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Parashat Bamidbar

Without Vision, The Nation is Uncontrolled!!!

There is a verse in Yirmiyahu: "Who is the wise man, who will understand this, what the voice of G-d spoke to him, and told : For what was the land lost, and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through? And G-d says: Because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, not walked therein!" (Yirmiyahu 9:11) Our Rabbis explained: (Baba Metzia 85): This matter was asked of the sages and they could not explain it, asked of the prophets and they could not explain it.

Until Hakadosh Baruch Hu explained it Himself, as it says: "And G-d says: Because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them" because they did make a blessing for the Torah beforehand. Rashi explained: When they would learn Torah, they would not make a blessing beforehand, and since they did not make a blessing, they revealed that they did not consider the Torah an important gift. This is why this matter is relevant on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, the holiday of appreciation of this important gift. However, anyone who looks at that chapter in Yirmiyahu will be shocked and stunned! The chapter begins with the most stringent sins that were done in Israel in that period, and not just by individuals and exceptions. "For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men...They proceed from evil to evil, and they know me not, says G-d...And they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity...have walked after the stubbornness of their own heart, and after the Baalim (idolatry), as their fathers taught them." "The first Temple, for what was it destroyed? For three matters that were there- idolatry, forbidden sexual practices, and murder." (Yoma 9) These are clear statements! How can we then understand the question: "Who is the wise man, who will understand this" this matter was asked of the sages - and they could not explain it "what the voice of G-d has said to him and told" - this matter was asked of the prophets and they could not explain it, "Why does the land perish, and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?" The sins are explicit in the words of the prophets, revealed clearly to all! More than that: they are listed in that very chapter, in that very prophecy. Why should no man know, until they needed the answer of the Creator, may his name be blessed?

And they most pointed question: Instead of the Creator, may he be blessed, mentioning the serious, terrible sins, the sins of idolatry, forbidden immoral practices and murder, he mentions the lightest of transgressions, the lack of performance of the positive commandment of the blessing of the Torah!

This matter certainly begs for explanation!

However, when we look further at the matter, we will understand. The question was much deeper than that, and only the Creator could answer it.

This is what Yirmiyahu the prophet asked: It is true that the situation has declined, and we have reached a point of no return. (See Rashi Shir Hashirim 5:6, that in the days of Yirmiyahu the decree about the Destruction had already been made, and it was impossible to nullify it!) It is true that the nation is stained with the most terrible of sins but how did this happen? Didn't "I plant thee a noble vine, an entirely right seed: how then are you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine to me?"

(Yirmiyahu 2:21) This was such a holy and elevated nation, the nation of G-d in the full meaning of the word, how few years had passed since they checked from Dan to Be'er Sheva and did not find an ignoramus! (Sanhedrin 94) What happened, how did this quick, crushing decline occur?

To this, no man had an answer. Not the sages, not the prophets, they all stood shocked. Until Hakadosh Baruch Hu came, Who investigates hearts and insides, and revealed the secret: Because they did not make the blessing on the Torah beforehand, even if they did learn it, even if they kept its commandments, it was not a precious gift in their eyes! There was crookedness in their list of values, they reversed the order of priorities.

They did not understand that the matters of this world are an entranceway to the matters of the world to come, to the eternal acquisitions that are the main thing. Certainly, one must work and profit, to plow and sow, everything in everything, but this is not the main thing and this is not the goal. The goal and the main point are spiritual advancement, one's complete personal acquisition. Instead of recognizing this, they "overturned the creations." They turned physical matters into the main point, used wealth to measure success, and property to measure happiness; Status and material possessions were in forefront of their vision. No, this is not a sin, but it is an opening to destruction of values, and the animalization of society, for "Without vision the people become uncontrolled!" (Mishlei 29:18)

History, unfortunately, repeats itself, with incredible precision! Let us look at the serious thought of the voter who thinks about the acquisition of more values for the children of Israel, about the increase in education, about the spreading of even more classes in Torah? Who trembles at the spreading violence in the schools, at the plague of drugs that destroys all goodness, at the destruction of all barriers and the impassioned furthering from the eternal values of the nation?! Woe is to the nation that does not make the blessing on the Torah first; Without vision, there will be no control! Fortunate are those who prevent the erosion, who cry out loudly with the voice of Judaism!

Let Us Not Stop Concentrating on the Essential!

The Hafetz Haim zs"l (in his introduction to his book "The Camp of Israel") brought the words of the holy Zohar, that the camp of Israel in the desert was like the camps of the angels above. Just as the camps of the angels surround, as it were, the divine Shechina, so too the tribes surrounded the Mishkan, the home of the divine Shechina, "to teach us the he is our G-d, our Father, our King, and we are His nation and servants, his sons like sprouts of olives around his table."

He adds that even now, in the time of destruction and exile, all Jews throughout the world pray facing Yerushalayim, to the place of the Temple from which the Shechina has not moved. "If so, we are still like the flags [of the tribes] in the desert, and even though we are far in body, our souls are close, and our eyes and hearts are there always."

These words are wondrous, but also obligating: that in all of our deeds, wherever we may be, and whatever we may do, that our goals should always face in one direction, to the holy Shechina and its will!

In these days when one's head aches from all the noise and propaganda, we will not let our heads be swayed and we will not stop focusing on the essential: as believing Jews, our focus is on the Mishkan of G-d, to do the will of the holy Shechina!

From The Wellsprings of the Parasha

"And I have taken the Leviim from within the children of Israel"

The Rav Siftei Cohen zs"l was surprised: what is the explanation of the verse "and I have taken the Leviim from within the children of Israel, and the Leviim will be mine." What is the meaning of this declaration, did it not already say "bring closer the tribe of Levi" and foretell their being chosen for the holy work?

He explains, that the Leviim were chosen for the work in the Mishkan when they gathered around Moshe Rabennu to take revenge on those who had worshipped the Golden Calf, as it says "Let every man put his sword on his thigh and pass from gate to bring a blessing on yourselves today."

It is known that the tribe of Levi was the smallest of the tribes, and it arose to take vengeance and pass judgement on all of Israel with no man rising up against and fighting them; no one protested or prevented them from doing so. This was a miracle and a wonder, aid from Above, and so for what were they chosen? It must be that they were chosen because of their intentions and readiness, and not because of their deeds which they accomplished with help from above.

This is what it means "Bring closer the tribe of Levi." Despite the fact that their deeds were done with miraculous aid "And I have taken the Leviim" but they gathered To Moshe without knowing that they would merit this help, "and the Leviim will be mine" because of their intentions and readiness, and therefore they merited!

So too anyone who works to strengthen the barriers of holiness, will certainly merit aid from Above, but will receive his complete reward because of his readiness and willingness to increase the honor of Heaven!

"And when the Mishkan traveled, the Leviim would take it down"

Rabennu Bahya zs"l wrote: we have a clear principle: The four letter name of G-d is a name of mercy, but if it is written backwards it shows that there is a harsh judgement. Just as the four letter name backwards is hinted to in the letters by Haman's statement right before his demise, when he said : "And all this is worth nothing to me," which includes G-d's four letter name backwards (the last letter of each word), and the attribute of judgement fell on him then.

In the work of the Leviim the verse mentions that a stranger who participates will die, just as G-d's anger was kindled at Uza. Therefore the verse hints to G-d's name backwards twice in this verse: "And when the Mishkan traveled, the Leviim would take it down. And when the Mishkan stopped to rest, the Leviim would put it up and a stranger who participates will die." (first letter of each word).

"Moshe and Aharon took all the men who had been chosen by name"

The holy Alshich zs"l writes: First Moshe and Aharon took the princes (Nesiim) and appointed them over the counting, and then "they gathered the whole nation." At first glance, they could have shortened the procedure: calling the whole nation and gathering them, and at the same time to choose the Nesiim and begin the counting.

But if everyone were standing there, and would hear when they chose the twelve Nesiim, this would cause many great men mental anguish. Therefore, the called the Nesiim on their own, not in front of everyone!

Parents and educators certainly need to invest themselves with sensitivity to the feelings of children and students, and not to favor some over others!

The Golden Column

The Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Sadkah zs"l

In the last week if the counting of the omer, the last week between Pesah and Shavuot, We will recount a wonderful Devar Torah that we heard from Rabbi Yehuda Sadkah zs"l, the Rosh Yeshiva of "Porat Yosef." Our Rabbis tell us (Nedarim 49b) about the holy Tana (sage of the Mishna) Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Ilai who could not drink wine, and thus made kiddush on bread or "the drink of that nation." Only on Pesah he had to drink the four cups, which resulted in a massive headache lasting from Pesah till Shavuot!

Our teacher asked: Since when have we heard of a headache lasting for fifty days, until Shavuot? He answered: We know that the four cups were instituted to remember the four languages of redemption, as it says: "And I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will save you from their slavery, and I will redeem you with a mighty hand and a drawn forearm, and I will take you for me to be a nation and I will be your G-d." The first three languages detail the exodus from oppression to redemption, and the are all fulfilled on the night of the seder. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, there was complete freedom. But the fourth language "And I will take you for me to be a nation, and I will be your G-d," was not fulfilled until the giving of the Torah, when we became the nation of G-d.

Our teacher ended: The stage of redemption from slavery and oppression is the easier stage. But the arrival to spiritual redemption is a real "headache" taking continual effort for the fifty days of the counting of the omer.

Then he would end saying: Everyone is happy about the establishment of the state of Israel and its independence. But very few realize that the essential part is still in front of us: the acquisition of a Jewish character to the state of the Jews, and the return of the crown to its glory!

Halacha Berura

Halachic Decisions according to the order of the Shulchan Aruch
according to the decisions of the Rishon Letzion,
Rabeinu Ovadia Yosef Shlita

The Holiday of Shavuot
By the Gaon Rabbi David Yosef Shlita, Rosh Beit Midrash "Yehaveh Daat"

A) On the sixth of Sivan falls the holiday of Shavuot, after the counting of the omer for forty-nine days which are seven weeks. This is why it is called "the holiday of weeks," as it says in the Torah, (Devarim 16:9-10) "Seven weeks you will count... and you will make Shavuot for Hashem, your G-d" Our Rabbis said: Why did G-d make Shavuot dependent on the counting of the omer, unlike any other holiday? This is because when Israel was foretold that they would leave Egypt, they were also foretold that they would receive the Torah fifty days after leaving, as it says, (Shemot 3:12) "When you take this nation out of Egypt, you will worship G-d on this mountain," the extra "nun" in the word "ta'avdun" instead of "ta'avodu," is to hint that after fifty days from leaving Egypt, they would receive the Torah on the mountain of Sinai. When Israel left Egypt, from their great love, they would count every day: one day passed, two days passed, etc. because it seemed like a long time to them from their desire to receive the Torah and their love. They were looking forward and hoping for the receiving of the Torah and thus this counting was established for generations.

B) It is customary to decorate the synagogues and the houses with plants, flowers and roses in honor of the holiday of Shavuot. It is also customary to decorate the Torah scrolls with crowns of flowers and roses. A basis for this custom can be found in the words of our Rabbis (Shabbat 88a): "Every word that came out of the mouth of G-d caused the whole world to fill with smell of spices." It is also customary to spread branches of trees in the synagogues and the houses, to remember what our Rabbis said (Rosh Hashana 16a): that on the holiday of Shavuot we are judged about the fruits of the trees. One may have doubts about this custom, because of the fear of the prohibition: "Do not walk in their (non-Jewish) ways." However, the Halacha holds that this prohibition does not apply here, and the custom of Israel is like Torah.

C) There are those who say that on the night of Shavuot one should wait to make kiddush until after the stars come out, so that it will be definitely night, (that is, a quarter hour past the setting of the sun). This is because if one makes kiddush before it is definitely night, he is eliminating some of the forty-ninth day of the counting, and it says (Vayikra 23:15) "Seven complete weeks they will be." There are some who disagree and say that one need not worry about this, and it is permissible to make kiddush while it is still day. In places where it is possible to hold like the stringent view in this matter, it is proper to do so.

However, in places where sunset is very late in the summer and the household is worried to wait until night, and this will cause a disruption in the "Tikkun Lel Shavuot," (which we fulfill in accordance with the holy Zohar and our Rabbi the Ari), we may be lenient and make kiddush and eat while it is still day. If it is possible, it is good to wait until the beginning of sunset, when the sun is covered from our eyes and then to make kiddush and eat. It is also good to eat an olive's worth of food after the stars come out.

D) Even in places where the custom is not to make kiddush and eat before the stars come out, it is permissible to pray Arbit of the night of Shavuot while it is still day after "pelag hamincha," and one need not be stringent and pray Arbit specifically after the stars come out.

E) In the kiddush of the night of Shavuot, we make three blessings: Borei Peri Hagafen, Asher Bahar Banu Mikol Am, and Sheheheyanu.

The Wonders of Creation

The Forest

Someone who wants to breathe pleasant air, free from pollution and to hear the voices of the birds, should go to the forest. Thirty percent of the dry land on the planet is forests. Forests grow in the places where conditions are best for them. The forest needs an average temperature of at least ten degrees Celsius, in the summer the amount of rain must be at least averaging 20 millimeters per year. Since forests are dependent on conditions of atmosphere and location, each place where there is a forest, it is appropriate for its conditions. Thus there is a range of types of forests, such as the tropical rain forests, the woodlands around the Mediterranean sea and others, such that each type has the appropriate type of trees. Thus, for example, in the tropical regions, the trees grow to very high heights.

Anyone who wants to know how important the forests are for man, should imagine for himself for a moment what the world would look like if suddenly all the forests in the world would disappear and the world was left bald.

The ruler of China tried to cut down all the tress as part of a war against insects and other damagers that live in the trees. Then the whole nature was not only the color of tar and asphalt, but covered in dust and millions of Chinese suffered from difficulties in breathing. This caused the Chinese to immediately replant millions of trees. There is no doubt that without the forests the mountains would be left bald, the land would dry up and turn to dust and the wind would carry it to the four corners of the world. The rain, for its part would flow quickly down whatever was left of the land, causing tremendous floods. This is only some of the damage that would occur if the Creator had not created the forests with their many trees.

There is no doubt that a man who has been granted wisdom should not try to experiment to prove the point, how terrible the world would be if we did not have trees. In this way, there is no Jew who would risk danger, and try to see what would happen if he separates himself from Torah and its commandments. History has proven unfortunately the great losses, including political, social and financial losses that were caused by leaving the Torah of G-d.

We Jews know that every physical matter is influenced by our spiritual level, as we have learned "Listen, my son to the rebuke of your father, and do not forget the Torah of your mother."

Continuing Story

A Father and His Son (part 15)

Summary: A story of a Rabbi who enjoyed the hospitality of a generous elderly man, and blessed him with a son. One day, the voice was heard of a wild beggar, who tried through force to increase the amount of a donation.

When the Rabbi discussed this with him he discovered that this was the son that was born through his blessing. He was sorry to see him a boor and ignoramus, and convinced him to stay with him until he cleared up what had happened to his father's inheritance.

The young man agreed, and the Rabbi instructed his family to treat him generously and forgivingly, and to turn their eyes from his wild behavior and his ear-piercing speech. Not to react to his utterances, not to answer his taunts, and not to respond to his curses. It was hard for his family and students to listen to the Rabbi's words and to suffer the young man's actions, but their father and Rabbi's commandment was important to them.

Meanwhile, the Rabbi sent away to clear up what had happened to the inheritance, for the generous hospitable man was very rich. He discovered that with his wealth, the phrase of "he who salts his money, it will stay" was fulfilled. The old man had no preservative. The wealth dwindled when the old man experienced sorrow due to his son's behavior, and abandoned his property. Finally he died penniless, and the creditors took everything that was left. The youth had nothing, no parents, no property, nothing.

The Rabbi told the news to the youth, who accepted it calmly. They hadn't really told him anything new. "If so," he said, "I will return to my wandering. Tell me where are the beggars with whom I came, and send me on my way as you promised!"

"As you wish," said the Rabbi," but I have an offer of work for you."

"I don't want to work," said the youth, cutting him off.

The Rabbi drafted his attribute of pity: "It is not really work. The court needs a messenger, to give out news, to perform errands, to make decrees, to call people to judgement. Sometimes, the messenger is sent once or twice a day, sometimes he spends his whole day doing nothing and receives his salary. Thus he saves up money with which he can satisfy himself."

The youth agreed to try, and proved himself faithful to the goal. He was so dedicated, that they used to say that if the Rabbi told him to jump into fire, he would jump into fire willingly. The Rabbi saw his dedication and decided to take advantage of the opportunity. He said: "Sit with me one hour a day and I will teach you the living Torah of G-d." The youth said: "With one condition. I am willing to listen, without saying anything." The Rabbi sighed and said: "May it only be so." He sat with him and showed him the letters of the alef bet, and he was silent. He taught him how to read, and the youth was silent. To read the siddur, and the youth was silent..

After a month he moaned: "What a waste of time, nothing has been absorbed!"

The Rabbi sighed and his hands were weakened. He lost all hope.
(to be continued)

Who Wants a Blessing

Who wants a blessing? Who doesn't want! When there is blessing, everything looks different! When there is blessing of health and in business, the home is a place of peace and a family nest and the children are a source of pride and joy. Everyone's face shines who wouldn't want a blessing! How can one get a blessing, how can one acquire it?

The wonderful key to a blessing, the blessing of merit and life, is found in the explanation to the Ramban in our parasha. Bnei Yisrael came to be counted before Moshe Rabennu and Aharon the Kohen. They were counted in front of them. Why? "For one who comes in front of the father of all prophets and Aharon the holy one of G-d, and is known to them by name, this will be for him a merit for life."

This is true, but still not understood: let them present themselves, to be mentioned for a blessing. But the counting is for what? Why would this mustering at the same time as a counting of the complete number of Bnei Yisrael? The Ramban adds that there is another dimension: "For he (one who is counted) is within the secret of the nation and within benei ysrael, and the merit of the many is in their number. For each of them there will be a blessing in their being counted before Moshe and Aharon, for they will place their eye on them for good." The explanation: There is a big difference between one who comes before he leader of the generation and the holy one of G-d in a personal way and receives his blessing, and one who is counted with all those who are respectful of the leaders of the generation, "he will come within the secret of his nation and within of benei yisrael." There is here "a great merit in the numbering" the merit of the many being counted together with a complete blessing of great strength for a surplus of blessing and success. This gives the leaders of the generation more strength and power "for they will place their eye on them for good!"

This week is the opportunity that is given only once every few years to be counted together by the call of the leaders of the generation, as one man with one heart, and to heed their holy call. Without doubt, for those who are counted, will open the horn of plenty and great light, for merit and for life, joy and livelihood, and all good and blessing!

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