May 10, 2013
Peace of Parsha- Bamidbar -Dr. Laura Danoff
The Book of Bamidbar is also called Sefer Hapekudim (The Book of Numbers) because in it a census of the Jewish people is taken not only once but twice. The Hebrew term for census- taking is s’u es rosh, which means, ” lift up the head”. By counting, Hashem reminds us how each one of us is important and how each one of us is given a special purpose in life that only we can fulfill.
The parsha opens with G-d’s commandment to Moshe and his brother Aharon to go ahead and conduct a counting of the Jewish people. The Children of Israel had already been counted numerous times before; once when they went down to Egypt, a 2nd time upon their exodus and then after the incident of the sin of the golden calf in order to know the number of survivors.
Does G-d who is absolutely omniscient need to count the Jews to determine their actual population if he already knows it? Rashi states that Hashem repeatedly counted the Jewish people because of his love for them. Hashem commands Moshe to count each Jew as “one” so each person is considered significant and equal before Hashem since each one possesses a spark of his neshomah. Ramban says that the Hebrew word for count “pakod” can also mean to be concerned with or remember.
G-d commanded that the Jews be counted to show us that each man rich or poor, learned or ignorant are all equal members of the Jewish nation. Every Jew and at any level has an equal share in the Torah.The census taken in Bamidbar though was different than those taken prior. Here, Moshe was commanded to” take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel according to their families of their paternal household.” Rashi says that each person (male from ages 20-60) had to present his genealogical documents and witnesses so that each person could be registered in his tribe and family. The family unit thus constituted the foundation of the Jewish nation and each person registered according to his own Hebrew name.
After being introduced to Moshe and Aharon by name and background, Moshe gave each person a blessing. According to Rav Alpert, this was Hashem’s way of trying to give confidence to a nation of former slaves.
In Parsha Bamidbar it states: “Each man of the Children of Israel shall encamp alongside his banner according to the insignia of their father’s house”. The names of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya’acov were written on the banners. The total number of letters of the names of our forefathers is thirteen which is the numerical value of the word Ehad (one). This reminds us that all Jewish people should be united as one and it is this unity that will raise the Children of Israel to absolute greatness.
There were 603,550 men available for military service. The tribe of Levi, which numbered 22,300, was exempt from military service because of their special responsibilities as religious leaders and were commanded to serve in the sanctuary and guard its vessels. Originally, this honor belonged to the firstborn males of the Children of Israel who were spared by Hashem during the plague of the firstborn in Egypt. This privilege was taken away from them because of their participation in the sin of the golden calf and thus this distinction was given to the Levites. All Levite males were counted from the age of one month and older. This explains why the pidyon ha- ben is done at 30 days for the firstborn males who are not of Levite descent.
The Torah portion of Bamidbar is usually read the Shabbat before the holiday of Shavuot, when G-d gave us the Torah. Shavuot is the only holiday for which the Torah did not establish a specific day of the month. It is celebrated on the 50th day, after counting the Omer for a period of seven weeks. We prepare for Shavuot by counting numbers.
We should all be “counting” our blessings that we were given the Torah. Each of us must recognize our important role in committing ourselves to the Torah to follow its laws, and study its endless wisdom bringing its application into our daily lives. Our boundaries and rewards are endless just like the desert where the Torah was given. Without the Torah nothing would count!
This Peace of Parsha is dedicated to my husband Scott in honor of our wedding anniversary. Thank you for always making each day count!
April 30, 2013
BEHAR/ BECHUKOTAI by MARK GERSTEN in memory of HELENE
WHY OF ALL MITZVOT WAS SHMITAH PICKED TO BE SINGLED OUT IN OUR SEDRAH AS THE ONE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE ON HAR SINAI? PERHAPS BECAUSE MOST MITZVOT ONLY HELP US HONE AND DEVELOP ONE MIDAH AT A TIME. SHMITA HELPS US DEVELOP TWO:
1)FAITH: FAITH IN HASHEM THAT HE WILL PROVIDE FOOD FOR US FOR 2 ½ YEARS (THE SIXTH SEVENTH AND START OF THE EIGHT) , SINCE WE CAN’T PLANT OR HARVEST ON SHMITA, THE SEVENTH YEAR.
2)HUMILITY- THE LAWS OF SHMITA REQUIRE THAT WE OPEN OUR FIELDS TO ANYONE TO GLEAN ANY PRODUCE THE FIELD DOES HAVE. WE PROUD, LANDOWNERS. MUST LET ANYONE COME ON OUR PRIVATE PROPERTY AS IF IT WAS ALSO THEIRS AND NOT JUST OURS
FIRST AT SINI ,MOSES CHOSE
THE MITZVAH “SHEMITA” TO DISCLOSE.
WHY OF ALL THE ONES HE COULD
HE FELT THIS WAS THE ONE HE SHOULD?
TWO MAJOR LESSONS DOES IT SHOW
THROUGH IT OUR FAITH IN G-D CAN GROW.
FIRST, ONE CANNOT PLANT HIS FIELD
THE SEVENTH YEAR TO TAKE ITS YIELD.
SHABBAS YOU CAN’T WORK ONE DAY,
WITH SHEMITAH ONE WHOLE YEAR’S DELAY.
NO CHANCE TO EARN YOUR DAILY BREAD,
FULL FAITH IN G-D YOU NEED INSTEAD.
AND SECOND, HUMBLE YOU MUST BE.
NOT SHOWING ANGER ,JEALOUSY,
WHEN PEOPLE TRAMPLE ON YOUR FIELD
AND TAKE TO EAT ITS MEAGER YIELD.
ANYONE CAN COME OR GO,
ONTO YOUR FIELD YOU CAN’T SAY NO.
THIS ANCESTRAL LAND FROM HASHEM
THIS YEAR MUST SHARE WITH ALL OF THEM
G-D PROMISES THAT IF WE LISTEN TO HIS TORAH OUR LIFE WILL BE BLESSED. LATER THE SEDRAH TELLS US THAT ALLTHE CURSES CAME UPON US BECAUSE WE DID NOT SERVE HIM WITH JOY
IF YOU FOLLOW MY DECREES,
COMMANDMENTS YOU PERFORM,
YOUR BREAD WILL BE ABUNDANT
AND YOUR VINYARDS OUTPERFORM.
YOU WILL HAVE AN INNER PEACE
FROM FAMILY AND FROM FRIENDS.
THE FEAR OF HOSTILE NATION’S DANGER
WILL COME TO AN END.
BUT DO IGNORE MY STATUTES
AND TREAT ME CASUALLY,
NINETY-EIGHT HARSH PUNISHMENTS
WILL COME TO YOU FROM ME.
BUT ASIDE FROM DOING MITZVOT
PLEASE BE VERY SURE
THAT YOU APPROACH ME HAPPY,
JOYFUL, FEELING QUITE SECURE
REALIZE ALL THE GOOD I GIVE
TO YOU EACH DAY THAT YOU LIVE
APPROACH ME AS BOTH FATHER,KING
PRAISE ME WITH THE SONGS YOU SING
IN THIS WAY BLESSINGS WILL UNFOLD
AND BENEFITS IN WAYS UNTOLD
OUR ANSWER SHOULD BE
When with words of psalms we start
Approach the Lord with gladdened heart
We prove our joy with words of song
What the Lord wants all along
And when we’re happy as we should
We thank Hashem for all the good
It makes him want to give us more
That’s what man was created for
For G-d could sit upon his throne
King of the world supreme, alone
But chose to make things grow and live
Because of his great wish “to give”
… GOOD SHABBAS
April 17, 2013
Parshas Acharei-Kedoshim 5773 Revenge Stephen Rabinowitz, MD B”H
Parshas Acharei, the sixth of the ten parshios in Sefer VaYikra, contains 80 verses. The parsha contains two positive mitzvos and 26 prohibitions. Parshas Kedoshim contains 64 verses, including 13 mitzvos and 38 prohibitions. This year the two parshios are read together.
Parshas Kedoshim begins with the statement that Bnei Yisroel should or will be holy or sanctified, meaning that we will be placed in a distinct category separate from other people, dedicated to a special purpose, and required to adhere to a code of conduct beyond just “doing what comes naturally.” We may not simply indulge our appetites and convenience; but, rather, in every situation, we must be detail-oriented, read the label, and make specific, informed choices. We can only get through the maze of life by making the right choices. Two of the prohibitions included in this code forbid taking revenge (nekimoh) and bearing a grudge (netiroh) (VaYikra 19:18, and verse 17 is provided for context) (translation adapted from Rabbi Chaim Miller, based on Rashi (1040-1105)):
|יז לֹא-תִשְׂנָא אֶת-אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ; הוֹכֵחַ תּוֹכִיחַ אֶת-עֲמִיתֶךָ, וְלֹא-תִשָּׂא עָלָיו חֵטְא.||17 You should not hate your brother in your heart. You should continually rebuke your fellow, but you should not bear sin (by embarrassing) him (in public).|
|יח לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ; אֲנִי יְקוָק.||18 You should neither take revenge nor bear a grudge against the members of your people. You should love your fellow as (you love) yourself; I am HaShem.|
Most of the commentaries on these verses relate to loving one’s fellow, but this dvar Torah will focus on the aspects of “revenge” and “grudge.” The Gemara Yoma 23a and the Midrash Sifra 4:10-11 define these terms. Here is the example of revenge: One man said to another, “Lend me your sickle.” The second man said, “No.” The next day the second man said to the first, “Lend me your hatchet.” The first man replied, “I am not lending it to you just as you did not lend me your sickle.” Here is the example of a grudge: One man said to another, “Lend me your hatchet.” The second man said, “No.” The next day the second man said to the first, “Lend me your shirt.” The first man replied, “Here it is for you; I am not like you; you did not lend me your hatchet.”
Strictly speaking, someone who was subjected to personal suffering, more than just a denied loan of a utensil, may be permitted revenge, but the Rabbis say he should not take it. The Gemara considers the special case of a Torah scholar who has been insulted or disgraced, particularly in public, and particularly on a religious rather than a personal issue. This insults not only the scholar, but also HaShem and the Torah, and cannot be ignored. The Torah scholar may not take personal revenge or look for personal benefit, but he should keep the incident in mind, and not interfere when someone else avenges the honor of HaShem and the Torah. King Saul was punished because he prevented others from avenging the King’s honor.
The Netziv (1816-1893) was fond of quoting the Talmud Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4: A man was cutting a piece of meat with a knife. He slipped and stabbed his hand. Would he avenge this injury by stabbing the hand that held the knife? That would be absurd. Similarly, since klal Yisroel is one entity, one Jew shouldn’t even consider taking revenge on his fellow Jew. It would be like stabbing himself. We must see ourselves as members of one nation, HaShem’s nation. Revenge is like “friendly fire” or a so-called “blue on blue” incident, wounding our own troops. We can take this idea a step further. When we put aside our egos (admittedly hard to do) and think of ourselves as connected to HaShem, it becomes absurd for any of us to sin against HaShem. It is like stabbing ourselves. The Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) had a similar example. Someone was desperately looking for a fellow named Reuven. While searching, he came upon a man named Shimon. Should he get angry at Shimon just because he is not Reuven? That would be crazy! When HaShem wants him to find Reuven, he will find him. Likewise, when HaShem wants him to receive some benefit, he will receive it, and no one will deny him.
Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) notes that these mitzvos deal with private thoughts and emotions, but collectively they set the tone for the whole nation. Yisroel as a nation is only permitted to live in Eretz Yisroel when these mitzvos are observed. The second Temple, says Gemara Yoma 9b, was destroyed because of unjustified, unwarranted hatred, even though the people were occupied with Torah, mitzvos, and acts of kindness. Sadly, the unwarranted hatred persists to our day.
Maimonides (1135-1204): A person who has been wronged should try to eliminate the matter from his mind. When asked for forgiveness, one should sincerely and willingly forgive and be easily pacified. Violations of the laws on revenge and grudges cannot, however, be punished with flogging, because the essence of the crime is a thought, not an action.
Chizkuni (1200s): The Torah does not obligate a person to lend possessions. Even though a person should try to be generous, and not stingy, refusing only becomes a sin when it is based on hatred, which is far worse than miserliness. On the other side, the person whose request was denied has no right from the Torah to demand the loan of another person’s property and should not resent a refusal.
Ramban (1194-1270) explains limitations to the law: no money is involved in the Gemara’s examples of lending articles. When damages, theft, or other monetary issues are involved, one is not required to release a claim, and is permitted to sue in a Jewish court. This is not called revenge. In cases of murder or manslaughter one should definitely bring the perpetrator to court. Revenge is only authorized within the rules of the Torah and the Jewish court, which transform it from revenge to justice.
R. Leon of Modena (1571-1648) in his Tzemach Tzaddik quotes Pythagoras (570-495 BCE), “If your finger poked your eye, or your teeth bit your tongue, you wouldn’t take revenge on your finger or your teeth, since they are parts of yourself. So should you treat your fellow.” He also quotes Plato (427-347)(who met the prophet Yirmiyohu at the ruins of the First Temple, according to the Rema (1520-1572) in his Toras haOloh), “If one avenged every wrong, his Lord would soon return the world to chaos.”
Or haChaim (1696-1742) says that all Jewish souls are branches of the Holy Name of HaShem. This Kabbalistic concept informs us that a unification of the individual hearts of Bnei Yisroel enhances HaShem’s Own unity. The Torah therefore advances a four-step program to achieve this goal: 1) one must not hate a fellow Jew; 2) one must not take revenge against a fellow Jew who offended; 3) one must not even bear a grudge; and, 4) one is to love one’s fellow Jew.
R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal (1707-1746) in his Mesilas Yesharim cautions that revenge is sweeter than honey. The yetzer horoh/evil inclination always tries to seduce us with anger, with outrage at the wrongs done to us, driving wedges between ourselves and others. It is almost as difficult as becoming an angel to avoid this trap, but a person who understands can succeed.
Meshech Chochmoh (1843-1926) looks for a reason for the prohibition of revenge and grudges. He finds it in the word komocho/as yourself. Love your fellow because he is similar to you, one of HaShem’s Am Yisroel, just as you are. The paradigm of not bearing a grudge is Yosef haTzaddik. Yosef repaid the enormous injury done to him by his brothers with kindness, not revenge. He had the ability to see the hand of HaShem in the events, to recognize the good in his brothers despite their faults, and to take the high road. We should strive to emulate Yosef’s example.
April 10, 2013
Parsha Tazria and Metzora-Peace of Parsha
Dr. Laura Danoff
King Solomon said, ” Life and death are in the hands of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). The Talmud explains that negative speech, Lashon hara, is even worse than a sword- it kills many people, even at great distances.
This week’s double torah reading of Tazria and Metzora emphasize the importance of avoiding Lashon hara. Tzarat, a skin disorder commonly mis-translated as leprosy comes specifically as a result of Lashon hara- negative speech about another. The word metzorah is a contraction of motzi raah- meaning to speak evil of others.
Tzara’at was only acquired because one spoke badly of other people. The physical skin disorder was caused by a spiritual defect. The “metzora,” the one afflicted with tzara’at had to stay outside the city until he or she was spiritually pure.
The Talmud tells us that the punishment of the metzora is imposed “measure for measure”: his gossip build walls of bad feelings and mistrust between people thus isolating them from each other, therefore he too is isolated and separated from society.
The purification process for the healed metzora included a branch of cedar wood, a thread of scarlet, and a bunch of the small hyssop plant. The cedar is the tallest and strongest of all trees around. The cedar wood reminds of how arrogance is the root cause of tzara’at. The scarlet represents the sin and the eizov, the hyssop is the lowliest of the herbs. In order for repentance one must recognize his arrogance and realize people who say bad things about other people typically don’t recognize their own faults.
In a few words, we can ruin someone’s life and often we think it is nothing. Lashon hara will harm three people. It will harm you, the person listening, and the person you are talking about. The sin of Lashon hara is dangerous and boundless.
It is very interesting that Tazria, the title of the parsha, which describes the impurity of the metzora, actually means conception or the beginning of a new life. The name of the parsha, which is devoted mainly to something so negative, denotes fertility and goodness!
Maimonides tells us that tzara’at was a miraculous sign from G-d. The main symptom was that a patch of skin turned white. It gave warning to the person that he was speaking badly of others. There were different levels: 1st there was an affliction of one’s house, then of one’s clothing, and finally on one’s body. The Kohen would decide if the afflicted person had to live outside the city to think over his attitude to other people and to do teshuvah. When the skin disorder healed he returned to normal life. G-d showed this person that he was doing wrong. It showed G-d’s presence among the Jewish people. It forced the person to take a good look at himself and improve and make things right. By making teshuvah his “inside” condition was corrected, thus making him a better person. The negative was turned into a positive, a mark of growth.
The power of speech is tremendous. A person may have a negative characteristic but his good nature will suppress it and redirect it for good purposes. When someone speaks about this person’s negative trait it becomes much more real, brings it out in the open, and gives it a sense of validity and substance in a far greater matter. When we speak poorly of others, we are less inclined to perfect and improve ourselves.
Without Lashon hara, people would be more honest, nicer and the world would be a better place. We need G-d’s help and therefore complete ever Amidah service with “My G-d, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully.”
This d’var torah is dedicated in honor of the memory of my mother Sasha Fagela bat Yosef. May her neshama have an aliyah.
March 19, 2013
TZAV by Dr Mark Gersten in memory of Helene
Imagine if you lived in the days of a powerful king who made an edict that no commoner could for example do commerce on Sundays (under penalty of death.) You woke up one Sunday morning, by accident, forgot it was Sunday, and sold a bushel of your corn to somebody passing by who was happy to buy it from you. Later you were arrested, The king had sent that passerby to test you. Your claim that you ignored his law by accident would not work. You would be executed. Hashem the King of Kings made a law that we cannot do work on Shabbas. If we err forgetting it is Shabbas or not realizing that an action is work, he gives us “an out”. We bring an animal instead of ourselves to be killed and sacrificed to him. We see what our fate should have been. This helps us remember to be more careful with G-d’s laws next time. Our G-d is most merciful and his institution of an animal sacrifice to replace our punishment is a great kindness to us.
DO INADVERTANT SINFUL THINGS
YOU MUST BRING “CHATAS” OFFERINGS,
PROTECTS YOU FROM YOUR EVIL ACT,
TO HOLD G-D’S RETRIBUTION BACK.
BUT YOU MUST FIRST THINK AND SURMISE
AND THEN FOR SURE INTERNALIZE,
HOW THIS SINGLE ACT OF SIN
CAN HARM THE SOUL YOU HAVE WITHIN.
A SHEEP OR KID BROUGHT TO CORRECT.
FIRST SLAUGHTER THEN ITS BLOOD COLLECT.
TO SPRINKLE IN A HOLY WAY
SO G-D FORGIVES YOUR SIN THAT DAY.
ALTHOUGH A DEATH SHOULD BE YOUR FATE
A GENTLE G-D WITH KINDNESS, GREAT
ACCEPTS THE SHEEP AS PROOF AND SIGN
YOU’LL BE MORE CAREFUL THE NEXT TIME.
March 15, 2013
Parashat Vayikra by Jeroen Reuven Bours. Lessons in fundraising.
You can say that one lesson we are learning this week is the art of fundraising. Rashi points out that the words: “Adam ki yahk-riv mi-chem karban…” - When a man from among you brings a sacrifice…” - mean that HaShem is not ordering to make an obligatory sacrifice, but rather a voluntary one. Rashi goes on in vayikra rabbah (2:7) to emphasize the use of the word “adam” - “man”. It is to point out that just as Adam never used property that wasn’t his - since everything technically was at the time, so should no one else ever use stolen property to make a sacrifice. The word sacrifice itself has over the years grown into a double meaning: you sacrifice for HaShem with something you have to give up - which is your personal sacrifice. With other words, to do it right you have to “sacrifice in order to sacrifice.” In a way, this is a lesson in how to do Tsedakah properly. Is this not really a lesson in how to voluntarily give? How to give from the heart? HaShem is asking for volunteers without pointing them out. And the word: “Karbaneichem…” - “your sacrifices…” - in plural, also teaches us that if the means aren’t there to make your own voluntary gift or offer, you may do it as a community. Rashi states (Shev. 12 a) that each year every twenty year old was asked to give a half-shekel - with which a communal offering could be bought. This was done to prevent the altar from being “empty” from sacrifices in case there were no individual donations. What we see here, are the first ground rules in membership fees and donation structure. Every synagogue has its membership fees and on top of that we use professional schnorrers to ask for more. Same thing. What is fascinating is the lengthy dissertation that follows wherein the Torah describes what can be offered and how. Judging by the various animals that are accepted and their different values, one can conclude that no matter how big or how small the animal, the sacrifice is the same. The value is not called out to be of importance. Today, we cherish donors who donate the most. We put them on pedestals. We name buildings after them. Yet, no one points out that one hundred dollars coming from one donor can be a bigger sacrifice than one million dollars from another. Rashi points out: “…one may bring even a single bird” (Torath Kohanim 1:77). The Torah makes no clear distinction between “…from animals, from cattle or from the flock.” And it is interesting to see how the order is presented. Sometimes, at a fundraising we will see the smallest amount presented first: usually 18 followed by 36 followed by larger and larger amounts as if to protect those who can only give a little. The Torah works the other way. The word animals include the largest animals; the word cattle, also means large to medium sized animals, and lastly the word flock, means somewhat smaller animals. But all words are in plural not to stop anyone from giving more. And as Rashi points out, the Torah makes sure that anyone can give, even if it is just one bird. And may you not be able to do that, than give as a group (Olaht Kitz HaMizbach). It is not the size, nor the amount that is important here; it is the voluntary act of giving. It is not about celebrating the givers, but rather celebrating the giving.
March 6, 2013
Parshas VaYakhel-Pekudei 5773 Auditing Stephen Rabinowitz, MD B”H
Parshas VaYakhel, the tenth of the eleven parshios in Sefer Shmos, contains 122 verses. The parsha begins with Moshe Rabbeinu reminding all of Bnei Yisroel that no work may be done on Shabbos, and no fire may be kindled. This is stated so that the people would know that Shabbos takes priority over work to be done on the building of the Mishkon and its vessels. But no positive mitzvos are given in the parsha, and only one new prohibition is issued, that the court may not execute a convict on Shabbos. Parshas Pekudei, the final parsha in Sefer Shmos, contains 92 verses, with no mitzvos or prohibitions. These two parshios are usually read together, which is the case this year.
Parshas Pekudei relates an accounting of the materials Bnei Yisroel donated for Mishkon construction (Shmos 38:21) (translation adapted from Rabbi Chaim Miller and based on Rashi (1040-1105)):
|אֵלֶּה פְקוּדֵי הַמִּשְׁכָּן, מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת, אֲשֶׁר פֻּקַּד עַל-פִּי מֹשֶׁה: עֲבֹדַת הַלְוִיִּם, בְּיַד אִיתָמָר בֶּן-אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן.||These are the accounts of the Mishkon, the Tabernacle of the Testimony, which were counted at Moshe’s command. (All these items) were serviced by the Levites under the direction of Isomor son of Aharon the priest.|
This episode recalls one of many indignities that Moshe Rabbeinu suffered while leading our nation. The Torah tells us the amount of gold used for the Mishkon, but not the specific amounts used for specific purposes. The amount of silver is noted and the use of it is broken down to one hundred sockets of one kikar each, plus 1775 silver shekels used to make hooks and caps for the pillars. The total of copper is noted, as is the list of objects made from copper.
The Midrash Tanchuma and Shmos Rabboh tell us that Moshe, Isomor, and the Levi’im conducted an audit at the conclusion of the work on the Mishkon to demonstrate that all donations were accurately tracked, and to show that nothing was embezzled. The audit of silver appeared to show that 1775 silver shekels were missing. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that these shekels were used to make hooks and caps for the pillars of the Mishkon. People began to slander Moshe, saying he must have taken the missing silver for himself. To preserve the reputation of Moshe Rabbeinu, a heavenly voice announced the fact recorded in our parsha, that the silver was used for the hooks and caps. Also, the audit was supervised by both Moshe and Isomor, because halacha requires at least two people to administer public funds.
Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) and the Kli Yakar, Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz (1550-1619), Chief Rabbi of Prague for the last 15 years of his life, asked why the Torah details the disposition of the silver and copper, but not the gold. Kli Yakar suggests a variety of answers. One answer is that all the work with silver and copper was finished, but that work on the priestly garments requiring gold was not yet done. Moshe wanted to issue the audit report for the silver and copper as soon as possible. Why then did Moshe not report on the gold when that work was finished? Kli Yakar answers that the heavenly voice had spoken, testifying that Moshe was trusted in all of HaShem’s house, so that no one wanted any further accounting. Another answer cites our verse, which states that Moshe himself ordered the accounting, so that no one suspected him. Still another answer hinges on the fact that the weight of silver and gold usually dwindles upon smelting, since impurities are removed. In our instance, the actual weight remained intact “in the hand of Isomor.” The Or haChaim (1696-1742) calls this a miraculous occurrence that contributed to the Mishkon being called the “Tabernacle of Testimony,” namely, testimony that HaShem was with them.
Ramban (1194-1270) is another who felt the need to explain the lack of detail for the use of the gold. He says that some of the gold was used under the supervision of Isomor, for the plating of the beams and bars of the walls of the Mishkon, and some was used under Isomor’s brother Elazar, such as the plating of the Ark and its cover, the menorah, the plating of the table, and the gold altar. The plating of the copper altar was also Elazar’s responsibility. An exact accounting of plating material would have been difficult.
Rabbi Yehonoson Eibeschutz (1690-1764) notes that the silver was given in the form of half-shekels during the census, a mandatory contribution requiring precise accounting, while gold and copper were voluntary contributions, whose generous donors required less reporting. The most generous, who gave gold, were less demanding than those who gave only copper.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin (1881-1966) points out the irony that the Mishkon represented forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf, and yet no one asked for an accounting of the donations of gold used to make the Calf. He says that people who donate for worthy causes want every penny to go for that cause, so that they will reap the full benefit of giving. People motivated by an evil impulse to spend for tawdry purposes are inwardly ashamed and may be pleased when money is diverted, so that the damage is minimized and their own sin lessened. Gold and copper were used for coatings, not just discrete objects, and therefore had a different sort of accounting. This is the reason that Moshe only commanded that the work of the Levites under the charge of Isomor, the tribes of Gershon and Merari, be calculated, but not the work of the tribe of Kehos, who carried fully wrapped gold items.
Rabbi Hirsch (1808-1888) quotes the Sforno (1470-1550) saying that the purpose of displaying the amounts of precious materials used is to show how much less they are than those used in the first and second Temples. But neither Temple achieved the eminence of the Mishkon, where the Shechina appeared to all in the clouds of glory, which stood longer than either Temple, and which was never destroyed by an enemy. Rabbi Hirsch adds that the uses of gold were not listed because it was used only for items that were kodesh/holy. The accounting for silver mentions only the portion collected in the census, but not voluntary donations. Silver was used in items required to be made of silver, but also in service vessels that could have been made of copper but were permitted to be made of silver. Copper not only formed service vessels, but also sockets for the pillars supporting the entrance curtain. The water basin was fashioned of women’s copper mirrors not part of the general donation. All of this goes to the point that we are not given the raw data of an audit.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) says that the Kli Yakar’s reasons for the lack of accounting for the use of the gold are not fully satisfying. For one thing, if the heavenly voice testified to Moshe’s honesty about the silver, so that no accounting was needed for the gold, why is there an accounting for the copper? Another point - how could everyone forget about the silver hooks and caps of the pillars? The Rebbe cites Rashi on Shmos 34:1, where we learn that Moshe was extremely wealthy since HaShem told him to keep the sapphire chips left over from carving the second set of tablets. The Rebbe observes that a large amount of gold was needed, including a whole kikar just for the menorah, and plating for 48 beams, each 10 cubits in length, and for the Aron and its lid. The Rebbe estimates that the 29 kikars and 730 shekels of gold listed in verse 24 would have been less than 50% of the amount needed. He concludes that Moshe donated the remainder from his own pocket! This is the best explanation why no audit was needed. One question remains. Verse 36:7 states that donations were more than required and produced a surplus of materials. The Rebbe says that the surplus was of materials available to Bnei Yisroel. His proof is the Rashi for verse 35:27, which says they did not have Shoham stones, and yet the Torah describes a surplus. Surplus is therefore meant in the general sense, but does not preclude a deficit of specific items, such as gold.
February 19, 2013
TETZAVEH by Mark Gersten in memory of Helene
The Rabbis grappled over the question what is the most important verse in the Torah. Some said that it was “love your neighbor as yourself”. Others said that it was the first commandment: “I am the Lord, your G-d”. There are others who claim the verse comes from this weeks’s sedrah. It is the verse that tells us to sacrafice a Tamid sacrifice consistantly every day of the year The proponents of this verse claim it teaches the most important message of Judiasm- consistancy. There is no vacation from being a Jew even when we are on vacation and far from home. We must be consistant in observing G-d’s commandments 24hrs, seven days a week.. Observing the law of bringing the daily sacrafice represents this concept of consistancy in a substantive way.
IT’S CHALLENGING TO BE A JEW
CONSISTENCY IN ALL YOU DO
TO SHAKE A LULOV FOR ONE WEEK
TO LOOK FOR CHAMETZ, HIDE THEN SEEK
TO EVEN FAST YOM KIPPER DAY
NOT QUITE AS HARD AS PEOPLE SAY
FOR AS SOON AS THESE YOU DO YOU
ARE FINISHED, YOU ARE THROUGH
BUT LEARNING TORAH EVERY DAY
AND SET THREE TIMES A DAY TO PRAY
ONCE YOU THINK YOU’VE FINISHED THEM
IT’S TIME TO START RIGHT UP AGAIN
OUR SEDRAH GIVES US INSIGHT TOO
TO BE CONSISTENT,WHAT TO DO
WITH THE TEMPLE BUILT AGAIN
WE’LL REINSTATE THESE TWO LAWS THEN
FIRST LAW, THE ETERNAL LIGHT
LIKE TORAH WISDOM ALWAYS BRIGHT
NEXT THE TAMID OFFERING
TWO SHEEP EACH DAY TO G-D WE’D BRING
BUT MUST WE WAIT UNTIL THE DAY
THE TEMPLE’S BUILT ?, LET’S START TODAY
CREATE ETERNAL LIGHT THIS WAY
LEARN SOME TORAH LAW EACH DAY
REPLACE THE TAMID OFFERING
WITH DAILY WORDS OF PRAYER YOU SING
INDEED IT IS CONSISTENCY
THAT G-D WANTS MOST FROM YOU AND ME.
February 19, 2013
Parashat Terumah by Jeroen Reuven Bours
Our Sages, Rashi and others, have interpreted the reason why HaShem commanded Moshe to go make the Tabernacle, in many different ways. Some say it was a direct response to the mistake of making the golden calf. In Rashi’s own words: “There is no chronological order to the Torah; the story of the golden calf took place many days before the command to make the Tabernacle, since the tablets of stone were broken on the 17th of Tammuz. On the Day of Atonement, HaShem was reconciled with the Israelites and on the morrow they began their voluntary offerings for the Tabernacle which was erected on the first of Nissan.” On the 10th of Tishri Moshe received the second set of tablets and the news that HaShem had forgiven them. Sforno thinks that the Mishkan is an afterthought and that the Levites were never to administer anything - until the sin of the golden calf. HaShem would have been satisfied with an altar and would descent when His name be mentioned. But now He decides on a Tabernacle. Is this out of spite? Are the careful instructions a way to have His people pay for their sins? Is the half shekel a symbolic punishment? If you listen to the second half of the command, you may hear the most prolific and generous promise: “…And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” In Zedah La-Derech (17th Century), Rav Eilenburg, wrote that HaShem is not meaning this command to be in the physical way - but in a spiritual way: “He will live in our hearts.” But there is another way to interpret this command. Look at the word “them”. God is speaking to the only human who speaks directly to Him (at that time), that now everyone will enjoy HaShem being ‘around’ them. Does that mean that we need to go to the Mishkan to make that happen? With other words, is this the first mentioning that we must go to synagogue in order to dwell among HaShem or is it Rav Eilenburg’s view that He will dwell in our hearts? The answer may be in Moshe’s way of talking to Betzalel, as discussed in the Gemara (berachot 55A) When HaShem told Moshe to tell Betzalel to - “Make Me a Mishkan, an aron and vessels…”, Moshe reversed the order when explaining this to Betzalel. But Betzalel, although an artist, was also a logical person. He replied to Moshe that you don’t make the things that go into a house before you first build the house. Betzalel continues and suggests to Moshe that perhaps HaShem wants him to build the structure first and then the things that go inside. Rav Shmuel ben Nachami thinks that Moshe replied by pronouncing Betzalel’s name as “Be’Tzel El” - “in the shadow of God” - and that Betzalel overheard God saying it to Moshe in the order of house first, things afterwards. But Moshe has no other choice than to think of the things first. He sees the relationship with HaShem without walls, without needing to be within a structure. After all, HaShem hangs out with Moshe in all kinds of places. The rest of us see the Mishkan as a structure where behind curtains and walls HaShem “lives”. So the question is does HaShem dwell among us in shul only or does He dwell among us everywhere? Do we need to go to shul at all? It is the typical question a child may ask his parents when visiting shul, “is this where God lives?” One simple answer may be that in a good relationship one needs to “visit” each other and not just rely on one party to do all the work. So answer the child with: “Yes, He lives here and at home.”
February 4, 2013
Parshas Mishpotim 5773 Healing Stephen Rabinowitz, MD B”H
Parshas Mishpotim, the sixth of the eleven parshios in Sefer Shmos, contains 118 verses, including 23 positive mitzvos and 30 prohibitions. At the end of the first aliyah, among the laws of penalties, chapter 21 contains the following verses (translation adapted from Rabbi Chaim Miller and based on Rashi (1040-1105)):
The Gemara Bava Kamma 85a-b discusses responsibilities for paying or not paying for lost wages and for healing. Regarding healing, the commentaries note the double language in our verse, “v’rapo y’rapei/ and heal he shall heal.” Onkelos (35-120 C.E.) translates this to mean that the assailant must pay the doctor’s fee. Rashi, commenting on the Gemara, says that this verse prevents us from saying that since HaShem caused this person to be stricken, we mortals therefore cannot presume to heal him. The Tosafists (1100-1300) say the double language means that we must not only try to heal injuries inflicted by man, but also illness that comes directly from HaShem. All the opinions in the Gemara agree that the assailant is not liable for an aggravation of the injury resulting from the victim’s mistreatment of the injury, such as negligent bandaging, or for health issues unrelated to the injury. The discussion considers the victim’s negligence in not following his doctor’s instructions, such as not adhering to a prescribed diet. The victim is not required to accept the assailant as his physician, even if the assailant is qualified. He is not required to accept a physician who is a relative or friend of the assailant, or who will work for free or for a reduced fee as a favor to the aggressor, or who comes from afar and is not concerned about his local reputation. But the victim cannot say he will heal himself and pocket the fee. The Gemara here and also in Berachos 60a quotes a sage of R. Yishmoel’s academy on the phrase “v’rapo y’rapei:” “From here we derive that permission is given to a physician to heal.”
Rabbeinu Bachya (1255-1340): The Torah describes two blows, a hard blow with a stone, and a lighter blow with a fist. The judges must consider whether either one of the blows was hard enough to cause death to most people struck by such a blow. When a person dies from a hard blow, the striker may be executed as a murderer. If the victim recovers from the blow sufficiently after being bed-bound to walk consistently outdoors, even with a crutch, the striker is free of criminal proceedings and faces only civil assessment of damages. The degree and danger of the injuries, including the likely cause of death, is determined by medical experts. The word for healing, when used in Tanach for healing that comes from HaShem, is always spelled with a soft letter “fay,” without a dagesh/dot in it, as in “rofay.” When the word is used in reference to human physicians, as in our verse, the word is always spelled with a hard letter “pay,” as in “rapo.” A cure by HaShem is painless; a cure by physicians is apt to involve pain and suffering, such as when a surgeon must make an incision.
Ba’al haTurim (1269-1343) refers to Gemara Avodoh Zorah 55a: when Hashem decrees suffering upon a person, He specifies that it cannot begin before a certain day, and must end by a certain day, at a defined moment, by the hand of a specified physician, through the use of a particular remedy. Ba’al haTurim sees an allusion to this dictum in the fact that verse 19 begins with an aleph and ends with an aleph. Perhaps the aleph having the numerical value “1″ refers to everything beginning and ending by the Will of HaShem, who is One. This contrasts with alien philosophies that imagine the existence of separate forces of good and forces of evil.
The Gemara Kiddushin 82a, in a Mishneh discussing the disadvantages of various professions, states “tov she’bo’rofim la’gayhinom/ even the best of physicians is destined for Gehinnom.” Rashi explains that they eat healthily and do not fear sickness, and are therefore not humble before HaShem; at times they cause death; and they refuse to heal the poor who cannot pay them. The physician has a responsibility to restore health just as one must restore lost objects says the Rambam (1135-1204). On the other hand, the Rambam and the Chida (1724-1806) are among many who state that halacha requires a sick person to seek a doctor, and not rely on miracles for healing. They relate this obligation to Devorim 4:9, “…guard yourself, watch your soul carefully….” Rav Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) in Igros Moshe YD 4:8 says that this includes the obligation to seek the most qualified physician whether a Jew or non-Jew. The Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) maintains that it is preferable to seek a “rofeh yedid/doctor and dear friend.”
The Maharsha (1555-1631) and Tiferes Yisroel by the Maharal (1520-1609) suggest that the Mishneh refers specifically to physicians who consider themselves the best in their fields because they often rely completely on their own judgment and refuse to consult with others, which can bring tragic results. Pardes Yosef by Rabbi Yosef Pazanovski (?-1930) points out that our Shmoneh Esrei consisted originally of 18 prayers, one of which is “heal us HaShem and we will be healed.” A physician who skips this prayer, believing he heals with his own power, says only 17 blessings. The numerical value of “tov” is 17, so “tov she’bo’rofim” refers to those physicians. The double language should remind us that two healers are present, the doctor is only an agent of HaShem. But the Pardes Yosef adds that “the best of physicians” may also refer to those who are too “kind” and permissive to patients, and don’t insist that they must adhere to the necessary regimen. A doctor who wants to be a “tov” person, perhaps out of inappropriate kindness, or perhaps seeking high patient satisfaction ratings, risks all.