Parashat Bamidbar/Shavuot

Leilui Nishmat Edward H. Cohen A’h by his wife Yvette their Children & Grandchildren

Parashat Bamidbar/Shavuot

This week’s parasha, Bamidbar, begins the fourth book of the Humash. In the second passuk, Hashem says to Moshe,“Take a census of the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael according to their families, according to their fathers’ households, by number of the names, every male according to their head count.”

The Census

Rav Pam says that Hashem counted B’nei Yisrael due to His great love for them. He counts them frequently, just as a man counts and recounts money which is precious to him. Last week’s parasha, Behukotai, described the fearful curses and punishments which would befall B’nei Yisrael if they sinned. When they heard this, they worried that Hashem might abandon His people forever if they sinned. This census was to reassure them that Hashem has a great and everlasting love for B’nei Yisrael.

Shavuot

Shavuot is referred to in our prayers as zeman mattan toratenu, the time when our Torah was given. This holiday commemorates that momentous occasion when the world achieved the purpose for which it was created — the acceptance of the Torah.

As Harav Moshe Hayim Luzzato mentions several times in Derech Hashem, the holiday cycle is more than just a series of anniversaries commemorating historical events. Just as the Heavens opened up and great spiritual powers were given to the people of Yisrael as they camped at the foot of Mount Sinai some 3,300 years ago, the Heavens make these gifts available to us every year on this date. It is up to us to make ourselves worthy of receiving those gifts by always learning and growing in Torah.

A family was once driving somewhere when the young daughter noticed one of their relatives walking on the sidewalk. It was quite obvious that he was walking for exercise, so in order for him not to have to stop his exercise, the car slowed down and drove alongside of him exchanging greetings and goodwill, and then continued on. All of a sudden the young daughter screamed out: “There’s room in the car for him! Why don’t we give him a ride? He is so unfortunate! Look how much he is sweating!” Of course, the family started laughing…

Why? For the simple reason that he doesn’t need to get to any specific place! His whole objective is to exercise! He isn’t toiling to get somewhere; his very exertion is itself the goal! The more he exerts himself, the healthier more fit and healthy he becomes…

The exact same is true when it comes to amal haTorah. The amal itself is the very objective and goal. The Torah is our connection with Hashem. Its impossible to have a true connection with Hashem without truly applying oneself in his Torah study. Just as one needs to toil and sweat in order to attain and achieve being physically in shape, so too we need to toil and labor in order to attain and achieve being in shape spiritually. Labor and toil refines the soul, and transforms a person’s essence to being united with the Torah, and as such, becoming polished and purified by it.

Hashem showed His love for the Jewish nation through the gift of the Torah. Hashem gave us the Torah in order to elevate us to strive for holiness and righteousness, and thereby become a “light unto all the other nations of the world.”

Ruth’s Hesed

The gematria for Ruth is 606. If you add 7 for the seven Noahide (universal) laws that all nations must obey, the total is 613. This signifies that Ruth was a true convert, the epitome of someone accepting the Torah. For this reason we have the custom to read Megilat Ruth on Shavuot.

Another great quality of Ruth was her hesed as she refused to abandon her mother-in-law Naomi. She could have easily gone back to her father’s palace, where she would have lived as a princess of Moab. Instead she stuck with Naomi, so that Naomi would not be alone. Ruth said to Naomi: “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you will lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may Hashem do to me, and more! If anything but death separates me from you.”

This was the ultimate form of hesed and the essence of what being a Jew is all about — caring for one another.

Ruth was a princess, but she offered to go and beg in the fields so as to spare Naomi that embarrassment. Also, as the ultimate hesed she married Boaz, a much older man, so that she could have a child through yibum and give Naomi happiness after losing her husband and two sons.

We learn from this that there are two paths that we can choose to follow. Ruth decided to follow the Torah and not abandon her mother in law and in doing this hesed, she merited to become the mother of the Davidic dynasty. However, her sister in law Orpa chose a different path. She returned to her pagan Moabite gods, and according to the Talmud (Sota 42b), Goliath the Philistine — who was ultimately killed by David — was her descendant.

We learn from this that in our own lives we must make decisions that will carry us on the right path of Torah. Where we live and where we send our children to be educated all have consequences in terms of whether or not our families stay on the Torah path, and whether or not we grow in that direction. When we make sacrifices for Torah, it will ultimately bring us a great reward, as it says in Pirke Avot: “lefum tzaara agra — according to the suffering is the reward!”

A Story of Hesed

There’s an amazing story of Hesed that I saw in Rabbi Ashear’s 4th living Emunah book. One Friday Shimon was shopping for Shabbat in a grocery store that he doesn’t generally frequent; the last time he had been there was three months earlier. While checking out at the register, he saw a talmid chacham whom he considered to be a hidden tzaddik. Knowing that this talmid chacham struggled financially, Shimon handed him his credit card and said, “Please, let me have the zechut of purchasing your Shabbat food this week. When you’re finished, I will be waiting in my car to take you home.”

The man accepted, and on the way home, he thanked Shimon for his kindness.

“I must share with you the unbelievable Hashgachat Hashem that just occurred,” he said. “I did not have money to buy food for my family for Shabbat and I didn’t know of any way to get it. I don’t like asking people for handouts.

“In the morning, I took out the Gemara (Beitzah 16a) that says that it is Hashem Who pays for all our Shabbat expenses. When I built up my Emunah to really believe this, I decided to go to the grocery store, relying on Hashem to pay for the food.

“A friend of mine couldn’t believe that I was about to go shopping without any means to pay for my purchases. I told him, ‘If we have Emunah in what the Gemara says, we should go to the grocery and fill up our carts for Shabbat, as though someone handed us their credit card and said that it’s on him.’”

The tzaddik concluded, “I came to the store, and there you were, handing me your credit card!”

Most people are not on that level of Emunah, but there are many ways for us to receive what Hashem has already prepared for us. We need to talk to Hashem. We need to get closer to Him, and we have to know that He can always help us, no matter what. B’ezrat Hashem, that merit will enable us to find all of our yeshout!

United We Camp

When B’nei Yisrael they left Egypt and journeyed to the Sinai desert, it says: “vayahanu bamidbar, vayihan sham yisrael neged hahar — and they camped in the dessert, and he camped there opposite the mountain.” First the passuk writes that “they camped” in plural. But when it writes that B’nei Yisrael camped at Har Sinai, it switches to singular.

Rashi comments on the usage of the singular form: “k’ish ehad, b’lev ehad — Like one man, with one heart.” This is because at Har Sinai, B’nei Yisrael were like one person, with one heart. That unity gave us the merit to receive the Torah!

There is nothing greater in Hashem’s eyes than seeing B’nei Yisrael unified in harmony as one close nation, just as a father loves seeing his children close to one another, getting along and unified as one.

May we all continue to be special in Hashem’s eyes as we celebrate the acceptance of the greatest gift any nation could ever receive, our holy Torah. May we also continue be as one nation, and always be concerned for the welfare of our fellow Jews, and make sacrifices for those close to us, as the passuk says: “ve’ahavta lere’aha kamoha — Love your friend as you love yourself!”

Shabbat Shalom!

Discussion Points:

· What stories of hesed do you have from your own experience, or from others who you know?

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

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Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

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Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

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