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Beit Midrash Zichron Dov
Parshat Nasso 2 Sivan, 5771/46 Omer / June 4, 2011
Vol.2 Num. 36 R’ Mordechai Torczyner
In books, on stage and in film, the setting of a story is, itself, a character, providing a sense of realism, giving the actors option s an d lim its, and interacting with the other characters. The same is true in the Torah; every backdrop is part of the story, whether Canaanite territory or Egyptian empire or Har Sinai or mishkan. And with the start of a new chumash last week we were introduced to another player: Midbar, Wilderness. Of course, we‘ve met the midbar before; the Jews already hungered for food and thirsted for water right after they crossed through Yam Suf. But back then, the midbar was quickly subdued by manna and Miriam‘s well and Aharon‘s clouds, and then fully eclipsed by Har Sinai and the mishkan. Only as the Jews move away from Sinai does the midbar, the wilderness, come to the fore. Watching our ancestors interact with the midbar setting teaches us valuable lessons: the Jews receive the Torah in the desert in order to afford them the opportunity to focus on this Divine gift without need to plant their fields, maintain their homes or engage in commerce. Indeed, in the midbar a large group of women established their homes at the Ohel Moed and devoted their days to Torah study.
The midbar offers a lesson in isolation; us? We are tempted to believe that
childhood is the ideal, midbar-like time for a Jew to embrace Torah. But I believe the comparison to childhood can lead to a mistake of great consequence; people who believe they missed their chance in childhood abandon hope of change, instead of taking the opportunities that yet lie before them.
The midbar is tabula rasa, a blank slate
on which our story can be scripted, an open canvas on which we can paint as we choose. In a desert wilderness, a society with neither incumbent wealth nor predetermined hierarchy, Ahaliav from the tribe of Dan can become master craftsman of the mishkan and a nation of slaves can demonstrate spiritual greatness. No other biblical environment would have suited all of these ends – the humility, the isolation, and the tabula rasa. Canaanite Israel lacked isolation; the same was true for Egyptian slavery. The mishkan certainly would not have served, as it was the opposite of humility, a grand construction outfitted with beautiful silver and gold and colourful embroidery. The Jews need the Midbar environment in which to work through their growing pains, enduring rebellions and hunger and suspicion while studying the Torah and achieving personal, tribal and national greatness. Some might compare the midbar to childhood - at what other time in our lives have we accomplished so little, at what other time in our lives are we as unentangled, at what other time in our lives does the future lie so pliable before
It is never too late. Always, we can return to the midbar, if not in practice then in state of mind. Always, we can develop humility. Always, we can pare down our distractions. And, always, we can envision life as a canvas on which to paint afresh and build great things. Perhaps the best proof of this point is in that Jewish nation which entered the midbar. True, they were newly formed as a nation, but their slate was actually no cleaner than ours; they had a great and complex history behind them: They had been patriarchs and matriarchs, a family with wars and treaties both without and within. They had been slaves, and they had seen their captors punished. They had been heroically persevering families as well as rescued damsels in distress. They had been idolaters, and they had stood at Sinai witnessing Divine revelation. This was not a child-nation, emerging blinking into the sunlight for this time – but it was capable of nonetheless viewing its future as a blank slate, and creating a brilliant and enduring legacy for its descendants. On the first morning of Shavuot, we precede the Torah reading with the public recitation of Akdamut, an Aramaic poem describing Divine might and introducing the Torah reading itself. Toward the beginning of the poem, we describe Gd creating the universe with the letter ,הa letter which is just a breath, the simplest exhalation, demonstrating that for Gd, creation is simple and the possibilities are infinite. For us as human beings, creation is anything but simple and easy – but when we, like the Jews in the midbar, look at the world as a blank slate and an opportunity for accomplishment, then for us, too, there will be few limits. firstname.lastname@example.org
The midbar offers a lesson in humility;
in a wilderness, all beauty is natural, all artifice is overtaken by nature, all property is communal. As the gemara explains, HaShem gives the Jews the Torah in a midbar to teach that we need to be humble in order to receive the Torah. Certainly, Moshe already taught the Jews this lesson with his own modesty, but there is a difference between observing humility in Moshe and being enveloped in humility in an environment that declares, ―All property is nothing.‖
Does the prohibition against theft belong in the Aseret haDibrot?
(Rashi to Shemot 20:12(
How can we say about G-d, vayanach, that He rested?
(Rashi, Mechilta, Siporno, Ohr HaChaim, Netziv, and Daat Mikra to Shemot 20:10)
Why is it significant that there was a great and unterminating sound when G-d
gave the Torah? (Rashi, Mechilta, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Rabbeinu Bachaye, Malbim, and Netziv‘s Haameik Davar and Herchev Davar to Shemot 19:19) For children: Why does the story of the Nazir immediately follow the story of the Sotah?
Does the prohibition against theft belong in the Aseret haDibrot? Rashi explains that lo tignov, ―Do not steal‖, can be interpreted in two ways: theft of property, and abduction of individuals. Since the other commandments, ―Do not murder‖ and ―Do not commit adultery‖, are capital crimes, Rashi explains that ―Do not steal‖ must logically refer to such a crime as well. Therefore, by logical inference, since property theft is not a capital crime and kidnapping is, lo tignov must refer to kidnapping. he offers two interpretations: First, this phrase was chosen to explain a fundamental principle of the 39 melachot Shabbat, the 39 activities prohibited on Shabbat. There are some acts, such as carrying an object from the private domain to the public domain, which are not strenuous, but are still prohibited. The fact that the basis for forbidden work is the ―rest‖ of G-d, who is incapable of both rest and toil, demonstrates that this prohibition is not rooted in the toil of the action, but in the action itself. How can we say about G-d, Next, The Or HaChaim relates, vayanach, that He rested? based on a Midrash, that for Rashi and the Mechilta, a each of the six days of creation, collection of Halachic midrashim G-d had to continually sustain on Sefer Shemot, explain that this the world from destruction. is a mere anthropomorphism: G-d Shabbat, on the seventh day, does not labour, and therefore ensured that the world would does not require rest. not need the constant Nevertheless, He still rested on the maintenance. The kedushah of seventh day of creation. Hence we, each future Shabbat, as well, who do toil all week, must all the maintains and sustains the more so rest on Shabbat. world for the following week. For The Seforno, Rav Ovadiah ben this reason G-d was able to Yaakov, elucidates that the rest ―rest‖, as the world‘s existence here refers to the fact that the was guaranteed for another six creation process was completed. days. The Or HaChaim Hakadosh, Rav Da’at Mikra relates that vayanach Chaim ibn Attar of Morocco and does not refer to rest, but cessation Jerusalem, whose synagogue of work; G-d ceased the creation stands today in the Old City of process after the first six days. Jerusalem, is known for his Kabbalistic leanings. To this end, Why is it significant that there was a great and unterminating sound when G-d gave the Torah? Rashi and Rabbeinu Bechaye explain that Moshe was required to speak over this great sound; that, and directly addressing the approximately two million Jews at once, is a physical impossibility. G-d helped Moshe to speak loudly when he repeated the Ten Commandments to the nation, and the fact that this sound existed speaks to the fact that Moshe did, indeed, require this help. The Mechilta contrasts G-d with a mere mortal: Whereas sounds produced by flesh and blood will inevitably weaken, those produced by the Almighty increase in intensity. The Midrash continues that those learning Torah may merit a similar trait, that their power of thought will not wane. The Ibn Ezra relates that had the sound been similar to the sound of an ordinary shofar, the initial sound would have frightened the Jewish people. An increasing sound allowed the people to become accustomed to the noise without fright. The Ramban cites some who explain that this sound was meant to acclimate the Nation of Israel to such a loud sound. They were anxious due to the great sound, and Moshe Rabbeinu explained to them to expect such a noise when would they receive the Commandments directly from G-d. The Malbim explains that this sound of the shofar testified to the Jewish People that Moshe was truly the messenger of G-d. For children: For children: Why does the story of the Nazir immediately follow the story of the Sotah? Rashi explains that after watching the story of the Sotah unfold, and after witnessing her demise, one will certainly abstain from the wine which was the impetus for her impropriety.
613 Mitzvot: Mitzvot 95
To build a Mikdash
Mitzvah 95 instructs us to build a house in which we will be able to serve Gd through offerings and through holiday gatherings. This refers to both the Mishkan the Jews travelled with in the desert and the Beit haMikdash in Jerusalem, and it also includes creation of the implements used in those structures – the aron, menorah, mizbeiach and so on. The Minchat Chinuch suggests that this may include the Torah's instructions to keep a jar of Manna and Aharon's staff before the aron, but that may have been an obligation specific to Moshe Rabbeinu. On a simple level, one goal of this mitzvah is to allow the Jews to establish a central space to which they will be able to come, in order to serve Gd. As Gd actually stated, no house could ever contain Gd – but having such a location provides us with the opportunity to focus ourselves on a stronger level than we could without a central site. email@example.com
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R’ Aharon Soloveichik
also His creature. My work is in the city and his is in the field. I rise early to my work and he rises early to his. As he cannot excel in my work, so I cannot excel in his work. But perhaps you say, ‗I do great things and he small things.‘ We The statement of Rebbe Akiva (Avos have learned that it matters not 3:18), ―Beloved is Man, who was whether he does much or little if he created in the image of God; it is by only directs his heart to Heaven.‖ special distinction that he was created in the image of God,‖ teaches that The concept of k’vod habriyos is the every human being, regardless of basis of all civilized jurisprudence, religion, race, origin or creed is as well of all the laws of justice in en d o wed wi th Div i n e d ign i ty. the Torah. Civil law and the Consequently, all people are to be misphatim (rational laws) of the treated with equal respect and dignity. Torah, on the whole, bear a The verse in Genesis, ―In the image of remarkable correspondence for the God He created Man‖ (1:27) proclaims simple reason that every law in a metaphysical truth which underlies modern jurisprudence is based the halachic principle of k’vod exclusively upon the doctrine of habriyos, the dignity of Man. The human rights which the nations of halach ah establishes that any the world adopted from the Torah. commandment in the Torah can be For example, it is a crime to commit passively violated, bi’shev v’al taaseh, homicide, to commit assault and in order to preserve the dignity of battery, or to trespass upon another human being. K’vod habriyos another‘s property, because every also supersedes every Rabbinic law, human being has a fundamental whether the subject be a Jew, a non- right to be secure in person and Jew or a pagan. This can be gathered property against any attack, assault from laws like nivul hames, indignity of or molestation. Everyone has such a right since everyone was created in the deceased, contained in the verse, the image of God and consequently לא תלין נבלתו על העץ כי קבור תקברנו ביום ההוא כי deserves to be treated with dignity )קללת אלקים תלוי (דברים פרק כא פסוק כג and respect. This halachah stems from the concept While Jewish jurisprudence in one of k’vod habriyos, and it applies to respect begets modern civil law, in Jews and non-Jews, including pagans. another respect it is distinct and The concept of the dignity of all unique. Insofar as the idea of human beings constitutes the basis of human rights - emanating from our human rights. The maxim of ―Man was common ―image of God‖ - is at the endowed by his Creator with certain core of all mishpatim of the Torah, inalienable rights‖ was not an the two codes of law are similar. innovation of the founders of the However, Torah law is distinct and American republic. These men were unique in that, whereas secular impressed with the doctrine of human juris p rud en c e is ex c lus iv ely rights which flows naturally from the grounded in human rights, Torah concept of ―the dignity of Man‖ and the jurisprudence is additionally ―image of God in which He created founded upon the pillar of duties. Man,‖ as they knew from their Biblical B e s i d e s m i s h p a t , J u d a i s m background. emphasizes the concept of tzedek, This attitude of our sages towards righteousness and duty, as a k’vod habriyos, the dignity of Man, is primary motive. In modern society, expressed clearly in the Talmud in assaulting a person is a crime but Maseches Brachos (17a): ―In the words failure to save a human life is not. of the rabbis of Yavneh: I am a Civil law finds it inconceivable that a person should have a right to creature of God, and my neighbor is
R’ Azarya Berzon
demand help and generosity from another. The Torah‘s concept of tzedek, however, gives the person the right to demand aid. The Torah states, ―Tzedek, tzedek, you shall pursue‖ (Deuteronomy 16:20). Why should the Torah repeat the term tzedek? Rabbenu Bachaye in his work Kad Hakemach, interprets that the Torah intimates that we should employ the same standard of justice and righteousness that we do toward our Jewish brothers toward all men. When one delves into the halachah, one can readily see that the Torah does not make a distinction between Jews and non-Jews within the realm of mishpat and tzedek. Moshe comes to a well where he witnesses an act of injustice. The local shepherds drive away the shepherd daughters of Yisro so that the shepherds can water their flocks first. Here Moshe encounters a dispute between non -Jews, a matter seemingly so unimportant to him that we might have understood had he stood idly by. Wouldn‘t discretion urge him to ―mind his own business?‖ Chazal say, ―Moshe represents tzedek” (Midrash Rabbah, Shmos). Moshe was bent upon emulating the ways of God, one of which is to defend a victim from an attacker, as the verse says, ―God takes the side of the aggrieved and the victim‖ (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Chazal comment, ―Even if a righteous person attacks a wicked person, Go d s till s id es with th e victim‖ (Yalkut Shimoni). In Moshe‘s mind, the pursuit of righteousness and justice was paramount; no consideration could stand in its way—―And Moshe stood up and helped them and watered their flocks‖ (Exodus 2:17). A Jew should always identify with the cause of defending the aggrieved, whoever the aggrieved may be.
Torah in Translation: The Dignity of Man, from Logic of the Heart,
Logic of the Mind
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Schedule for the Week of June 4, 2 Sivan
Sunday, June 5 9:15AM Itamar Zolberg, Parshah&Issues, Zichron Yisroel Monday, June 6 7:15 PM R‘ Meir Lipschitz, The Thought of R‘ Shlomo Aviner: Sefirah and Shavuot,, 3000 Bathurst, Apt 1201, Women 7:45PM R‘ Azarya Berzon, Rambam Hilchot Tfillah, Clanton Park 8:45PM R‘ Meir Lipschitz, Gemara Beitzah Chaburah, Shaarei Shomayim After Maariv R‘ Azarya Berzon, Ramban al Hatorah, 12 Midvale Road 1st night of Shavuot, June 7-8 12 AM Itamar Zolberg, Shiur for Gr 5-8, Clanton Park 12:00AM R‘ Azarya Berzon: Aseret Hadibrot - What Makes Them Unique?, Clanton Park 12:00AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: Shavuot in the eyes of Rav Kook, TCS 1:00 AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: What did Yechezkel see in G-d‘s Throne Room?, BAYT 1:05AM R' Netanel Javasky, Writing a Sefer Torah: Past, Present and Future , Clanton Park 1:05AM Itamar Zolberg, ,אורו של משיחClanton Park (Hebrew) 2:30 AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: The Sephirot of Shavuot, Bnai Akiva 2:35 AM Itamar Zolberg, The Hidden Message of Megillat Ruth 3:20 AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: Kiddush, Bikkurim and Yom Tov Meals: Building Community through Food, Zichron Yisrael 4:15 AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: The Giants of Moroccan Jewry, Ayin l‘Tzion 4:30 AM Dovid Zirkind, Written Torah vs. Oral Torah - Where Has The Distinction Gone?, Shaarei Shomayim 1st day of Shavuot, Wednesday, June 8 6:00 PM Rachel Javasky, for women, Clanton Park 7:30 PM R‘ Azarya Berzon, The deeper meaning of the Aseret HaDibrot, Clanton Park 2nd day of Shavuot, Thursday, June 9 6:00 PM Mrs. Charnie Berzon, for women, Clanton Park 1 Hour Before Mincha: R‘ Azarya Berzon: National Geirut at the time of Matan Torah, Clanton Park Between Mincha and Maariv, Dovid Zirkind, Two Jews, Three Opinions: The Origin and Importance of Machloket, Shaarei Shomayim Mon, Tues, Fri 6 AM R‘ Mordechai Torczyner: Daf Yomi, BAYT
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