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Haftarah: Shoftim 13:2-25

MAY 25-26, 2007 9 SIVAN 5767

Pop Quiz: On what date was the Mishkan erected?


"May Hashem show you favor" (Bemidbar 6:26)

Our perashah contains Birkat Kohanim, the blessings of the Kohen to the people. The berachah is divided into three distinct blessings. The first refers to material success. The second refers to achievements in Torah knowledge and spiritual matters. The third is that Hashem will show favor to the Jewish people and bless them with peace. Rashi says that this third berachah is true even if the Jews sin; Hashem will show his special favor because we, the Jewish people, are his favorites. This is a problem because another verse (10:17) says, "He is a great and mighty awesome G-d, who does not show favor and who does not accept a bribe." There are a number of answers to this seeming contradiction. The Gemara in Berachot (20b) tells how Hashem defends Himself and says, "Shall I not show favor to Israel, for I have written in the Torah regarding Birkat Hamazon: 'And you shall eat, be satisfied and bless Hashem your G-d.' This requires us to say Birkat Hamazon when we are satisfied from the bread meal. 'Yet they are exacting upon themselves and recite Birkat Hamazon even upon eating a small piece of bread as small as an olive in volume. So just like they show favorites to Me, I will show favorites to them.'"

Rabbi Avraham Pam z"l asks, "Why is this particular misvah chosen to show how we do more than required? After all, many Rabbinical laws require us to do more than mentioned in the Torah?" Let us imagine the following scenario which can happen. A person has to feed his family, and due to poverty only has a small piece of bread to give them. He can easily become embittered at his fate. Yet a Jew does not react angrily or attempt to throw off the yoke of Hashem. Instead he blesses Hashem for this bit of bread and thanks Him for it. That act causes Hashem to show Heavenly mercy and deal with him favorably.

Many people go through life complaining about their difficult situation. They complain about poor health, lack of sufficient livelihood, inadequate living conditions, bad jobs and so on. They feel Hashem has turned away from them. Fortunate are those who realize that no matter how little they have, they have a great deal to be thankful for. They eat their small piece of bread and say the full Birkat Hamazon. So Birkat Hamazon shows how we earn to be Hashem's favorite.

When I reflect on this beautiful explanation I find it ironic how today many of us look for a mezonot roll to save time and avoid washing and saying Birkat Hamazon, all of this to catch a train or a bus to earn our livelihood. Meanwhile, our greatest source of livelihood is right there on the table, that small piece of bread! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

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. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"On the second day did offer Netanel ben Su'ar, the Nasi of the tribe of Yisachar, he presented his offering" (Bemidbar 7:18-19)

Rashi notes the redundancy of the word ????????, offered, regarding the tribe of Yisachar. In contrast, it is not doubly stated in reference to any of the other tribes. Rav M. Wolfson offers a novel response. Netanel represented the tribe of Yisachar, which was noted for total devotion to Torah study. This was their vocation. Their material support came from the tribe of Zebulun, their "partners" in Torah endeavor. This partnership could easily cause the ignorant bystander to think that Yisachar, in fact, did not possess anything of his own. Everything he had, in reality, came from his brother.

The Torah seeks to correct this misconception by placing an emphasis on the ownership of Netanel's korban. The Torah, therefore, repeats the phrase, "He offered his korban." Netanel offered his own korban. One must be cognizant that everything originates from Hashem. He gives more to some individuals as a deposit until the time has come for him to share it with his friend. Zebulun, who so nobly supports Yisachar, is actually "returning" Yisachar's portion. That which Yisachar offers to Hashem is truly his own, which Zebulun has been safeguarding for him.

This concept is extremely important to reflect on, especially for those B'nei Torah who have chosen to devote their life to Torah study and dissemination. An almost paranoid feeling regarding their lifestyle pervades many Torah scholars. They feel that, since they are being supported by others, they do not have the privilege to enjoy a lifestyle even remotely similar to that of their supporters. This is utter nonsense! The Yisachar Zebulun relationship is the paradigm for a partnership in which each member has individual responsibility. Yisachar must devote his time and energy to Torah study, while Zebulun takes care of his material needs. Yisachar must be acutely aware of his obligations to devote all of his efforts to Torah study as his part of this partnership. The success of the relationship is nurtured in the mutual respect these two partners have for one another and their unique reciprocal obligations to each other. (Peninim on the Torah)

"And this is the law of the Nazir on the day of the completion of his vow" (Bemidbar 6:13)

At the conclusion of the term of the Nazir's vow, he must bring a korban. The reason for this korban is enigmatic. Is not a korban of this nature brought as penance for a specific sin? Rather than the Nazir be lauded for his great deed, he is seemingly castigated! Rabenu Bachya explains that this korban is necessary, since it appears as if the Nazir is departing from his previous lofty relationship with Hashem. For a significant period of time, he was removed from the pleasures of this world, only to return to his previous lifestyle. Although his lifestyle had been respectable, it was not to the same standards as a Nazir. This is unacceptable, from an appearance orientation. Therefore, a korban is mandated.

R' A.H. Lebovitz derives a profound insight from the above explanation. We see that even when our actions are definitely within the framework of Torah law, the mere semblance of impropriety is in itself a sin. R' Bachya teaches us that behavior which seems wrong, although in reality may not be, is still improper and demands penance.

This concept reveals a new perspective regarding the far-reaching effect of our every action. Everything we do leaves its impression upon us. If one performs with even the slightest impropriety, it will eventually harm him. As the nation of Hashem, our mandate is to be a holy nation.. In order to achieve that goal, everything we do, the way we speak, our manner of dress, and how we eat, must reflect consistency with our aspired station in life. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: The first day of Nisan.

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