Meir Tzvi Berman

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Parshas Bamidbar


"Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe Bamidbar Sinai"
"And G-d spoke to Moshe in the desert of Sinai."

The Medrash states "The Torah was given in association with three things: fire, water, and desert."

Rav Mayer Shapiro of Lublin explains this Medrash in the following manner: Throughout a history that included severely adverse conditions, the Jewish people exhibited the ability to adhere to the Torah and their faith. What is our source of strength?

We are taught that the trials of faith that our ancestors successfully undertook inculcated certain tendencies within us.

This Medrash uses fire, water, and desert to represent the trials of faith FIRE represents the fiery furnace into which Avraham (Abraham) was thrown because he professed his belief in G-d. He was miraculously saved and the devotion of his act left its imprint upon his descendants, the Jewish people. As great as it was, this act was of an individual. It was therefore necessary to test an entire population and this was the test of water.

WATER represents the crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews at G-dís directive. The sea did not split until they after they entered this vast body of water. This act of faith and devotion was performed by an entire nation and it reinforced their steadfast loyalty to their faith. Yet, this needed to be complemented by a heroic action that was sustained over a great period of time. Only a long-term trial of faith would enable the virtues of faith and devotion to seep into the very soul of the Jewish nation. This came from the test of desert.

DESERT represents the Jewish people's trek through the desert on the way to the Promised Land. For forty years they followed G-dís clouds through the desert by the strength of their faith. This provided the ultimate reinforcement.

The Medrash is therefore understood to mean that the Torah was upheld by the Jews throughout all generations because of the three tests of faith that their ancestors undertook, represented by fire, water, and desert.

(Ma'ayana shel Torah)

"Ess Kaspecha Lo Siten Lo B'Neshech"

"Do not give [lend] him your money with biting (usury)"

Usury is called "biting" because the interest payments constantly nibble away at the borrower.

We can use this verse and the analogy for another lesson. The lender is called a giver. Whenever we give or do someone else a favor, we must do it with a smile, not with a bite.

(Mileches Machsheves)

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Jerusalem, Israel