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Parshas Bamidbar

What Counts
Rabbi Yosef Levinson

"V'eileh toldos Aharon u'Moshe b'yom diber Hashem es Moshe Behar Sinai"
"These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe on the day Hashem spoke with Moshe at Har Sinai(Bamidbar 3:1)."

The Torah continues with a listing of Aharon's children, but there is no mention of Moshe's offspring. Rashi's deduces from this that one who teaches his friend's son Torah is considered to have given "birth" to him. This is truly an insightful lesson. However, this parsha seems an unusual place to teach it. Parshas Bamidbar only discusses the counting of the Bnei Yisrael. Wouldn't it be more fitting to mention this lesson which pertains to the significance of Talmud Torah in a parsha which discusses many Torah laws? (e.g., Parshas Mishpatim contains all the dinim (civil laws) along with mishpatim and many more mitzvos, Parshas Tazria-Mitzora deals with the difficult area of tuma and tahara, spiritual purity and impurity). What is conveyed by teaching this lesson here in Bamidbar? The answer is that Torah infuses every aspect of life. Even a census has to be conducted in the proper manner, and for the proper reasons. Moshe gave over the entire Torah to Aharon's children, yet he would be considered as a father to them for having imparted this lesson alone!

We can also see this point by observing an interesting phenomenon. Most Yeshivos and mosdos HaTorah (Torah institutions) lack funds. Accordingly, the Roshei Yeshivos are forced to close their Gemaros and go out to raise the necessary funds to keep their institutions afloat. Since Hashem can definitely provide for the Yeshivos through other means, why does the Ribbono Shel Olam want the Gedolim to go fundraising? Wouldn't their talmidim gain more from their presence in the Beis Medrash?

The following episode involving HaRav Shneur Kotler zt'l illustrates that Hashem is not merely satisfied with the talmidim one has established in the Beis Medrash. He also wants the Gedolim to go and influence new talmidim.

Once on a fundraising trip to Memphis, Tennessee, R' Shneur was advised not to bother soliciting from a certain individual who was known not to believe in tzedaka. The Rosh Yeshiva felt that in such a case he definitely wanted to meet with the person. An appointment was arranged and R' Shneur ultimately spent close to two hours with the gentleman. During that time the man revealed that he was a Holocaust survivor. He explained that living through that terrible experience had caused him to lose his faith in G-d and mitzvos. The Rosh Yeshiva patiently explained to him that although the Holocaust was a horrific experience, it does not give us the right to question Hashem's ways. The very fact that he managed to survive where so many had perished was certainly grounds for expressing gratitude to the Creator. When the Rosh Yeshiva got up to leave, he said that in two hours he had spent talking with this man, he could have seen several people who would have probably made very generous contributions. Instead he decided to spend this time with him in order that he should have the opportunity to acquire a portion in the world to come through the mitzva of tzedaka. The gentleman was very touched and wrote out a cheque for fifty dollars and thanked the Rosh Yeshiva for coming (Visions of Greatness vol. 1.).

R' Shneur understood that if Hashem sent him to Memphis, he had a mission to fulfil. Whether it was offering chizuk, giving shiurim or inspiring individuals who would not otherwise have an opportunity to see Gedolei Yisroel, there was a reason for his many travels. And who better to influence than someone who did not believe in giving tzedaka. Surely Hashem would insure that the Yeshiva's budget would be met.

We may not all be great Roshei Yeshiva, but we still have the ability to influence others for the good. There are many people who believe that whatever Bnei Torah and Shomrei Torah and mitzvos do, must be what the Torah prescribes. We need to conduct ourselves with this in mind and be sure that the lessons we convey, even unintentionally, are Torah-true. Let us also see a chance encounter with someone as an opportunity to make an impact on their life.

We must also realise that every encounter with an individual is a potential learning experience for ourselves. Even a person of limited learning may have sterling character traits to learn from. One person might be scrupulously honest in his business dealings - are we willing to apply his level of honesty in our lives? Another, despite personal hardships manages to greet everyone with a smile - be inspired! Someone else is careful to say brachos with kavana or cautiously guard his speech. These are all opportunities for growth.

To comment on this article e-mail the author at Daf Hashavua Kollel Beth HaTalmud Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

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