Make the Cheshbon
"Therefore the moshlim (poets) would say, 'Come to Cheshbon - let it be built and established as the city of Sichon'" (Bamidbar 21:27). Cheshbon was the name of a stronghold city, which once belonged to the nation of Moav. Sichon had conquered it and was ready to rebuild it as his own city. The poets, Bilaam and Beor, were gloating because they had foretold this victory.
The Gemora (Bava Basra 78b) has a beautiful drasha on this verse. The word for poets is "moshlim." The same word can also mean rulers. The word "cheshbon" also refers to making an accounting. Based upon this, the verse can be darshened: "Therefore the moshlim - ones who rule over their desires - say, 'Come to cheshbon - come let us make an accounting of this world! Weigh a mitzvah's loss against its gain, and a sin's gain against its loss. You will be built and established (by making this accounting). You will be built up in this world, and you will be established in the World to Come." The following story, adapted from Rav Shimshon Pincus' sefer on Pesach (p. 144), gives a vivid example of this cheshbon.
"My esteemed chavrusa, how do you understand this Gemora? What is Rava's kasha (question) on Abaye?"
"I think I know, however, I am so thirsty. I must get a drink before I can continue."
"Okay, hurry back."
The chavrusa leaves his seat and walks out of the Beis HaMedrash. There is a water fountain outside the door. The water would quench his thirst; however, he wants something more. He leaves the Yeshiva and walks up the street. He finds a grocery store there, but it is closed. He goes a bit farther until the next grocery store. The store is open however; he does not find the drink that he wants in the refrigerator. And so, he moves on to the next store, where he finds his drink. He slowly sips it, and then makes his way back to the Yeshiva. He sits down next to his chavrusa and looks at the clock. Twenty minutes have passed since he got up to leave.
"My dear chavrusa, I hope that I didn't hold you back."
"Not at all. I learned an entire amud (one side of a page) of Gemora while you were gone."
The chavrusa was in shock. He had missed the opportunity to learn an entire amud of Gemora. That amud contained approximately 300 words of Gemora, 600 words of Rashi, and 350 words of Tosafos. Each word of Torah is equal in weight to all 613 mitzvos combined. Therefore, he lost the chance to perform 766,250 mitzvos! The reward for each mitzvah is greater than all of the combined pleasures experienced by all of humanity in the entire history of the world! In addition, the reward is eternal. For this unfathomable pleasure, he exchanged . . . a few minutes of sipping a drink - a fleeting pleasure that was gone as soon as the last drop finished. What a fool he was! Why didn't he make the cheshbon?!?
Kinderlach . . .
People make all sorts of cheshbonos. They add up the shopping bill. The make a total of how many hours they worked. They examine the size and quality of an item, to see if it is worth the price. A businessman calculates how much a project will profit, in order to decide whether to invest the time and money into it. These are all cheshbonos of material things. There is another cheshbon, which is far more important. The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (2:1) states, "Calculate the loss of a mitzvah against its reward, and the gain from an aveyra against its loss." That mitzvah in the story cost twenty minutes of time and a cool drink. What was the reward to be gained? Hundreds of thousands of mitzvos, each one with an unfathomable reward. Kinderlach, take the time to make the cheshbon. You will see that there is no contest. The mitzvah always wins . . . by far.
"And Miriam died there (in Midbar Zin) and was buried there. And there was no water for the congregation" (Bamidbar 20:1-2). The Keli Yakar explains that the drought was a punishment. They did not give a proper hesped (eulogy) for Miriam. When Moshe and Aharon died the Jewish people cried in mourning. The verse does not mention crying over the death of Miriam. They did not feel the loss at all. Therefore, they lost their source of water. This was to show them that the miraculous well that traveled with them all of these years was in her merit.
Anyone was has gone to a levayo (funeral) and heard the hespedim feels remorse. He hears many good things about the niftar (person who has passed away). Perhaps he feels that he did not appreciate the person fully when he was alive. Perhaps he overlooked that person's good qualities. Perhaps he let bad habits or a silly disagreement prevent him from getting close to the person. He begins to feel regret. He should have gotten closer to him. He should have helped him. Now it is too late. He is gone from this world.
Kinderlach . . .
At hespedim, they only say good things about people. It is a zechus (merit) for the niftar. Why wait until then? We can all think of good things to say about people. Say them. When you see the person, think only about his good qualities. Appreciate him. Get close to him. Every person is a treasure. More valuable than diamonds. Learn to recognize the treasure and value it. You will all become very wealthy.
The Value of Shalom
"What a beautiful gem! What is it?"
"Look at how it sparkles. It must be very valuable."
"It is quite expensive."
"The ring that it is set in is also nice. I have a silly question for you. If you needed the ring for something else, would you throw away the diamond to use the ring?"
"Of course not. The diamond is much more valuable than the ring."
This week's parasha relates the death of Aharon HaKohen (Bamidbar 20:27-29). The entire Jewish people, both men and women mourned him, because he was a lover and pursuer of peace. People sometimes get confused. They have a good relationship with a friend or a neighbor. Then they get into a disagreement about money, or building repairs, or a seat in the Beit HaKinesset. What do they do? They allow the disagreement to ruin the relationship and they bear a grudge against the person. Good relationships between people are as valuable as diamonds. They are the shalom in the world that Hashem wants so much. Throwing away a good relationship over a money dispute is like throwing away the diamond and saving the ring.
Kinderlach . . .
Don't get confused. Let Aharon HaKohen be your guide. Always make good relationships your main goal. Always try to be nice and giving to people in order to develop good relationships. When you get into disagreements, do not let them ruin the relationship. Usually the disagreement is over something that is worth far less than the relationship. Save the relationship and keep the diamond for yourself.
Why was Moshe afraid of a war with Og Melech HaBashan? (Rashi 22:34)
Which nation guarded all of the kingdoms of Canaan? (Rashi 21:23)
How did Aharon die? (Rashi 20:26)
What reason did Hashem give for Moshe and Aharon not entering Eretz Yisrael? (20:12 and Rashi)
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