The most famous verse in our parashah is undoubtedly Bemidbar 24:5,
"Ma tovu"/ "How good are your tents, O Yaakov, your dwelling places, O
Israel." The midrash states that the "dwelling places" referred to are
the batei knaisiyot (shuls) and batei midrashot (study halls) where Torah
Accordingly, writes R' Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor z"l (1816-1896; rabbi of
Kovno, Lithuania), we can interpret our verse as follows: In what merit
will our tents be good, i.e., in what merit will we dwell in G-d's "tent"
in Olam Haba forever? In the merit of our dwelling places, i.e., in the
merit of the Torah we study in this world.
R' Spektor continues: Those who give financial support to Torah study can
reach the highest levels in the World-to-Come. This is alluded to in
Kohelet (7:12), "To sit in the shelter of wisdom is to sit in the shelter
of money." They are one and the same.
The next verse in our parashah states: "Stretching out like brooks,
like gardens alongside a river, like aloes planted Hashem, like cedars
near water." This refers to the ability of a Torah scholar's words to
spread quickly throughout the world like flowing water or like the scent
of aloes. Fortunate are the ones who study Torah and those who facilitate
that Torah study and the spread of Torah through their financial means,
observes R' Spektor. (Ma'amar Al Ha'Torah reprinted in Ma'ayan Yitzchak
From the Parashah . . .
"Teruat (the trumpet blast of) the King is bo (in him)
." (Bemidbar 23:21)
R' Nachman of Breslov z"l (1772-1811; great-grandson of the Ba'al Shem
Tov and an influential chassidic rebbe in his own right) taught: The word
"teruat" ("trumpet blast") also can mean "breaking," as in the verse
(Tehilim 2:9), "Tero'em (break them) with an iron rod."
Read this way, our verse is teaching that when we break all the lies that
cause us to deny G-d's existence, we find that "the King is bo / in
it." Within our disbelief itself, G-d can be found.
R' Yaakov Meir Shechter shlita (rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Sha'ar
Ha'shamayim in Yerushalayim) explains: Every person experiences downturns
in his life. For some people, these events cause a loss of faith or hope.
Others are able to accept these events as part of life and go on.
In reality, it is not enough to accept these events. Rather, we must see
these downturns as opportunities for growth. This is why Hashem initially
spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu from a burning thornbush. It taught Moshe that
there is no place devoid of G-d's presence.
When a person sins, he obscures the truth. Then, his "kesher" (bond)
with G-d, becomes a "sheker" (lie), and "pe'er" (beauty) becomes "epher"
(ashes). But when he repents, he can reverse this process. Out of his
very downfall comes growth. The Talmud relates that Rabbi Akiva was an am
ha'aretz (ignoramus) until he was 40 years old. He said about
himself, "Had I gotten my hands on a Torah scholar when I was an am
ha'aretz, I would have bitten him like a donkey." Many years later, it
was the same Rabbi Akiva who interpreted a seemingly superfluous word
in a pasuk (Devarim 6:13) as teaching that the obligation be in awe of G-d
includes the obligation to be in awe of Torah scholars. This was a unique
contribution by Rabbi Akiva. Before he came along, other sages had been
unable to explain the seemingly extra word.
This demonstrates, writes R' Shechter, that Rabbi Akiva not only learned
Torah, he corrected the specific blemish that he had possessed before.
Within the very weakness that he possessed - his immense hatred for Torah
scholars - was concealed his future greatness - his unique ability to
recognize the honor due Torah scholars. (In All Your Ways pp.4-8)
From the Haftarah . . .
"He has told you, O man, what is good, and what Hashem seeks from
you -- only the performance of justice, the love of kindness, and walking
humbly with your G-d." (Michah 6:8)
The Gemara (Pesachim 50b) teaches: "A person should always study Torah
she'lo lishmah (not for the proper reason), for through study she'lo
lishmah, one will come to study lishmah (for the proper reason)."
R' Chaim of Volozhin z"l (founder of the yeshiva movement; died 1821)
asks: How can the Gemara say that a person should always study Torah she'lo
lishmah? Clearly it would be preferable to study lishmah!
Rather, the Gemara means that a person should stick to his scheduled
Torah study sessions consistently even though on some days he does not
feel like learning and will only be doing so she'lo lishmah, with ulterior
motives. Our Sages understood that it is nearly impossible for a person to
maintain the same level of fervor all of the time. Sometimes a person is
even feeling down and has difficulty concentrating. Therefore our Sages
taught that it is important to maintain a consistent schedule of Torah
learning - to learn "always" - even if on some days it is done in a less
than ideal manner.
This is alluded to in our verse, writes R' Chaim. The Gemara (Sukkah
49b) questions the meaning of the verse in Mishlei (31:26), "The Torah of
kindness is on her lips." Is there "Torah of kindness" and "Torah which
is not of kindness"? Says the Gemara, Torah which is studied lishmah is
called "Torah of kindness." Torah which is studied she'lo lishmah is
called "Torah which is not of kindness." Why?
Our verse speaks of "the performance of justice, the love of kindness."
"Justice" is that which adheres to the letter of the law, while "kindness"
means going beyond the letter of the law. A person who is not in the mood
to learn Torah must do so nevertheless to adhere to the letter of the law.
However, his Torah study is not "Torah of kindness." Studying Torah
lishmah on the other hand is beyond the letter of the law. That is "Torah
of kindness." (Ruach Chaim 2:1)
R' David Kimchi z"l (Radak; major Tanach commentator; Narbonne, France;
1160-1235) interprets our verse as follows:
"The performance of justice" refers to laws between man and his fellow man,
for example, monetary laws.
"The love of kindness" refers to doing acts of kindness.
"Walking humbly (literally `discretely') with your G-d" refers to G-d's
Oneness and to loving Him with all one's heart and all one's soul.
Because this is concealed in man's heart, it is referred to as "walking
R' David Lifschitz z"l
R' Lifschitz, known as the "Suvalker Rav," was a important figure in
American Jewish life for nearly five decades, as a rosh yeshiva and as
president of the Ezras Torah welfare organization from 1976 until his
passing. He was born in Minsk in 1906, but moved to Grodno as a child,
where he later studied in Yeshivat Shaar Hatorah of R' Shimon Shkop z"l.
From there he transferred to the Mir yeshiva where he studied under R'
Eliezer Yehuda Finkel z"l and Rav Yerucham Levovitz z"l.
At age 24, R' Lifschitz married Zipporah Chava Yoselewitz, daughter of
the rabbi of Suvalk. Two years later, in 1935, R' Lifschitz succeeded his
father-in-law as rabbi of Suvalk, a title he carried for the rest of his
R' Lifschitz suffered tremendous persecution at the hands of the Gestapo
before the Jews were expelled from Suvalk. One-half of Suvalk's 6,000 Jews
(including the Lifshitz family) escaped to Lithuania. In June 1941, R'
Lifschitz arrived in San Francisco on a boat that carried several other
leadingsages. R' Lifschitz's first position was in Chicago, but he soon
moved to Yeshivat Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan (the rabbinical school of
what later became Yeshiva University), where he remained for the rest of
his life. R' Lifschitz passed away on 9 Tammuz 5753 / 1993.
A small number of R' Lifschitz's shmuessen / ethical lectures were
printed posthumously under the title Tehilah Le'David. Several of these
relate to the subject of "shalom," such as one from Yom Kippur 1974 when
When we say "Shalom aleichem," we are not merely greeting someone; we are
blessing him. "Shalom" is a name of G-d,
meaning "completeness." "Shalom," or "Peace," means that the whole cosmos
has achieved a state of completion through uniting to serve G-d. Whereas
man was created lacking, it is his job to complete himself . . .
Israel today [one year after the Yom Kippur War] is in a state of truce.
There are agreements, but is that peace? Is a cease-fire peace? Real
shalom can exist only when Hashem's awe is over all His handiwork, united
to do His will (paraphrasing the Yom Kippur prayers). Shalom cannot be
just the absence of war, because peace is completeness, a name of G-d.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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