JUNE 20-21, 2003 21 SIVAN 5763
"[The Jewish nation] traveled from the mountain of Hashem" (Bemidbar 10:33)
The Midrash tells us that this was one of the instances where the Jewish people did something wrong, and indeed the Torah interrupts the narrative with "Vayehi binso'a ha'aron" (which doesn't belong there) in order to separate between the wrongdoings. What was wrong with them traveling from the mountain of Hashem? Actually, they only traveled when given the signal by G-d, so if it was time to travel, why should it be a sin?
The Rabbis tell us that they traveled like children leaving school, in a hurry and anxious to leave their place of learning. For children to run out when the bell rings, that is expected of them. But when adults, who just learned Torah from Hashem for one year at Mount Sinai, also rush to get away, that was a sign that it wasn't becoming internalized. If we look at Torah as a chore or as burdensome, it will not have its effect of enriching our lives the way it should. We should remember this whenever we finish praying or learning. Sometimes, before the hazan is finished, the majority of the shul is almost outside "like children leaving school." Let's allow the Torah and tefillah to enrich us so that it will always be a pleasure. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And the people did not journey until Miriam was brought in." (Bemidbar 12:15)
At the conclusion of this week's perashah, an event occurs where Miriam speaks about her brother, Moshe Rabenu. Even though her intention was not to demean Moshe, Hashem said that it was lashon hara and immediately struck Miriam with leprosy. Her brother, Moshe, prayed to Hashem that He should heal Miriam, to which Hashem responds and she was healed. There was a waiting period that Miriam had to wait before returning to the camp.
Nevertheless, the nation did not travel, but rather they waited for Miriam's return. Rashi explains that Hashem wanted to give her this honor because when Moshe was cast into the Nile as a baby, Miriam waited for Moshe. So now, the entire nation of Israel will wait for her. Why did she wait for Moshe? The Targum explains that Miriam wanted to see what would happen to Moshe. We need to understand why this was such a great thing that Miriam did to merit having the entire nation wait for her.
Rabbi Meir Bergman explains that the Midrash tells us that Miriam was a prophetess. As a young girl, Miriam received a prophecy that her mother would give birth to the redeemer of the Jewish people. When Moshe was born, the entire house was filled with light. At that point, her father, Amram, told her that her prophecy had come true. However, they were later forced to place Moshe in a basket and float him on the Nile to avoid his being thrown into the Nile by the Egyptians. At that point, Miriam's mother, Yochebed, told her, "Where is your prophecy now?" The Midrash continues and says that despite this, Miriam waited to see in what way her prophecy would come true. Why didn't Yochebed, the baby's mother, wait to see? The reason is that it was hopeless that the baby will survive, for who will save him? The Jews can't, and the Egyptians will surely drown him. Naturally there was no chance for him to live. However, a miracle occurred and the daughter of Pharaoh saved him. Miriam waited to see because she was sure that her prophecy would be fulfilled. She was sure a miracle would happen! Miriam's great merit was her stubborn belief in the prophecy of Hashem, and for that, the nation waited for her.
The Talmud tells us that when a person passes away, one of the first questions asked is: Did you wait for the Mashiah? Rashi explains that the question is: Did you believe in the prophecy of the prophets who said that Mashiah will come? A person will be asked, "Did you believe in this prophecy even though you live in a time when it seems that there is no way naturally that the Jewish people will be saved? Nevertheless we are all obligated to wait for the Mashiah, and wait for the fulfillment of the prophecy that he will come just as Miriam did. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And this was the work of the Menorah...according to the pattern which Hashem had shown Moshe, so he made the Menorah" (Bemidbar 8:4)
Rashi explains that the word "and this" means that Hashem showed Moshe with His "finger" the exact pattern of the Menorah, as Moshe was puzzled regarding the Menorah's pattern. Perhaps this can be further explained in the following manner: Two men are each given the necessary materials with which to build a house, although neither has the knowledge or the talent to perform this task successfully. These two individuals explore different routes in order to confront this challenge. One goes to a carpenter to learn the necessary skills for building a house. Afterwards, he takes the materials and builds the house. The other individual attempts to build the house on a trial and error basis. Through this home study course, he eventually learns how to build a house, but the materials with which he had begun will have been depleted in the course of his education.
This parable can apply to man's course in life. The time is short, and the work and responsibility are awesome. There is no time to test out the pathways of life to ascertain which is the most efficient lifestyle to maintain. The reason that Hashem has graciously given us the Torah, which is a Heavenly mirror of the Divine wisdom, is to light up these pathways of life for us. In his lifetime, man cannot afford the luxury of a trial and error education. The light of the Menorah symbolizes the light of Torah, as it says in Mishlei (6:23) "Ki ner misvah v'Torah ohr." Moshe entreated Hashem to show him the correct pattern of the Menorah, which symbolizes the proper pattern for a true Torah lifestyle. (Peninim on the Torah)
"If any man will become defiled by a corpse or on a distant journey...he shall make the Pesah offering to G-d [on Pesah Sheni]" (Bemidbar 9:10)
To define "distant," the Gemara (Pesahim 93b) offers two opinions. Rabbi Akiba maintains that it refers to being from Modi'im and beyond (a suburb fifteen mil, approximately nine miles from Jerusalem, less than half-a-day's walk). Rabbi Eliezer says even if a person is from the threshold of the Sanctuary and beyond, he is considered as being distantly removed.
Why would being outside Modi'im, not to mention being near the Bet Hamikdash and just outside the threshold, place a person in the category of "far away"?
Our Sages are talking of spiritual, not geographic, distance.
The name Modi'im comes from the word "madah" - knowledge and learning. Rabbi Akiba felt that as long as a Jew is outside Modi'im - lacking knowledge of Torah and the principles of Judaism - he is far removed from Hashem and his brethren, the Jewish people. Knowledge has always been the cornerstone of our religion, and learning is essential to our way of life. Bitter experience has taught us that wherever ignorance abides, Jewish loyalties and values decline.
Rabbi Eliezer does not disagree with Rabbi Akiba, but speaks of another Jew who is distant despite his knowledge. He has learned and knows much, but has become complacent and indifferent. While he may be a yeshivah graduate, unfortunately he is currently unobservant and does not attend a synagogue or arrange a Jewish education for his children. This person, thus, knows of the holiness of the Bet Hamikdash, but he is "outside the threshold" - he keeps his distance and refuses to come in.
The two cases are both "distant," but neither is without hope. Pesah Sheni teaches that even one who is outside of Modi'im - who lacks knowledge of our golden heritage, or who has become alienated and refuses to step over the threshold and come in - is welcome to start studying or return to Judaism and will happily be received as an honored and full-fledged member of our people. (Vedibarta Bam)
Question: Why do we ask, in Kiddush, "Sabri maranan" ("What is your opinion, our Sages")? Why is the answer, "Lehayim"?
Answer: 1) When a few people drink wine during a meal, each must make his or her own blessing, because if one is eating it is dangerous for that person to answer amen. In this case, however, people are not yet eating, and therefore one may make the blessing for all. He asks, "Sabri maranan," as if to ask, "Are you ready?" They answer, "Lehayim!" This is similar to the Arabic word, "Lehayeh," which means "Yes!"
2) In the times of the Bet Hamikdash, when somebody was being judged in a capital case, the judges would be asked, "Sabri maranan - what is your opinion," or, "Rabbis, what is your verdict?" If the verdict was death, they would bring a strong cup of wine for the defendant so he would not feel the pain of death as much. In contrast, we say in Kiddush, "Lehayim - to life!" reminding ourselves that this is a cup of life. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
One year after the Exodus from Egypt, most of the nation offered the korban Pesah (Pesah sacrifice). However, a few individuals were not eligible to participate because they had become tameh (impure) from contact with a dead body. These people approached Moshe and asked, "Why should we lose out? We also want the opportunity to sacrifice the korban Pesah." After consulting with Hashem, Moshe responded that they would be given a second chance to offer the sacrifice a month later.
What stands out in this episode is the fact that these people were completely exempt from the misvah of bringing the korban, but they were not satisfied. They understood that every misvah that a person performs elevates him. Rather than looking for ways to avoid doing misvot or being content with their exemption, they sought ways to fulfill misvot for which they were 100% permitted to bypass.
Question: When it rains on Succot, do you feel bad that you won't be able to eat in the succah or are you relieved that you can now eat in your dining room? When a person collecting charity in shul does not approach you personally, do you go after him to help him out?
This week's Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Our perashah begins with a description of the daily lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. In this haftarah, the prophet Zechariah has a vision of a Menorah. Next to the Menorah were two olive trees which provided a continuous supply of oil. This was to symbolize that Hashem provides for all of our needs at all times, even though we sometimes do not see it.
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