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Peninim on the Torah

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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


The princes dug the well, the nobles of the people excavated, with a scepter, with their poles. And from the wilderness they went to Matanah; and from Matanah to Nachaliel, and from Nachaliel to Bamos; and from Bamos to Hagai. (21:18,19,20) Matanah and Nachaliel have other meanings: Matanah is a gift, and Nachaliel is defined as an inheritance from Hashem. How are these meanings related to the pasuk? In the Talmud Nedarim 55a, Chazal say that Matanah and Nachaliel refer to the manner in which we receive the Torah from Hashem. If a person asserts himself in a selfless and dedicated manner, the Torah is given to him as a gift. Once the Torah is his, it is a nachal-Keil, an inheritance from Hashem. At that point, the individual is elevated to a distinguished position, described by the word Bamos, greatness. If, however, at any time the person becomes arrogant, he is immediately lowered, which is represented by the word Hagai, a term used for a valley. Chazal describe the Torah as belonging to a person both as a gift and as an inheritance. In fact, these are two distinct levels of relationship to the Torah. The more significant level is that of an inheritance. When one assumes a piece of property that has been previously owned and passed down to him by his forebears, he views it as part of a legacy. He sees himself as carrying on a family tradition. Hence, he acts in a manner which he perceives will expedite his families best interests.

Horav Mordechai Rogov, zl, explains that this concept motivated Bnos Tzlafchad to express their concern regarding inheriting their father's portion in Eretz Yisrael. They claimed "Lamah yigra shem Avinu?" "Why should the name of our father be lost from the family because he had no sons? Let us have an inheritance among the land of our father's brothers." They were not merely asking for rights to a piece of property. They sought their heritage. They fought to assure their father's spiritual destiny. The ownership of a parcel of land in Eretz Yisrael guaranteed the survival of the heritage transmitted by their ancestors.

Moshe Rabbeinu responded to their request. He understood the sincerity with which they spoke. Thus, the Torah writes, "Moshe advanced Mishpatam, their just claim, before Hashem." Their argument was legitimate and sincere, its goals lofty and noble.

Rav Rogov posits that this should be our attitude concerning the study of Torah. It should be a matter of heritage to us. It should elicit a sense of belonging, a feeling of pride in being connected with the Torah. Studying a Mishnah should not be an abstract experience. One should picture the Revelation: Hashem giving the Torah to Moshe, who in turn transmits it to Yehoshua and the Zekeinim, Elders - all the way down to him! He should feel a sense pride at his association with scores of generations of men and women who dedicated themselves to living the Torah way of life. It will also cause him to measure his words and avoid repeating any interpretations of Torah or halachah which might not be authentic or might lack spiritual integrity. We might add that those who have denied the Divine source of Torah also sever their relationship with their heritage. Our People is a nation only by its connection to Torah. In other words, they have torn asunder their bond with the Jewish People, because the "twine" that holds us together is our nachalah, heritage of Torah.

When one studies Torah with a sense of heritage, he transports himself to Har Sinai and becomes a part of that awesome experience. For one who studies Torah in this manner, every moment is precious, every word is invaluable. Striving to understand the Mesorah, tradition, of Torah - as it was transmitted to us at Har Sinai to Moshe and from Moshe to Yehoshua - elevates one's study to a spiritual plateau unattainable in any other way.

Questions & Answers

1) Which Kohen was in charge of the Parah Adumah service in the Midbar?

2) When did Miriam die? B. What occurred after she died?

3) When did Aharon die? B. How old was he?

4) Why did Hashem use the nechash ha'nechoshes, copper serpent, as a means for healing the Jews?

5) Why did Klal Yisrael sing a song of praise about the well and not about the manna?


1) The S'gan, deputy Kohen Gadol. There is a dispute among Chazal whether the service of the future red cows was performed by the Kohen Gadol or his s'gan.

2) A. The tenth of Nissan. B. The water from the well which was in her merit stopped.

3) A. Rosh Chodesh Av. B. One hundred twenty-three.

4) Hashem wanted them to be aware that they were cured miraculously (Bchor Shor).

5) The well and its water are allegorical references to the Torah, which is compared to water (Ohr HaChaim).

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Peninim on the Torah is in its 11th year of publication. The first seven years have been published in book form.

The Seventh volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.

He can be contacted at 216-321-5838 ext. 165 or by fax at 216-321-0588

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