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Parashat Naso


Consider an individual going to the Bet Hamikdash. He can't just go - first he must immerse himself in a mikveh. If he has a more stringent form of tum 'ah, the process takes seven days. The Bet Hamikdash is located in Yerushalayim, the city which lies "before Hashem" (Devarim 12:7), the city of sanctity, infused with an atmosphere of holiness and purity, the city in which ".everyone is involved in the work of Heaven and the sacred service" (Tosafot, Bava Batra 21a, citing the Sifri). From this city one ascends to the great edifice, the place which hosts the Shechinah, as it were, and there one encounters "the great awe - referring to the revelation of the Shechinah," as the pasuk states, ".in order that you learn to fear" (Devarim 14:23), on which Rashi comments, "When you see the place of the Shechinah, the kohanim performing their service, the Levi'im singing, and Yisrael standing [in prayer]." There is a special missvah requiring a sense of awe of reverence for the sacred site, and thus one must leave his shoes outside, together with his wallet and walking stick. He walks barefoot, with awe and reverence, to prostrate himself before Hashem, to pray in the most sacred spot, the site directed towards the gate of heaven where all prayers ascend to the heavens and are accepted willingly. In short, the Bet Hamikdash is to the world what Yom Kippur is to the annual calendar - sacred to Hashem, holy and exalted.

The individual would not ascend to the Bet Hamikdash by himself. Throngs of people would go regularly, with awe and fear. Sick patients who were cured and those who traveled across deserts and oceans go to bring their offerings. Nazerites bring their sacrifices when their nezirut period has elapsed. Women who have given birth bring two bird sacrifices. Others bring shelamim or sin-offerings, farmers bringing their bikkurim would arrive with song and dance - what a wonderful sight!

The individual's spirit is lifted to the highest and most profound levels of spirituality, and the impression stays with him for the rest of his life:

"In order that you learn to fear Hashem your G-d all the days" (Devarim 14:23).

From the corner of his eye, he catches another glimpse, of a "sotah" being brought to the eastern gate of the Azarah, insisting that the entire accusation against her is false. She is even prepared to prove her case.

The name of Hashem which had been written on the scroll is erased into the water. She drinks the water and, suddenly, her face starts changing color, her eyes bulge, she starts bloating, and she runs out of the Azarah. Any moment her belly will swell and burst, and she will die, amidst great pain, suffering, and humiliation. If only she would have agreed from the outset not to drink she could have avoided the entire ordeal. After all, there were no witnesses to the crime, it was just a suspicion.

She would have simply been divorced from her husband and have had the opportunity to rebuild her life again. But she insisted on going through with the test, and thereby brought about her own downfall.

This individual, who had come to the Bet Hamikdash to elevate himself spiritually, "to learn to fear," just received a real-life lesson in the doctrine of reward and punishment. Right in front of his eyes an obvious miracle took place, the misdeed of a sinner was revealed before everyone, and the culprit was punished with a painful and horrifying death.

Unquestionably, this man will return home reawakened, and he will now stay away from sin as if it were a raging fire. Wouldn't we think so?

Not necessarily. Hazal teach us, "Why was the section of the nazir juxtaposed to the portion dealing with the sotah? To tell us that one who sees the sotah in her shame will abstain from wine (as he accepts upon himself to be a nazir)." Not only will his fear of sin itself be insufficient, but he now sees himself in danger, and must find drastic means of prevention.

Why? Because he saw. True, he saw how the sotah was punished. But the yesser hara will lead him to forget the sight of the punishment and retain the memory of the woman herself. How awesome is the power of sight!

If the impression is so strong upon someone who specifically traveled to Yerushalayim to elevate himself, who undergoes an involved process of purification, walks up to the Bet Hamikdash with awe and reverence, and comes to the home of the Shechinah, and sees what should, ordinarily, intensify one's fear... then what can be said about one who walks casually through the city streets, sees with his own eyes the breaching of all barriers of modesty, the shameless display of "perissut" - clearly he will not return the same as when he left. How much "nezirut" must he accept upon himself, how many hours of "mussar" study must he undertake!

We must remember that Hashem promised to help a person in his battle against his drives. But this protection is not guaranteed to one who specifically places himself in a dangerous situation. Therefore, one who does not need to spend time in the city streets should avoid it as much as possible.

Carrying Together

The Zohar writes that the word, "Torah" is related to the word, "hora'ah," meaning instruction, guidance, and direction. There is no section of the Torah from which we cannot derive a lesson of proper attitude of behavior.

"For good lessons I have given you" - the Torah is the book from which we can learn all important rules of morals and ethics.

Our parashah relates the offering of sacrifices by the "nesi'im," the twelve tribal leaders of Benei Yisrael, on the day of the consecration of the mishkan. Each nasi presented the exact same gift to the mishkan: a silver bowl, a silver goblet, a golden spoon filled with incense, and various sacrifices - an olah, hatat, and shelamim.

First however, we are told, "And they brought their sacrifice before Hashem, six covered wagons and twelve cattle - one wagon for each two nesi'im and one ox for each." These wagons were given to the levi'im to help them carrying the various parts of the mishkan as the Jews traveled. The offering of each nasi was a private one. Each one presented his own gift, personally. The wagon, however, representing the burden of responsibility, was offered in the form of a partnership. Every two nesi'im donated one wagon. Each nasi, individually, gave an ox, and every two oxen carried one wagon. What does this teach us?

Each tribe possesses its own, singular character. Each features its own, unique tradition and approach. Yet, "Together are the tribes of Israel."

The nesi'im join together and bear the burden of the responsibility of leadership for the entire nation, not for their constituents alone. They all share one goal, a single purpose: to walk in the light of Hashem, following the divine pillar which leads the way for the entire camp.

This holds true on the national level, and pertains tenfold on the domestic level. Each member of a couple retains his/her singularity and uniqueness as an individual. Yet, together they must bear the burden, together they must carry the mishkan into their home.

The Wonders of The Creator

The Smallest Bird in the World

Someone unfamiliar with the natural world will simply shake his head in disbelief when hearing of a birds' nest the size of a teaspoon. Indeed, there does exist a bird that four of which can fit into a nest of this size.

Each bird is smaller than an even an young honeybee. This bird - the hummingbird - is called in Hebrew "davshon," from the Hebrew word for honey ("devash"), since it lives off the honey of certain flowers. It resembles in this sense the bee, which collects nectar from flowers for the production of honey. This wondrous bird is prepared to eat as well small insects found in the flowers while it drinks the sweet nectar. This nectar is a chemical compound containing pure sugar, which is especially nourishing and provides more calories than any other food. Nevertheless, the daily portion of nectar ingested by the hummingbird amounts to half its body weight. This would be equivalent to a human being who consumes 40 kg of sugar in a single day. Among the fascinating characteristics of this tiny bird is its ability to fly in all directions - up, down, forward and backward. In fact, it can even float in one spot in the air, without moving. No other creature, not even any bird, is capable of doing such a thing. It seems that this bird is, in fact, the predecessor of the modern helicopter. One of the things that fascinates researchers in particular is the immense strength of this tiny bird. In order to gain some perspective on the hummingbird"s strength, consider this: a human being would need 40 hp in order to work in the same proportion to his body as the hummingbird does in proportion to its own body!

Interestingly, despite its meager size, the hummingbird is not considered among the more easily frightened birds. To the contrary, it is among the boldest, as it stands prepared to confront much larger birds fearlessly.

What a powerful lesson this teaches the person who sees himself as small and thinks to himself, "What am I, what is my life? Torah study is hard, and I have to work. And what will my friends think?" With this perspective he frees himself from the obligation of studying Torah. Such a person is under the mistaken notion that one is required to learn only when it comes easy, when his mind is clear without any interfering worries or concerns. This is not the case at all. To the contrary, a Jew receives reward specifically as a result of the obstacles and difficulties standing in his way that he overcomes. The main thing is to remember that the Al-mighty, in His infinite mercy, endowed each of His creatures with the strength necessary to achieve his purpose in life. Even when one feels as small as the hummingbird, the Al-mighty will assist him to successfully deal with any situation, so long as he demonstrates his preparedness to follow the Torah.


The Espionage Case (17)

Flashback: Efrayim Lebovitz, a German student in the Hafess Hayyim's yeshivah in Radin, stood trial before the military tribunal in Vitebsk on false accusations of spying on behalf of the German enemy during World War I. A Russian secret agent had hid the architectural plans of the Kovno fortresses in the student's pocket as part of the authorities' efforts to blame the Jews for the fiasco of the Russian defeat during the war. The Hafess Hayyim zs"l, despite his age, took the trouble to find the finest defense attorney to represent the student, and then took the grueling journey to Vitebsk to testify on the boy's behalf. His testimony made a profound impression upon the judges.

The trial continued, and the Hafess Hayyim returned to his yeshivah that had relocated in Shumiass. The final arguments were eventually presented.

The defense lawyer, as expected, relied heavily on the sage's testimony that he never uttered a false word in his life. The prosecutor, on the other hand, claimed that he fully trusts the rabbi's integrity, but the German boy was such an astute spy that he managed to fool even the revered sage. To the contrary, he argued, the rabbi's testimony proves just how dangerous this spy is. He decided to join the yeshivah while weaving his web of espionage, confident that the rabbi would come to his assistance should he be discovered.

He emotionally described the calamity of the Kovno front, the fall of the fortresses and the waves of enemy troops that destroyed throngs of people as a result of the alleged spy. He conveniently ignored the fact that if the plans were found in the boy's pocket, then obviously they never reached enemy hands. He emphatically blamed the young student for the rivers of blood from fallen soldiers, the pain and suffering of the wounded, the lifelong torment of the handicapped and the ongoing anguish of the widows.

He depicted the sorrowful plight of the orphans, and then spoke of the humiliation brought about by the spy on "Father Czar and Mother Russia."

He suggested that this shame can be eliminated only by a death penalty.

The judges left for deliberations, and when they returned a look of confident resolve overtook their faces. The chief judge dictated the ruling and sentence: "The Jewish German citizen Efrayim Lebovitz is found guilty by the special military court on charges of espionage against Russia on behalf of the enemy, his homeland.

"Two facts establish the guilt without any shadow of a doubt. The plans of the Kovno fortresses were found in his pocket, and when all German natives were called upon to come before police headquarters and register as enemy natives, the accused did not come forth; this despite his knowledge that anyone violating the order will be severely punished. This fact proves that he sought to avoid questioning in order that he can operate freely and unencumbered on behalf of the enemy.

"By military law chapter 132, the accused is sentenced to death."

The Golden Column

Rav Avraham HaKohen zs"l

Shavuot marks the anniversary of the passing of David HaMelech. The Gemara (Shabbat 30b) tells us that David sat and learned Torah the entire day and, consequently, the Angel of Death remained powerless against him. Torah brings life to those who study it, and David studied without stop.

Finally the Angel of Death came up with an idea. It went to the orchard behind the palace and shook some trees. The rustling of the branches caught the king's attention and he went to see what was happening, his mouth still muttering the Torah he was studying. But suddenly, one of the stairs underneath broke, and David stopped his learning for a moment. At that brief moment, the Angel of Death took his life.

Herein lies the connection between the death of our king David and the festival commemorating Matan Torah, when we received the Torah of life that is implanted within us!

We find in the work, "Amar Shemuel" by Rav Shemuel Ben Haviv zs"l the story of the death of the saintly Rav Avraham HaKohen zs"l, the head of the rabbinical court in his city. A plague had broken out in the city, killing scores of victims. The elderly rav was also stricken by the plague, and he said, "You should know that I have been called to serve in the rabbinical court in the heavens; the rabbinical court down below must therefore strengthen itself and insist that it needs me here!" The entire community prayed on his behalf, especially the rabbis who sat with him on the court.

Indeed, his illness began to subside. Then, late afternoon on Friday, they all proceeded to prepare for Shabbat. A heavenly voice then came, and the ssadikim came to listen. The rabbi, too, said to those around him, "You should know that the sacred tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, came to take my soul, and I cannot let him leave empty-handed." He took a Sefer Torah and said, "When I ascend to the heavens I will pray that the plague comes to an end and no one else die, but only if the people perform teshuvah." The ssadik's pure soul departed, and the plague ended.

Halacha Berurah

A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a
Rosh Bet Midrash "Yehaveh Da'at"

The Laws of "Hassissah" Regarding Tefillin

If one has a wound on his arm, on the place where tefillin are to be placed, and the doctor wrapped a bandage over the wound which covers the entire area of the tefillin shel yad, then, according to most authorities, the bandage constitutes an invalidating interruption between the arm and the tefillin ("hassissah"). Therefore, if possible, the bandage should be removed before putting on tefillin. Similarly, if one suffers from a broken arm which has been put into a cast, then, according to most authorities, tefillin shel yad may not be placed on the cast. Therefore, whenever possible (such as when the fracture is situated in between the elbow and hand), the cast should not be placed in a manner that it would cover the place where tefillin are worn.

If it is impossible to remove the bandage for the placing of tefillin, or of the cast covers the entire area where tefillin may be placed and cannot be moved, one should place the tefillin on top of the bandage or cast, only without reciting a berachah. He should recite the berachah "al missvat tefillin" over the tefillin shel rosh, having in mind that this berachah should fulfill his obligation to recite the berachah over the tefillin shel yad, as well. (Those Ashkenazim who are accustomed to always reciting "al missvat tefillin" over the tefillin shel rosh should, in this instance, recite both berachot - "lehani'ah tefillin" and "al missvat tefillin" - over the tefillin shel rosh.) If, however, the bandage covers only the spot where one ties the tefillin strap, but the box itself can be placed on his skin, then he places the tefillin shel yad with a berachah.

If the bandage or cast covers only half of the forearm near the elbow, it is proper that after placing tefillin on the bandage or cast, one places it again on the upper part of the arm, near the shoulder where the flesh is enlarged.

In any event, it does not help to place tefillin on the right arm; it is preferable to place the tefillin on top of the bandage or cast or on the upper arm near the shoulder rather than on the right arm. However, if one cannot place the tefillin on his left arm at all, such as if doing so would cause intense pain or further harm to the wound, then it is proper to place the tefillin on his right arm without a berachah.

If one's arm is covered with a bandage or cast in the area between the elbow and hand, or if one's middle finger is covered by a bandage or cast, he nevertheless wraps the tefillin normally, on top of the bandage or cast. If due to the cold one cannot take off his hat before placing tefillin shel rosh and instead placed the tefillin on his hat, according to most authorities he has not fulfilled the missvah of tefillin. He should therefore ensure to place the tefillin shel rosh directly on his head at least for a short while. If possible, he should do so at least for the recitation of shema and tefilah. Nevertheless, if it is impossible to place the tefillin directly on one's head, and if he does not place the tefillin on his hat he will not wear it at all, he should place the tefillin on a thin hat on his head, and thereby he fulfills the missvah at least according to some authorities. However, when doing so the individual should cover the tefillin so that others do not see him and mistakenly conclude that one may wear tefillin on top of a hat. Furthermore, even those Ashkenazim who generally recite the berachah "al missvat tefillin" on tefillin shel rosh should not do so when placing the tefillin on top of a hat.

All this applies to a thin hat; on top of a thick hat, however, one should never place tefillin shel rosh.

If the hat covered only the place of the straps, and the actual box of tefillin could be placed directly on the head, then those Ashkenazim who generally recite the berachah "al missvat tefillin" on the tefillin shel rosh may do so in this case.

From all that we have discussed we may learn that if one has a bandage on his head where the tefillin shel rosh are placed and cannot possibly remove it, then despite the fact that most authorities rule that one does not fulfill the missvah with tefillin placed on top of the bandage, nevertheless he should do so, in order to at least fulfill the missvah according to the minority view. In such a case, however, the individual should not recite the berachah on the tefillin shel rosh, even if he is among the Ashkenazim who are accustomed to generally doing so.

From the Wellsprings of the Parasha "Each person to his work and to his responsibility"

A wealthy man lived in Brisk, but his hand was stingy and his heart pitiless towards the plight of the city's poor. The fund-raisers constantly met him with deaf ears, until eventually they turned to the city's rabbi, the Bet Halevi zs"l, to chastise the miser. There were many poor people in the city who so desperately needed his assistance, and they hoped that the rabbi's words would have an impact. However, the rav knew that "just as it is a missvah to speak that which will be heard, so too is it a missvah not to say that which will not be heard." He therefore waited for the right time to speak to the stubborn miser.

He kept his silence on the matter until the night of Yom Kippur. After the tefilah, the majority of the people went home, with only a few staying behind preparing for a night of learning until daybreak. They were well accustomed to sleepless nights engrossed in learning, and their intensity during tefilah the next day would not be diminished one iota. Among them sat the wealthy man, who prepared for a night of reciting Tehillim in order to ensure a favorable judgment on Yom Kippur. The rabbi approached him and engaged him in conversation: "Do you usually stay up so late?" The wealthy man answered in the negative. "But what can I do?" he continued. "The fear of judgment is upon me, and recitation of Tehillim avoids calamity!"

"Tell me," replied the rabbi, "you are, after all, well versed in the ways of the world. What would you say about a soldier who flees to the enemy camp during wartime?"

"He is placed before the firing range," the man quickly responded.

"Indeed, it is only fitting," said the rabbi. "And what if he defects and goes home?"

"There is no difference," answered the man, "fleeing can never be forgiven!"

"Is that so? And if he remains with the army but decides on his own to switch from one battalion to the next?"

"This is also defecting," declared the wealthy man. "During wartime, these crimes are punishable by death at the hands of the firing squad. No soldier can decide for himself where he should be stationed!"

"Interesting," remarked the rabbi. "Do you know why I asked you all this?

Tomorrow is the Day of Judgment, and we all stand trial. We all hope for a favorable sentence, for the annulment of the harsh decrees. In truth, Hashem has given us the tools. He granted Torah scholars unlimited scholastic talent, the power of concentration and sharp reasoning. They remain awake all night long studying, and yet they can still pray the next day with intensity and concentration. You were given wealth in order to benefit the poor and underprivileged, to perform acts of kindness and donate to charitable causes. Tomorrow your books will be opened and your deeds reviewed. What will be found? That you picked up and left one battalion to go to the next. Instead of giving charity and supporting Torah, you remained awake through the night engrossed in Torah. Listen, if you want a favorable judgment, take it upon yourself to open your heart and donate to charitable causes, and go to sleep."

In truth, this concept appears in our parashah. The Sefer Hahinuch writes (Missvah 389): "The levi'im are not to engage in the work of the kohanim, nor the kohanim in the work of the levi'im. Rather, each one shall perform the work designated for him, as it is written, 'Each person to his work and to his responsibility'. We find that Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Hananiah wanted to assist Rabbi Yohanan Ben Gugadah with closing the doors [of the Bet Hamikdash]. He said to him, 'Go back, for you already endangering your life; I am among the gate attendants and you are among the singers.' It is thus clear that any levi who performs in the Mikdash work other than the work designated for him is liable for 'mitah b'ydei Shamayim [death from the Heavens]."

Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar

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