פ’ נשא תשע”ז
Volume 19, Issue 3
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
נשא את ראש בני גרשון גם הם
“Take a census of the sons of Gershon as well…” (4:22)
The explanation of the expression “as well” is that there is no difference between the carrying task assigned to the sons of Kehas, who carried the Holy Ark, and the carrying task assigned to the sons of Gershon, who carried items of lesser holiness, or the work of the sons of Merari, because between all those who carried the various items comprising the Tabernacle, the will of Hashem was fulfilled. Similarly, the mitzvot of those that teach little children, and those which teach students that are already great Torah scholars, are equal, so long as they each do their work to promote the glory of G-d. (Drash Moshe)
וזאת תורת הנזיר…וכבשהא אחת בת שנתה תמימה לחטאת
“This shall be the law of the Nazirite…one unblemished sheep in its first year as a sin-offering…” (6:13-14
QUESTION: What sin did the nazir commit so that he needs to bring a sin-offering?
ANSWER: A nazir takes upon himself three things: 1) not to drink wine 2) not to come into contact with a corpse 3) to let his hair grow wild.
Wine is a sign of simcha – happiness – and it is customary to drink wine on joyous occasions. By refraining from drinking wine, the nazir is declaring that he has no desire to participate in the joy of others. By avoiding contact with a corpse, he is failing to sympathize with others’ suffering and shunning sad occasions. Letting his hair grow wild implies that he does not care if people stay away from him, not wanting to be involved with “this strange looking person.” Thus, all three restrictions involve withdrawing from society as a quasi-hermit. Such a lifestyle is considered sinful and requires forgiveness.
כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמר להם יברכך ה’
“So shall you bless the children of Israel, saying to them: ‘May G-d bless you.’” (6:23-24)
QUESTION: Before the Kohanim administer the Priestly Blessing, they recite the blessing “Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to bless His nation of Israel ‘be’ahavah’ – ‘with love.’” Where were the Kohanim commanded to bless with love?
ANSWER: The Priestly Blessing starts with the phrase “Yevarechecha Hashem veyishmerecha” – May G-d bless you and safeguard you.” Since Hashem told the Kohanim “So shall you bless the Children of Israel,” the blessing should be in plural – “yevarechechem” – “Hashem should bless you (plural)”? Though the Kohanim are indeed blessing the entire congregation, they do so in singular to indicate that G-d desires to bless the Jews with the unity that results when love prevails. Thus, in the beracha the Kohen is announcing his fulfillment of Hashem’s command to bless K’lal Yisrael “be’ahavah” – “with love.” (Ta’amei MInhagim – Torat Chaim)
The word “ahavah” (אהבה) has the numerical value of 13, which is also the numerical value of “echad” (אחד) – “one.” The Kohanim were commanded to bless the Jewish people “be’ahavah” that they be united as one. Alternatively, the word “be’ahavah” (באהבה) has the numerical value of 15. In the Priestly Blessing from the word “yevarechecha” until the word “shalom” there are a total of 15 words. Thus, the Kohanim are referring to the command to bless the Jewish people “be’ahavah” – with the 15 word Priestly Blessing which Hashem lovingly gives His people Israel. (Toldot Aharon)
The term blessing is a term that is commonly bandied about and is poorly understood. It is worth pausing to examine what a blessing truly means. What exactly is a bracha? And what does it mean to bless someone else?
Maharal (Tiferes Yisrael, 34 and Netzach Yisrael, 45) explains that the essence of a bracha is the idea of increase (ribuy). For example, Shemos 23:25 states, “He shall increase (u’veirach) your bread and your waters…” Now, what is truly astonishing is that the essence of what a blessing entails is contained within the very structure of the root of the word: beis-reish-caf. Each of these letters represents an increase and is double the numerical value of that which precedes it in the aleph-bais. Beis, with its gematria of two, is double the basic number unit, i.e. one (aleph). The same applies for reish, with its gematria of 200; it is double the letter that precedes it, kuf (100). Astonishingly, this also applies for caf, the gematria of which is 20, and is double the letter that precedes it, the yud (10). Taken all together, we discover that even the actual root of the word “bracha” connotes taking what is already there, and bringing about an increase!
This also encapsulates the essence of what it means to give someone a blessing. When we give our fellow Jew a bracha, we express our hope that Hashem – Who is the Source of everything – will take what He has already given to this individual, and give them more of it. (Parsha Pshetl)
This issue is dedicated by Steve Zuckerman in honor of Rabbi Lichter for all of his help in bringing about the weekly- Insights from the Sedra. For future sponsorship opportunities please call Steve Zuckerman at 516 652 5266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or Rabbi Lichter at email@example.com. Sponsorships in memory of or in honor of someone are $50.00 per issue.