JULY 9-10, 2004 21 TAMUZ 5764
"And Moshe brought their case before Hashem" (Bemidbar 27:5)
During the forty years of traveling through the desert on the way to the Promised Land, there lived a man named Selofhad. Selofhad had five daughters and no sons. At that time the inheritance laws of our Torah said that sons will inherit their father. As the Israelites approached the land of Israel, Hashem said all the people will receive a portion of land and the sons will inherit their father's portion of the land. Ultimately, Selofhad passed away without any sons. The daughters realized that they would not receive their father's portion, so they came to Moshe to request that they, as daughters, should not lose out from receiving a portion of land. The Torah says that Moshe did not know the answer to their claim, so Moshe brought their case to Hashem. Rashi explains that the law was purposely concealed from him and so he had to ask Hashem. Hashem responded that the daughters will inherit.
The Hafess Hayim says that there was a good reason for this concealment that made Moshe unable to judge the case himself. It was because Moshe felt he was biased toward them and he was not able to judge them impartially. Why was he biased towards them? It goes back to the way the daughters presented their case to Moshe. They told Moshe that their father passed away. They added that he was not part of the rebellion of Korah that rebelled against Hashem. At that point Moshe felt a certain feeling of closeness towards Selofhad, since he never rebelled against Moshe. The daughters didn't do anything wrong in presenting their father in the best possible light. However, this affected Moshe'a ability to judge the case. Moshe Rabenu immediately transferred the case to Hashem in the tradition that a Jewish judge must remain completely impartial.
It is interesting to note that Moshe is not criticized for being partial towards them, and that he did the right thing to transfer the case. It is not considered a sin to be partial. In many cases a person should be partial. A parent is partial towards his child. A person is partial towards his good friend. A Rabbi is partial towards his congregants. What's important is that a person must recognize this and not claim to be impartial. We are encouraged to love our close ones, but we are also supposed to be fair to everyone else. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"The name of the daughter of Asher was Serah" (Bemidbar 26:46)
When the Jewish people were counted for the last time, the Torah mentions the daughter of Asher, Serah. Rashi tells us that although she didn't inherit the land, since she was still alive during this counting, she was mentioned. The Targum adds that eventually she entered Gan Eden alive, without having to die and become resurrected! The reason given is that she played the harp and sang to her grandfather, Ya'akob Abinu, that Yosef was still alive, thereby restoring Ya'akob's spirit. Since she gave Ya'akob good tidings, she merited this extraordinary reward.
Of course, we can't expect to understand this on a superficial level. The secrets of the Torah are too deep for us, and when everything will become clear, we will also know why Serah merited entering Heaven alive. However, the lesson for us is very basic: If we cause others happiness by giving them good news, by complimenting them and by encouraging them, we also will merit life. We should not be the one to relate bad news or negative reports. People have a way of finding them out anyway. Let's train ourselves to speak only positive things and we will merit both worlds! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Therefore say: behold! I give him My covenant of peace. (Bemidbar 25:12)
Our Sages have asked: Why did Pinhas merit the blessing between his body and soul never to die - whereas, the great prophet Moshe Rabbenu or his pious brother Aharon Hakohen did not merit to have this tremendous reward?
This question is answered with a parable. Once upon a time, there was a businessman who came onto hard times and could not pay his debts. After a while his debtors began coming to collect to the point that they would badger him. Needless to say, he could not rest at night. One day, a good friend of his came to assist him with the debtors, and succeeded in brushing them away. A few months later the debtors returned and began their badgering again, and the good friend was able to turn them away from him again. This same scenario repeated itself for quite some time. Then one day a different friend came to the rescue of this poor man, and convinced the debtors to settle for 10 cents on the dollar. The man was now free from all his debts and was now able to lead a normal life with his wife and children. Needless to say, the assistance of the second friend was of much greater magnitude. In the like manner, when the Jewish people committed the grave sin of the golden calf Hashem wanted to destroy them. Moshe Rabbenu beseeched Hashem for mercy and Hashem accepted to push off the decree. However, the Jewish people had to pay for this sin throughout the generations. Pinhas, in contrast, was able to abolish the wrath of Hashem totally by risking his life and killing Zimri. Thus Hashem abolished his decree for the grave sin of immorality that the Jewish people committed. May Hashem give us the strength to always abolish all evil decrees, amen! Shabbat shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim
"When he zealously avenged Me among them" (Pinhas 25:11)
Pinhas is lauded for endangering himself while demonstrating exemplary love for Hashem by taking drastic action to cleanse Klal Yisrael of those who were defying Hashem. The Torah emphasizes that despite this, Pinhas remained "among them," not isolating himself from the general community. Rather, he executed his act of purification as a member of the community. Pinhas' devotion to Hashem provides us with the Torah's paradigm for kana'ut, zealousness. Applying homiletic exegesis, Hazal develop the essential characteristics required for such singular acts of devotion.
The kanai acts out of love for Hashem, His Torah and His Nation. At no time does he hate the transgressors; rather, he abhors their reprehensible acts of insurgency against Hashem. His action is a last resort measure directed towards having a lasting effect upon those who sin against Hashem.
The Noam Elimelech asserts that Pinhas was the one who infused the concept of kana'ut, zealousness, into Klal Yisrael. His feat demanded a remarkable amount of courage on his part. Thus, he inspired future generations to fight for Torah ideals and to express their abhorrence towards those who denigrate Torah Judaism. This is homiletically derived from the phrase "when he zealously avenged Me among them." Pinhas ignited the spark of zealousness "among them" for future generations. (Peninim on the Torah)
Question: What is the purpose of besamim (fragrance) in habdalah?
Answer: Rabbi Shimon Resh Lakish said: The Creator gave an additional neshamah (soul) to the human being on the eve of Shabbat. On Saturday night, it is taken away. In other words, on Shabbat, we are given an extra spiritual dimension, helping us to study and perform misvot. The fragrance is consolation for the departure of this dimension. Similarly, Maimonides states, "Since the person is troubled by the departure of Shabbat, he is made happy, and restored, with the good fragrance. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"These are the children of Dan ... sixty four thousand and four hundred." (Bemidbar 26:42,43)
The Hafess Hayim points out an interesting fact regarding the total population of the tribes. The tribe of Dan had a total of 64,400, while the tribe of Binyamin totaled only 45,600. What is remarkable about this is that Binyamin himself had ten sons while Dan had only one son. Not only that but Dan's only son was deaf. One would expect that the tribe of Binyamin would number far more than the tribe of Dan. Still yet, the tribe of Dan grew in far greater proportions than the tribe of Binyamin.
The Hafess Hayim teaches from here that if Hashem wants a person to be successful, he will be successful even though it seems like the cards are stacked against him. No matter how much it may look like a person is at a disadvantage, he should never give up hope or regret his state of affairs. We must always be happy with our situation, never envying the "successes" of others. Quantity is not always a barometer for success in life.
Question: Do you ever feel like you don't have what it takes to be successful? In what ways do you have more than even the wealthiest people?
This week's Haftarah: Yirmiyahu 1:1 - 2:3.
Every haftarah until this week has been related to the perashah in some way. However, after the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash, the Rabbis decreed that during the three weeks between Shib'ah Asar B'Tamuz and Tish'ah B'ab, special haftarot would be read. These haftarot detail the punishments that B'nei Yisrael would receive for their sins. Each haftarah, though, ends on a positive note with Hashem giving his guarantee that he will eventually redeem us. This week, Hashem declares that Israel is sacred to Him, and he will bring retribution to the nations that afflict Israel.
Please preserve the sanctity of this bulletin. It contains words of
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to email@example.com