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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Nasso

And they shall confess their sins which they perpetrated, and he shall make restitution for his sin. (5:7)

The Torah does not frequently mention Vidui, confession. Indeed, this is one of the few places in which the Torah expresses the obligation to confess. Interestingly, the Torah mentions confession here specifically in reference to theft. Why? The Chidushei Ha'Rim responds that theft is the "avi avos," primary category, of sin. Hashem has given us every organ and limb of our body for a particular purpose-to serve Him. When we veer from that goal we are guilty of theft - not simply petty theft, but stealing from Hashem. When we violate the "terms" of our "loan" from Hashem, we are acting as thieves. In other words, every sin, regardless whether it is manifest against man or Hashem, is by its very nature an act of theft.

Many people consider themselves to be virtuous and ethical. They would never take anything that did not belong to them. Yet, they fail to realize that unauthorized use of their G-d-given faculties is tantamount to stealing. We must remember that "we" do not have ultimate possession of "ourselves". Our entire being is on loan for the express purpose of serving Hashem. Some individuals either forget this fact or are unable to focus upon achieving this goal.

For it is a meal-offering of resentments, a meal-offering of remembrance, a reminder of iniquity. (5:15)

The Midrash notes that while the word, "zikaron", remembrance, usually indicates a memorial for good, in this pasuk it serves as a reminder of evil. This reflects Rabbi Tarfon's view. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, disagrees, contending that this meal-offering can also be considered a remembrance of something good, invoking the memory of the woman's good deeds. Rabbi Yishmael gives an example of the category of good deeds that could possibly delay the woman's punishment for up to a period of twelve months. Indeed, she may drink bitter waters and appear to be innocent, when actually she is not. What unique merit can delay her punishment? We are taught that a woman may accumulate merit because she is accustomed to accompanying her children to their Torah studies -- or awaits her husband until he returns from learning Torah. This seems absolutely incredible! A woman enables her husband to study Torah and her children to go to yeshivah, yet she has no qualms about committing adultery! Is there a greater double-standard than this? Obviously, her attitude towards Torah study had been sincere, because it is applied as a merit in her behalf. How are we to rationalize her hypocritical behavior?

We suggest that, regrettably, the prevalent attitude towards infidelity was not as negative as it should have been. When society denigrates, the first institutions the people debase are those that address morality. We have only to look around in contemporary society to see how promiscuity, adultery and licentiousness have become a way of life from the common citizen all the way up to those officials who sit in the citadels of power. Does anyone believe that it will not be transmitted to us? Reading and hearing about the immoral escapades of those who live a secular lifestyle will have its effect in due time. This woman probably felt justified in her extra-marital attraction. She accepted the usual excuses expounded by those who maintain a hedonistic existence. Yet, it did not influence her established spiritual values. By all means, her husband should study Torah; she even encourages him by waiting for him to come home. Her children should study in yeshivah and become talmidei chachamim. She, however, deserves a life of her own!

This inane sense of ethics, this erosion of values, is the result of over-exposure to secularism and an insincere attitude to Torah. Perhaps this is why the punishment for the sotah, wayward wife, is so terrifying and demeaning. By reflecting upon the punishment incurred by the sotah, one can realize the ultimate evil of adultery.

He shall bring his offering to Hashem one unblemished sheep in its first year as an elevation offering, one unblemished ewe........for a sin offering (6:14)

The Ramban explains why a nazir, who has taken it upon himself to live a limited period of time in sanctity and devotion, brings a sin-offering. One who has the ability to live appropriately should continue his abstinence from worldly pursuits and pleasure by lengthening his vow of nezirus. His decision to return to the world of the mundane, to physical pleasures and transitory aspirations, earns him the epithet of sinner. Horav Yechezkel Abramsky, zl, questions Ramban's statement. If one is considered a sinner for not extending his vow of nezirus, how much more so should one - who had never even risen to accept the challenge of nezirus- be mandated to bring a sin-offering?

Horav Shmuel Truvitz, Shlita, gives a practical response to this question. Achieving the spiritual plateau of nezirus is not a simple feat. It requires a special person with a tenacious spirit and a unique attitude toward Judaism. Not everyone has the capacity for such an accomplishment. Therefore, we should not blame those who do not rise to the occasion, who lack the fortitude to accept the challenge. On the other hand, he who has demonstrated the ecessary forbearance and self-control to become a nazir, demonstrates his individuality by the very nature of his achievement. He has worn the tiara of nezirus. One who has worn the crown, who has been clothed in the raiment of monarchy, sins when he removes the kesser malchus, crown of kingship. To achieve spiritual distinction, and than to reject it, denigrates the entire process and demeans the concept of nezirus.

May Hashem bless you and keep watch over you. (6:24)

The various commentators render their interpretations of the Birkas Kohanim, priestly blessing. Rashi cites the Sifri that views the blessing as a reference to material bounty. "May Hashem grant that you be triumphant over your enemies and that your crops and business ventures succeed. May your possessions increase, and may Hashem guard these possessions from thieves."

In short, the blessing of "Yevarechecha," May (Hashem) bless you, refers to receiving abundance, while the blessing of "Veyishmerecha" is a prayer that we be able to retain our blessing. The Midrash Tanchuma supplements the blessing with an invocation that our increase in material wealth be used properly and that it not be the cause of our own self-destruction. "May He protect you from temptation, lest the material aspects of the blessing lead you into sin".

The greatest blessing, when in the hands of a simple or weak person, can easily turn into a curse. One can lose -- or even worse -- if he uses his blessing improperly. Money can be the primary motivating factor catalyzing an individual to sin. There is a reason for material abundance. It certainly is not sent to us for self-indulgence and self- gratification.

The Midrash offers a second interpretation that contends that the blessing of "increase" refers to progeny. Hashem will bless us with children who will devote themselves to the Torah. Horav Boruch Sorotzkin, zl, suggests that the Midrash Tanchuma's interpretation of "Veyishmerecha," that we should make use of our "increase" for the correct and proper purpose, applies similarly to the blessing of offspring. Indeed, the blessing of children is a very special one, but it is also a challenge. It demands that one accept the enormous responsibility of raising a child according to Torah dictate. How often do parents impose their own shortcomings on their children? The father who unfortunately feels he has not succeeded in life, may try to relive his life through his son, at times inflicting his own idiosyncrasies upon his child. An alternative approach is demonstrated by the parent who wants to see his child "get ahead in the world", devoting the majority of his educational endeavor to secular pursuits, relegating Torah study to a distant second place. Finally, there is the parent who is simply incompetent as a parent and probably not much better as a human being. He reneges his responsibility as he lives a lifestyle that reeks of double-standard. Then he "wonders" why his child "goes off the derech," becomes alienated from Torah Judaism. This dual blessing has so much meaning. If we are blessed with children, we must rise to the challenge, accepting the responsibility that accompanies the territory called Jewish parenting.

One, nasi, prince, each day shall they bring their offering... The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehudah. (7:11,12) The words "es korbano" are not found regarding the korbanos of any of the other nesiim. Nachshon was unique among the nesiim. Along with his korban, he brought himself, his devotion, his spirit of sanctity, his mitzvos and maasim tovim, good deeds. The Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh says that while all the nesiim brought "themselves" along with their korbanos, Nachshon was the most outstanding. Consequently, the Torah emphasizes "es korbano, his korban, himself. The Torah does not refer to Nachshon as a nasi. Why? Ohr Hachayim explains that he viewed himself as just another Jew, not as the greatest of the nesiim. His unique nature earned him the distinction of being the first nasi to offer a korban for the Chanukas HaMizbayach, dedication of the Altar.

Nachshon had two seemingly disparate qualities. On the one hand, he was the one that jumped first into the Yam Suf. His action encouraged the rest of Klal Yisrael to follow. He took the initiative. He made the first step. This act makes him appear to be a "take charge" personality, someone who believes in himself, rather than one who considers himself to be just another Jew.

Horav Zaidel Epstein, Shlita, contends that actually these qualities complement one another. The true leader is one who does not seek the leadership role, who views himself as a common citizen, but takes the proper action when necessary. A leader is available when the community needs his leadership ability. Otherwise, he remains in the background as a collective member of the community. This describes Nachshon. When Klal Yisrael stood at the banks of the Red Sea, when fear and anxiety overwhelmed the nation, he was the one who made the necessary move: he jumped in. When they were about to offer sacrifices for the dedication of the Mizbayach, he faded into the "scenery". Moshe Rabbeinu called him forward to lead the nesiim in dedicating the Altar. Even though he was the first to offer a korban, he viewed himself as just another nasi who was offering his korban. This may be inferred from the prefix, "vov", "and", of "v'korbano". He viewed his korban as a part of the collective offering - "and his korban" - not - "his korban". He did not distinguish himself. He was first, but in his eyes he just followed along with the others. He was the kind of person who was always at the head of the line.

Nesanel ben Tzuar, the nasi of shevet Yissachar, followed right behind Nachshon. The Midrash relates that the tribe of Reuven, the first-born of the tribes, came forward and said: "The tribe of Yehudah has precedence over us. Yehudah is the king of the tribes; he should, therefore, be first to dedicate the Altar. We would like to follow him." Moshe told them, "Hashem has determined the order of succession according to the encampments and their banners.

The tribe of Yissacher will offer next, followed by the tribe of Zevulun". The Ohr Ha'Chaim adds that Yissacher followed Yehudah because of his distinction in Torah study. They represented the paradigm of the ben Torah, the one who devotes himself to constant Torah study. Zevulun, the supporter of Torah, the one who made sure that Yissacher had no material concerns to distract him from his studies, followed closely behind.

What is the significance of this tripartite group who led the sacrifices? Horav Eliyahu Schlesinger, Shlita, explains that Yehudah was foremost because of his position as monarch. Malchus takes precedence. What value does monarchy hold if it is short-lived, if there is no future to his reign, if there will not be anyone over whom to rule? Who can guarantee the future of Klal Yisrael? Who can ensure that the people over whom Yehudah is to rule will adhere to his monarchy, that they will subordinate themselves to the dictates of the heritage he represents? It is the power of Torah.

Its truth and Divine origin will sustain the malchus of shevet Yehudah. Shevet Yissacher and his partner/supporter, shevet Zevulun, will educate Klal Yisrael. They will assure the development of mosdos ha'chinuch, Torah institutions, for educating ensuing generations. Thus, they will secure Klal Yisrael's future. Only a malchus, monarchy, that is committed to the total education of its young, has a right to rule and to endure.


1) What is the meaning of avodas avodah?
2) Who received Bikkurim?
3) The sotah deviated from the behavior exemplified by the Matriarchs. How is this inferred from the ingredients of the korban which the sotah brought?
4) When does a sotah not drink ?
5) May a nazir become tamei to his father or mother?
6) What position did the nesiim hold in Egypt?
7) Which animal -- brought by the nesiim -- was to serve as penance for the sale of Yosef?


1) Any avodah, service, that either accompanied or assisted another avodah, such as playing a musical instrument when offering korbanos.
2) The Kohen
3) The Matriarchs are compared to levonah, frankincense. It is, therefore, missing from her korban.
4) If she confesses to her guilt.
5) No.
6) They were shotrim, foremen.
7) "Seir eezim echad l'chatas." One he-goat for a sin offering. This sin refers to mechiras Yosef.

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