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Torah Attitude: Parashas Bamidbar: "Dwell securely in your land"

Summary

There were many miracles during the Six Day War. We can only marvel at this special protection that we have experienced, and we must ask ourselves in what merit has this happened? Everything that happens is hinted at in the Torah and secretly encoded in its holy words. "If you will not listen to Me" refers to in-depth study of the Torah. "It is a tree of life for those who hold on to it, and its supporters are fortunate." Since the time of our Patriarchs there has been an unbroken line of yeshivos. It is amazing to see how the tribe of Levi managed to stay in the Yeshiva throughout the entire exile in Egypt, and how the other tribes supported their brothers, the Torah scholars. Not only the tribe of Levi, but every individual has the ability to separate himself and dedicate his life to serve G'd.

Six Day War miracles

Rabbi Berel Wein, one of the most popular contemporary authors and orators on Jewish history and thought, has often related that a general at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point once remarked that although the academy studies various wars fought throughout the world, it does not study the Six Day War. The general explained that West Point is concerned with studying military strategy and tactics, and not with miracles. This general was not the only one to acknowledge the miracles of the Six Day War. Countless soldiers returned from the war with their personal experience of miracles. This spurred many people to want to return to their roots and get closer to a life of Torah observance. Various organizations and yeshivas were therefore opened to assist those who wished to become Baalei Teshuvah.

Special protection

Over the years we have seen time and again how, despite that we are surrounded by enemies, G'd's protecting Hand looks after His children in the Holy land. Unfortunately, we have had many casualties. Each one of the soldiers who died in combat, and every single victim of the many acts of terror, is one too many. But in general we can only marvel at this special protection that we have experienced, and we must ask ourselves in what merit has this happened? Can we honestly say that we have deserved this because of our righteousness? Or could there be a specific merit that has brought us this protection?

Secretly encoded

We do not understand the ways of G'd, and we cannot second guess how he conducts the world, in general, and the Jewish people, in particular. However, our sages have taught that we must look for answers to our questions in the Torah. For everything that happens is hinted at in the Torah and secretly encoded in its holy words.

In-depth Torah study

In the beginning of the second of last week's two parshios it says (Vayikra 26:3-6): "If you follow My decrees and observe My commandments and you will dwell securely in your land. And I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will frighten you." Rashi quotes the Mechilta (1:2) that asks what does "follow My decrees" refer to that is not included in "observe My commandments"? The Mechilta answers that this refers to G'd's decree that we must engage in an in-depth study of the Torah and the commandments. A little later it says (Vayikra 26:14-17): "And if you will not listen to Me, and you will not perform all of these commandments and you will fall before your enemies " (G'd forbid). Here again Rashi quotes from the Mechilta that explains that "if you will not listen to Me" refers to in-depth study of the Torah.

Tree of life

With this insight we may be better equipped to understand how G'd conducts Himself with us and in what merit we have experienced such miraculous protection over the years. In the beginning of this week's parasha, the Midrash Rabbah (Bamidbar 1:6) states that the Torah was given in fire, water (rain) and the wilderness, to teach that just like these three elements are free for everyone, so are the words of Torah free for everyone. Obviously, not everyone can spend all their time absorbed in a setting of in-depth Torah study, but everyone can spend some time to study and help to support those who dedicate their lives, or a number of years, to study Torah. As King Solomon says when he speaks about the Torah (Mishlei 3:18): "It is a tree of life for those who hold on to it, and its supporters are fortunate."

Unbroken line of Yeshivos

The Talmud (Yuma 28b) teaches that since the time of our Patriarchs the Jewish people have had an unbroken line of yeshivos. Both Abraham and Isaac headed a yeshiva. And Jacob, before he descended to Egypt, sent Judah down to find a suitable place where to establish a yeshiva (see Rashi Bereishis 46:28 in the name of Midrash Rabba, Bereishis 95:3). The Rambam (Laws of Idol worship 1:3) relates how Jacob appointed his son Levi to be the Rosh Yeshivah in Egypt, and he instructed his children to make sure that the tribe of Levi would continue to study. The Rambam continues to describe how the tribe of Levi continued to study Torah and never served idols like the other tribes.

Tribe of Levi in Egypt

This became quite a challenge later when they were enslaved, but it is amazing to see how the tribe of Levi managed to stay in the Yeshiva throughout the entire exile in Egypt, and how the other tribes supported their brothers, the Torah scholars. The Talmud (Sotah 11a - b) explains that initially the Jews were invited to join Pharaoh and his workers to build the land and develop it. All the tribes except Levi fell for the ruse and joined the Egyptian workers. Gradually, the Egyptians turned the tables and forced the Jews to do back-breaking labour and enslaved them. However, the Levites kept up their learning in Yeshiva and were never part of the workforce (see Midrash Rabbah Shemos 5:16). Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian explains that since Pharaoh originally had decreed that the work was voluntary, he could not force the tribe of Levi, who originally had not shown up, to come and work. He therefore looked for other means how to force the yeshiva students to join the workforce. Pharaoh made a new decree that the government would only allocate money to those who worked and participated in building the country. He was sure that this would do the trick to force the "parasites" out of their holes. However, Pharaoh did not realize who he was up against. Rabbi Lopian quotes from our sages who relate that the other tribes had not forgotten Jacob's instruction. Every family shared their meager allocation and gave a portion to the tribe of Levi. And this continued throughout the whole exile. This is how the Jewish people conducted themselves right from the beginning, when we developed into a nation, and this is how it has been ever since.

High level of holiness

As we prepare ourselves for Shavuous and reinforce our acceptance of the Torah, we must remember the significance of following Jacob's instructions to our forefathers. In those days it pertained to the tribe of Levi; however the Rambam (Laws of Shmitah 13:13) states that not only the tribe of Levi, but every individual has the ability to separate himself and dedicate his life to serve G'd without making any of the calculations that people do in general. Such a person is sanctified with a high level of holiness and, says the Rambam, shall be provided for so that he has his basic needs fulfilled. If we do what is necessary to continue this proud tradition, we can rest assured that G'd will keep His promise and "you will dwell securely in your land."

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

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