In this week's parasha we read of the commandment that the
kohanim should bless the Jewish people. The berachah which the
kohanim say before performing that mitzvah is, "Asher kedishanu
b'kedushato shel Aharon. . ."/ "Blessed are You Hashem . . . Who
has sanctified us with Aharon's sanctity. . ."
R' Yaakov Moshe Charlap z"l (died 1952) taught: This
formulation reminds us that just as the greatness of the Jewish
people is not a product only of their deeds, but is primarily
inherited - indeed, our good deeds are possible because of our
lineage, so the sanctity of the kohanim is inherited. One who
denies this principle denies the fundamentals of Judaism
("mekatzetz be'netiot" in Rav Charlap's words).
This was Korach's mistake. As we will read in three weeks,
Korach said, "All Jews are holy." He maintained that anyone who
prepared himself could be a kohen. Moshe replied, "In the
morning Hashem will show who is His." Just as Hashem established
clear boundaries in time, so He created boundaries in lineage and
between different people's (and groups of people's) missions on
Earth. (Mei Marom XIII p.129)
"Take a census of the sons of Gershon, as well . . ."
Many commentaries wonder about the purpose of the phrase "as
well." R' Moshe Feinstein z"l explains it as follows:
Levi had three sons - Gershon, Kehat and Merari. In last
week's parashah we read that the descendants of Kehat carried
the holiest of the mishkan's implements, e.g., the aron/ark, the
menorah, and the shulchan/table. In the verses which follow, we
read that the descendants of Gershon carried the mishkan itself,
i.e., the columns, the curtains, etc. These objects had less
holiness than the items carried by the family of Kehat.
The family of Gershon could become dispirited by being assigned
a seemingly less important role than their cousins. In order to
prevent this, the Torah equates the sons of Kehat and Gershon.
This is the meaning of "Take a census of the sons of Gershon, as
This lesson has practical implications, says R' Feinstein.
Some people refrain from studying Torah because they know that
they will never be great Torah scholars. Others refrain from
donating money to the construction of a yeshiva because they feel
that their donation would be insignificant; after all, they
cannot afford to dedicate an entire wing. This is wrong - just
as the Torah equates the roles of Gershon and Kehat, so Hashem
equates great Torah scholars and philanthropists with those who
do less, so long, of course, as they do their best.
There is another lesson here. Why was carrying the mishkan and
its implements restricted to Levi'im between the ages of 30 and
50? These objects were not heavy; indeed, Chazal teach that the
aron was weightless and actually "carried those who carried it."
(In other words, not only did carrying the aron require no
physical energy, even walking all day long with the aron was
effortless). For most of the other objects, there were wagons.
R' Feinstein answers: The Torah is hinting to us that no matter
how easy a mitzvah is, one should approach it as if it calls upon
every ounce of his strength. One should not perform a mitzvah in
an off-handed way, but rather should imagine himself to be a Levi
in the prime of his life preparing to lift the seemingly heavy
"[Kehat's descendants'] numbers according to their families
were two thousand, seven hundred and fifty." (4:36)
R' Yehonatan Eyebschutz z"l (died 1764) observes: The family of
Kehat carried the aron (which contained the Torah), the menorah,
the shulchan/table and the golden incense altar. The number
2,000 alludes to the Torah, which the Sages say existed for 2,000
years before the world was created. Seven hundred alludes to the
seven-branched menorah, and, therefore, also to the Torah. (The
gemara says that if one turns slightly to the south - in the
direction of the menorah - when he prays, he will become wise.)
The number 50 alludes to both the golden altar and the shulchan,
both of which are symbolic of wealth. Just as 50 is only "half"
a number (i.e., half of the more "complete" one-hundred), so
wealth is not as important as Torah knowledge.
"On the seventh day, the leader of the children of Ephraim,
Elishama ben Amihud." (7:48)
The midrash (Midrash Rabbah 14:3) on this verse states that
because Yosef resisted the overtures of Potiphar's wife (see
Bereishit, ch. 39), Hashem repaid him by allowing his
descendant, the leader of Ephraim, to bring his sacrifices on
How does this reward fit Yosef's deed? R' Shlomo Ganzfried z"l
(1804-1886; author of Kitzur Shulchan Aruch) explains as follows:
Yaakov's excessive mourning for Yosef requires explanation.
However, the truth of the matter is that Hashem established the
Patriarchs and the Twelve Tribes to parallel the upper spheres,
and all twelve of the tribes are essential in order to complete
this "building." Thus the midrash teaches that when Yosef was
about to give in to Potiphar's wife, Hashem told him, "If you
touch her, I will destroy the world." Hashem did not literally
speak to Yosef at that moment; rather, Yosef recognized that if
he forfeited his position as one of the tribes, all hope would be
lost for the world's future.
The midrash states that the seven days of the mishkan's
dedication paralleled the seven days of creation. This is why
Hashem instructed that the leaders of the tribes should offer
sacrifices at the dedication of the mishkan [and on the following
eleven days], for Hashem wanted to confirm that the twelve tribes
are an essential part of creation.
In general, a private offering may not be brought on Shabbat.
However, Hashem made an exception on this day so that just as
Yosef confirmed the importance of the twelve tribes to the
continued existence of the world, so too could his descendant.
Letters from Our Sages
The following is an excerpt from the last will and
testament of R' Moshe Sofer z"l (1763-1839; the "Chatam
Sofer"). R' Sofer dates the document in the year "rufz
sug ubrfzt"/"I will yet remember him" (i.e., 597/1837).
R' Sofer's will is printed together with Lev Ha'Ivri, a
running commentary on the will by R' Akiva Yosef Schlesinger
z"l (died 1922).
Because man does not know his time [Kohelet 9:12], therefore,
it is time to act for Hashem [Tehilim 119:126].
Study much Torah in order to glorify the house of our G-d and
to raise its ruins. You, my sons, daughters, sons-in-laws,
grandsons, and their children - hear me and live. Do not turn
your hearts to conspire evil with those who do evil. Those who
have recently instituted new things - they have distanced
themselves from Hashem and His Torah because of our great sins -
do not live in proximity to them and do not join with them at
all. . .
Study Tanach with Rashi's commentary. Study the Torah with
Ramban's commentary and teach it to your children, for it is the
head [i.e., the source] of emunah/faith, and through it you will
become wiser than Calcol, Darda and Heiman [three wise men of old
- see Melachim I 5:11].
If, G-d forbid, you will be tested by hunger, thirst or poverty
- may G-d grant you success - withstand that test, and do not
turn to other gods. Do not turn to your own wits [rather, have
faith that G-d will provide]. . .
If G-d will cause your light to shine and will have mercy on
your fortunes, as I hope, with G-d's help, do not turn up your
heads in haughtiness against any kosher person, G-d forbid. Know
that we are the sons of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, the
students of Moshe Rabbenu a"h, and the servants of King David.
Our father [Avraham] said [Bereishit 18:27], "I am but dust and
ash." Our teacher [Moshe] said [Shmot 16:8], "For what are we?"
Our King [David] said [Tehilim 22:7], "I am a worm and not a
man." The king for whom we hope [mashiach] will be a poor man
riding on a donkey. Therefore, how could we feel haughtiness?