Parsha Nasso

June 6th, 2020

14th of Sivan 5780


Hashem Desires Unity Amongst the Tribes

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Then the leaders brought forward offerings for the dedication of the Altar on the day it was anointed" (Bamidbar 7:10)

The word 'dedication' (חנוכה ), comes from the term 'education' (חנוך ), while the Mizbeach (Altar) implies Am Yisrael. Together, the leaders of the tribes educated Am Yisrael and taught them that everything is dependent on unity. This is the meaning of, "a wagon for each two leaders, and an ox for each". Each leader joined together with another leader in a show of instructing Am Yisrael on the importance of unity, 'as one man with one heart'. In this vein, on the words "a wagon for each two leaders", the Seforno explains: "As a sign of brotherhood among them, through which they became fitting to have the Shechina rest among them, as it says (Devarim 33:5), 'He became king over Yeshurun when the numbers of the nation gathered in unity'".

The term 'wagon' (עגלה ) is a further allusion to unity since 'עגלה ' comes from the word 'עגול ', round. A circle (as opposed to a square which has corners) is a symbol of unity since all positions on a circle are of equal value and they are all equidistant from the center. The question is asked, in the name of the Admor of Sanz zya"a, why we have the custom to bake round matzot. He answers that round matzot hint to unity and the idea that no one person is greater than the other. Just as in a circle there are no corners to where an individual can escape, so must we all remain together.

The idea of Sefirat Ha'Omer can also be explained accordingly. Hashem commanded us to count forty-nine days in preparation for receiving the Torah. Sefirat Ha'Omer alludes to the seven lower sefirot (emanations), for it is through the seven sefirot that Hashem brings down abundance to the world until it arrives at man. (There are altogether ten sefirot but we relate only to the seven lower ones as the three higher ones are in essence beyond our comprehension). The sefirot are round for it is only in this way that man can receive the G-dly abundance. Similarly, in order to receive the Torah Am Yisrael must be positioned in a circle, meaning united, as it says (Shemot 19:17), "and they stood at the bottom of the mountain". A mountain is round and they surrounded the mountain like a round threshing floor for they were then in a state of unity, as we are told (Shemot 19:2), "and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain", as one man with one heart (the word ויחן , encamped, is written in the singular). Since no leader felt more important than any other leader, they all brought the same offering. They did not try to outdo each other since their service was complete and whole, teaching us that there is no room for haughtiness before Hashem.

This caused Hashem to desire their deeds, as it is written (Bamidbar 7:5), "Take from them, and they shall be to perform the work of the Tent of Meeting". The Ramban writes: "For Hashem apportions honor to those who fear Him, as it says, "for I honor those who honor Me". All the leaders on one day decided to bring this offering that they all agreed upon. Since it was impossible that one not precede the other (in bringing the offering), they were honored according to the way they traveled".

Even though each Jewish person possesses a G-dly essence and each one is a world unto himself, he must understand that this stands only when he is part of Am Yisrael. But if he separates himself from the congregation, he loses his value. For how is a Jewish person's value measured? Only by the Torah that he possesses, "A man's soul is the lamp of Hashem". There are six-hundred thousand letters in the Torah, corresponding to the six-hundred thousand souls of Am Yisrael. There is a wonderful allusion to this idea. The letters of the word 'ישראל ', Yisrael, are an abbreviation for 'יש ששים ריבוא אותיות לתורה ', 'there are six-hundred thousand letters in the Torah". This being the case, every Jew is part of the Torah and is obligated to stay connected to the community so as to be part of the complete Torah. But if a Jew separates himself from the community, then there is something missing in the completeness of Am Yisrael and in the completeness of the Torah. How is it possible for Am Yisrael to always remain integrated and united? Only when there is humility and respect for the other. This is why accepting the Torah is dependent on humility and to the degree that we all feel "as one man with one heart". The king too is warned about this (Devarim 17:20), "so that his heart does not become haughty over his brethren".

The leaders of the tribes demonstrated this attribute of humility. They had no desire to feel superior to the rest of the people, rather they lowered themselves. Therefore, Hashem praised them and they found favor in His eyes to the extent that He rested His Divine Presence among them, to let us know that the edifice of Am Yisrael is dependent on unity.

To what can this be compared? To drops of rain. Hashem said to Iyov, (Baba Batra 16a), "I created many drops in the clouds and for every single drop I created a unique channel so that no two drops should come out from one channel. If two drops would come out of one channel, this would wash away the land and it would not produce fruit. I do not mix up any drops…" When the drops fall to the ground they join together and become pools of water until a river forms which drains into the sea, a lake or a river. This is what gives the world existence, for these waters drench the land. Despite each drop having its unique channel, it will only bring benefit by combining with the other drops, otherwise it will go to waste. But by joining together they are able to bring life to the world. So it is with Am Yisrael, each one on his own cannot bring benefit, only through joining together.

May it be His will that we have the wisdom to understand the great value of a united heart. May we all serve Hashem and fulfill His mitzvot as one man with one heart, bringing pleasure to our Creator, Amen v'Amen.

Walking in their Ways

Continuing the Momentum

On Shavuot night (5770), I was overcome with pleasure from observing Am Yisrael in all its beauty and splendor. I spent this holy night visiting the entire 19th Quarter in Paris. I witnessed the Batei Knesset filled to capacity, the young and old sitting together and delving into the Holy Torah.

I saw my son, Rabbi Moshe n"y, surrounded by more than three hundred bachurim, listening to his words of Torah and mussar. My dear son who increases merit to the public, Rabbi Rafael shlita, also had hundreds of youngsters gathered around him, some of whom were dressed in unmistakably irreligious attire, yet they were imbibing his words of Torah and moral lessons with great thirst.

During my lecture I asked them, "What are you doing here in the middle of the night? Why don’t you go to sleep?" And they answered with total honesty and simplicity, "We came to receive the Torah". I was deeply moved by their response and felt a great love for them. Certainly, Hashem too was delighted with them and loves them dearly.

This is the spiritual revolution that is exploding in the world before the arrival of Mashiach. A spirit of purity is passing through the world and all are thirsty to hear the word of Hashem, as the Navi says (Amos 8:11), "not a hunger for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Hashem".

We have just experienced the festival of the Giving of the Torah, and especially now a person must strive to rise spiritually and go from strength to strength by adding holiness and purity to his service of Hashem, without feeling satisfied with his present level.

This is the reason why following Shavuot, we read the Parshiot of Nasso and Beha'alotcha. These two words imply 'raising oneself up' and 'continuous spiritual growth'. In addition, the word 'בהעלתוך ', can be split up into 'ב' העלותך ', implying two types of growth, for there is preparation for receiving the Torah and the actual receiving of the Torah. During the period of Sefirat Ha'Omer, a person prepared himself to become a fitting receptacle for the Torah to dwell inside him, and then on the festival of Shavuot, the long-awaited moment of receiving the Torah finally arrived. A person is obligated to maintain his spiritual growth and also continually add to it by rising above his previous level.

Let all of us as one continue this momentum and utilize the spirit of purity that we merited receiving on Shavuot. And as Chazal have told us, (Shabbat 104a), "One who wishes to purify himself is assisted", Amen v'Amen.

Words of the Sages

I Drank…I am Obligated to Thank!

The Gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l, one of the greatest poskim of the last generation and the leader of Orthodox Jewry in America, once had an appointment with a wealthy individual, whose office was on the fourth floor in a building without an elevator. He was then over eighty-five years old and made his way up each flight of stairs with great difficulty.

After the meeting, he slowly made his way back down the stairs, and just as he was about to enter the car, he suddenly stood still as if he had remembered something important. Then, without saying a word, he turned back on his heels and began walking towards the building.

The two talmidim who had accompanied him, quickly asked: "Did the Rav forget something?"

"Yes," he replied, "I need to go back up to the office."

"The Rav shouldn't bother," they both cried out, "we will go for you."

But Rabbi Moshe refused: "It is my concern!" was his adamant reply and he began climbing the stairs.

The talmidim went up together with him, noting how he was panting and gasping with effort, resting between each floor. When they arrived at the fourth floor, he entered the office of the wealthy businessman who got up from his chair in surprise, wondering what could have changed in the short time that had passed since they had spoken. Rabbi Moshe turned to him and said, "I forgot to thank you for the cup of tea that you prepared for me, I came to say 'Yasher Koach'! The tea was excellent!"

The talmidim were shocked. After they had calmed down they asked: "Honored Rabbi, could you not have sent us to thank him?"

"I could have," he replied simply, "but who drank the tea, me or you? I drank, so I must be the one to thank!"

Harav Yosef Mograbi shlita, brings this story in his sefer "Avot U'Banim", and adds a piercing message: This is how a true Gadol lives! This is the behavior of one who lives the concept of hakarat hatov, showing appreciation, as it is!

Let us take note about the kind of matters under discussion, with what subtlety they felt obligated to express their appreciation!

What about us? We feel that everyone else owes us… When we don't receive something that we expect others to give us, we grow angry. What do you mean? How come he doesn’t understand that he is obligated to provide?! We conveniently ignore all those times that he did come through for us and we do not even consider if we ever paid him back for his many favors. We only focus on those times that he did not grant us what we expected from him.

The Haftarah

The Haftarah of the week: “There was a certain man” (Shoftim 13)

The connection to the Parsha: The Haftarah speaks about Shimshon the Nazirite and the instructions that the Navi gave his mother concerning the abstention. The Parsha too talks about the laws of the Nazirite.

Guard Your Tongue

Praising one's Friend Excessively

It is forbidden to praise one's friend exceedingly, even not in the presence of his enemies, for due to this one will eventually condemn him by saying, all this is besides this certain bad quality that he has. Or, this might cause the listeners to reply, why are you praising him to such a great extent, he possesses this and this negative attribute?

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

We Merit the Torah Through Unity

The importance of unity is demonstrated in this week's Parsha when talking about the Priestly blessing. The Kohanim were commanded to bless Am Yisrael specifically "with love", as they say in the blessing, "and has commanded us to bless His people Israel with love". There is a halachic ruling that a Kohen who dislikes or hates the congregation or the congregation dislikes or hates him, may not raise his hands to bless the congregation. The holy Zohar adds that in fact it is dangerous for him to bless them. This shows us that one must constantly feel unity and love for each other.

This blessing is brought specifically in Parshat Nasso, which is usually read just before or following the festival of the Giving of the Torah, to teach us that the way to merit Torah is only through unity. Therefore, the central idea of this week's Parsha is unity between all sectors of the people, which can be achieved only through working on oneself and perfecting one's middot. This is a firm and strong foundation with which one can merit the crown of Torah throughout the year in general, and in particular on Shavuot. One who loves his friend dearly and rejoices in his happiness and success, will merit finding favor in Hashem's eyes and he too will merit success in all his endeavors.

This is why Parshat Nasso is read either just before Shavuot or immediately following. A person must know that the main merit for acquiring the Torah is only through being particular about one's middot and rectifying matters between man and his friend. Only in this way will he be able to grow and elevate himself in the correct path.

Man must learn from Hashem how He raised and elevated the tribes by counting them and according honor to their families. G-d forbid, He did not show disregard for even one of the tribes, for all were considered equal in His eyes. Let us note how Hashem was concerned for the family of Kohath who were given the perilous role of carrying the Aron, as it says (Bamidbar 4:18), "Do not let the tribe of the Kohathite families be cut off from among the Levites". Hashem also took pains to attach importance to the Gershonite family even though their role was not as important as that of the family of Kohath, by detailing them in the Torah and dedicating verses to be written about them.

If Hashem shows respect and appreciation for the tribe of Levi for their service in the Beit Hamikdash, even though it was an honor for them that they were chosen to serve in the Mishkan, all the more so must each person realize how important it is to raise and elevate other people, considering them precious in his eyes. This is the only way to merit a true “Receiving of the Torah”, since "you shall love your fellow as yourself is a great principle in the Torah".

Pearls of the Parsha

Measure for Measure

"A man's holies shall be his" (Bamidbar 5:10)

The Gemara says (Berachot 63a), "Rabbi Yochanan said, why is the section of Sotah (wayward wife) adjacent to the section of tithing? To tell you that one who has separated tithes yet does not give them to the Kohen, will eventually require the services of the Kohen, through his wife".

What in fact does this person do with his tithes? It is not probable to say that he gets rid of them by throwing them to the sea and it is even more perplexing to say that he eats them, for then he is liable to death by Heaven?

Rabbeinu Yosef Chaim zya"a, in his sefer 'Benayahu', explains that we are talking about someone who separates tithes according to the law so as to give them to the Kohen, but he does not search for the Kohen to bring him his tithes, rather he leaves them in his house until the Kohen comes to him and takes his entitlement.

According to this, one can understand that his punishment is measure for measure. Since he did not want to go to the Kohen and give him his tithes, now he is forced to find the Kohen so that he should give his wife the “bitter waters” to drink.

In a different vein, the sefer 'Tehilla LeDavid' explains his punishment by equating the wife to her husband's 'tithes'. Chava was created from the side of Adam HaRishon. The Hebrew word for side (צלע ) has the numerical value of one hundred and ninety, while the name Chava (חוה ) has a numerical value of nineteen, which is one-tenth (ma'aser) of one hundred and nineteen. So חוה is the ma'aser of צלע , her husband, meaning that a wife is her husband's ma'aser.

Now we can understand that a husband who holds back the ma'aser and does not give it to the Kohen, will eventually have to bring the Kohen ma'aser from his own self, meaning his (suspected adulteress) wife, for she is his ma'aser.

The Honor of Yisrael and the Creator are One

"Let them place My Name upon the Children of Israel, and I shall bless them" (Bamidbar 6:27)

When talking about the wife of a notable and renowned individual, she is referred to by his name, "wife of so and so", and is respected on account of his honor.

If so, explains Rabbi Yisrael Hopstein of Kozhnitz zt"l, author of 'Avodat Yisrael', how much more so are we Bnei Yisrael, more honorable and precious and blessed than all the Heavenly Angels, since we say about the Creator, Blessed is He, 'You have included Your Name in our name'. We, His people Yisrael, are likened to a bride who is betrothed with deliberation, "I will betroth you to Me forever".

This is what Hashem meant by saying, "Let them place My Name upon the Children of Israel". Call them by My name, for they are My people and My friends. Then automatically, "I shall bless them" with all the blessings, and the Heavenly Angels will agree, for the honor of Yisrael is My honor.

His Name is More Significant than 'Leader of the Tribe'

"The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehuda" (Bamidbar 7:12)

Why is Nachshon not described as 'leader of the tribe', rather as 'of the tribe of'? The Chizkuni explains, so that he should not feel pride at being the first one to bring the offering.

The verse describes all the other heads as 'leader of…', for they subordinated themselves and brought their offering after him.

The 'Iturei Torah' brings a different reason: 'Nachshon ben Aminadav' was a famous name since he was the first one to jump into the sea. Therefore, his name was more significant than the description 'leader of the tribe'.

A Novel Look at the Parsha

We are living through a most turbulent and volatile period. Who would have believed that a microscopic virus could wreak such enormous and significant havoc on our lives? The Batei Midrash are locked and bolted, residents are confined to their homes, 'no one left and no one entered'. We have experienced death at our doorsteps, "My Beloved has descended to His garden…to pick roses". G-d has plucked our elderly Sages, Talmidei Chachamim and Gedolei Torah. Am Yisrael lowers their head, pained and saddened at the passing of hundreds of His finest children, all a result of the virus that has spread throughout the world.

It is our fervent desire to protect ourselves and our families from the scourges of the Evil Inclination. We also wish to remain strong and healthy and far-removed from any sickness G-d forbid. We desire success and satisfaction, happiness and delight. All of us wish to open our hearts to the study of Torah and spiritual growth, an aspiration which burns in every heart. But who knows what the future holds, who can guarantee the fruition of our dreams?

Chazal have already told us that from the day the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, the curses of each new day are worse than the previous day's. These tidings are most worrying. Indeed? Each day the situation will only worsen? Each day will bring in its wake new verdicts, G-d forbid? Mysterious illnesses? How will we cope? Is there any tool with which we can protect ourselves?

In this week's Parsha, the Torah bestows on us an especially meaningful gift. We are told of wonderful moments with far-reaching influence. This precious and inconspicuous gift can be found right in the midst of our prayers. It demands very little from us, besides standing and listening. That’s it! Nevertheless, it entails a true treasure, worth contemplating and becoming acquainted with.

Chazal revealed to us (Yerushalmi, Sotah 46a), that the Priestly Blessing is the segulah and special tool that the Creator bestowed on us in His great kindness, so as to protect and guard us from all troubles and distress, from all diseases and sickness. Chazal quote the verse in Tehillim, "G-d is angered every day", and they ask: If so, who can annul this? "Rabbi Ovin in the name of Rav Acha said, the Priestly Blessing annuls".

The Priestly Blessing is the only defense left in our hands from the days of the Mikdash, and now as then, it continues to protect us, for it is the only service of the Kohanim that is still performed today. As the Ramban brings in Parshat Beha'alotcha, when the offerings stopped and the entire Priestly service was no longer, the Priestly Blessing remained the only part of the Priestly Service that is still active in our days.

This is the implication of the Yerushalmi that we quoted. Today, in an era where we no longer have a Beit Hamikdash and G-d forbid we are exposed to all kinds of threats, the Priestly blessing is what bestows on us G-dly abundance straight from the Creator. It crowns our heads with a protective umbrella, immune to decrees and evil mishaps. It places us inside a protective conservatory and opens all the gates of abundance, improving the quality of our lives and enabling us to merit much success and blessing. For this is the only service of the Mikdash that remains with us today, protecting us and blessing us!

The 'Netivot Shalom' of Slonim defines the superiority of the Priestly blessing: "It is a gift that Hashem bestowed on His people. The entire Torah and mitzvot are assistance and aid that Hashem gave a Jewish person against anything that distances us. But in addition to this, in His great mercy, Hashem gave Am Yisrael the matter of the Priestly Blessing, so that every day a Jew should receive a blessing of heavenly abundance."

The Biggest Segula

Maran Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky shlita relates that he once came across a sefer (I do not remember the name) that was published approximately a hundred years ago, and there it clarifies the blessing inherent in each word of the Priestly blessing. For example, 'ויחנך ', 'and be gracious to you', refers to the blessing of sons and daughters, 'וישם לך שלום ', 'and establish peace for you' refers to marital harmony. He also writes that one may ask the Kohen to have one in mind during the Priestly blessing, for any matter for which one requires salvation, and many times this has helped. Rabbeinu said, "People come (to me) every day with problems of marital harmony, I thought that this suggestion could help them".

In the approbation to the sefer 'Birkat Kohanim B'ahava', Rabbi David Cohen, Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron notes:

"Some time ago I was at Maran Rosh HaYeshiva, HaGaon Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman (shlita) zt"l, and he told me that he is very surprised to see people who require salvation, asking and seeking blessings, and many times they will even travel to distant places for this, even though they have no proof that blessings from these people have power. They do not realize that right at their doorstep, every single day, they have a blessing that Hashem promised has power, and generates abundant blessing. This is the blessing that the Kohanim bless us with every day, yet they do not try to pursue this blessing."

Let us take advantage of this wonderful gift! Let us prepare ourselves for these special moments, G-d forbid not to miss the opportunity, rather we should listen to every word and have the correct intentions. In this way, we will assure ourselves of wonderful Heavenly protection and open up the treasuries of unlimited abundance!


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