JUNE 3-4, 2005 26 IYAR 5765
DAY 41 OF THE OMER
Rosh Hodesh Sivan will be celebrated on Wednesday, June 8.
"These are the countings of the Children of Israel according to their fathers' households.. six hundred three thousand five hundred and fifty." (Bemidbar 2:32)
We start the fourth book of the Torah. In Hebrew, this book is called "Bamidbar." In English, it is called "Numbers." This unusual name, Numbers, is used to describe the process of counting the Jewish people, which is described in great detail in the beginning of our perashah. Rashi explains that because we are so dear to Hashem, He counts us many times. He counted us when we left Egypt. He counted us after the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 38:26), when He commanded us to build the Mishkan. The third counting occurred six months after the second counting when it was time to rest His shechinah (Divine Presence) upon us. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch notes that the number of Israelites between the second and third countings was exactly the same, 603,550. The only difference was that in the second count, the tribe of Levi was included, and in the third count they were not included. This means that in the six months between the two countings, the nation grew exactly in the number of Levi.
There is an important message here. Our perashah mentions that the third counting of males from the age of twenty and up was described as "Everyone who goes out in the army of Israel." At the time of the third counting, the tribe of Levi was singled out for service in the Mishkan and were not to be counted amongst those that go to the army. Therefore, one might have thought that the sum total of Israelites wold be reduced by the size of the tribe of Levi., since they were included in the second count and not included in the third count. But Hashem commanded us to count and see that the number remained the same, to teach us that to exclude the tribe of Levi from army service and place them in Holy service does not detract from the number of the army. The armed forces of Israel is not weakened in any way by exempting the tribe of Levi from military service. This is due to the great mercy of Hashem, that he replaces, both in quantity and quality, the number of Jews that are dedicated to his service in the Mishkan. We are familiar with the statement of the Rambam that nowadays all people who dedicate themselves exclusively to Torah study are considered like the tribe of Levi. May the army of Israel today be replenished and given even greater strength, as it allows our Torah scholars in Israel to continue to study and grow in Torah and in the fear of Hashem, Amen.
Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And they gathered the entire nation on the first of the second month...according to the number of the names" (Bemidbar 1:18)
Hashem commanded Moshe to take a census of the Children of Israel by counting the "number of the names." The Ramban explains the meaning of counting the names: "Hashem told Moshe: 'Count each and every [member of Israel] with honor and dignity. Do not merely ask the head of each household how many children he has. Rather, everyone should pass before you with honor, and you should count them'." B'nei Yisrael deserved to be counted in person by Moshe.
The purpose of a census is a practical one: to ascertain the total population of a nation. The most efficient method is to ask the head of each household for data regarding his family. Having Moshe personally count each person was not only very inefficient, but extremely laborious and tiresome considering the numbers involved. (There were approximately three million Jews in the desert.) Why did Hashem trouble Moshe to exert himself to such an extent? Had Moshe asked the representative of each household for a tally of his family, the result would have been the same.
Hashem was teaching Moshe and the Children of Israel the value and uniqueness of each and every person. No one can be treated as a mere number, even when he is being counted for a census. Moshe had to meet each member of B'nei Yisrael and show him the honor and respect he deserved, as a human being created in the image of Hashem.
When dealing with a group of people, be it a group of ten or ten thousand, we must be conscious of the fact that the group is comprised of individuals, each one unique and worthy of the entire world existing for his sake. Each person deserves the dignity and warmth of our personal attention, and cannot be looked upon as just a number. Every resident of our community, every member of our family, every co-worker at our job should be treated with the same care and sensitivity we ourselves would expect.
Sometimes just stopping to spend a few moments with another person, even if only long enough to share a smile and say "good morning," can do a great deal to raise his spirits and carry him through the rigors of his daily schedule. If we bear in mind the overwhelming love and concern Hashem has for each of His children, we will surely feel a natural desire to emulate His example. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"But you shall not number the tribe of Levi, nor take the sum of them among the Children of Israel" (Bemidbar 1:49)
Rashi cites the Midrash that one of the reasons the tribe of Levi was not counted was because Hashem foresaw that everyone over twenty years of age would die in the forty years the Israelites were in the wilderness. Therefore He said, "The Levites should not be counted among the others in order not to be included with them. The are Mine since they did not transgress in the sin of the Golden Calf."
The question arises: The decree of dying in the wilderness was for the transgression of accepting the negative report about Eress Yisrael from the spies. Rashi should have said that the Levites did not transgress in the episode of the spies rather than saying that they did not transgress with the Golden Calf. The answer, wrote the Siftei Hachamim, is that the Levites also accepted the negative report of the spies. But the decree of dying in the wilderness was because of the double transgression of the Golden Calf and the spies. Since the Levites were not guilty in the incident of the Golden Calf, they were not included in the decree.
Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin commented that we see from here the dangers of listening to lashon hara, a negative report about others. Even though the Levites had the strength of character not to sin when others did in the incident of the Golden Calf, they still fell prey to accepting the lashon hara about the land of Israel. From this we should learn how far we need to keep from listening to lashon hara.
There are some people who rationalize their listening to lashon hara by claiming that they will never really believe the negative information they hear about others. They will only listen but they will not accept what they hear as the truth. Even if this is accurate, merely listening to lashon hara without believing it is forbidden. But in reality most people do in the end believe the negative things they hear about others. If you are unable to stop someone from saying negative things about others, walk away. (Growth through Torah)
"And Moshe counted them according to Hashem's word" (Bemidbar 3:16)
Rabbi Moshe Swift z"l notes a disparity between the census of B'nei Yisrael and that of B'nei Levi. B'nei Yisrael were counted form age twenty and over, thereby facilitating an easy count. B'nei Levi, who were counted from age one month upwards, demanded a more difficult count. The Midrash emphasized this by noting that Moshe asked, "How can I enter their tents to determine the number of babies in each family?" Hashem responded, "You do your share, and I will do mine." The Midrash continues that Moshe stood at the doorway of each tent. The Shechinah preceded him, and a Divine voice emanated from each tent stating the number of babies therein. This is the hidden meaning of our pasuk. Hashem's word facilitated Moshe's census.
There is a profound message to be gleaned from this Midrash. In order for Moshe to count B'nei Yisrael outside of the house, the Shechinah must have penetrated inside the house. If Jewish children are to be included, if they are to be numbered as the ones who carry the yoke of Torah on their shoulders, then the Shechinah must precede each child's birth. The voice of Hashem must be heard from within the home. The Shechinah must totally permeate the atmosphere of a child's upbringing. This begins with his parents' own personal relationship, which should be ensconced in sanctity and purity. It continues on in a home in which prayer, Torah study and misvah performance are integral components of the lifestyle. The establishment of such a home is the only guarantee that the children will continue to be counted as proud members of Klal Yisrael. (Peninim on the Torah)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"Ten things were created on Ereb Shabbat at twilight" (Abot 5:6)
What message is implied by the fact that so many things were created necessarily at the time of twilight?
A Jew may not do any work on Shabbat eve at twilight, because he does not know precisely if it is still daytime or night. If it is still day, work is permissible, and if it is night it is forbidden. To Hashem, however, there are no doubts, and He knows the last moment of the day precisely and the exact moment when night commences.
The message is to value every moment at one's disposal. Hashem used the final moment of the sixth day of creation to create numerous things and thus enhanced creation in its totality. Similarly, a person should employ every moment granted him to improve himself and have a positive influence on those around him.
The Imrei Emet once said that the reason for the custom of giving a hatan a gold watch is to teach him that every minute is "wrapped in gold" and should not be wasted. (Vedibarta Bam)
This Week's Haftarah: Hoshea 2:1-22.
This haftarah begins with the prophet Hoshea saying that the nation of Israel shall be as plentiful as the sand of the sea. This follows the theme of our perashah which
enumerates the numbers of each tribe of B'nei Yisrael.
Question: Why do we say, in the kedushah of musaf on Shabbat, the first verse of Shema and the last verse (Ani Hashem Elokechem)?
Answer: During the rule of the Persian Empire, the Persian king decreed that the Jews were forbidden to recite the Shema. In order that the Shema should not be forgotten, the Rabbis instituted that the first and last phrase should be said in the musaf prayer. When the king was killed in a miraculous way, the Rabbis decided that this practice should be continued in order to publicize the miracle. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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