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

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Vol. 16   No. 31

L'iluy Nishmas
R' Avraham ben Meshel z"l
who was niftar 16 Iyar
Sponsored by his children

Parshas Bamidbar

From Har Sinai to the Mishkan
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
From the moment that G-d began to speak with Moshe from the Mishkan (alias the Ohel Mo'ed), as recorded in the opening Pasuk in Vayikra, says R. Bachye, He did not speak with him from any other location. This is because with the completion of the Mishkan, the Shechinah moved from Har Sinai, where it settled when the Torah was given, to the Mishkan, where it remained for the entire duration of Yisrael's wanderings in the Desert.

And the author goes on to list many similarities between the expressions the Torah uses at Har Sinai and those that that it uses with regard to Har Sinai

To begin with, he says, Moshe needed to delineate the Mishkan, just as he delineated Har Sinai. The Torah there (19:13) issued a strict warning not to touch the Mountain, on pain of death: Likewise here the Torah writes (Pasuk 51) 'The Levi'im shall encamp around the Mishkan, and a Zar (a non-Kohen) who approaches it shall die".

Furthermore, the Torah warns later in Korach (18:5) 'And you shall safeguard the charge of the Holy and the charge of the Mizbei'ach", and at the end of this Parshah (4:2) it writes "And they (the B'nei Kehos) shall not come and look as the Holy things are put away, and die"; corresponding to the Divine command at Har Sinai "And the Kohanim and the people shall not break their ranks to ascend to Hashem" (19:24).

Moreover, the twenty-two thousand Levi'im were commanded to encamp around the Mishkan just as at Har Sinai, twenty-two thousand Angels descended onto Har Sinai together with G-d when He came to give the Torah (see Tehilim 68:18).

And what's more, the six hundred thousand people that encircled the Machaneh Levi'ah corresponded to the six hundred thousand Angels (of a lower level [see footnote]) that were also present at Ma'amad Har Sinai.

And the four Degalim (Yehudah, Re'uven, Efrayim and Dan) that surrounded the Mishkan resembled the Four Camps of the Shechinah that Yisrael merited to see at Har Sinai, as described by the Medrash.

When the Mishkan was finally erected they inaugurated it with twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve lambs and twelve goats as burnt-offerings (the author at the end of Naso, Pasuk 87) corresponding to the twelve Matzeivos (Monuments) that Moshe built at Har Sinai; They also brought twenty-four bulls as peace-offerings, corresponding to the Pasuk in Yisro (24:5) "and they sacrificed bulls as peace-offerings to Hashem" (though the number of bulls that Moshe brought there is not mentioned). At Har Sinai, the Torah describes how Yisrael saw "G-d's Glory and His Greatness" (Devarim 5:21), and upon the completion of the Mishkan, it writes (Sh'mos 40:34/35) " and the Glory of G-d filled the Mishkan".

And finally, just as the Torah records at the end of Naso "And when Moshe came to the Ohel Mo'ed to speak with Him, he heard the Voice " (Pasuk 89), so too, does the Torah write at Har Sinai (34:34) "And when Moshe came to speak before Hashem he would remove the mask ".


The Medrash points out that initially G-d spoke to Moshe from the burning bush, then in Egypt; next He spoke to him in Midyan and eventually at Har Sinai. Once however, the Ohel Mo'ed was constructed, G-d, extolling the beauty of Tzeni'us, decided that this was the exclusive location from which He would speak with him in future.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

With Fire & Water, and in the Desert

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

The Torah was given with three things, says the Medrash: with fire (see Yisro 19:18), with water (See Shoftim 8:4) and in the Desert (as the Torah testifies here).

Just as these three commodities are free, R. Bachye explains, so too, is Torah free for all those who wish to avail themselves of it (See Parshas Nitzavim 30:11-14).

Perhaps one may add that just as water is the source of (physical) life, so too, is Torah the source of (spiritual) life; and just as fire warms a person and rises, so too, does Torah warm the person who studies it and elevates him.

Furthermore, says R. Bachye, a person is not capable of acquiring Torah unless he renders himself Hefker like a desert. This means that he must be prepared to give up all his worldly interests and concentrate on his Torah-studies if he truly wishes to attain greatness in Torah-knowledge.


Not Negotiable

" On the first day of the second month " (Ibid.).

This Parshah (concerning the details of K'lal Yisrael in the Desert) juxtaposes that of Temurah (the prohibition of swapping one Kodshim animal for another), R. Bachye explains, quoting a Medrash, as a hint that just as G-d is unique and is not subject to change (as the Pasuk writes in Shmuel 1 2:3) "There is none that is Holy like Hashem, for there is none besides you", so too, will He not exchange Yisrael for another nation.

And so the Pasuk writes in Shir ha'Shirim (2:16) "My beloved is for me and I am for Him!" - I (G-d) am holy and you (Yisrael) are holy, the Medrash explains. Don't exchange Me, just as I will never exchange you!'


All in the Right Order

"For the sons of Yosef, for Efrayim" (1:10).

After listing the children of Le'ah, the Pasuk continues with the sons of Yosef, giving precedence to Efrayim over Menasheh like Ya'akov Avinu did, and then going on to Binyamin - giving them precedence over the children of the maidservants in honour of Rachel. It then lists Dan, who was the firstborn of the maidservants, followed by Asher (whose portion of land was famous for its oil - for lighting and) who encamped next to him, to illuminate the darkness caused by the image of Michah that accompanied Dan through the Desert. And the Pasuk concludes with Gad, the firstborn of Zilpah, Le'ah's maidservant and Naftali.


(by Rabeinu Bachye)

There was none among the tribes who could match the strength of Yehudah (the leader of the first Camp) and Dan (the leader of the last Camp). That is why Ya'akov referred to Yehudah (in Vayechi [49:9]), and Moshe to Dan (in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah [33:22]). as 'a young lion'.


The Torah uses the term "le'gulgelosam" (1:20/22) with regard to Reuven and Shimon, exclusively. Perhaps it is understood that it extends to all the other tribes too, and the Torah is merely being brief, as it often tends to be. Or perhaps, bearing in mind the connotations of 'atonement' that are inherent in the word, it is because Reuven and Shimon both upset their father Ya'akov, the former when he changed the beds of Bilhah and Leah, the latter, when he threw Yosef into the pit. Consequently, they required an extra Kaparah.

(See also Ba'al ha'Turim).

And it is for the same reason that the Torah uses the word "pekudav" (1:22) in connection with Shimon, and not by any other tribe - as the word has connotations of remembering one's sins. Moreover, the footnote points out, it also means 'missing', and, following the sin of Zimri (at the episode of Ba'al Pe'or), half of the tribe of Shimon did indeed 'go missing' as it were, when their numbers were cut by more than half. They went down from fifty-nine thousand three hundred to twenty-two thousand, two hundred.


Incidentally, the author points out, the digits of fifty-nine thousand three hundred ('Nun' 'Tes' 'Sin') spell 'Satan', a hint that their numbers fell into the hands of the Satan, resulting in the drastic cut in numbers.


Covering the K'lei Mishkan

"And Aharon and his sons shall come and take down the partition-curtain" (4:5).

This is the order in which the Keilim in the Mishkan were covered: They began with the Aron, which they covered first with the Paroches, then with a Tachash-skin and finally with a cloth of Techeiles (turquoise).

Next came the Shulchan, which they covered with a cloth of Techeiles, on which they placed all the vessels of the Shulchan, then with a scarlet cloth and finally with a Tachash-skin.

This was followed by the Menorah, which they covered first with a cloth of Techeiles and then with a Tachash-skin.

Then came the Golden Mizbei'ach (alias the Mizbei'ach ha'Ketores), on which they spread first a cloth of Techeiles and then a Tachash-skin.

And finally, they covered the Copper Mizbei'ach (alias the Mizbei'ach ha'Oloh) first with a cloth of purple (a colour that is deeper than scarlet, reminiscent of the blood of the Korbanos that was sprinkled on it), and on top a Tachash-skin.


It transpires that all the Keilim, irrespective of what cloth they were initially covered with, were finally covered with a Tachash-skin, with the exception of the Aron. The Torah did not want the Holy Aron covered with the same cloth as all the other Keilim, so it chose to cover it with a cloth of Techeiles - the colour that reflects "the essence of the Heaven in purity", as the Pasuk describes it in Sh'mos (24:10).


What Elazar ben Aharon Carried

"And the charge of Elazar the son of Aharon the Kohen was the oil for the Menorah, and the spices for the incense, the continual Minchah and the anointing oil " (4:16).

According to the Ramban, says R. Bachye, the Torah does not refer to the burden of Elazar, but to "the charge of Elazar", implying that he did not actually carry these things, but was merely in charge of their transport. It seems to me that this is borne out by the continuation of the Pasuk "and the charge of the entire Mishkan and all that was in it", which Elazar certainly did not carry.


The Ramban cites a Yerushalmi however, which describes how Elazar actually carried the above four items himself - the oil for the Menorah (one year's stock) in his right hand, the Ketores in his left hand, one day's Minchas ha'Tamid hanging from his arm, and the anointing-oil (twelve Lugin) from his belt.

Nor was this a small feat, comments the Ramban, since the Ketores weighed three hundred and sixty-five Manah (a Manah = a hundred Zuz), the oil for the Menorah, a hundred and eighty-three Lugin (a Lug = six egg-volumes). He therefore concludes that Elazar's ability to carry such a load can only be attributed to a miracle.

* * *


Reuven the Firstborn

"And the sons of Reuven the firstborn of Yisrael numbered " (1:20).

The Pasuk sees fit to mention Re'uven's Yichus, says the Rosh, because in the Parshah of the journeying (in Chapter 2), Yehudah was the first to travel. So the Torah points out why here, it gives precedence to Re'uven.


The Heavenly Porter

When Yisrael traveled, says the Rosh, those who owned an animal would place some of their belongings on the animal's back, the rest was carried by the Clouds of Glory. As for those who didn't own an animal, the Clouds carried all their belongings.


Who Was Redeemed & Who Had to Pay

"And Moshe took the money of the redemption from those who were in excess of those who were redeemed by the Levi'im" (3:49).

How did Moshe determine who was redeemed by a Levi and who had to pay five Shekakim?

Rashi explains that he wrote the words 'ben Levi' on twenty-two thousand pieces of paper, and on two hundred and seventy-three pieces of paper, 'five Shekalim'. All of these he placed in a box and mixed them well. Then each firstborn took one piece of paper.

This, says the Rosh citing a Medrash, is the opinion of R. Yehudah. According to R. Nechemyah (who maintains that this method would lead those who drew 'five Shekalim' to claim that the lots were unfair), Moshe took two sets of paper, each equivalent to the total number of firstborn. on one set he wrote 'ben Levi', on the other, 'five Shekalim'. All of these he then placed in the box and mixed them. Then he bade each firstborn take one piece of paper from the box. Miraculously, twenty-two thousand firstborn picked one that had on it 'ben Levi, and two hundred and seventy-three, 'five Shekalim'. The former were then automatically redeemed by a Levi; whereas the latter were obligated to redeem themselves. When the latter drew their lots containing 'five Shekalim', the officer in charge would point out to them that there was a piece of paper in the box containing 'ben Levi' that was written out for them, but that they did not pick it because they were deemed worthy of being redeemed by a Levi.

* * *

(Adapted from the Yalkut Yitzchak)

Taharas ha'Nefesh

The Zohar explains that we count the Omer in order to arrive at Matan Torah in a state of Taharah. Clearly what the Zohar means is that just as we find that many physical Tum'os require a seven days period to become Tahor, so too, do we require a period of seven x seven days in order to attain a state of spiritual Taharah, before studying Torah the entire night of Shavu'os and receiving the Torah in the day.


The Captive & the Princess

The Avudraham compares the sequence of Pesach, Sefiras ha'Omer and Shavu'os to a captive in prison, whom the king sets free, before promising him that in seven week's time, he will give him his beautiful daughter's hand in marriage. The moment the captive walked out of jail, he began counting in eager anticipation towards the day when he would marry the king's beautiful daughter.

Yisrael are the captives. G-d, the King of Kings, set them free on Pesach, and promised them that in seven week's time, on Shavu'os they would marry his beautiful daughter. And it was in eager anticipation of their wedding day that they counted the days from Pesach till Shavu'os.


No 'Shehechiyanu'!

One of the many reasons that we do not recite a 'Shehechiyanu' on the first day of the Omer, is because it is not the main Mitzvah, only in preparation of Shavu'os when indeed we do recite it.

According to others, it is because we are afraid of missing out one day, in which case the 'Shehechiyanu' will turn out to be a B'rachah le'Vatalah retroactively. If that is so, one could ask, we ought not to recite a B'rachah over the counting at all - for the same reason?


No S'feika de'Yoma Either!

Why do people in Chutz la'Aretz not count two countings per night on account of Sefeika de'Yoma, asks the Avudraham? And he gives two answers: 1. Because, seeing as counting nowadays is only Zeicher le'Mikdash (to commemorate the Beis Hamikdash), the Chachamim were lenient in this regard; b. because if one did, then they would have to count the forty-ninth day (again) on the fiftieth day (Shavu'os) which in turn, would cause people to treat Shavu'os with disrespect, as if it was an ordinary week-day.

* * *

(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 169:
Tum'as Tzara'as (cont.)

The Dinim of Tzara'as apply to both males and females, as long as there are Kohanim who are conversant with the laws of examination. So it appears from the Rambam z.l. Even though it is not currently possible to bring the necessary Korbanos for his purification, when the Beis-Hamikdash will be rebuilt and it will become possible to do so, he will bring them then. Anyone who contracts Tzara'as and fails to act in accordance with the Torah's prescription for dealing with it, but treats it instead as a natural disease, and declines to show it to a Kohen, has negated this Mitzvas Asei. His deserved punishment is therefore that the Tzara'as will cleave to him for the rest of his life. Whereas if he follows the Torah's instruction, G-d will deal kindly with him, and heal him from the plague. The author has already cited the Ramban (in Parshas Shemini, Mitzvah 159) who does not list the Mitzvah of each and every Tum'ah (i.e. Neveilos, Sheratzim, Ochlin u'Mashkin, Nidah, Yoledes, Zavah, Zav, Shichvas-Zera, Tzara'as Adam, Batim & Begadim, Tum'as Meis and Tum'as Mei Nidah), nor their Taharah, as separate Mitzvos, and he supports his opinion in Seifer ha'Mitzvos with convincing proofs.

Nevertheless, the author abides by his policy, as stated at the beginning of the Seifer, of listing the Mitzvos strictly in accordance with the opinion of the Rambam, as is the case here.

* * *

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