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We Shall Camp Around the Mishkan!
There is a disease with no name, may we not know such troubles. A boy from Benei Berak fell ill. A sweet child, developing beautifully, and one day, the problems began. Warning lights went off, and they ran to the doctors, they involved Rabbi Firer, and they poured thorugh all of the medical information available. There were only four other cases of this disease in the whole world. It was such a rare disease that it did not even have a name. All of the body's systems were functioning, all of the medical tests came back normal. The only problem was that something in the functioning of the brain was deficient. And again, the brain was functioning well. The tests were absolutely normal. But it did not send its instructions to the other organs, and they worked, or rather did not work, separated from it. Such a terrible disease, may we never know of it. When the redemption comes, he will be healed.
Why have we mentioned it? Because of this week's parashah. Before the holiday of Shavuot, our Rabbis instituted that we should always read parashat Bamidbar. This is a sign, that it has a message for now, that will illuminate the holiday of the giving of the Torah with the proper light.
What will we read about in parashat Bamidbar? The tribes are counted, and afterwards, the tribe of Levi. Then the Leviim are commanded to camp around the Mishkan (1: 50). Afterwards, the tribes are commanded to coalesce into four camps, "Each person by his flag, with the signs of their fathers' houses shall the Children of Israel encamp, around the tent of meeting they shall encamp" (2:20).
The Tent of Meeting, the place of the service of G-d. The place of the dwelling of the Divine Presence and the bonding with it. And in its center, the Holy of Holies, and the Ark of the Covenant, with the two tablets inside, and the sefer torah. It is known that each tribe was unique in some way. This one was like a lion and this one like a wolf. This one like a snake and this one like a deer. This one like an ox and this one like a donkey. Different strengths like the strengths and measures of a body. But they all worked together in harmony, by listening to the command center, by closeness to the center, to the Tent of Meeting and the holy Torah. So it was as long as the Children of Israel were in the desert, and when they inherited the land. The Temple was the "Tel Talpiyot" (Shir Hashirim 4:4), the mountain that all mouths pointed to (Berachot 30a). From all the corners of the world, Jews face towards the Temple in their prayers, towards the spiritual center. To act according to it and to unite by means of it.
As long as the Temple stood, it was the spiritual center. "And you shall arise and go up to the place that Hashem, your G-d, shall choose, and you shall come to the kohanim, the leviim, and to the judge who will be in those days. And you shall inquire and they shall tell you the matter of the judgement" (Devarim 17:10). That was the place where the great Sanhedrin sat. That was the command center of the nation. The brain and the heart.
At the time of the destruction, when there was no longer a Temple, the Holy One, Blessed be He, rests His Divine Presence upon the great leaders of the generation, the giants of Torah and the pillars of fear of G-d. "And even this, when they are in the lands of their enemies, I have not repulsed them," in the days of the Babylonians, when I appointed Daniel, Hananyah, Mishael and Azaryah . "And I have not been disgusted with them," in the days of the Greeks, when I appointed Shimon the ssadik, and the Hashmonai, Matityahu, and his sons. "To destroy them," in the days of Haman, when I appointed Mordechai and Ester. "To nullify My covenant with them," in every generation, when I appointed the house of Rabbi and all of the sages of every generation (Vayikra 26:44. Megilah 11a).
The great leaders of our generation are the "Tel Talpiyot" of our days. The giants of Torah and fear of G-d are the Temple of our days. "He himself is thought of as a Mishkan, as the Temple and as an altar, for the Divine Presence dwells upon him, as it dwelt upon the Temple. For the holy scholars, in their ways and in all of their actions, are truly like the Temple and the altar, for they are bonded to G-d!" (Mesilat Yesharim, chapter 26).
"Israel is compared to a bird. Just like a bird can not fly without wings, so too Israel can not do anything without their elders." And elders are those who have acquired wisdom (Vayikra Rabah 11:5), for even when the Temple stood, they would ask advice from them (Shemot Rabah 3:8).
How fortunate we are to have merited the great light, the minister of Torah and the pillar of instruction, the illuminating crystal, our teacher and our light, the Rishon Lessiyon, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadyah Yosef shelita, may his days in his kingdom be lengthened with health of body and a lofty light, to lead us on the pathways of justice for the sake of G-d's Name. By his light we shall travel and walk until the coming of Mashiah, when G-d returns the tents of Yaakov, and has mercy on his dwelling-places. The city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall remain on its place, speedily in our days, amen!
"Who will stand when he shows himself!"
"Behold it stands behind our wall," the Mashiah will come, and so soon, that it will surprise everyone. "Suddenly, he will come to his palace, the master who you are requesting, and the angel of the covenant which you desire, he is coming" (Malachi 3:1). But the continuation there is so sharp: "And who shall stand when he shows himself, for he is like a refining fire!" When we stand before a ssadik, we melt. When we stand before the greatest leader of the generation, we tremble. Who can give us enough strength to stand before the king, the Mashiah!! When he glances at us with his eyes, he will burrow into the innermost recesses of our souls. "And he shall smite the land with the staff of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips, he shall kill the wicked" (Yeshayah 11:4).
We shall only have one claim on our behalf. If we have taken part in hurrying in coming, if we have brought his revelation closer, then we are "in-laws" in that happiness. He will grace us with kindness and closeness. And how shall we do this? The holy Or Hahayim (Shemot 27:20) revealed the secret to us. The redemption shall come in the merit of Mosheh Rabbeinu. "And Mosheh does not want a nation that is lazy in Torah to be redeemed." Simple and clear. And from the negative, we can learn the positive: Anyone who participates in a Torah shiur, any woman who sends her husband to a Torah shiur, parents who sign their children up for a Torah school bring the redemption closer! And when it comes, speedily, they will be "in-laws" in the happiness!
The Gaon Rabbi Salman Musspi zs"l
The fire of Torah burned in the Hacham Salman Musspi zs"l. Rabbi Yehezkel Duri: I was the supervisor in the yeshivah, and every night, at midnight, I would take a walk through the hallways of "Midrash Bet Zilchah" in Baghdad. The scholars were sleeping, resting from the labor of their learning. Only Rabbi Salman sat and learned diligently. Sometimes, he would lean his head onto the table, doze a little and then return to his learning. I never saw him lying down on a bench. Thus sleep was pushed from his eyes, like a person who has found a diamond mine, who will not allow himself even a slight rest. He mines the treasure with anxiousness and enjoyment, and his face shines with tremendous joy!
At the end of his days, when he was beset with illnesses and all sorts of pain, which prevented him from his regular diligence, he would sigh and say: "Once I was very diligent. I only needed two hours out of the whole day to refresh my energy. My relative, Rabbi Yaakov Musspi, and I would learn for eighteen hours straight, without eating and without a break! How many times did our parents send after us to find us, so that we should eat a meal. But we hid from them and learned in a dark corner, and they did not find us!"
When they expressed surprise at this tremendous diligence, he did not understand what all of the surprise was about. He quoted the words of the midrash (Shemot Rabah 47:12) about the verse: "And he (Mosheh Rabbeinu) was there with G-d for forty days and forty nights" (Shemot 34: 28). How do we know that he did not sleep or rest? It is comparable to a king who loves the one who was in charge of his treasury. He said to him: Take anything that you want for yourself, for the next hour. In his joy, he did not want to eat or drink. Tiredness began to overcome him and he needed to sleep, but he said to himself: If I sleep, I am losing a treasure! Rabbeinu Yonah (in his commentary on Avot 2: 15) wrote: If Mosheh Rabbeinu, with his tremendous genius, was afraid that he would lose out by sleeping, then how much more so should we be afraid!…
"So shall He give rest to His beloved"
On the night of Shavuot, there is a custom to remain awake all night, to say the tikun leil shavuot and to learn Torah. For "little sleep" is one of the methods of acquiring Torah. In the holy Shelah (Sha'ar Haotiyot, 8) he brings the words of the hasid, author of the "Hovot Halevavot" (Sha'ar Avodat Haelokim, 5) that one who serves G-d "should not read anything, other than His book. He should not wear anything, other than the dress of His fear. He should not sleep, except for on the sheets of His beloved. He should not wake up, except with the sweetness of His memory." This is the explanation of the verse: "So shall He give rest to His beloved" (Tehillim 127: 2). G-d loves one who dedicates his sleep to his Creator out of great love, and one who pushes sleep from his eyes to learn the Torah and bond with Him!
The words of our sages are well-known (Bereishit Rabah 66:11), that for the whole fourteen years that Yaakov Avinu hid and learned Torah in the yeshiva of Ever, he did not lie down to sleep. He would just doze upon his book, and then return to diligently learn Torah.
Our sages said (Bamidbar Rabah 15:16, and Berachot 3b) that there was a harp hanging above Kind David's bed. When midnight came, a northern wind would blow on it and it would play on its own. Immediately, David and all of his students who were learning Torah would arise and they would push the sleep from their eyes and learn Torah until dawn, as it says: "Awaken, my glory" for the service of my Creator!
Rabbi Elazar said (Shir Hashirim Rabah 1:9) that no one every came earlier than me to the Beit Midrash, and that no one ever remained there when I left. One time I woke up and saw the garbage men and the fertilizers, already working to bring the fertilizer out to the fields. I said to myself: It is written "If you desire it like silver, and want it like treasures, then you will understand the fear of G-d" (Mishlei 2:4). And we, should we not be at least like the garbage men? From that day on, I woke up even earlier…
Rabbeinu Yisshak Aramah zs"l used a common trick to explain an important principle. They would hang a harp on the wall, place another harp opposite it, and the hanging harp would play on its own. This was a trick involving resonance, but it explains the interdependence of our observance of the commandments and of the influence provided from Heaven. The Creator made a rule, that they are dependent on each other. This is: "If you shall walk in the ways of My statutes," that you use this principle, that when "you observe My commandments and do them - and I shall give your rains in their time."
Rabbeinu Bessalel Ashkenazi zs"l, author of the Shitah Mekubesset, testified about himself (in his responsa, number 14 "How much sleep did I push from my eyes, and how many nights, learning the depth of Halacha did I not permit sleep for my eyes or slumber for my eyelids." His student, the holy Ari zs"l: "How many nights did he remain without sleep for one passage of the Zohar. Sometimes, six nights of the week he would stay alone and think about just one statement of the Zohar. Most of the time, he would not sleep at all on those nights," as his student, Rabbeinu Hayim Vital zs"l testified (Sha'ar Ruah Hakodesh).
However, one should certainly take care of one's health. Our master, the Hazon Ish zs"l said: The Vilna Gaon zs"l would sleep two hours a day. How much, then, did Ravina and Rav Ashi sleep? He answered: It must be that they slept eight hours to take care of their health, which is a commandment like any other commandment in the Torah. But more than that amount, "Sleep for the wicked is enjoyment for them and enjoyment for the world, but for the righteous it is evil for them and evil for the world" (Sanhedrin 71b). One who wastes his time is like one who is sleeping (Mishnah Berurah 583:9), even on the night of Shavuot…
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Text of the Blessing of "Avot"
• In the blessing of "Avot," the Men of the Great Asembly instituted that one should say: "Hakel hagadol hagibor vehanora." Our sages said (Berachot 33b) that if Mosheh Rabbeinu had not said that in the Torah (Devarim 10:17), and if the Men of the Great Assembly had not instituted to say that in the prayer, then we would not have had the permission to say it in our prayer. This is because all of the descriptions with which one describes G-d are like nothing and zero compared to His greatness. They said in the gemara, that this is compared to a human king who had thousands upon thousands of gold coins. If they praise him for his silver, then it is insulting to him. Our sages also said (Megilah 18a) about the verse (Tehillim 106:2) "Who can speak the of the strengths of G-d, can speak all of his praise." For whom is it proper to speak of the strengths of G-d? For one who is able of stating all of his praise. They also said there, that one who praises G-d too much shall be uprooted from the world, as it says (Iyov 37:20) "Can you speak of Him, that I should speak, if a person says, he shall be swallowed." Because of this it is forbidden to add on to the descriptions of the glory of G-d in the blessing of "Avot," saying more than "Hakel hagadol hagibor vehanora." Specifically in the prayer it is forbidden to do so. But if he wishes to pray and make a request for himself, and within this he wishes to praise G-d with descriptions and praise, he is permitted. Still, it is better to say verses in which there is praise and adulation of G-d, such as the verses of Tehillim. • A righteous convert who prays the shemoneh esrei may say "our G-d, the G-d of our forefathers, the G-d of Avraham…" He is also permitted to stand before the ark and be the hazan.
The Laws of Mentioning Dew and Rain
Times for saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" • In the blessing of "atah gibor," we mention G-d's strength regarding in rain, saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem." We say this from the musaf prayer on the holiday of Shemini Asseret until the musaf prayer on the first say of Pesach. This mention is not a request from G-d for rain, but rather a praise of G-d. Therefore, it was instituted in the first group of blessings of the prayer, which are all praise and adulation of G-d. The request for dew and rain is only in the blessing of "Shanim." There are several Halachic differences between the mention of dew and rain and the request for dew and rain, in terms of the times in which each are said and in terms of one who forgot to say each. We do not begin to mention "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" on the holiday of Sukkot, even though the time for rain has already arrived, and our sages said that only the holiday of Sukkot, we are judged about matters of water (Rosh Hashanah 16a). This is because rain on the holiday of Sukkot is a curse, for when the rain comes down, it is impossible to sit in the Sukkah. Our sages said (Sukkah 28b): To what is this comparable? To a servant who came to pour a cup for his master and he threw the cup in his face. (This is to say that the Holy One, Blessed be He shows us, through making rain on the holiday of Sukkot that it is as if He does not want us to fulfill the commandment of the Sukkah, has veshalom.) They instituted the mentioning of rain in the blessing of "atah gibor" because it is the blessing which discusses the resurrection of the dead. Just as during the resurrection of the dead, life will come to the world, so too rain is life for the world.
The Lesson of the Sea Tern
The tern has a long and straight beak, long and sharp wings and a tail that splits into two, like a two-pronged fork, just like its cousin, the land tern. The sea tern family sub-divides into around fifty species, but the most well known is the Arctic tern. Its fame results from the fact that it travels every year for over 35,000 kilometers. As far as we know, there is nothing like this bird, that every year makes its way from the North Pole to the South Pole - and back!
Blue-gray wings, a red beak, a black cap and duck's feet - that is the appearance of the Arctic tern. In the summer season at the North Pole, they gather in dense colonies and lay their spotted eggs. From the eggs, their fledglings hatch, also spotted, and when they grow a little stronger, they also join the long journey. They cross the ocean, escaping the harsh Arctic winter, and cross the coasts of America until they come to the South Pole, to enjoy the summer months there. When the summer is almost over there, they return to their journey, and cross the entire globe, until coming to the North Pole. They fly for fifteen hours straight per day and feed on fish that they catch during their flight. What does the tern signal to us? Why were they given this nature?
We are reminded of the story in the gemara (Hagigah 5b) about the yeshivah student, "a student in the Rabbi's house one day." He left his house after the holiday of Pesach, arrived there after three months journey, stayed there for one day, and journeyed back for three months. On the day after Simhat Torah he would leave again, arriving after three months for one day again, and returning to his house. It says in the gemara that he received reward for a full year of learning Torah!
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: The son of a wealthy Torah scholar strayed after bad friends. His father rebuked him and proved to him that they were not loyal friends. He himself had only acquired one and a half friends his whole life. His son met the half friend, and witnessed his loyalty to his father. He wished to meet the friend too. His father equipped him with a letter and sent him to Alexandria. When the banker saw the letter of his friend, he brought the son into his office and forgot the rest of the world.
The servants and the clerks were shocked. They had never seen their master giving this kind of honor to a person! And to a young stranger!
He realized their surprise and said: "If you knew his father, and if you knew how great is our love, then you would not be surprised at all! You should know, his father is great in Torah and wisdom, and we have had business connections together for more than thirty years. I have witnessed his extraordinary righteousness and his wondrous wisdom, and most of all, his true friendship. He does performed unending kindness for me, and I can not repay him for even one thousandth of his kindness. I have not seen him for several years, for he has aged and ceased to travel on the seas. How much I have missed him, I can not begin to tell. Now he has sent his only son to me. How can I not be joyous and glad! I shall grant him my full attention, which is not enough to express my respect and love for his magnificent father!"
The son was pleased to hear his father's praise and adulation, and he began to understand what is the meaning of a true friend. In the meantime, the banker did not pause, nor was he quiet. He left the business in the hands of his assistant, and he did not leave the young man's side. He called for all of his servants, and instructed them to prepare a party for the son of his friend and to invite all of the ministers and honorable people with whom he had business connections. In the meantime, he went with him to a tailor, and ordered honorable clothing for him. His protests, that he lacked nothing, did not avail him, and the banker equipped him at great expense. Hand in hand they entered the hall of the party, where all of the guests stood to greet them. They bowed their heads towards them, and the scene repeated itself. The host stood up and presented his guest as the son of his good friend. He did not hold back on his praises and showered him with compliments, the most honest of men, the most loyal of creatures, wise and intelligent and exceedingly wealthy. These were only a few of his praises. His son was like him, his hand was like his father's hand, and it is an honor for us to meet him and host him. The son was perplexed by the surplus of praises.
Late at night, when the glorious party was over, when the guests had all gone home, the banker said to him: Obviously, you will be my guest and stay in my house. I have already paid for your lodgings and instructed them to bring your luggage here. I have emptied out a full wing of my house for you, and it is all at your disposal. He parted from him with a blessing of a peaceful night, and told him that he would see him the next day at dawn.
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of the Two Day Holiday in Exile
1. When the Temple was standing, and for a while afterwards, they would determine the date of the new month according to when they saw the new moon. When witnesses would come and tell that they had seen the new moon, the judges would question them to see if they had actually seen it. Afterwards they would pass the news on that it was a new month, first by lighting bonfires and later by sending out messengers. In all of the places where the messengers would reach they would make one day of a holiday, according to the information of the messengers. In the places where the messengers could not reach, they would celebrate two days of holiday, because of their doubt as to the correct date. The only exception was Yom Hakipurim, in which they relied on the fact that the court would almost never cause the month of Elul to have thirty days.
2. This all took place when the Sanhedrin still existed and they would decide on the date of the new month according to witnesses. However, nowadays, we determine the date of the new month according to calculation. Logically then, it would make sense nowadays if everyone would celebrate only one day of a holiday, even the places that are far from Israel. However, our sages decreed that we should be cautious about the custom of our forefathers, lest we forget the secret of the counting of the new moon, and come to eat hamess on Pesach.
3. One who is a resident of Israel who travels outside of Israel, with intent to return to Israel, must behave according to the custom of the place that he is in and he may not cause a desecration of G-d's name before them. However, he is permitted to do work in private when they can not see him. Also he must lay tefillin in private in his home, and read the shema in them, and then he may go to the synagogue to pray. When the congregation says hallel, he should also say so, but without the blessings. He should also not pray musaf, since it is a weekday for him, and he should not be the hazan. Rather he should say Tehilim, so that it appears as if he is praying with them.
4. He is not permitted to be called to the Torah, since he is not obligated in the reading of the Torah on that day. This is similar to a kohen who is not fasting on a public fast day, who may not be called to the Torah for the reading of the fast day.
5. Even if there were a minyan of residents of Israel outside of Israel on a holiday, they should not organize a separate minyan for themselves to pray the weekday prayers, since anything done in a group of ten will ultimately be publicized and all will come to have less respect for the second day of the holiday.
6. The common custom is for a resident of the Diaspora who is visiting Israel with intent to return to the Diaspora to observe the second day of the holiday and to refrain from work on that day. He should not wear tefillin and if there are ten people like him in Israel, they should have a separate minyan to pray the holiday prayers on the second day, and they should read the Torah as usual.
7. However, a single man who comes to Israel to learn Torah for a period of a year or more, with intent to return to the Diaspora who is independent, should only observe one day of the holiday, since we can hope that he will find a wife and remain in Israel. But if he intends to return to his parents in the Diaspora, and he explicitly says that even if he finds a wife he will still return to his parents, then he should observe two days of the holiday. However, the average yeshivah student should only observe one day of the holiday, like all of the other residents of Israel.
Mount Sinai, the Mishkan and Us
In this week's parashah, we will learn how Israel was commanded to locate themselves around the Mishkan. On Wednesday, we will experience the event at Mount Sinai. I found a wonderful idea in the book "Hayei Olam" (Chapter 17): Mount Sinai was like a temporary Temple for the resting of the Honor of G-d. The darkness, the cloud and the fog around it were like the walls. On the top of the mountain was the great fire of the Holy of Holies, the place of the resting of the Divine Presence! Thus there is a theme uniting the parashah with the holiday of Shavuot. The resting of the Divine Presence on the nation of Israel, both on Mount Sinai during the giving of the Torah, and in the Mishkan and the Temple. Wonderful, but here we come to the peak of the revelation. These are the words of the Mechilta that are brought in the Yalkut Shimoni (Shemont 20): "And Mosheh approached the fog that there was G-d." What caused this? His humility, as it says: "And the man, Mosheh was extremely humble, more than any other person on the face of the earth." The verse tells that one who is humble will, in the end, bring the resting of the Divine Presence with man on the earth. As it says: "Thus said, the lofty and mighty, eternally living and holy is His name. Above and holy I shall dwell - and with the depressed and low of spirit" (Yeshayah 57:15). It also says: "And to this I shall look, to the poor and the broken of spirit" (Yeshayah 66:2). It also says: "A broken spirit is like a sacrifice to G-d " (Tehilim 51:19).
Our Rabbis already said, that just as Mosheh Rabbeinu went up to Mount Sinai, so too he entered, at any time, the Tent of Meeting. According to the words of the midrash, this is because he was the chariot of the Divine Presence with his humility!
Therefore, there is a Jewish custom to decorate the synagogues and our homes with green branches and flowers on the holiday of Shavuot. The decoration of the synagogues is understood, for they are palaces of Torah and fear of G-d. Just as the flowers covered Mount Sinai, so too they should flower on the holiday of the giving of the Torah. But in the houses, why? For the houses, even if they are not Mount Sinai, are a Mishkan for the Divine Presence! "A man and a woman who have merited, the Divine Presence rests with them" (Sotah 17a). How will they merit the resting of the Divine Presence in their house? With true humility, through giving in to each other! All stubbornness stems from arrogance, and all compliance comes from humility. When stubbornness celebrates, "it is a consuming fire," halilah. Not the fire of Mount Sinai, which is a lofty fire (see Yoma 21b). But the fire of competition and fighting, the fire of argument, the fire of Gehinnom, may G-d save us!
Let us turn our home into a Mishkan for the Divine Presence, to a flowering Gan Eden, to a source of light. With humility and compliance, with the opening of a new page, with the erasure of any hostility, with the lighting up of faces with patience and calmness!
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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