MAY 30-31, 2008 26 IYAR 5768
Day 41 of the Omer
"Take a census of the sons of Kehat from among the sons of Levi." (Bemidbar 4:2)
As we open the fourth book of our Torah, Bemidbar, we read about the command Hashem gives to Moshe to count the Israelites. Towards the end of the perashah we read of a separate counting of the tribe of Levi. One might assume that the counting should begin with the family of the first son, Gershon, but, to our surprise the count begins with the family of Kehat. Perhaps there was another consideration for being counted first, far more significant than being firstborn. While Gershon's family was honored with the carrying of the components of the Mishkan, Kehat's family earned the assignment of carrying the Ark that contained the holy Tablets of the Ten Commandments, which is the Holy of Holies. Rabbi Nissan Alpert z"l learns from this that certainly there are capabilities one gets through inheritance, and there are others which arise through one's own effort, through one's striving to mold himself after the "ideal." If Kehat, the younger brother, earned, not inherited, the honor he received, the Torah lists and counts him first.
Here is a story, says Mr. Avi Shulman, of two beginners in the business world, Judy and Joan, who entered as secretary trainees. Both had done well in typing class at school, so they applied for and received the opportunity to work for a large company. They began Monday morning by typing boring reports dictated into a machine by their supervisors.
Tuesday Mr. Jones, Judy's supervisor, called her into his office and started to point out a number of typing errors. Judy listened intently, didn't defend anything she did, just asked a few clarifying questions and then asked if she could retype the reports to his satisfaction. She did exactly that and asked if he had any other comments or corrections because she wanted to do it exactly right. On occasion, Judy would bring in reports for his comment. Mr. Jones was amazed. He never had an employee request criticism and evaluation. In two years Judy became executive secretary, with a secretary of her own. Her salary was three times what she had earned upon entry. Joan's situation was quite different. On her second day Mr. Smith reviewed the errors she made. She defended each point, commenting, "What difference does it really make? No one will read these reports anyway." She grudgingly retyped the report and made up her mind to have as little as possible to do with her supervisor. It was obvious to her that Mr. Smith had it in for her, so she decided to avoid him and his evaluations. You know the end of the story - after three years she was still a secretary earning a little more than when she had first entered the company. She was disappointed, blaming everyone and everything for the fact that she was ignored by the company.
Judy had learned (or had been taught) to accept criticism, to grow from it. Joan had learned (or was taught) to hate criticism, to view it as depreciating, to avoid it. It has been said, "If excellence is my goal, then criticism is my ally." Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And they gathered the entire nation on the first of the second month...according to the number of the names" (Bemidbar 1:18)
Hashem commanded Moshe to take a census of the Children of Israel by counting the "number of the names." The Ramban explains the meaning of counting the names: "Hashem told Moshe: 'Count each and every [member of Israel] with honor and dignity. Do not merely ask the head of each household how many children he has. Rather, everyone should pass before you with honor, and you should count them'." B'nei Yisrael deserved to be counted in person by Moshe.
The purpose of a census is a practical one: to ascertain the total population of a nation. The most efficient method is to ask the head of each household for data regarding his family. Having Moshe personally count each person was not only very inefficient, but extremely laborious and tiresome considering the numbers involved. (There were approximately three million Jews in the desert.) Why did Hashem trouble Moshe to exert himself to such an extent? Had Moshe asked the representative of each household for a tally of his family, the result would have been the same.
Hashem was teaching Moshe and the Children of Israel the value and uniqueness of each and every person. No one can be treated as a mere number, even when he is being counted for a census. Moshe had to meet each member of B'nei Yisrael and show him the honor and respect he deserved, as a human being created in the image of Hashem.
When dealing with a group of people, be it a group of ten or ten thousand, we must be conscious of the fact that the group is comprised of individuals, each one unique and worthy of the entire world existing for his sake. Each person deserves the dignity and warmth of our personal attention, and cannot be looked upon as just a number. Every resident of our community, every member of our family, every co-worker at our job should be treated with the same care and sensitivity we ourselves would expect.
Sometimes just stopping to spend a few moments with another person, even if only long enough to share a smile and say "good morning," can do a great deal to raise his spirits and carry him through the rigors of his daily schedule. If we bear in mind the overwhelming love and concern Hashem has for each of His children, we will surely feel a natural desire to emulate His example. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"G-d spoke ...in the Sinai desert." (Bemidbar 1:1)
Why was it necessary for the Torah to be given in the desert?
When a horse goes to drink by the river, he first stamps his feet in the water. Why does he do this? When he is about to drink, he sees his reflection in the water and thinks that it is another horse coming to take away his water. He stamps his feet to chase the horse away. As a result, he ends up drinking muddy water.
Man often has the same attitude. He fears that other people are "out to get him" and he takes many undue precautions to protect himself, often at great expense. The Torah therefore wishes to teach us that we must behave as though we are in the desert. In the desert, when one is isolated, he is not afraid that someone else will come along and take what is his. Even among other people, we must have faith in Hashem and truly believe that nobody can take away what is ours unless Hashem wills it to be so. (Lekah Tob)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"A wise man…he does not rush to answer" (Abot 5:7)
What wisdom does this show?
There was a simple Jewish girl who worked in a Jewish home. It was her duty to help out in the kitchen and prepare dinner for the family. Once she was in a dilemma: she could not figure out what to prepare for dinner. Suddenly it dawned on her that her mistress would send her periodically to ask the Rabbi questions - so she would approach the Rabbi and seek his help with her problem.
When she arrived at the Rabbi's house, he noticed that she was distressed and inquired as to what was troubling her. When she told him, he became very serious and told her that this was a difficult question and told her to come into his study. There he looked into some sefarim and then asked her what she had prepared during the past three days. After she replied, he again thought for a short time and told her that for the main dish she should make what she made three days ago, and for the side dishes she should make an item similar to one served two nights ago and an item similar to one served the previous night. The Rabbi then gave her his blessing for success, and she left very relieved and happy.
The Rabbi's observed the entire scene, and after the young girl left, she said to her husband, "I do not understand you. As Rabbi of the community, don't you have better and more important things to do than helping this foolish girl plan a menu?"
The Rabbi said to her, "You do not understand what happened. This simple girl is very sincere and she knows whenever there is a difficult question in the kitchen she is sent to ask me. Therefore, now that she had a question which pertained to kitchen matters, she came to me. If I would have laughed it off, which perhaps I should have because of its foolishness, she might decide to take all questions that may arise in the future very lightly, and when there will be a really difficult question, she will also not come to ask."
This Rabbi was a hacham and therefore he did not rush to answer. An unwise person might have answered immediately so that she would have been made aware of her stupidity, and as a consequence, she would have been lost forever. (Vedibarta Bam)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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