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Parshas Beha'aloscha

Chatzotzros- Call For Unity
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

In this week's Parsha, we are commanded to blow the chatzotzros, trumpets. The chatzotzros were sounded every day in the Beis Hamikdash when korbanos, offerings, were brought. The trumpets were also blown in times of distress and warfare.

The Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzva 384) explains that the purpose of this mitzva is that a korban should be brought before Hashem with the proper intentions. Similarly, in times of trouble when one beseeches Hashem to have mercy and to save him, he should do so with great concentration. However, man being a physical being, will remain asleep unless he is aroused from his slumber. Therefore we are commanded to sound the chatzotzros to awaken us from our sleep. "For nothing will stir man like sounds of melody, all the more so the sound of the trumpets, which is the loudest of musical instruments."

Blowing the chatzotzros when offering korbanos and sounding the trumpets in times of distress are seemingly unrelated. Yet, they are counted as only one mitzva (Sefer Hamitzvos L'HaRamban Asei 59, Sefer Hachinuch 384). The Chizukuni writes that we blow the trumpets when we are at war to recall before Hashem the korbanos. And in the merit of the korbanos, Hashem will defend us in our hour of need. Perhaps this is why it is incumbent on the Kohanim to sound the chatzotzros for they are the ones who offer the korbanos, and this serves to arouse this merit.

In the Midbar, wilderness, they would also sound the chatzotzros when Moshe needed to assemble the nation or the nesiim, tribal princes. Let us see if blowing of the trumpets in the Midbar and the mitzva of sounding the chatzotzros when offering korbanos and in times of distress, are connected.

The Rambam writes that there is a positive mitzva to cry out and blow the trumpets for any public calamity. This brings us to repent, for if we cry out to Hashem when we are faced with suffering, everyone will realise that it is due to our sins that we were afflicted. In the end, it is this realisation that will remove the troubles (Hilchos Ta'anis 1:1-2; see also halacha 3).

We also sound the shofar on Rosh Hashana to stir us to repentance, writes the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4). Why do we sound the shofar on Rosh Hashana while we blow the trumpets when plagued with suffering?

On Rosh Hashana we are all judged - individually. One's deeds of the past year are weighed and Hashem decides whether one should be granted an additional year of life. It is a personal accounting. The shofar is sounded to waken the individual. When tragedy or suffering befell the nation, a taanis was declared. Rashi (Rosh Hashana 26b) explains that chatzotzros were blown on a taanis, because the fast day was a time to gather the people and all gatherings are with chatzotzros, as it is written "And they will be for you to call the nation (Bamidbar 10:2)." However it is difficult to understand Rashi's comparison of the sounding of trumpets on a fast day with the blowing of chatzotzros in the Midbar. In the Midbar everyone was either in his tent or busy with his daily routine. If Moshe urgently needed to call them together, there had to be a recognized signal. For this, Hashem gave the mitzva of chatzotzros. However, on a taanis everyone gathered before the chatzotzros were blown. What was the purpose of sounding the chatzotzros to the assemblage?

On a public fast day, the people would gather and examine their ways to find what sins they had transgressed, in order that they could repent (Megilla 30b with Rashi). As the Rambam mentions, suffering comes only as a result of our sins. "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh" - "All Jews are guarantors for each other". We are actually held accountable for the mitzva observances of our brethren. Likewise, we must feel that our own actions and attitudes affect the Nation. Every Jew should sense that his repentance is a matter of national security. This is why they blew chatzotzros - to unite the people. Physically they were already together, but emotionally they needed to feel the bond with their fellow Jews. When there is a sense of unity and responsibility, then each one realizes that his behavior and attitude affects the entire nation. He feels even more compelled to repent and improve his ways.

Chazal give a mashal to explain our responsibility and our need to feel an integral part of the nation. A group of people was travelling on a boat. One person took an axe and started hacking away under his seat. His fellow passengers asked him "What are you doing?" He responded "What business is it of yours? I am only hacking under my seat!" They replied that when water pours in through "his" hole, the boat will sink and everyone will drown (Vayikra Rabba 4:6). Our actions affect and influence our friends and neighbours and the entire nation. We are all in the same boat!

(So too, before the Hakheil ceremony, the kohanim sounded the chatzotzros to gather the nation both physically and spiritually, reminding them of their responsibility one for each other. This is the essence of the mitzva of Hakheil and is reflected in the word Hakheil; See Hakheil: A Re-enactment, Moadim U'Zmanim, Succos 5762.)

Similarly, the korbanos were offered on behalf of the entire Nation. For the korbanos to have the maximum benefit, they should be brought in an atmosphere of solidarity. This might be another reason why the chatzotzros were sounded during the offering of the korbanos, to awaken this sense of national unity. Today, although we are unable to offer korbanos, nevertheless, we can pray before Hashem, and our tefillos serve in place of the offerings. It is said, in the name of the Arizal that before one begins to daven, one should accept upon himself the mitzva of ahavas Yisrael, loving a fellow Jew. In this manner one's prayers will have the biggest impact.

In our troubled times we need to heed the trumpets call of unity and mutual responsibility. Let us feel responsible for our brethren in Eretz Yisrael and throughout the world. Let us strive to improve our ways. In this way we will ease their suffering and anxiety. And may we all merit to greet Mashiach together as one, speedily in our days.

Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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