Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc
Volume XIII, No. 30
29 Iyar 5759
May 15, 1999
Orach Chaim 102:1-3
Daf Yomi: Sukkah 44
Yerushalmi Shekalim 30
As this parashah opens, Hashem speaks to Moshe in the desert.
Why in the desert - wasn't the entire Torah given to Moshe at Har
Sinai? R' Zvi Hirsch Kalisher z"l (1795-1875) explains that it
is partially from our verse that the midrash derives the lesson
that the Torah is acquired through three things: fire, water, and
the desert. What does this mean?
R' Kalisher writes: If one would be a scholar, it is not enough
that he study Torah. Rather, a _fire_ must burn within him that
leads him to teach others and, if necessary, to jealously defend
Hashem's honor. One cannot say that he loves Hashem if he does
not devote himself to seeing that others live a Torah life as he
Sometimes, however, the fire must be doused with _water_. In
order to influence others, one must often speak softly, as it is
written (Melachim I 19:12), "After the earthquake came a fire;
'Hashem is not in the fire.' After the fire came a still, thin
sound." One who fears G-d must pay careful attention to how His
people should be led - sometimes with "fire" and sometimes with
"water." This is the symbolism of the burning bush which was not
consumed, i.e., that a Torah scholar must burn like a fire but
must not destroy his students.
Finally, in his personal life, the would be Torah scholar must
live in a _desert_, i.e., he must live a life which is not
devoted to chasing physical pleasures. Also, just as the desert
is open to all, so the Torah scholar must be selfless and
available to all. (Sefer Ha'berit: Bemidbar 1:1)
"This is the census of Bnei Yisrael according to their
fathers' households; . . . six hundred three thousand, five
hundred and fifty" (2:32)
Why are we told the total number of Bnei Yisrael again after we
were told the number earlier in the parashah (in 1:46)? Rabbenu
Bachya z"l (Spain; 1263-1340) explains that our verse in fact
refers to a different census than the one in the previous
chapter. That first count took place on the first day of Iyar
(see 1:1), while this count took place on the twentieth of Iyar,
as Bnei Yisrael prepared to break camp and leave Har Sinai (see
10:11). The Torah's intention is to teach us that a miracle
occurred and _not_one_person_ died during those 20 days [although
in a population the size of Bnei Yisrael one would have expected
at least one death in 20 days].
(Midrash Rabbenu Bachya)
According to R' Yechezkel Landau z"l (died 1793; the "Noda
B'Yehuda"), the miracle was even greater. We read in verse 9:6
that several Jews were tamei/ritually impure when Pesach arrived,
and they were therefore unable to bring the Korban Pesach. The
gemara (Sukkah 25a & b) asks who these tamei individuals were and
offers three possible answers.
What is the gemara's question? asks R' Landau. Presumably
these individuals were family members of someone who had died!
It must be, he writes, that the gemara knew that not one person
died during the entire period between the first census (Sh'mot
38:26) and the census described in our parashah, a period of six-
(Tziyun Le'nefesh Chayah: Sukkah 25)
"Do not let the tribe of the family of Kehat be cut off from
among the Levites." (4:18)
The midrash comments on this verse: "'Do not let the tribe of
Levi be cut off' - regarding this it is written (Tehilim 33:18),
'Behold, the eye of Hashem is on those who fear Him, upon those
who await His kindness.' But, [the midrash asks,] do not all
creations need Hashem's kindness? Nevertheless, the tribe of
Levi awaits Hashem's kindness more than do others because they
have no portion in the Land."
R' Yosef Yoizel Horowitz z"l (the "Alter of Novardok"; died
1919) asks: Why does the midrash misquote the pasuk? (The pasuk
refers to the family of Kehat while the midrash speaks of all
Levi'im.) He explains:
Our pasuk contains a mitzvah to recognize and protect the
special status of the Levi'im from the family of Kehat, for they
had the most important role of all Levi'im during the era of the
mishkan. However, the pasuk cannot be understood literally to
mean that the special role of the Kehat family will never be
lost, for today, when there is no Temple, it is lost. The
midrash therefore teaches us that there is another Levite-like
role that can be attained today, not only by the family of Kehat
and not only by Levi'im, but by all Jews. What is that role?
Our sages teach that working to earn a living is not
inconsistent with the obligation to trust that Hashem will
provide one's needs. Nevertheless, one who wants to is permitted
to place his fate completely in Hashem's hands. In this way, one
imitates the Levi'im.
(Madregat Ha'adam: Darchei Habitachon, ch.9)
Rabbi Meir says: "One who studies Torah le'shmah/for its own
sake merits many things . . ."
(Chapter 6, mishnah 1)
R' Zvi Yehuda Kook z"l (1891-1982; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat
Merkaz HaRav in Yerushalayim) taught: This mishnah speaks of the
pinnacle of Torah study le'shmah. It is Hashem's will that the
Torah's "potential" be brought out through our actions and our
studies. This is what the Torah is about. It follows, that one
who learns Torah le'shmah, for the sake of the Torah itself,
attaches himself to the essence of Torah and is elevated by
having realized the ideal existence. Every person must aspire to
[Ed. Note: The concept of studying Torah for the sake of the
Torah itself derives from the writings of R' Chaim of Volozhin.
Briefly, it means that one should study Torah with the intent of
knowing it, understanding it and adding his own insights to it,
thereby making the Torah "bigger" (see Nefesh Hachaim 4:3). What
R' Kook explains is that one who studies the Torah in this manner
brings out the Torah's potential and thus fulfills G-d's will.
R' Kook continues:]
If the Torah itself had not taught us that one is permitted to
study Torah without the le'shmah aspect, we would assume that it
was forbidden to do so. However, the Torah does teach us (Sotah
22b): "One should always study Torah and perform mitzvot, even
not le'shmah, because from doing so not le'shmah, one will come
to do so le'shmah." The value of Torah study which is not
le'shmah, but whose goal is to reach the high level of le'shmah,
is in the fact that it is a tool, like a step that one climbs to
Torah study le'shmah. Just as a person's worth is revealed when
he joins a group - "When I am alone, what am I?" [Avot 1:13] -
so, too, the close connection between Torah study which is not
le'shmah and Torah study which is le'shmah gives the former a
whole new meaning.
R' Kook adds: To the extent that we remember that the Torah
comes form the Creator of the world, then there is value to [our
service of Hashem even when it is on] other, lower levels. All
levels [of serving Hashem] come from this premise, but they are
not the goal. The way that leads to realizing the ideal of Torah
study [le'shmah] is itself through Torah study.
The 48 things listed in this chapter are the way that Torah is
acquired. There is no other way [to acquire Torah] and no step
may be neglected. However, we must realize that the true worth
of the steps listed here is only when they are coupled with the
realization that G-d's will reveals itself in the Torah.
Creation was strengthened by the giving of the Torah at Har
Sinai. Today, too, yeshivot add to and strengthen the continued
existence of the heavens and the earth. The Torah of the Creator
of the world exists forever through us. We must remember on
every step of our way this foundation that the Torah that we
study is the Torah that was given by G-d from the Heavens. When
there is a weakening of the connection between the different
levels [of Torah study], then there is a general weakening.
However, if there is an attachment to the recognition of [the
need for] Torah le'shmah, then there is a general improvement in
(Kinyan Torah pp.10-11)
Letters from Our Sages
This week's letter was written by R' Samson Raphael Hirsch
z"l (1808-1888) to Dr. Isaac Leeser z"l (1806-1868). The
writer was the rabbi of Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany and the
leading warrior for Torah-true Judaism in 19th century
Germany. The letter's recipient, a layman, was the spiritual
leader of the Orthodox community in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. He was also the founder and editor of the
monthly The Occident, the first English language Orthodox
periodical in the United States.
The letter is printed in Shemesh Marpeh, page 231, letter
To Dr. Isaac Leeser, United States
B"H, Frankfurt a.M., Wednesday night of Parashat Ki Tetze 5618
[August 18, 1858]
Ketivah va'chatimah tovah, peace, and all good things!
We suffer from insufficient time, and therefore I must ask your
forgiveness that I am answering your pleasing letter only now.
When I returned from a long journey, I found your letter together
with a great deal of work which forced me to delay answering
letters for some time. Today I have some time, and I am using
the time to clear away that which is pressing and important.
Honored sir! Do not let your spirit fall. Things are
improving here in Germany too. True, progress is slow, but we
hope that it touches the fundamentals. Our greatest sorrow is
not the treachery of the traitors, but the indifference of the
religious. However, this apathy is slowly diminishing, and it is
our obligation to not falter but rather to awaken our compatriots
- so long as our voice can reach them - and to warn them to come
to Hashem's aid against the mighty [see Shoftim 5:23], to protect
and save our holy ones. If we do what is expected of us, the
Holy One Blessed Is He will do His own when He is ready.
[The remainder of the letter addresses two halachic questions
sent by Dr. Leeser. One question relates to the status of the
child of intermarriage. The other question involves the
disinterment of a woman's body in order to bury her in her
husband's family plot.]
The small one, Samson,
son of my father and master Raphael Hirsch Frankfurter zatzal
The Siegel family, in memory of
Dr. Manfred R Lehmann a"h
father of Barbie Lehmann Siegel
in memory of her mother,
Rose S. Greene a"h
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
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