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Parashat Bemidbar

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Yom Tov

The Shulhan Aruch (511:4) rules that one may not prepare "mugmar" on Yom Tov. This refers to the spreading of spices on coals to smell or to freshen the air in the home or whatever is near the coals. This is forbidden because the spices extinguish some of the fire in the coals, and the Torah allowed one to perform normally forbidden activities on Yom Tov only if they are "shaveh lechol nefesh," or universally required needs. Activities such as "mugmar," which constitute a luxury of sorts and are not shared by everyone, are forbidden. One may, however, prepare "mugmar" in order to enhance the smell of fruits as part of their preparation for consumption, even if they can be eaten without the fragrant smell.

For the same reason, one may not heat a quantity of water on Yom Tov to wash one's entire body. Washing one's face, hands and feet is a benefit common to all, and is thus permitted on Yom Tov, whereas washing one's entire body is not considered a regular need shared by everyone. One may wash one's entire body on Yom Tov with water heated before Yom Tov (so long as this is one's private home, rather than a public bathhouse); this is, however, forbidden on Shabbat.

One who smokes regularly and experiences discomfort when he does not smoke may smoke on Yom Tov. One who is stringent in this regard and refrains from smoking on Yom Tov may give a cigarette to his fellow who wishes to smoke, as smoking on Yom Tov is, strictly speaking, permissible. It is permitted even if the writing on the cigarette will be burned as a result of the smoking. However, all this applies to those who have already grown accustomed to smoking and experience great discomfort without it. Others, however, should refrain from smoking altogether as science has shown that it can endanger one's health. Even those who do smoke must minimize their smoking and eventually stop altogether.

It should be clarified that lighting a fire on Yom Tov is permissible only when lighting from a preexisting flame; one may not light a new fire on Yom Tov. (One may carry matches on Yom Tov; since one may light a match from a preexisting flame on Yom Tov, matches are not considered "muksseh.") For the same reason, one may not turn on electric lights, or an electric oven or stove, on Yom Tov. If the electric light was turned off on Yom Tov and one needs light in the given area, he may ask a gentile to turn it on; one may not, however, do so on Shabbat.

One may not cook on Yom Tov to feed gentiles or public Shabbat desecrators.

Masechet Avot

"Rabbi Elazar said: Be diligent in learning Torah; know what you will answer a heretic; and know before whom you toil, and your Employer is dependable that He will pay you the reward for your labor." (2:19)

"Be diligent in learning Torah." Torah study depends on one's diligence, rather than his talents. Indeed, we have seen many talented men who have not succeeded in Torah study because they did not invest the required effort. Conversely, there have been those with limited talent who have become great scholars as a result of their intense diligence in learning. Many sages rose to greatness not out of their natural intellectual capabilities, but because they exerted themselves in study night and day and never diverted their attention from Torah. Among the greatest of scholars was the Nessiv (Rav Naftali Sevi Yehudah Berlin zs"l) who has achieved wide acclaim for his many scholarly works. His nephew, Rav Baruch Epstein, author of the Torah Temimah, wrote (in his "Mekor Baruch") that from his childhood his uncle's talents were "average." Yet, he rose to the greatest levels of scholarship through his remarkable diligence. When he grew tired while studying and feared that he might fal!

l asleep, he would soak his feet in cold water. In fact, Rav Epstein records, Torah sages around him viewed him as distant from their circles until they saw his writings. Through his hard work and tireless effort he became among the greatest sages of Israel.


The Third Piece of Advice

I, like all readers of this newsletter, have been reading with great interest the "continuing story," following all its twists and turns and waiting anxiously for its development. I identify ever so strongly with the sadik's third piece of advice - not to believe any rumor until you can verify it without a shadow of a doubt. Hashem's decisions are just, but I have paid a very heavy price because of certain judges who decided to believe rumors which they confess have not been confirmed. They rendered judgment based on their impression and inclination, and no more. Indeed, how precious is the sadik's instruction never to reach a decision based on hearsay or just a gut feeling!

I would like to relate a true story that I heard recently. A certain poor couple with many outstanding children gave birth to a disabled child, Heaven forbid. A neighbor, who learned at a seminar, came to the family's assistance. She was remarkably eager and anxious to help however she could - dressing, feeding, walking, etc.; she came whenever she had a free moment, like an angel that had come to help the overburdened family.

One day, a teacher in the seminar organized a "hessed" program, by which every student would choose to take on a certain "hessed" activity out of the selection proposed by the teacher. The students were excited over the idea, gave serious thought to the matter and finally chose their activities - except for one girl, who informed the teacher that she had no time; she was busy.

She did not tell her that she had already taken on a project that fills every spare moment of her time. They had taught her that one should not take credit for good deeds; they should remain private, rather than be publicized and flaunted.

The time then came to select advisors for a certain social activity with which the seminar was involved. Understandably, this girl's name came up. She excelled in her studies, character and qualities, but that teacher stood like a brick wall against the idea. "No, not her!" she insisted. When questioned as to the reason behind her opposition, she refused to specify, claiming that doing so would violate lashon hara. But she insisted that they listen to her, that this student was not worthy of serving as an advisor, as a role model and example for others to follow. In truth, the teacher had very good intentions - anyone who does not have time for hessed should certainly not be appointed to a position of influence!

Since she had not given a reason for her opposition, the other faculty members overruled her, and the girl was chosen. She, however, was hesitant to take the position, for she really had no spare time. But Providence intervened, and at that time the child was sent to an institute that could properly care for him. The girl then accepted the position of advisor.

Such a position, of course, demands devotion and investment of time and effort. She exhibited both. She earned wide acclaim for her involvement, but whenever she would meet that teacher, the teacher would ask, "To work as an advisor, you have time?" For hessed, she had no time, but for working in this capacity she did? Because it gave her a good reputation and a title of respect? Again, the teacher did this out of sincerity. It pained her that her former student refused to involve herself in hessed, turning her back on a basic tenet of Judaism, the very foundation of Torah - which begins and ends with kindness, and the defining characteristic of Avraham Avinu, the father of our nation! The teacher spoke harshly with the student for sincere motives, but violated the misvah of the Torah to judge others favorably. She did not know the third piece of advice.

It very well could be that the student, for her part, should half clarified the matter and pointed out to the teacher the misunderstanding. This would have been the healthiest way to handle the situation. But instead, the girl said nothing.

To her good fortune, the teacher was not asked about her before she was engaged. Her reputation preceded her and she built a beautiful home of Torah. Today, she is a very successful teacher in one of the most outstanding schools in the Torah educational system in Israel. She is a very highly respected teacher and educator.

One day, she chanced upon that former teacher. When she had heard that her former student was teaching, she could not conceal her astonishment. She even exclaimed, "If I would have known, I would have torpedoed her appointment to this position!" A girl who has no time for kindness is not worthy to serve as an educator. And in principle, she was correct.

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


The Human Being's Subtenant

It can be seen around electric lights and window screens, quickly racing across the ceiling or sitting quietly and still on the windowsill, door or corner of the room. At times it can be seen fighting against members of its own species it meets along the way. The gecko is part of a large family that lives in people's homes and around human beings pretty much throughout the world. It belongs to the lizard family, which has several hundred members, and is widespread in tropical areas. Clearly, the gecko's ability to walk along the ceiling or across a glass window pane is indeed impressive. This talent stems from the unique build of its toes that it received from the Creator - each toe has a disk composed of scales with many minute brushlike projections, which create friction with even the smoothest surfaces. Among the problems encountered by the gecko arises when it leaves its dark home into the bright morning to hunt for food. Fortunately, its remarkably efficient pupil resolve!

s this problem. In most geckos, the pupil contracts in the light almost to the point where it becomes simply a row of four vertically arranged holes. In the dark, the pupil can expand to the point where it fills the entire socket of the eyeball. This is why the gecko's transition from a well-lit area to sheer darkness doesn't require any time for it to grow accustomed to the dark.

The relationship between the human being and the gecko is often described mistakenly as one of kindness, as the gecko appears to do the human being a service by destroying harmful insects and the person, in turn, provides the gecko with sustenance. In truth, however, this relationship is not one of mutual kindness, but rather a matter of mutual convenience for these two creatures who live in close proximity with one another. We Jews know that kindness stems from an awareness and conscious decision to provide another with some benefit without any expectation of something in exchange. Rather, the giving itself is a great privilege; it is in itself worthwhile. Kindness at its best occurs when the one doing the kindness gives the beneficiary such a good feeling that the latter feels as though he is the one doing a favor. This is true kindness.


Three Pieces of Advice (the end)

Flashback: The sadik Rav Levi Yis’hak of Berditchev zs"l gave a man three pieces of advice. The first two proved themselves worthwhile, and he became very wealthy by heeding them. The third piece of advice was not to believe any rumor before verifying it beyond a doubt. He therefore did not believe the rumors he heard of his wife's infidelity in his absence until he saw it with his own eyes. Even then, just to be sure, he decided to speak with her directly.

He stood next to the window from which the young gentile's eyes peered through the previous night.

"Tell me," he said, "I have heard, well, they are telling bad things." He suddenly fell silent, unable to speak any further.

"They are telling what kind of bad things, my husband?" she sadly whispered.

"Stories about your befriending the landlord's son." That's it. He had said everything he needed to.

"And you, my husband, believed it?" she asked in astonishment. "You had doubts about my fidelity?"

He now found himself in a corner. This was such a strange situation.

"I… no, well, yes… I refused to believe, but just to be sure, to remove any suspicion, I disguised last night as a traveler… " Much to his amazement, he detected a slight smile in her eyes. She was not surprised. She knew who he was the previous night and let him play his game. "I slept here and I saw with my own eyes, I saw the young man come here at midnight. And I saw you open the door for him. Tell me… " His voice broke as he cried, "Could I not have believed the rumors at that point?"

The woman smiled a sad, bitter smile. "Could you not have believed?! No, you could have done just one thing: come and ask me to clarify. This is what you are doing now, and I owe you an answer.

"Remember that you left on your wanderings because of our huge debt to the landlord. Well, the landlord did not forego on the money owed to him in the meantime. He was not content with just throwing us out of the store, and he was furious over your having disappeared. He wanted to see us go to prison until your return. I assured him that nothing good would come of his hostilities, and I explained that you left in order to earn money to pay the debt. He understood and agreed not to have us thrown in jail. He demanded, however, that we give him our youngest son, Moshe, to work for him. In other words, he took Moshe hostage, as collateral. He grew up in the landlord's estate together with the other non-Jewish children. My heart bled. His brothers and sisters were educated in Torah and misvot, while our Moshe would spend his childhood years with non-Jewish youngsters. I hugged him, cried and said, 'Moshe, remember you are a Jew. Soon your father will return from his travels and pay off our debt, and then you will return to us. In the meantime, Moshe, please come home every night, after the landlord's household was asleep, so that no one will see you. I will teach you to pray from a siddur and read Humash. This is the little bit that I know, that I can teach you. When father returns, he will teach you more and fill in what is missing.' Moshe has a heart of gold. He works so hard all day, and everybody abuses him in the landlord's house. He is the servant of servants in that house, but at night, instead of going to sleep to gather strength for the next day of labor, he comes here to study and increase his knowledge.

"But now, my husband, this evening, when Moshe comes, he will never again return to the landlord's estate. That's right - tonight you will greet him and open the door for him. You will embrace him and teach him. That's right - now we have money to redeem him, and now he will remain with us forever!"

"Of course, absolutely," the husband replied, who now cried together with his wife. "And you will please forgive me; you are a pure angel." In his mind he realized that the sadik's third piece of advice was the most precious of them all. With the first two he earned money, while with the third he acquired his happiness. Forever he will remember and engrave upon his heart: "Never accept any rumor until you have verified it beyond a doubt."

The End


"Take a census of the entire community of Benei Yisrael"

Rabbenu Yosef Haim zs"l writes in his "derashot" that, as we know, a person must exercise great care not to speak negatively before the Al-mighty about Am Yisrael, even about the wicked among them. He should rather guide them along the proper path. Before the Al-mighty, one must speak about them only positively and come to their defense. Indeed, the Gemara comments on the pasuk, "Do not speak evil about a servant to his master" that the Al-mighty becomes angry with those who speak negatively about Am Yisrael.

Now every Jewish child is circumcised at eight days old and Jewish adults ensure not to marry woman from other faiths. Thus, even if they do not meticulously observe the misvot, they nevertheless testify about themselves that they afford great importance to their Judaism and remain attached to their forefathers - all the way back to Avraham, Yis’hak and Yaakov.

In this light we may explain our pasuk. "Se'u," which we generally translate as "count," actually means, "raise," or "hold in high esteem." The pasuk continues, "et rosh kol adat Benei Yisrael," literally, "the head of the entire community Benei Yisrael," meaning, we must respect and honor even the sinners, and come to their defense. With what can we come to their defense? The pasuk continues, "by their families, the houses of their forefathers," meaning, that they remain loyal to their ancestors by observing berit milah, in order to remain separate from other nations, and that they do not marry outside the faith.

He concludes: "This merit is enough to come to their defense, to hold them in high esteem and praise them. Hashem shall help every Jew who has done wrong to perform complete teshuvah, and every wicked person shall abandon his path and every corrupt person, his thoughts; he shall return to Hashem and He will have compassion on him, and to our G-d, for He grants abundant forgiveness."

"Take a census of the entire community of Benei Yisrael"

Rabbenu Bahya zs"l writes that Benei Yisrael are elevated only through the fulfillment of the Torah. The pasuk therefore employs the word "se'u" (literally, "raise") to mean, "count," as this word implies on the one hand honor and greatness, as well as the severing of one's head, as Yosef's prediction to the baker, "Pharaoh will raise ['yisa'] your head from upon you" (Beresheet 40). Thus, the pasuk indicates that if Benei Yisrael involve themselves in Torah, then "se'u" will serve as an statement of greatness and honor; otherwise, it will carry the opposite meaning.

"Take a census of the entire community of Benei Yisrael"

Rabbenu Mordechai Hakohen of Aram Soba zs"l, in his work, "Siftei Kohen," asks that since, as the first pasuk in the parashah states, Hashem here spoke to Moshe "from the Ohel Mo'ed in the wilderness of Sinai," He should have employed the singular term, "sa," as He addressed Moshe alone. Why does He say, "se'u," in the plural form? He answers that Hashem addressed, as it were, Moshe Rabbenu, the Ohel Mo'ed, and the wilderness, urging them, "Se'u et rosh Benei Yisrael." The word, "se'u" connotes song, as in the pasuk, "Take up the song ['se'u zimra'], sound the timbrel… " Benei Yisrael are worthy to have songs be sung to them, as Hazal comment that in the future, the wilderness will praise Yisrael.

This song is to be sung by Moshe Rabbenu, the Ohel Mo'ed and the wilderness, and, in fact, all of creation, not only in the honor of those who study Torah, but for the honor of "the entire community of Benei Yisrael." The women are deserving of honor for maintaining their honor in Egypt. Despite their having been under Egyptian rule, they did not approach the lords and other men of authority and power, and did not breach the guidelines of modesty and purity.

"Take a census of the entire community of Benei Yisrael"

The term "rosh kol adat Benei Yisrael" literally means, "the head of the entire community of Benei Yisrael." But the Hid"a zs"l explains in the name of Rabbenu Efrayim zs"l that this actually refers to the Al-mighty Himself, "who has prominence above all" - "hamitnasei lechol lerosh." He joins the census, as it were, to complete the number - for whenever Benei Yisrael are counted for purposes of a misvah, the Shechinah is counted with them!


Rabbi Mordechai Abadi zs"l

The sacred Rabbi Mordechai Abadi zs" was among the great sages of Aram Soba, a scholar proficient in both the "hidden" and "revealed" areas of Torah, righteous in all his ways and pious in all his actions.

There was a custom in Halab on Shabbat to study after tefilah in memory of those who had passed. Relatives would serve dairy foods. One Shabbat, Rabbi Mordechai participated in the learning session but abstained from the food. When the one serving the food asked the rabbi as to why he did not partake of a certain dish, the rabbi replied that he did not even see it. "Perhaps there is some question concerning its kashrut," he added. "Otherwise, why wouldn't I see it?"

The man kept the rabbi's comments in his heart and therefore sent a message to the milkman commenting on the extraordinary quality of the milk sold to him on Erev Shabbat. He asked for more of the same milk and asked him what the secret was.

The milkman's face shone with delight upon hearing the compliment. He answered, "Indeed, I did not actually think that you would taste the difference. On Erev Shabbat, I was missing a small bit of milk to complete the amount you ordered to prepare the food for the learning session. I therefore took some milk from my donkey to fill the missing quantity. I never imagined that the taste would be felt. If you wish, I can always dilute it like this… "

This story was publicized throughout the city and everyone realized that Rabbi Mordechai was among those sadikim whom the Al-mighty ensures never to allow a mistake come their way, as the pasuk states, "He guards the feet of His pious ones."

Rabbi Mordechai composed many works: "Mayan Ganim" - a work of responsa, hiddushim and derush; "Hen Mordechai" - on Kabbalah; and "Viku'ah Na'im," "Meliss Na'im," "Mikra Kodesh" and "Divrei Mordechai." He passed away around one hundred and twenty years ago, in the year 5643, but his Torah continues to radiate throughout the generations.

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Even communities following the stringent view, who do not recite kiddush before dark on Shavuot night, may recite Arbit before sunset, after "pelag haminhah." They do not have to wait until after dark to recite Arbit.

One recites three berachot in kiddush on Shavuot night: "borei peri hagefen," "asher bahar banu," and "shehehiyanu."

There is a widespread custom to eat dairy products on Shavuot. The reason for this practice is that Benei Yisrael learned about the misvot when the Torah was given (as Rav Sa'adyah Gaon writes, that all the misvot of the Torah are subsumed under the Ten Commandments). Thus, upon their return to the camp, Benei Yisrael could not immediately eat meat products, which require a lot of preparation. Similarly, they could not cook with old utensils, since they had used these utensils for non-kosher food prior to Matan Torah. They thus had no choice but to eat dairy foods. In commemoration, we, too, eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Some also have the custom to eat honey and milk and Shavuot, since Torah is compared to both honey and milk (Shir Hashirim 4:11).

The widespread custom among Am Yisrael is to remain awake throughout the night of Shavuot studying Torah until daybreak. The Zohar Hakadosh (Emor, p.98a) writes: "The early pious ones would not sleep on this night, and they would engage in Torah learning and say, 'Come, let us inherit the sacred inheritance for us and our children in both worlds.'" The Zohar adds that whoever conducts this learning session on this night and rejoices in it is inscribed in the book of remembrance, and the Al-mighty blesses them with seventy blessings and crowns of the upper world. Regarding them the pasuk says, "Then those who revere Hashem spoke with one another. Hashem heard and noted it, and a scroll of remembrance has been written at His behest concerning those who revere Hashem and esteem His Name" (Malachi 3:16). Later scholars found a basis for this custom in the comment in the Midrash (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:56) that Am Yisrael slept through the night of Matan Torah, since the nights thi!

s time of year are short, and they slept until the second hour of the day. The Al-mighty came to Har Sinai and found them sleeping. The prophet Yeshayahu scolded Am Yisrael for this when he said, "Why have I come, and there is no one? I have called - and no one answers?" Hashem therefore woke them with sounds of thunder, lightening and the shofar, as it says (Shemot 19:16), "It was on the third day in the morning, there were sounds and lightening and a thick cloud… and the entire nation in the camp trembled." Moshe woke them and brought them to Har Sinai, as it says, "Moshe took the nation to greet G-d from the camp."


The pasuk in this week's haftarah states, "The number of Benei Yisrael shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted" (Hoshea 2:1). At first glance, this pasuk seems to contradict itself: it speaks of a "number" that cannot be counted. How could this be? Hazal answer that when Benei Yisrael obey Hashem's will, then Hashem bestows His berachah upon them such that no number can count them. When they do not perform Hashem's will, they can be counted. The Hid"a zs"l asks, how can we drive a wedge right in the middle of the pasuk, and claim that the first half speaks of one situation and the second half an entirely different situation? Additionally, the entire pasuk appears to describe the time of redemption. Furthermore, if the nation does not obey Hashem's will, and thus their number is finite, how is it possible that when the Mashiah arrives and they perform teshuvah - suddenly they cannot be numbered?

He explains that a sin minimizes a person and diminishes his personality, whereas a misvah act, such as kindness, Torah and tefilah, elevate the individual. The moment a person obeys Hashem's will, at a moment of remorse over the past and genuine commitment to improve in the future, at a moment of teshuvah, the Jewish soul bursts forth from its confinement, and becomes several times more than it had been. Indeed, there is a number that can count him, but qualitatively he has multiplied many times over by performing teshuvah - "which cannot be measured or counted."

So let us see: if we have a certain amount of money, and we hear of a no-risk investment that guarantees a ten percent annual profit, every financial advisor will warmly recommend it. Twenty percent - amazing; thirty - unheard of. Here we deal with our souls and personalities. And not in a year, but in an instant. And not ten percent, but many times over - how worthwhile it is to perform teshuvah!


Always, but always, before Shavuot - the festival commemorating Matan Torah - we read Parashat Bemidbar. Several reasons have been suggested: in order to separate Matan Torah, the source of blessing, from the curses described in Parashat Behukotai; because the arrangement described in the parashah, the boundary lines between the tribes and assignment of individual banners are so critical for spiritual growth; the counting of every individual highlights his singularity within his tribe, his unique, personal talents and capabilities, thus explaining how each Jew possesses his own portion in Torah that corresponds to the root of his soul and his inclinations, as we request in our tefilah, "and grant us our portion in Your Torah," by which we may chart our course.

We, too, will suggest an explanation of our own, suggesting a connection between a pasuk in our parashah and Shavuot, and thereby arriving at a deeper understanding of this festival. "The charge of Elazar the son of Aharon the kohen - the lighting oil, the aromatic incense, the daily meal offering, and the anointing oil - responsibility for the whole Mishkan and for everything consecrated that is in it or in its vessels" (4:16). Some commentators explain that Elazar was assigned responsibility for all of this, "to issue commands as to who carries and what each person carries" (Seforno). He would give each item to those Levi'im "who he would choose based on their zeal and piety, and they would carry them and return them to him when the Mishkan was erected" (Ramban).

But we read in the mishnah (Shabbat 92a): "One who carries [a load from a private domain to a public domain on Shabbat] - be it with his right hand or left hand, in his lap or on his shoulder - is liable [for punishment], for this was how the men from Kehat transported." Rashi there explains, based on the Talmud Yerushalmi, that Elazar would carry the lighting oil in his right hand, the incense in his left hand, the daily meal offering on his shoulder, and the bowl of anointing oil in the pocket of his apron.

The Ramban notes that if, indeed, Elazar carried all this personally, the burden would have been overbearingly heavy. The ketoret (incense) consisted of 365 portions, and the lighting oil contained 183 "lug." "But Elazar was strong and stalwart like Yaakov Avinu, and the same is true of Moshe Rabbenu (who personally erected and dismantled the Mishkan each day throughout its period of consecration, and every beam, of the dozens of beams, measured around eighteen feet in height and three feet wide; who has enough strength to even budge such a beam!?). Those who trust in Hashem shall renew their strength!"

But why, in truth, was Elazar, the assistant to the kohen gadol, the top-ranking leader of the tribe of Levi (3:32), required to carry all this by himself? After all, they had to travel for several long days at a time, and all throughout he bore this heavy burden on both hands, his shoulder and lap - why? The Midrash comments: "Elazar was highly respected, the tribal leader over all the other tribal leaders. Look at the authority he possessed! Perhaps one would think that someone of this stature would assign others to transport the vessels that he himself could transport? No. Rather, he himself transported them, to teach you that there is no pride before G-d" (Bemidbar Rabbah 5:20).

The Midrash there praises the dances of King David before the aron, describing how he danced with such intensity and skipped with his feet in the presence of the entire nation. He testified before Hashem, "I was not ashamed to lower myself before You for Your honor!"

So it is with regard to the great leaders of Yisrael, and so must it be concerning every Jew. The Midrash there tells of someone who regretting not having studied Torah. Once he stood in the Bet Kenesset, and when the hazzan reached kedushah, he cried out as loud as he could, "Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh Hashem Seva-ot!" His fellow worshippers asked him as to why he raised his voice and shouted so loudly. He explained, "I did not have the privilege of studying Humash or mishnah. Now, that I have permission to sanctify His great Name, shall I not raise my voice and have some consolation?"

The Midrash continues that soon thereafter he was appointed as the Caesar's general, responsible for all the fortresses in Eress Yisrael. He built a city and became a powerful nobleman. He and his children enjoyed honor and prestige from that point on. From here we learn, the Midrash adds, that one should not conduct himself arrogantly before the Al-mighty. Look at the stature earned by Yehoshua, who transmitted Moshe's teaching, ruled over Yisrael and distributed the Holy Land among Benei Yisrael, as reward for having been a "na'ar" (lad) serving Moshe, arranging the benches in his tent. Barak ben Avinoam spun wicks for the Bet Hamikdash, and Shaul earned kingship because his grandfather would light candles for the public in the dark alleyways (Yerushalmi, Shevi'it, end of chapter 3).

There is no pride before the Al-mighty. One who is ashamed cannot properly learn. Rabbi Akiva began learning the "alef-bet" with young schoolchildren at the age of forty! There is no pride before the Al-mighty. Elazar Hakohen and Yehoshua Bin Nun worked as servants and movers for Hashem's honor - and look at what they earned as a result! Fortunate are you, the gabba'im of the Batei Kenesset in every locale; fortunate are you, the ones who arrange the benches, siddurim and Humashim, who set the clocks and open the doors. Look at how much reward awaits you - honor and prestige in both worlds!

Yaakov Ben Senyar and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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