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by Daneal Weiner
Shabbos Seuda Shlishi I was invited to speak in shul. There were so many
topics in last week's double parsha that it was difficult to pick one thing
out so, of course, I tried to cover everything. I re-assured the crowd that
when I asked the Rabbi how much time I had, in his wisdom he gave a very
small number. Even if I doubled it we'd still be out in plenty time for
maariv. Motsai Shabbos a Rav asked me if I had been the one who spoke? He
said he had overheard my shmooze and complimented me on it. It turns out he
is a Rosh Kollel from Jerusalem! Even though this is about last weeks
parshas, I have a rare opportunity to share with you something not just of my
own choosing but that even the unsolicited testimonial of a Rosh Kollel
deems worthy. For this reason I give to you a little more from Matos/Masai
which ultimately will lead us into this weeks |
The Torah narrates (32:1) 'The cattle of the tribes of Gad and Reuven was very great.' The Torah mentions the cattle before Gad and Reuven to show that their priorities were off. Gad and Reuven then ask Moshe to let them live east of the Jordan River because it was great land for grazing. Moshe then rebukes them for the next 10 verses. After this heavy mussar the 2 tribes clarify for Moshe that they always intended to support and fight with their brethren. They just wanted their desire for the newly conquered land known.
We've said before and we've even said that it couldn't be said enough times so we'll say it again, how can we understand the righteous Jews of these tribes making such an ‘obviously' grievous error? The Be'er Yoseph answers that the battles which were just fought took place in the fields away from the cities. This meant that the housing was spared. Gad and Reuven felt all they had to do was go in and inhabit the already existing houses and then the first building would be to fence in the cattle. With them under control, now they could return and make any renovations on the housing. Moshe's rebuke let them know that these new-found possessions were clouding their judgement. These houses were idolater built and owned. Everything had to be razed to the ground. They will indeed need to think of their children before the cattle.
The next question is bigger. In the 10 verses that Moshe lays into Reuven and Gad, never does he condemn the actual request for wanting to stay outside Erets Yisrael?!? He says (32:7) 'Why do you dissuade the hearts of your brethren from entering the land?' but never complains to them for not wanting to live there. And then Moshe tells half the tribe of Menashe to join them?!
Let's make the question even bigger. The daughters of Tslafchad heard that the land of Israel was being divided up according to the fathers who left Egypt and they didn't have one. He died in the desert. If they had even one brother amongst them they would have been happy with his lot but there were only sisters. They came to Moshe and said "WE WANT SOME LAND!" They certainly had halachic justification, otherwise they would have said nothing. The point, however, is they felt a loss! They wanted in! And what does Reuven and Gad do? They say, "Well looky here!" They go so far as to say, (32:5) 'Do not bring us across the Jordan.' What is going on with Gad and Reuven???
Now we can understand Moshe's comment, 'Why do you dissuade your brothers?' The truth is that this land outside Israel proper IS the proper inheritance of Gad and Reuven. They sensed it and they were right! But what Moshe was trying to tell them was "OK, you realized that this land was indeed for you, but c'mon, at least act like you want to be in Israel proper. Look a little upset that it isn't".Commentaries say that it was because of this shortcoming in their love of this mitsva that caused them to be the first conquered and sent into exile. Oy!
One last related question. The objection that does appear in Moshe's rebuke (and that on which the conditions were set) is that Gad and Reuven must fight with the other tribes. When Moshe finishes he is basically told, ‘Of course! That is what we intended to do the whole time!' Why did they let Moshe go on and on in his rebuke and not explain the misunderstanding right away?
To answer this we turn to the first Rabbi of Gerr, the Chidushai HaRim. All his sons died but not before he was left a sole grandson (the future Sfas Emes). Of course, the Gerrer Rav was very involved with his grandsons education. Every once in a while he would ask his grandson and his grandson's chavrusah to stay up all night learning. One night the grandson and his chavrusah learned till their very last once of strength. At the crack of dawn they both dropped to the floor and fell asleep. At 2 cracks of dawn the Chidushai HaRim walks into the house and sees them sleeping. Having arrived so close to dawn, himself, the Gerrer Rav couldn't imagine they've just fallen asleep. He woke his grandson in a fit, "Do you think sleeping is going to make you a Gadol b'Torah!? Is it too much a sacrifice to learn a few extra hours!?You said you would stay up. Doesn't your word mean anything!?" and on and on.
When the Rav finished and left the room the chavrusah, now awake, asked the future Sfas Emes, 'Why didn't you tell him we WERE up all night?' The Sfas Emes turns to his friend as a smile begins to grow and says, 'Wasn't that the greatest mussar you ever heard!? Right now I could stay up another 24 hours.' If that is what the Gerrer Rav can do, can you imagine what Moshe Rabbeinu could do? Gad and Reuven would not have stopped Moshe short for anything. There is no greater charge than great mussar!
Speaking of charges. Having just spent almost three years in yeshiva in Israel, when I visit the states, it's an obvious and major difference. In Israel, in Jerusalem, in yeshiva, there is something in the air. Not just the smell of soy patties. All the guys want to learn. All the guys are trying to improve their character. Everyone supports each other. In the states, it's like one has to create a mood. In Israel one could just walk into it. This is the idea we see in the parsha by the Ir Miklat, the city of refuge.
An ir miklat was a safe haven for someone who killed by accident. What is an accident? An accident is a degree of negligence. Some may be blatant and some not but all are a degree of unpreparedness. With heightened awareness accidents wouldn't happen. This is what H' wants from us. To be aware. He wants that at every moment of the day our thoughts and actions indicate an awareness, 'I am a servant of G-d, I am in G-d's domain.' How few spiritual accidents would we have with such round the clock recognition? This is a whole idea behind mitsvos. Round the clock required actions to remind us we're in G-d's domain. Woman have a more intrinsic awareness of Hashem and therefore, are less bound by mitsvos. So what happens if one ‘falls out' of the G-d's domain?
Someone who has an accident runs to a city of refuge. The cities of refuge, Ir Miklat, was where the Leviim lived! The servant's servants of G-d! The Levites Temple service was only two weeks out of the year. That was the rotation. The other 50 weeks they were learning. The entire city was a nationally supported Kollel. Can you imagine the atmosphere of these cities? Someone who fell out of G-d's domain had to run right back into one. I heard from Rabbi Zev Leff that the first time the Ir Miklat appears in the Torah (Shmos 21:13) we see the words, "Ina L'yado V'samti L'cha..." and the first letters of these 4 words spells out the month ILVL or rather ‘ Elul'. Elul is the month preceding the High Holidays. What's this here hint here hinting at? Einstein finally brought science up to date when he said that space and time are relative. The Sages knew that already over 3000 years prior. The Ir Miklat is in space what Elul is in time. The Ir Miklat is where one gets back into G-d's domain and, after 11 months of drifting, Elul is the time one gets back into G-d's domain. And what better time than just before the High Holidays?
Of course, this place is not the only time we see Einstein's relativity. In our parsha, Moshe gives over the borders of Erets Yisroel. He starts by the Dead Sea and he goes full circle, back to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is where Sodom was. That's why it's all dead there. Sodom was the place where Tumah and evil resided. How is such a place the focal point of the definition of the Holy land's borders? ( Eilat not included, by the way)
As mentioned last week, it was the potential kedushah of Sodom that attracted the tumah to it. Sodom is the birth place of the house of the Mashiach! Lot married a Sodomitess and had two daughters. Comes the impending doom. Mom turns to salt. The daughters think they are the sole survivors of a global destruction and sleep with dad for the sake of mankind. The older has a boy she names Moav ('from father') who's nation will give rise to Ruth who is the mother of the house of David from which the Mashiach descends.
Sforim Kedoshim tell us that in the days of the Mashiach, when the yetser horah is killed, the area of Sodom will be turned into the holy place that it is fit/meant to be. So much so that these sforim refer to that area as Gan H', Garden of G-d! So if this is a ‘place' of potential good gone bad but will be reverted back to good then where is the relative ‘time'? It is the time now approaching, the 9th of Av. The Gemorah says the Mashiach will be born on the 9th of Av. This is it's potential. In the mean time it became a day of mourning and fasting. When the Mashiach does come, all the holidays will be done away with except for Purim and the 9th of Av. It will become a day of celebration of redemption.
I closed my talk offering that what we need to do is to show our love for all mitsvos, those we can and can't do. Let's keep ourselves aware and in G-d's domain, and may we merit to soon see the coming of the Mashiach and all these places and times turn into the Gardens and celebrations of H' that they are meant to be.
This is a perfect introduction for parshas Dvarim which is always read prior to Tisha B'Av. The parsha starts, "Aileh hadvarim asher dibehr Moshe el kol Yisrael..." "These are the things that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael..." Rav Wolfson points out that ‘eL koL YisraeL' all ends with the letter Lamed. He explains the idea that B"Y and the Torah are relative (well, Einstein? We're waiting). Just as there are 600,000 Jews, so too are there 600,000 letters. Each Jew has his shoresh/root in a particular letter. In fact, YiSROeL stands for Yaish Shishim Ribui Osios Latorah, there are 600,000 letters to the Torah and right now ALL of them are gathered together to hear Moshe. All the people/letters are next to each other.
Many of our Sages expound using the tool called ‘smuchim', one parsha ‘samuch,' next to another, what that teaches us. There is actually one opinion in the Gemorah (Rabbi Yehuda) who does NOT expound on smuchim...for the first 4 books. Things fall where they fall. Only for Sefer Dvarim does Rabbi Yehudah uses smuchim. So there is something about Sefer Dvarim that is different than the others.
Dvarim is also unique in that it is called the Mishne Torah. The double Torah or Torah reviewed. It is called this because many mitsvot are repeated. Since nothing is superfluous, Chazal compare these 'repetitions' to the 'original' appearance to learn out more details of the mitsvos. Both the name Mishne Torah and the further elucidation of mitsvot allude to the Oral Law, the Mishna.
Again, when all the holidays become obsolete, the two that will remain are Purim and Tisha B'av. Obviously there is a relationship. From Megillas Esther, Haman's argument for permission to destroy the Jews was that they were 'scattered and dispersed.' The opposite of ‘eL koL YisraeL'. After defeating Haman and our enemies, all the Jews were ‘kimu v'kiblu' they confirmed and upheld the Torah. What did they do at Har Sinai then? Chazal say that at Har Sinai we accepted the Written Law and at Purim the Oral Law. This does not mean the Jews were not following Oral Law since Sinai. What it means is that at a moment when H's anger wanted to destroy us, Moshe was able to pray for our salvation saying "They never committed to the Oral law like to the Written so they can't be punished to the letter of the law." (Of course, after Purim this line of defense became invalid.)
There is a mitsva that came out of the Megillah. We mentioned above that mitsvos are a way we stay aware of our relationship to H,. that we are in His domain and need to play by His rules. If a mitsva is ‘born' in Jewish history, it stands to reason that mitsva is a new ‘awareness' in an area we were just lacking. The mitsva is a reparation for the sin. Like the bracha says. "...asher kidishanu bi'mitsvosav...""...Who sanctifies us with His mitsvos..." A mitsva of Purim is giving mishloach manos. Take what is yours and give it to others. Mine became yours, yours became mine. And like everyone does on Purim, some of yours and theirs and theirs gets repackaged in a new mishloach manos and given to them. Everyone becomes connected to everyone else. The sin was 'scattered and dispersed,' the tikun is ‘mishloach manos to one another' , the result is ‘eL koL YisraeL.' Rav Wolfson points out that ‘to one another' ‘ish l'rayayhu' =622= ‘eL koL YisraeL'.
Even Rav Yehudah attests to the power of smuchim in Dvarim. All the Jews standing side by side. This is indeed a situation to learn from. Again, the outstanding letter of ‘eL koL YisraeL' is the lamed. The word ‘lamed' is the root word for 'learn.' It just hit me. If anyone can participate in the upcoming siyum Shas, I would highly recommend it for this very reason. Over 70,000 Jews smuchim in giving kavod to H' and his Oral Law! Gevaldik!
Now that all B'Y is smuchim, in the first verse Moshe is reminding them of their trials and tribulations. Wanting to teach and not embarrass, Moshe only hints to the sins committed by naming the places in which they took place.
1:1> "Aileh hadvarim asher dibehr Moshe el kol Yisrael b'aiver layarden, bamidbar ba'aravah, mol suf bein Paran ubein Tofel v'Lavan v'Chatseros v'Di Zahav."
Rashi does fine telling us what happened in what place till he gets to ‘Tofel v'Lavan'and says no such places in all Tanach! Moshe is referring to the mon. ‘Tofel' means 'denounce' and ‘lavan' is 'white.' They denounced the white stuff. They spoke against the mon while remembering the free fish in Egypt. Rav Wolfson notes that back in Shmos, the mon is described using 'seedlike,' 'thin,' 'honey,' 'white,' etc. He asks why is it that Moshe picked 'white'? He says it's because Moshe wanted to impress upon B"Y what it really was that they were complaining about. Not just the object but what's behind it.
The number 7 is no stranger to Judaism. There are 7 heavens, 7 seas, 7 days, 7x7 weeks, not to mention David Hamelech's 7 string harp, 7 sphirot, 7 nations in E"Y. Well, there are also 7 colors in the rainbow!!! But no white! Remember our 7-3 split back in Parshas Balak? Not all these 7's stand alone. Some are revealed portions of a bigger picture. Although 7's are most prominent in our world now, there are really 10. The last three will become more 'pronounced' (meaning we will have a better grasp) after the Mashiach comes, when our physicalness is less limiting. Of the 3 'hidden' colors, one is white. The Tikun Zohar says white represents Chesed. White = loving kindness.
When G-d threw mankind out of the Garden of Eden, He cursed man and the ground because of man and said "By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread." Well, there was a time when the Jews did not have to sweat at all. They were fed out of pure loving kindness. In the desert!!! The mon from heaven was more than just free food. And this is what B'Y were complaining against. Oy!
Guess what? There is another time mankind is fed out of pure loving kindness. Any particular color come to mind when you think of a nursing baby? Rav Wolfson says this may be why we eat dairy prior to Tisha B'Av. To stir in Hashem His loving kindness that He may again bestow it upon us on and gather us in from our long bitter exile. Just as the red blood of a woman gets turned into white milk, may these days, red with the blood of our ancestors be turned to days of white loving kindness. May we all merit returning to the land of Milk and Honey. May H' not just care for us like the Jews in the desert but care for us as a mother cares for her nursing child. Without rebuke, without punishment, with only Loving Kindness. Bimhayrah Biyamainu. If there will be a fast, may it be a reflective one. If not, start practicing the celebrating by having a Shabbot Shalom.
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