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by Daneal Weiner
May the zchus of this Torah be a refua shelaima for Nissim ben Rachel and all cholei Yisrael.
presents us with a seemingly unrelated string of events. First is the completion of the counting of the Levites. Why these two Levite families were separated from Kehat, counted last week, is a good question. That will be your homework. After the tally the Torah commands all the spiritually impure to leave their respective camps. Hashem then tells Moshe to teach the penalty for a thief who confesses and that anything sanctified by an Israelite goes to Priest. Then comes the laws of the Sotah, a women whose behavior is highly questionable regarding her trustworthiness.
Next, the laws of the Nazir, someone who refrains from physical pleasures to bring themselves closer to Hashem. Then the Bircas Kohanim- the priestly blessings. The remainder of the parsha is the itemization of the gifts of the 12 Tribes, brought by their Princes for the dedication of the Mishkan- Sanctuary. I would love to say I had one theme tying it all together. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch comes pretty close!
Jumping over the census taking, we come to the spiritually impure. They are: The Metsorah- one stricken with a divine disease of Tsora'as, erroneously translated as leprosy. The Zav- one who experiences an unexpected emission. And the Tamai Mais- one who comes is contact with a corpse. We said they needed to leave their respective camps. In the center of the encampment of Israel was the Mishkan which was called the Machaneh Shchinah- Camp of Divine Presence. Surrounding it was the Machaneh Leviah- the Camp of the Levites. Enclosing them on all four sides was Machaneh Yisrael- the Camp of Israel. Rashi explains that the Metsorah was expelled from all three camps. The Zav was expelled from both the Machaneh Shchinah and Leviah but was allowed in Machaneh Yisrael. The Tamai Mais was forbidden only from entering the Machaneh Shchinah.
Rav Hirsch discusses the shortcomings behind these three maladies. The Metsorah is a person lacking, shall we say, social skills. What brings his/her Tsora'as could be stinginess or speaking lashon horah- derogatory speech. Common to both these is a lack of appreciation for one’s neighbor. The Zav might be receiving a message from above that he/she is overindulging in physical desires. The Tamai Mais, having just encountered man in his least honored state, might draw a lesson in that regard, too focused of gaining honor.
Rav Hirsch now compares these negative traits against the camps from which they are evicted. The Metsorah, sent out to the company of the sand dunes, snakes and scorpions, is given an opportunity to re-evaluate his/her behavior and role in the community. Regarding the Zav, only the Kohanim and Levi'im are embarrassingly displaced to the outmost camp of Israel. Since they serve in the Mishkan they are held to a higher standard of thougth and certainly behavior. As for the Tamai Mais, such a person can be a tremendous and active member of the community and it can all be for the wrong reasons. He/she may fool everyone else but not Hashem. Such a person is cut off from the Machaneh Shchinah.
The Ethics of the Fathers brings a maxim, "Jealousy, desire and honor take a man from the world." The Metsorah has trouble with jealousy, a probable cause of stinginess and lashone horah. The Zav needs work taming desires and the Tamai Mais should realize chasing honor is a dead end!
Rav Hirsch now ties these three character flaws into the next three topics in the parsha. First topic is regarding the thief. Very easy to see the correlation between jealousy and theft. The next topic in the Torah is the Sotah, a women suspect of not controlling her desires. OF course she wasn't alone. There is a man out there with a similar problem. In fact, wherever he may be, he will suffer the same fate as the Sotah, should they be guilty. Next is the Nazir. The Torah describes the Nazir as someone taking an oath of abstinence to get close to Hashem. An act of humility in honoring the Creator. But wait! There's more!
Next are the 3 Priestly blessings. The first is that Hashem should bless and safeguard us. Rashi say this is a blessing for physical wealth. Rav Hirsch continues explaining that were it regarding spiritual wealth, we would not need to ask Hashem to safeguard it for us. If we all counted our blessings there would be no jealousy, stinginess or lashon horah. The second blessing is for Hashem to illuminate His countenance on us. This is the request for spiritual wealth! More Torah is always a good safeguard against over indulgence in desires. Lastly we ask for Hashem to raise His countenance to us and for peace. A request for undeserved honor and long life.
Rav Hirsch doesn't end here. He then ties this theme into the next three parshas!!! In Behaloscha we desire meat. In Shlach, the sin of the spies was not to lose their honor. And then Korach is about a jealous Levite who revolted against the divinely appointed leadership of Bnei Yisrael. Now there's a 1,000,000.00 deutsche mark vort!
To make it worth $1,000,000.02, I will squeeze in an idea between the last two paragraphs. Between Bircas Kohanim and the following three parshas is the remainder of Nasso, the gift offerings from the 12 Tribes of Israel. From 12 different sources and for 12 different reasons were brought 12 IDENTICAL offerings! What testimony to the unequivocal equality of all Bnei Yisrael!! If everyone knew this and knew it well, there would be no cause for jealousy. The recognition of one's intrinsic worth would satisfy one's spirit beyond physical desires. And what greater honor could be procured than being a member of Bnei Yisrael!
Have a faithful, spiritual and honorable Shabbot Shalom!
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