled to another year ... If the land is sold in the Sh'mitah year itself, the sale is invalid, and the money must be returned to the purchaser ... If the owner sells only the trees, they cannot be redeemed before two years. Should the seller fail to redeem them by the time the Yovel arrives, they belong permanently to the purchaser, as the Torah writes " ... and he shall return to his ancestral heritage", precluding trees on their own ... In the event that the first purchaser sells the field to a second purchaser, and the second to a third, even if there are as many as a hundred, the field reverts to the original owner in the Yovel, as the Torah writes "to the one to whom the ancestral heritage belongs" ... and the remaining details are discussed at the end of Maseches Erchin (and in the Rambam Hilchos Sh'mitah Perek 10).

This Mitzvah applies to men and women in Eretz Yisrael at the time when most of its inhabitants are living there, since that is when all the Dinim connected with the Yovel apply, as we wrote earlier. Someone who contravenes it and sells his field permanently, as well as whoever purchases it from him, is subject to Malkos (provided he performed an act of acquisition, since there is no Malkos for a La'av which is not accompanied by a positive act), even though the sale is anyway invalid, as we explained above. This is the opinion of the Rambam. The Ramban maintains that there is no Malkos for selling a field to a fellow-Jew, as we explained at the beginning of the Mitzvah.

* * *

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