JUNE 1-2, 2001 11 SIVAN 5761
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
This perashah is the longest one in the whole Torah. It always comes right after Shabuot as if to show us that with the Giving of the Torah on this past holiday, there is more Torah to be learned than ever before. What is amazing about the length of this perashah is that a great portion of it is repetitious: when the Princes of each tribe donated something for the dedication ceremony, each offering was identical. The Torah lists each one individually, so as not to take away any importance from any one tribe.
We can learn a great lesson from here. Although each prince had tremendous wealth and could have outdone his predecessor, each one brought the same exact amount. There was no "one-upmanship" here, no one trying to make his own name greater at anyone else's expense.
This is something worth thinking about and emulating. It may not be feasible to have all our affairs and occasions in a uniform way but do we have to outdo anyone else? Shouldn't we spend only what we could afford and maybe not even that? Is being a trend setter so important to us? These are questions which many have been asking. Are we ready for someone to lead the way and for others to support them? As we read the repetition in this perashah, let's think about this point and do some soul searching.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Every man whose wife deviates from the right path and commits an act of disloyalty against him." (Bemidbar 5:12)
Our perashah discusses the law of the Sotah. The law of Sotah is, Baruch Hashem, not too relevant to us. However, we can draw some good lessons from it. What is a Sotah? A Sotah is a married woman who is suspected by her husband of infidelity. If she is warned by her husband not to be with a certain specific man, and she is seen, by witnesses, going into seclusion with that particular man, she is a Sotah. She is not permitted to remain with her husband until her innocence is tested by certain waters called "Mei-Sotah."
The Torah here says "eesh eesh - a man, a man." Why the repetition? To answer this, let's recall an old saying that we hear many times: "Are you a man or a mouse?" Regarding marriage, what should a man be, a man or a mouse? As usual, the Torah has the answer for every question. The Midrash on our pasuk says, basically you are a mouse! The Midrash says, if she breaks your wine bottle, if she spills your oil, even if she tears your suit, be forgiving! In modern terms, if she totals the car, if she wears out your gold credit card, even if she ruins your favorite cotton shirt, be a mouse. Only regarding infidelity, be a man. That's why our pasuk says "a man, a man," telling us "Okay, up till now you have been a mouse. Now be a man, now be a man. She must be innocent in order to continue your marriage." Another interpretation is: Always be a man. Be human; don't be a tyrant, because being a tyrant might cause problems.
Baruch Hashem, it is rare indeed for us to have a problem even remotely similar to a Sotah. However, we can derive a solid lesson how to behave in our home in our normal everyday behavior. Don't let the American comedy shows influence your views on marriage. The Torah's view is: On physical or financial matters, be a mouse. On morality, be a man. Shabbat Shalom.
"And afterwards the Nazir may drink wine" (Bemidbar 6:20)
After the Nazir completed the entire process described by the Torah, he may drink wine once again. Why does the Torah still call the person a Nazir in this verse, if he is no longer in the state of being a Nazir? The Alshich explained that when a person goes through a period of thirty days of being a Nazir, he elevates himself to a high level of spirituality. He is now on such a level that even if he drinks wine, it is the drinking of a person on the level of a Nazir.
Two people can drink wine and the meaning behind their behavior can be totally different. The following two incidents illustrate this clearly. Rabbi Mordechai Gifter was once on an airplane traveling from Cleveland to Boston for the wedding of one of his students. In the middle of the flight, passengers could see that one of the airplane's engines was on fire, and there was an announcement that the plane would have to make an emergency landing in a nearby city. One of the passengers called out to a stewardess, "Give me one last drink before I die!" Fortunately, the plane landed safely and this incident was the topic of the next mussar lecture in the Yeshivah. A person who identifies himself entirely with his body and not with his soul keeps this attitude even at the very last minute of his life.
This is in contrast to a similar story told about a very righteous scholar.
This scholar always lived a very ascetic life and denied himself many pleasures. When he was on his deathbed he said to someone standing near him, "Please bring me a glass of wine before I die. My entire life I denied my body physical pleasures. Now I want to ask my body forgiveness and I wish to appease it with a glass of wine." This righteous man identified himself entirely with his soul. His request for a final drink of wine was with the spirituality of a Nazir. (Growth through Torah)
"So shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them: 'May G-d bless you'" (Bemidbar 6:23,24)
Before the Kohanim administer the Priestly blessing, they recite the blessing, "Who has sanctified ... and commanded us to bless His nation of Israel 'be'ahavah - with love.'" Where were the Kohanim commanded to bless with love?
The Priestly blessing starts with the phrase "Yebarechecha Hashem veyishmerecha - May G-d bless you and safeguard you." Since Hashem told the Kohanim, "So shall you bless the Children of Israel," the blessing should be in plural - "Yebarechechem - Hashem should bless you (plural)."
Though the Kohanim are indeed blessing the entire congregation, they do so in the singular to indicate that G-d desires to bless the Jews with the unity that results when love prevails. Thus, in the blessing the Kohen is announcing his fulfillment of Hashem's command to bless Klal Yisrael with love. (Vedibarta Bam)
This Week's Haftarah: Shoftim 13;2-25.
One of the many topics in this week's perashah is the Nazir, one who chooses to abstain from wine and all grape products. Probably the most famous Nazir in our history was Shimshon (Samson). Our haftarah tells the story of Shimshon's mother's encounter with an angel of Hashem. The angel tells Shimshon's mother that she is pregnant, and that she must refrain from wine because her child must be raised as a Nazir from birth. The haftarah concludes with the birth of Shimshon.
The postal service in Tzivityan, Lithuania was computerized long before the high-tech age of automated bank tellers and electronic cash registers: it had Valinkov. Valinkov's brain was like a pocket calculator. So accustomed were the townspeople to his unerring accuracy that they never even bothered to count their change.
Except once. On that fateful day Valinkov had had an argument with his wife, and a Jewish customer benefited from the clerk's distraction. By chance he counted his change and discovered, to his amazement, that an error had been made in his favor. He returned at once to the post office and said humbly to the clerk, "I'm afraid, sir, that your arithmetic was not correct."
Valinkov was irate, offended by the affront to his impeccable reputation, and quickly whipped out a fresh sheet of scrap paper to redo his calculations.
But no matter which way he added, his total differed from his original one. "You see?' the Jew said, "I was given fifteen kopecks extra," and he placed a handful of coins on the counter and left.
The clerk was speechless. No one - least of all a Jew - reimbursed the Government! Why, in those years (between World Wars) Lithuania's Jewish population was sufficiently victimized by governmental agencies to justify grand larceny. But this? This insignificant sum didn't even qualify as pilfering; it was more like a gift, albeit a modest one. And who would reject a gift from the Government?
"Perhaps," thought the clerk, "that is the very reason he returned the money - it was too paltry a sum to be worth the risk of being caught." Valinkov decided to test the next Jew who entered the post office, this time with a more irresistible amount. True, he would have to make up the deficit from his own pocket, but it was worth it.
Later that afternoon, Valinkov went ahead with his plan. When the Jew discovered the discrepancy, he was tempted to remain silent and simply enjoy the Government's unexpected largesse. His conscience, however, gave him no rest. He brought his dilemma before Tzivityan's Rabbi - R' Yaakov Kamenetzky.
R' Yaakov made his ruling perfectly clear: A Jew is forbidden to possess even the smallest fraction of a coin that does not rightfully belong to him.
Word spread swiftly throughout the town.
It was just before closing time and Valinkov had been congratulating himself on his acumen, when the Jew walked into the post office. The bewildered clerk could do nothing but accept the proffered bundle of notes. "Can they all be so na?ve...or honest?" he wondered.
Again and again the clerk tested the honesty of the Jews, but R' Yaakov's firm ruling and his sterling example fortified the people and they withstood the trials.
When the Nazis marched into Tzivityan one year later, it was this gentile clerk, and this gentile alone who risked his own safety to rescue the Jews of the town. They had proven themselves to be a holy people, undeserving of such a dire fate. (A Midrash and a Maaseh)
Answer to Pop Quiz: Thirty days.
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