JUNE 8-9, 2001 18 SIVAN 5761
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"May Hashem bless you and safeguard you" (from the blessing of the Kohanim)
In last week's perashah, Naso, we read the Birkat Kohanim. This berachah is recited every morning of the year in shul by the Kohanim. There is a profound lesson that gives added meaning when we hear this berachah every day, and has added significance for us as we head into the summer. The first part of Birkat Kohanim is a blessing for physical bounty: May Hashem bless you with a lot of money. Added to that is the word "v'yishmerecha - and safeguard you." Rashi explains that this added blessing is to bless the person that he should be able to keep his wealth, something that is very elusive in today's market conditions. The Rebbe of Kotzk says that the word veyishmerecha is related to the word "shemarim," which refers to the sediment of wine that lies on the bottom of the wine barrel. So the blessing means: May Hashem bless you, and may He allow the blessing to reside in you like shemarim. Why would we want our money to be like sediments, shemarim? Sediments are hidden from sight. Our Sages teach us that only when blessing is hidden does it have the ability to be maintained. The Talmud says (Ta'anit 8b): Blessing rests only in something hidden from the eye." It should not be flaunted in front of others.v There is a tremendous gap in our community between the "haves" and the "have-nots". All of our people need to learn how to spend. If one has it and would like to keep it, keep it hidden. If one does not have it, don't try to spend as if one has it; the pressure is unbearable. We are wary of the evil eye, perhaps too wary. Many use different methods like displaying a hand or subtly mentioning the number five. Some carry in their fancy cars a white "shebeh" stone. There is a better way. Our Sages teach us that if one gives a lot to charity we can't be hurt by the evil eye. Charity not only preserves our wealth but multiplies it.
This is important for our community as many come to the shore for the summer. Let's consider curbing our spending and giving it a little more dignity. Maybe the time has come that the next luxury car to purchase or lease should be American made. May Hashem bless all of us and safeguard us both physically and financially.
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And the Jewish people were like complainers." (Bemidbar 11:1)
Whenever the Torah tells us about the shortcomings of the earlier generations, we must keep in mind that they were much greater than we could even imagine, and as such, much more was expected from them. We may never compare ourselves to them; we can only learn from events in their lives and apply it to our own level.
Having said this, we read in the perashah how the Jewish people were punished back to back by fire and by plague. They asked for meat in an incorrect way, and this led to their suffering greatly through the very meat they asked for. The amazing thing, which is very instructive, is that the whole chapter begins with the words, "And the Jewish people were like complainers." The Rabbis point out that they really didn't start to complain, yet by taking on an attitude of whining and groaning, even in a very subtle manner, they brought out all the terrible misfortunes. We see from here how important a positive attitude is, and how a nagging attitude can be detrimental. Even when one doesn't actually complain, yet talks in a bitter manner, this can bring out the negative in people and lead to a host of problems. Let's think positively and talk in an upbeat way, focusing on the good rather than the negative. You'll be amazed at the results!
"B'nei Yisrael shall make the Pesah offering in its appointed time" (Bemidbar 9:2)
Rashi writes that this chapter should have been placed at the beginning of Bemidbar. However, it was put here because it is a disgrace for the Jewish people that throughout the forty years in the wilderness they offered only one Pesah offering. The bringing of the Pesah offering is contingent upon entering Eres Yisrael and the one offered in the wilderness was by special command of Hashem. Why then was it a disgrace not to offer additional ones?
When Hashem commanded the Jews to prepare a Pesah offering, some people were defiled and unable to participate. They were eager to be included and came to Moshe complaining, "Why should we be withheld from participating in the sacrifice (9:7)?" Moshe brought their plea before Hashem, and He gave a special dispensation. A second opportunity one month later would be given to those unable to participate in the first Pesah offering. The Jews of Egypt were spared thanks to the blood of the Pesah offering, which they smeared on their doorposts. Moreover, the Pesah offering was instituted to commemorate the redemption from Egyptian bondage.
Consequently, though Hashem only ordered one Pesah offering to be prepared during the forty years, it is a disgrace that the Jewish people did not come on their own with a heart-rending plea, "Though we are not yet in Eres Yisrael, we want to offer the Pesah offering to Hashem; why should we be withheld?" Alternatively, when the Jews left Egypt, they were slated to arrive in Eres Yisrael after only a brief sojourn in the wilderness. Unfortunately, they were punished with forty years in the wilderness for the incident of the spies. Consequently, it is true that except for the one Pesah offering which Hashem commanded, the misvah was to commence after their entry into Eres Yisrael. The perashah, however, brings out the disgrace of the Jewish people that their behavior prevented them from bringing a Pesah offering for forty years until arriving in Eres Yisrael. (Vedibarta Bam)
"Have I conceived this entire nation?" (Bemidbar 11:12)
The Seforno explains Moshe's statement in the following manner: A father can guide his sons even when their opinions differ. This is due to the sons' perception that their father loves them. Therefore, the sons attribute positive motivations to the father's leadership. Klal Yisrael, however, did not trust Moshe. They were suspicious of his behavior. This lack of trust undermined Moshe's attempts to effectively lead B'nei Yisrael. In his unparalleled humility, Moshe reinforced his perception of his shortcomings and inability to evoke Klal Yisrael's trust. The Seforno offers an invaluable lesson in education, which is applicable both to the home and the classroom. Evoking the trust of a child is an indispensable prerequisite for success. There is no surrogate for love and the reciprocal respect it engenders in a child towards his mentor.
Indeed, the honor we owe our children and pupils is vital. The educator who dismisses a child as "bad" restricts his ability to help make the child a better person. One who does not harbor a good opinion of his charges will reflect his personal conviction in his interaction with them, compromising his chances for success. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch writes that gentleness and kindness enable the development of the firmness needed to guide a child. Teachers who show no consideration for the personal dignity of their pupils and who demand respect by coercion will quickly watch their efforts result in failure. A child has a mind of his own and seeks to assert his individuality.
We must always demonstrate the love we maintain for our children and pupils. Their moral frailties must be viewed as temporary weaknesses, which can be overcome. When we give up our aspirations for our students, they will certainly lose hope too. Our own courage can stimulate their courage, and our hope can uplift them. Our cheerfulness can inspire within them the serenity which can alone foster mental and spiritual growth. This can only occur when the child senses that his mentor loves and respects him.
(Peninim on the Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Our perashah begins with a description of the daily lighting of the Menorah in the Mishkan. In this haftarah, the prophet Zechariah has a vision of a Menorah. Next to the Menorah were two olive trees which provided a continuous supply of oil. This was to symbolize that Hashem provides for all of our needs at all times, even though we sometimes do not see it
Steeped in Torah learning and zealous in his observance of misvot, the Brisker Rav was a beacon of confidence. He didn't flinch at any intimidation from the outside world nor succumb to pressure from within. Once, many of his students, along with several notables, appealed to the Brisker Rav to permit electioneering prior to the Motzai Shabbat Kehillah (an organization responsible to the government) ballot. "If the Rav won't allow us to broadcast our platform, the irreligious camp will win by a landslide," they argued, and the brisker Rav grudgingly agreed.
Ironically, the irreligious and the religious hired the same printer to run off their placards and literature. Apparently, for an additional fee, the printer showed the irreligious campaign organizers the text of the adherents of the Brisker Rav. The irreligious then printed an even more profanatory placard, strongly condemning and debasing the Brisker Rav. All of this resulted in a delay in producing the placards for the religious camp and they weren't ready until Ereb Shabbat. Because of the late hour, the students grabbed the posters directly off the printing press and ran to show them to the Brisker Rav for his approval before posting them throughout the city. The Rav, however, took the placards ad locked them in his room. "It is Ereb Shabbat and winning every seat in the election isn't worth a risk of desecrating the Shabbat."
"But Rebbe," if we don't paste up our placards, the residents of Brisk will only see the posters of the irreligious and will be lured by their propaganda. We'll be careful to stop affixing the posters well before Shabbat. Please!" "Just as there is a misvah to fight the 'Enlightenists,' likewise there is a misvah to observe the Shabbat, and I cannot permit any risks in that regard!" That Shabbat, Brisk was saturated with placards denouncing the religious platform and attacking the Brisker Rav - and no pro-religious posters appeared at all. Nevertheless, it was beyond the imagination of the residents of Brisk, who had all of Shabbat to study the propaganda, what the Brisker Rav could have done to deserve such insults and ridicule. He had not posted any derisive remarks about the town's irreligious residents or their leaders. In fact, the "Enlightenist" posters appeared so unprovoked and in such poor taste that the religious camp emerged the overwhelming victors in the election - all out of proportion to their numbers. (A Midrash and a Ma'aseh)
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