This week's parashah continues the census of the Levi'im begun
in last week's parashah: In last week's parashah, the sons of
Kehat, son of Levi, were counted. Now, our parashah opens, "take
a census of the sons of Gershon, also, according to their
fathers' households, according to their families."
The Midrash on the above verse cites Mishlei (3:15), "It is
more precious than pearls." Says the Midrash: The Torah is more
precious than anything. Therefore, although Gershon was older
than Kehat, and the Torah usually accords honor to a firstborn,
here the Torah mentioned Kehat before Gershon because the sons of
Kehat carried the Holy Ark, which contained the Torah.
R' Yaakov Kaminetsky z"l (died 1986) observes that a similar
lesson regarding the Torah's honor is learned from the Gemara
(Eruvin 28b), which relates that when Rabbi Zera was too tired to
study Torah, he would sit in a place where he knew Torah scholars
would pass. He said, "Let me rise for them and earn reward that
way." From this story we can learn how our predecessors loved
the Torah, says R' Kaminetsky. Surely the exhausted Rabbi Zera
could have found a mitzvah to perform that did not involve
physical exertion. Nevertheless, he chose to exert himself to
honor Torah students, for this is part of the mitzvah of Torah
The Gemara continues, relating that as Rabbi Zera was sitting
and waiting for scholars to pass, he entered into a Torah
discussion with a young child. Moreover, that child taught Rabbi
Zera a halachah regarding which Rabbi Zera had had a mistaken
understanding. A true scholar, observes R' Kaminetsky, is one
who is prepared to learn from every person, young or old, wise or
simple. Such a willingness to learn from one's "inferiors" is a
barometer of how much one loves the Torah. (Emet Le'Yaakov)
"Speak to Bnei Yisrael: `A man or woman who commits any of
man's [literally: "Adam's"] sins, by committing treacherous
treachery toward Hashem, and that person shall become
R' Chaim Tirer z"l (see page 4) asks: Why does the verse say
"who commits any of man's sins" instead of just "any sin"? Also,
why the repetition "treacherous treachery"?
He answers: Kabbalists teach that the soul of every Jew was
once part of the soul of Adam. When Adam sinned, his sin left a
blemish on his soul, and therefore on the souls of all his
descendants. Every sin is, in part, "Adam's sin."
But, do not think that this absolves us of guilt. To the
contrary, each of us was sent to this world to rectify that
blemish. Imagine your reaction if you were to give a nugget of
silver ore to a silversmith to purify and he were to return it
with even more impurities that it had at first! Likewise, every
sin that we commit is a "treacherous treachery," i.e., a double
treachery. Not only do we not rectify our souls, we cause them
to become even more sullied.
(Be'er Mayim Chayim)
"May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem
illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you.
May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace
for you." (6:24-26)
R' Shmuel Tayib z"l (Djerba, Tunisia; 20th century) explains
the verses of Birkat Kohanim / the priestly blessing as follows:
These verses include the three primary things that people
desire - sustenance, children and long-life. The first verse,
"May Hashem bless you and safeguard you," refers to sustenance,
as it is written (Devarim 15:18), "Hashem, your God, will bless
you in all that you do." The latter part of the blessing ("and
safeguard you") is a blessing that the wealth that you amass as a
result of the first part of the blessing will remain in your
The second verse, "May Hashem illuminate His countenance for
you and be gracious to you," refers to the blessing of children,
as it is written (Bereishit 33:5), "The children whom God has
graciously given your servant."
Finally, the third verse, "May Hashem lift His countenance to
you and establish peace for you," refers to long-life, which is
the result of physical and mental health. This is called "peace"
because it comes about when all the parts of the mind and body
work harmoniously together. Thus the Torah (Bemidbar 25:12)
refers to Pinchas' reward of long-life as the "covenant of
"It was on the day that Moshe finished erecting the
Tabernacle... The Princes of Yisrael, the heads of their
fathers' household, brought offerings..." (7:1-2)
R' Shmuel Wosner shlita (rabbi of the Zichron Meir neighborhood
of Bnei Brak and a prominent posek) asks: Why did the Princes
start bringing offerings after the dedication was finished?
Also, our parashah states (verse 89): "When Moshe came to the
Tent of Meeting to speak with Him . . ." We read in Shmot
(40:35), "Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting, for the
cloud rested upon it, and the glory of Hashem filled the
Tabernacle." How can these verse be reconciled? If they
happened at different times, when?
R' Wosner explains: Each tribe has a slightly different way of
serving Hashem. These differences are represented by the twelve
different stones of the Kohen Gadol's breastplate, and they are
part of the reason that we have different versions of the Siddur.
The purpose of the Princes' offerings was to dedicate the
Tabernacle to each tribe. Although the Princes brought outwardly
identical offerings, the inner thoughts of each were different,
thus distinguishing them.
When the dedication of the Mishkan was first completed, the
Mishkan was indeed too holy for even Moshe to enter to receive
prophecy. Only after each tribe drew G-d's presence into the
Mishkan through its own mode of service could Moshe received
prophecy there, for Moshe received prophecy only through the
merit of the Jewish people. Thus, before the Princes' offerings,
"Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting." After, "Moshe came
to the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him."
(Derashot Ve'sichot Shevet Halevi)
"The Princes of Yisrael, the heads of their fathers'
households, brought offerings; they were the leaders of the
tribes, they were those who stand at the census." (7:2)
The Midrash comments:
The verse (Mishlei 20:15) states, "Yaish / There is
gold and many pearls, but the lips of wisdom are a
precious vessel." If a person has gold, silver, gems
and pearls, but he has no wisdom, of what good is his
wealth? "There is gold and many pearls" - this refers
to the offerings of the Princes. "But the lips of
wisdom are a precious vessel" - Moshe was crestfallen,
for he said, "Everyone else brought offerings to the
dedication of the Mishkan, and I did not."
Hashem told him, "By your life! The words of your
lips are more beloved to Me than anything." The proof
of this is the fact that He did not call to anyone
else but Moshe, as it is written (Vayikra 1:1), "He
called to Moshe."
R' Shlomo Ephraim z"l of Lenshitz (died 1619; author of the
Torah commentary Kli Yakar) writes: The implication of this
Midrash is that the Princes were people who had gold, silver,
gems and pearls, but no wisdom. Why do they deserve that label?
R' Shlomo Ephraim explains that the Midrash is not labeling the
Princes as lacking wisdom. Rather, the Midrash speaks of three
levels. He writes: The Midrash is bothered by the expression in
the verse: "Yaish / There is." One can only use the word "yaish"
in connection with something that has real substance. For
example, Olam Haba is called "yaish" as in the verse (Mishlei
8:21), "To bequeath to those who love Me - yaish." How, then,
can gold, silver, gems and pearls be referred to as "yaish"?
The answer is that these items have substance when they are
used for tzedakah and other mitzvot, for then they are preserved
for Olam Haba. It goes without saying that if a person does not
have the wisdom to use his wealth for mitzvot, his wealth lacks
substance and is of no use. The Princes, however, did use their
wealth properly to donate generously to the Mishkan. Thus,
"Yaish / There is gold and many pearls"; their wealth had
substance and was preserved for Olam Haba. Even so, says the
verse, there is a higher level; "The lips of wisdom are a [more]
precious vessel." Moshe's Torah takes precedence even over the
tzedakah of the Princes.
(Amudai Shaish: Amud Ha'Torah, end of Ch. 1)
A related thought:
We read in Tehilim (34:10) and recite in Birkat Hamazon: "Fear
Hashem, you holy ones, for `ain' / there is no deprivation for
His reverent ones." Is this true? asks R' Yechiel Michel of
Zlotchov z"l (see page 4). It seems that many G-d-fearing people
live lives of deprivation.
He explains: "Ain" is the opposite of "yaish" (which refers to
Olam Haba). Thus, "Ain" refers to "Olam Hazeh" / "This World,"
and the verse may be read: "Fear Hashem, you holy ones, for `ain'
- only of This Worldly things -- are His reverent ones deprived."
However, their "yaish" is not lacking and is complete.
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Pesach Ezrat Avoteinu p. 198)
R' Chaim Tirer z"l
R' Chaim Tirer, better known as R' Chaim of Czernowitz, is
considered to be one of the fathers of chassidut in Bukovina and
Bessarabia (today, in northeastern Rumania and neighboring
Ukraine). He was born in 1760 in a village near the town of
Buczacz. In his youth, he studied under the rabbi of Buczacz, R'
Zvi Hirsch Kara, and his closest friend was the rabbi's son-in-
law, R' Avraham David (whose biography appeared in a recent issue
of Hamaayan). At the same time, R' Chaim became a follower of
the second generation of chassidic leaders, particularly,
R' Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov, a student of the Ba'al Shem Tov.
R' Chaim's first rabbinic positions were in Galicia, but a
communal dispute that included personal attacks on him lead him
to uproot to Czernowitz. Tradition records that he arrived there
in approximately 1789, and was soon elected rabbi. R' Chaim left
Czernowitz in 1807, but is it by that city's name that he is
known. His later rabbinates included Mohilev and Kishinev.
Sometime before 1814, R' Chaim settled in Tzefat, in Eretz
Yisrael. His tombstone records that he died on 7 Kislev 5578 /
1817, but there is some evidence that he passed away a year or
R' Chaim was a fierce fighter for traditional Judaism in
Bukovina and an equally fierce defender of the chassidic
movement. His great popularity and influence allowed chassidut
to "capture" Bukovina and Bessarabia without the opposition that
it encountered elsewhere. R' Chaim also founded a Jewish
hospital in Kishinev.
R' Chaim is sometimes referred to as the "Ish Shabbat" / "Man
of the Sabbath." Chassidic legend records that he was a head
taller on Shabbat than during the rest of the week. Of his three
classic works of chassidut, the only one he published in his
lifetime is a work about Shabbat entitled Sidduro Shel Shabbat.
R' Chaim was also outstanding in his love for Eretz Yisrael.
Among other praises of the Land, he wrote: "The holiness of Eretz
Yisrael is such that one can absorb it just by eating the bread
of that Land."
R' Chaim's other works include a Torah commentary, Be'er Mayim
Chayim, and a work about prayer, Sha'ar Ha'tefilah. He also left
a number of sons and daughters. (Source: Encyclopedia
La'chassidut pp. 551)
The Cooper family
in memory of father and grandfather Harry L. Cooper
(Tzvi Hersch ben Baruch Reuven a"h)
The Edeson and Stern families
in honor of the birthdays of
Shaya Stern and
Nathan, Ian Hillel, Shmuel Hirsch, and Helene Edeson