JUNE 6-7, 2008 4 SIVAN 5768
Day 48 of the Omer
"The man shall bring his wife to the Kohen and he shall bring her offering for her…and shall not put lebonah upon it" (Bemidbar 5:15)
This week we read the perashah of Naso and shortly after, on Sunday night, we begin celebrating the holiday of Shabuot. As we know, Shabuot is the holiday that we call the holiday of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. Our Sages teach us that even though this event occurred thousands of years ago, every year is like a replay of that event. Therefore, on this coming holiday each of us will personally receive the Torah anew. I believe that in Parashat Naso there is a profound message to help us to receive the Torah with inspiration.
In the perashah we read about an unpleasant event: the investigation by a Kohen of a sotah, that is, a woman suspected by her husband of adultery as a result of suspicious behavior on her part. The husband must bring an offering to the Kohen. It is a simple offering of barley flour, no oil and no lebonah. Lebonah is a delightful perfume that usually accompanies flour offerings. Why is lebonah omitted? Rashi explains, the Matriarchs, Sarah Ribkah and Leah, are called lebonah, and the sotah parted from their modest ways. There is something strange about Rashi's explanation. Suppose you met someone who was hopelessly a mess, from head to toe in every way, and you said to him, "you could use a manicure." What you would be proposing would be completely out of proportion to what was wrong with him. Similarly, here we have a woman who has acted in a way that is below human decency, and we say she doesn't quite measure up to the standard of the Matriarchs!
Rabbi Yaakov Haber explains that there is a very practical answer to this puzzle. When we consider making any small improvement in our observance of the Torah, we look at it as a big thing. In fact, that is how we are supposed to improve, one little step at a time. But, with all that we should never lose sight of our ultimate goal, which should be to become a righteous person of greatness. We tend to attach a label to ourselves as a means of identifying ourselves to the outside world, such as an Orthodox religious Jew. However, labels can have a bad side, when we use them as ceilings for our behavior, as excuses for not striving to improve ourselves. Whatever our label, whatever our present affiliation, we can, and should, aim for the very highest. The woman labeled a sotah was made to realize that no matter how low she has fallen, she could have attained, and could still attain, the very highest spiritual level. And this we can all do - aim for the top of the ladder. I cannot think of a more proper attitude to have as we approach Shabuot. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Holiday. Rabbi Reuven Semah
On the verse in Shir HaShirim 5:6, "My soul departed when He spoke," the Rabbis explain that when Hashem said the Ten Commandments, the souls of the Jewish People left them from awe and fear. Then G-d took a certain dew from the Torah and used it to revive the Jewish Nation. On the surface, this seems difficult to understand. Why did Hashem allow the awesomeness of the moment to be so great that the people should die and then have to be revived again? Why not reveal Himself just a little bit less?
The lesson to be derived from here is that when we received the Torah, we didn't just get a set of laws to have to keep. The Torah is what made us alive; we expired and had to be revived through the power of the Torah. That means that our very being is based on the teaching and the essence of the holy Torah, and it is not only possible to keep its laws, but rather our very existence depends upon it.
On this Shabuot, let us remember this message. Our success as a nation and as individuals is through the Torah and its laws and customs. The more we study and accept its effect upon us, the closer we will become to that which we owe our existence. Tizku LeShanim Rabot. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Command B'nei Yisrael that they send out of the camp everyone with sara'at, and every zab, and whoever is unclean by a dead person" (Bemidbar 5:2)
Rav Zalmen Sorotzkin z"l offers a homiletic interpretation of this pasuk. Many observant Jews ignore their co-religionists whom they notice acting in opposition to Torah and misvot. When they see members of their community transgressing the Torah by desecrating Shabbat, eating non-kosher food and acting reprehensibly, they delegate to the Rabbi the responsibility to chastise the offenders. These individuals refuse to get involved, claiming various lame excuses to justify their apathy to the public travesty against Hashem. They feel that by sharing the details of their friends' misdeed with the Rabbi, they have fulfilled their requirements as Jews. Thus, they consider themselves to be absolved of further responsibility.
According to Rav Sorotzkin, this is not a Torah approach to solving such a communal problem. When a member of the community transgresses, he is causing an incursion into the spiritual fiber of the entire community. His actions publicly denigrate Hashem and His Torah. The community's lack of chastisement of the person is, by default, an act of compliance. Deferring all responsibility to the Rabbi or community leadership is a sanctimonious form of relieving oneself of responsibility.
This is the Torah's message: Command B'nei Yisrael that they should send out the unclean members of the community. The directive is to the common member of the community. The Torah does not say, "B'nei Yisrael, go to Moshe and have him send out the unclean person." Rather, it states, "You personally must send him out." It is the leader's obligation to purge the community of those miscreants who denigrate Judaism, but the members of the community must initiate and wholeheartedly support the process. Indeed, only after Moshe had the support of B'nei Levi was he effectively able to expunge Klal Yisrael of the worshippers of the Golden Calf. (Peninim on the Torah)
"For the crown of his G-d is upon his head" (Bemidbar 6:7)
This degree of holiness attained by the nazir requires explanation. Should one be so exalted for abstaining from wine for thirty days? There are many individuals who abstain from wine and let their hair grow, and yet virtually remain on the same level of immorality and depravity as before. Rabbi Leib Chasman z"l explains that the principle virtue of the nazir lies in the thought and reflection which preceded his decision to become a nazir. His resolution to become a nazir comes as a result of a profound understanding of life, leading to a conclusion which enlightens him and changes his previous perspectives. He is now prepared to remove himself from any opportunity which could precipitate his falling into the clutches of desire. In the merit of this noble decision, the nazir receives the crown of Hashem.
We may suggest another insight into the nazir's great achievement. Rashi quotes the Talmud in Sotah (2a) that the parashah of nazir is placed next to the parashah of sotah to inform us that whoever sees a faithless wife in her degradation should separate himself from wine which brings one to adultery. Herein lies the greatness of the nazir. There are many who see but do not take heed. What they see with their eyes does not affect a response in their heart and mind. It is necessary to see beyond the superficial, to discern that which is being viewed, to appreciate the significance of each event that takes place. Every situation which we witness must be understood and its lesson acknowledged. The Mechilta (15:2) says: The lowliest servant girl beheld of the Divine at the splitting of the Red Sea more than the prophet Yehezkel ever saw." Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz z"l once remarked that despite being able to view Hashem's Supreme Revelation and sense His Presence, the servant girl remained a servant girl. What one sees must illuminate and instruct him. The nazir well deserves Hashem's crown. Upon seeing the sotah's degradation, he learns a lesson which he immediately applies to his personal life. The nazir does not merely see, he takes notice and acts. (Peninim on the Torah)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
"Rabbi Chanina ben Akashya said: The Holy One, blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore, He gave them Torah and misvot in abundant measure" (Abot 6:11)
How do we benefit from the misvot Hashem gave us?
The Midrash Rabbah (Beresheet 44:1) states that "The precepts were given only in order lesaref bahen et haberiyot - so that man may be refined by them. For what does He care whether man kills an animal by the throat or by the nape of its neck? Hence, the purpose is to refine man.
Just as the craftsman who refines silver intends to extract the impurities and dross, so are the misvot intended to rid our hearts of low character traits and false beliefs. The Midrash cites the example of the humane laws of ritual slaughter to emphasize the point: that we should not think that the prohibition against cruelty to animals is because of Hashem's concern for these creatures per se. It is not them He cares about, but us. He is concerned lest we become cruel and insensitive to their suffering. Therefore, He commanded us to be humane in order to refine our soul with noble characteristics.
The more misvot we have, the better it is for us. In the Torah there are 613 misvot, 248 positive and 365 negative. In the human body there are 248 bodily parts and 365 veins, each corresponding to one of the 613 misvot of the Torah.
Incidentally, the word "lezakot" comes from the word "zach" - "pure." Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya is saying that Hashem wanted to purify the Jewish people, and so He gave them the misvot in abundant measure. Through every misvah performed, the Jew gains more purification. (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.
Call to 646-279-8712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
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