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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


Take a census of the Bnei Gershon, as well. (4:22)

The word naso, which is usually defined as "raise up" or "elevate" is translated here at "count." Why is naso used when pakod or sefor, both words meaning to count, could have been used? Horav Baruch M. Ezrachi, Shlita, asserts that, indeed, here the word naso has a dual connotation. They were counted, but they were also elevated. He first draws a distinction between one who elevates himself to serve Hashem, as we find regarding Yehoshafat HaMelech, "His heart was elevated in the ways of Hashem" (Divrei Hayamim 2, 17:6) and one who is just plain arrogant. Quite possibly, the one who is smitten with arrogance may even be involved in a lofty spiritual endeavor, but it is more about him than about the endeavor. The endeavor is something external to him. He is the important factor, and the endeavor itself is secondary. Thus, one can toil in the field of spirituality and yet remain nothing more than a haughty person. He does not connect with what he is doing. Vayigba libo, "His heart was elevated," however, means that his very essence, his heart, his total being, grew together with his endeavor in "the ways of Hashem."

We have established that true distinction is accorded to one whose actions represent his essence, and an endeavor which carries out the will of Hashem is a true elevation of one's spirit. Now, let us attempt to give meaning to the words gam heim (Bnei Gershon were counted) "as well." The words "as well" imply that this is a novel idea, almost as if we might have assumed that Bnei Gershon had not been counted. Why? Rav Ezrachi explains that Bnei Kehas, who carried the Aron Hakodesh, were counted first. Their function demanded that they be given precedence. Thus, although Gershon was the Levi's firstborn, the sons of Kehas were counted first. They carried the Aron. The question that glares at us is: Why were Bnei Gershon not selected to carry the Aron? After all, the firstborn does have some intrinsic rights.

The Kli Yakar explains that had Bnei Gershon been selected to carry the Aron, it would have detracted from the distinction of this endeavor. People would assume that the reason Bnei Gershon were counted first was that Gershon was the b'chor - not because he carried the Aron. Therefore, the role of carrying the Aron was assigned to Bnei Kehas. Because they carried the Aron, they were counted first. In this manner, the eminence of the "carriers of the Aron" was duly noted.

We wonder if this is the proper way. Is it appropriate to arrogate the function of carrying the Aron from the ones who, by virtue of their sequence in birth, should have been accorded this privilege, just to prove a point - that carrying the Aron was a holy and privileged endeavor, worthy of distinction? Rav Ezrachi derives from here a powerful lesson. For Bnei Gershon to be counted second, so that Bnei Kehas who carried the Aron could precede them, is in itself a kavod, honor, for Bnei Gershon. They were being distinguished by being counted second, since being second means that they were giving honor to the Aron. In other words, Bnei Gershon did not lose distinction by being counted second. In fact, they benefited from this position. Their status was raised as a result of what they had relinquished! This act of abdication elevated them and made them a nesui rosh.

This is the meaning of naso, elevate/count, Bnei Gershon. This elevation came as a result of their being counted second, thereby demonstrating that they were giving honor to the Aron Hakodesh. Ironically, being the background was what brought them to the foreground.

A man or woman who shall disassociate himself by taking a Nazirite vow of abstinence for the sake of Hashem. (6:2)

Ibn Ezra offers an alternative interpretation for the word yafli: "who shall do something astounding." One who takes a vow to abstain from physical pleasure that society finds desirable is doing something that is unique. His actions evoke amazement. This endeavor is worthy of pel'e, wonderment. The Rambam writes that one who makes a Nazirite vow for the sole purpose of sanctifying himself for the sake of Hashem, so that he can serve Him better, is truly deserving of the accolade, "the crown of G-d is upon his head" (Ibid 6:6).

The Baal HaTurin asserts that the Nazir is prohibited from coming in contact with a corpse because people should not think that one upon whose head the Shechinah rests is a doreish el ha'meisim, one who seeks out the dead. Horav Yosef S. Elyashiv, Shlita, explains this in the following manner. A Navi, prophet, or any spiritual leader is permitted to come in contact with a corpse despite his lofty spiritual plane. Everybody is acutely aware of the Navi's spiritual preeminence, his lofty mission, his pure intentions and his Divinely inspired endeavors. No one would think for a moment that he is an individual who is a chameleon, who seeks out the dead and the powers of ritual contamination. Therefore, he may come in contact with a corpse. People will think nothing of it.

The Nazir, however, is an average person who has decided to create a change in his life. He seeks to ascend the ladder of spirituality, to abstain from the physical pleasures which enslave the average person. He seeks to purify himself from the filth that prevails in this world. In other words, he wants to be different. This is cause for amazement. It is a pel'e, wonderment, for someone to seek to rise above his peers to choose a life of total commitment. People begin to talk. No one is prepared to accept the truth: that he is making a change for the better. They will say that he must be surely seeking out the dead, acting in a "strange" manner because he is divining. Therefore, to circumvent any unnecessary foolish envy, the Torah prohibits him from coming in contact with a corpse. This way, people will have to face the truth: this Nazir is for real. He has broken out of the mold of complacency. He seeks spiritual growth. This awareness might even spur others to follow suit.

May Hashem bless you and safeguard you… and establish peace for you. (6:24,26)

The Midrash Tanchuma interprets yevarechecha, "May (Hashem) bless you," to mean, "may Hashem grant you wealth." V'yishmeracha, "and (Hashem) should safeguard you," is interpreted as, you should perform mitzvos. Last, we entreat Hashem to establish peace among us. This is a reference to peace with our enemies as well as peace within our own camp. We wonder why the Torah chose a sequence in which a physical blessing for wealth and prosperity precedes a spiritual blessing for being safeguarded through mitzvah performance. One would think that the spiritual blessing is of primary significance and should, therefore, precede the physical blessing of material wealth.

Horav Simchah Hakohen Shepps, zl, explains that we must first understand the underlying foundation of the blessing of material wealth. Simply, it means more and more of everything. Veritably, this is not the meaning of true wealth, for if one is not satisfied with what he has, then winning the mega millions lottery will not fulfill his needs. Furthermore, even if someone has an enormous amount of wealth, he will not be happy unless he has more than everybody else. Therefore, we must say that the blessing of wealth is a reference to the solitude and satisfaction, the sense of fulfillment and contentment, that one sustains when he realizes that he has no financial worries.

Chazal teach us in Pirkei Avos 4:1, "Who is a rich man? He who is happy with his portion." Only one who is happy and satisfied with what he has can be considered a wealthy man. Otherwise, whatever he has is not enough. One who does not have enough is not wealthy. Indeed, as Rav Shepps adds, the yesod ha'chaim, principle of life, is that one should feel that he never has enough yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, but that he has more than enough material wealth. Regrettably, many of us settle for the opposite.

We now understand the sequence of the blessings. First, one should be blessed with enough wealth. He should feel that Hashem has blessed him with sufficient wealth. He is satisfied and content. His mind is at rest. Then, he can maintain a positive attitude towards mitzvah performance. One whose mind is at ease can absorb himself in mitzvos. Only then can he be at peace, for, if he does not merit the blessing of contentment with regard to his monetary needs, then his mitzvah performance will be lacking. His attitude will be deficient, and his mitzvah observance will suffer. One whose gashmius, physical/material needs seems lacking - and, consequently his ruchniyos, spirituality, is also substandard - cannot truly be at peace. Thus, the sequence that the Torah has selected is not only practical, but it is critical.

On the second day, Nesanel ben Tzuar offered, the leader of Yissachar. (7:18)

The Torah clearly does not try to save words in detailing the korbanos offered by each of the Nesiim. After recording the individual offering, the Torah gives a sum of all twelve offerings. Why does the Torah, which is usually brief and concise, make a point of prolongating its account of the korbanos haNesim? The Alter, zl, m'Kelm, explains that the Torah's intention is to teach us how to relate to the individual when he is incorporated into the general public. For instance, when the community at large contributes towards a specific charity or organizational endeavor, one would suggest that the entire community is viewed as a single unit. In such a situation, the individual is integrated into the whole and is not accorded singular recognition. The parshas haNesiim teaches us otherwise. We derive herein that in Heaven Above the attitude towards a group is that each individual member plays a leading role, while maintaining his own individuality to the point that Hashem reacts to each individual as if he were the only one involved. Hashem's love for the individual Jew is not diminished as a result of his involvement in a group in which others are also performing the same mitzvah as he is.

Therefore, in the same measure that Hashem was happy with the korban of Nachshon ben Aminadav, He was happy with the korban of Nesanel ben Tzuar and all of the other Nesiim. This is why the Torah repeats the korban of each Nasi in detail.

Horav Yaakov Neiman, zl, explains that Hashem's love for us is different than human love. A human being who has many children is compelled to divide his love among all of his children. Certainly, each individual child does not receive the same singular attention as an only child would receive. Hashem's love is without limitation. Thus, there is no variance if one acts alone or as part of a large group. He always receives individual attention.

On the second day, Nesanel ben Tzuar offered, the leader of Yissachar. He brought his offering. (7:18,19)

The pasuk seems redundant. It mentions Nesanel's "offering" twice. Why? It does not do this concerning any of the other Nesiim. The Kesav Sofer explains that it was Nesanel who advised the other Nesiim to offer korbanos in honor of the dedication of the Mizbayach. Chazal teach us that one who brings merit for the masses by motivating others to perform mitzvos has the z'chus, merit, of their mitzvos counted for him. Thus, he has a portion in each and every mitzvah that they perform as a result of his impetus. Nesanel ben Tzuar had a chelek, share, in every korban offered by the Nesiim, since he was the one who inspired their actions. Therefore, his "offering" is mentioned twice, referring both to his personal offering and to the interest he had in all the other korbanos.

The Chovas HaLevavos writes that even if one were to achieve the zenith of perfection in correcting his neshamah, soul, even if he is on the spiritual plane of a Navi, prophet - regardless of his spiritual accomplishments - his merits do not compare to those of someone who is mezakeh es harabim, reaches out to the masses and inspires them to return to serve Hashem. For the latter's z'chusim, merits, multiply each day through the mitzvos that his students' perform. He cites a simple analogy. Two businessmen came to the market to sell their wares. One businessman had a single item for sale, which was worth ten gold coins. The other businessman had a large amount of merchandise, valued at five thousand gold coins. Both men sold their merchandise. The one who had not much to sell did very well, earning ten times the value of his original merchandise. The second merchant did not fare as well, earning only the usual markup, but he sold everything. When the totals were added up, the first businessman earned a total of one hundred gold coins, while the second businessman, whose markup was not as great, walked away with only seventy five hundred coins. This indicates that the greater one's principle, the more his profit will extend. He does not need the same markup or profit margin as the individual whose principle is more limited.

Likewise, in the spiritual dimension, the one who focuses only on himself will invariably reap impressive benefits for himself, but they will pale by comparison to the benefits that one who has shared himself with others will accrue. The Zohar Hakadosh in Parashas Terumah extols the merit of those who make it their business to persuade and encourage assimilated Jews to return to the beliefs of their ancestors. He writes that one who does this will merit to see his son's sons studying Torah. In closing, he writes that if people could only fathom the incredible reward in store for one who brings back another Jew, they would not stop pursuing their alienated brethren to help them return to a life of observance.

The Chafetz Chaim, zl, wrote a public declaration to all rabbanim to establish yeshivos in their communities, regardless of size, so that Torah would be available to everyone. In the event a suitable rebbe is not to be found, then it becomes the rav's responsibility to teach and nurture these students. He cited the Tanna D'vei Eliyahu who placed the onus of guilt for the 70,000 deaths that occurred in Givaas Binyam during the pilegesh b'Givaah incident on the Sanhedrin of that day. Had they taken a more aggressive stand with regard to teaching Torah to the masses, this tragedy would not have occurred. Had these people studied Torah and ethics, the tragedy that engulfed them would never have taken place.

Horav Yehudah Tzedakah, zl, cites Chazal in the Talmud Bava Metzia 85, who state that one who teaches Torah to his friend's son will merit a seat in the Heavenly Academy. Is this the only mitzvah one may perform that grants him access to Olam Habah, the World to Come? Rav Tzedakah explains that one who is himself studying Torah and is able to achieve lofty heights, might think that by taking time off to study with others, with students who are weaker than he is, he loses out. Chazal assure him that whatever he loses in This World, will be reimbursed to him in Olam Habah.

Furthermore, he explains Chazal's comparison of matzdikei harabim, those who reach out and teach the masses, to the stars of the sky. People think that melamdei tinokos, teachers of young children, are inconsequential. Their vocation is an insignificant one; their status in the community is regrettably commensurate with the small-mindedness of its members. Hashem does not view them in the same perspective. Indeed, He values and appreciates their work, holding it very dear to Him. They are, thus, compared to the stars of the sky, who - due to their great distance - seem small and insignificant. This is hardly true, since every star is a world of its own - amazing in size and power.

A young man who taught a daily shiur in Ramat Gan to a group of lay people once approached the Chazon Ish on a day that the weather was very inclement. It was dreary. cold and pouring torrential rain. Did he have to go teach the class, or would the extenuating circumstances permit him otherwise? The Chazon Ish asked, "How many men attend the shiur?" "Usually ten men attend," replied the young man. "How many do you think will appear today?" The Chazon Ish asked. "One man will certainly come, since he lives next to the shul where I teach," the young man said. "Then you must go," declared the Chazon Ish. Limud ha'Torah is like no other mitzvah. You cannot compare a person who learned Torah one day to a person who did not learn that day. They are two different people. Therefore, you must go and teach your shiur, even for one person!"

The roshei yeshivah of Yeshivas Novordhok would send students around to the small villages seeking young potential students for their yeshivah. This was their recruitment program. One of the bachurim, yeshivah students, returned one day with a young orphan named Yaakov Yisrael, whom he picked up in a small town. He began to teach him Torah, and, after a while, this young boy began to demonstrate his uncanny brilliance. This happenstance, coupled with an unparalleled diligence borne of a thirst and love for Torah, produced Horav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zl, the Steipler Rav. All of this occurred because a yeshivah bachur went out of his way to reach out and share Torah with a young orphan.

Last, I present an addendum to a story which found its way into these pages a short while ago about Horav Shlomo Kluger, zl, who became the illustrious Torah giant that he was as a result of the efforts of the Maggid, zl, m'Dubno. It is related that when the Maggid left this world and ascended to his rightful place in the World of Truth, he was shown the fifty Seforim, volumes of Torah exegesis, that "he" had authored. "But, I never wrote these seforim. They are not mine," he protested.

The Heavenly response was, "Veritably, these seforim were authored by Horav Shlomo Kluger, but since you raised him and gave him the opportunity to study Torah, you were the one that catalyzed his spiritual success. Therefore, it is all considered as if you have written them."

Va'ani Tefillah

Baruch She'amar v'hayah ha'Olam - Blessed He Who spoke and the world came into existence.

The term Pesukei d'Zimrah, verses of song, is alluded to in the Talmud Shabbos 118b as referring to the tefillos commencing with Baruch She'Amar and concluding with Yishtabach. Tefillas Baruch She'Amar is comprised of two parts. The first part consists of ten different aspects of the definition of the Shem HaMeforash, Ineffable Name, of Hashem: Yud - Kay - Vav - Kay. Each one of these definitions is preceded with the word Baruch. The second part of this Tefillah consists of the brachah itself which praises the Almighty. Horav Shimon Schwab, zl, observes that, although as humans we have no conception of Hashem Yisborach's essence, the Torah has given us ten definitions of the meaning of the Shem HaMeforash, which are recited in the first part of this Tefillah.

The custom is to grasp the two front Tzitzis and gaze upon them, at least during the recitation of this part of the Baruch She'Amar. The two Tzitzis are composed of eight threads and five double knots each. Together, these sixteen threads and ten double knots total twenty-six, which is the gematria, numerical equivalent, of Hashem's Name: Yud - 10, Kay - 5, Vav - 6, Kay - 5. By looking at the Tzitzis, we are reminded to concentrate on Hashem's Name.

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