Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bamidbar & Shavuot 5775

The Torah Portion of Bamidbar and Chag HaShavuot 

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

The Torah Portion of Bamidbar

The Chumash of Bamidbar is also called the Chumash of Counting (i.e. similar to the idea of calling it the Book of Numbers in English) because within it is written the number of all of the children of Israel.

"Their counted ones, for the tribe of Dan: 62,700"  (Bamidbar 1:39)

The Chafetz Chaim says that when we read in the Torah Portion of Vayigash "the sons of Dan, Chushim" (Bereisheet 46:23) , we pity him because he had only one son, but in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar we see that the tribe of Dan had the largest number after the tribe of Yehudah, and from this we see the great importance of one soul in Israel.

"Their counted ones for the tribe of Dan: 62,700" (Bamidbar 1:39)

It is said that Dan would always request from his father to pray for him, and Binyamin, who had 10 sons, did not request that he pray for him.  After the event of the Pilegesh B'givah there remained in the tribe of Binyamin only 600 people, and from this we see that a person always needs to pray.

"As they camped so they traveled".  (Bamidbar 2:17)

The Ramchal says, there are people who when they are in their homes act strictly with all the Jewish laws and when they go outside on a journey they take matters lightly.  And the opposite case is also true, there are people that when they are at home, take matters lightly, but outside of their houses they act strictly in front of the eyes of the public to show others that they are righteous.  Therefore the verse says, "as they camped so they traveled", that one should behave with the same behavior whether at home or outside.


"And the number of the children of Israel will be like the sands at the sea".  (Hoshea 2:1)

 And in the Torah it is said also "like the stars of the heavens".  Stars of a necessity are separated one from the other because every star is a world unto itself, and if G-d forbid one star would crash into another, entire worlds would be destroyed.  In contrast to this, the sand at the sea is not able to exist unless every grain of sand attaches itself to another one, for each grain by itself would be washed away by the waves of the sea and made to vanish.   But the gathering together of all the grains of sand into one body generates a powerful opposing force to the waves of the sea.  Similarly for the children of Israel: if each one of them is like a complete world in and of himself, similar to the "stars of the heavens", on the other hand, they don't have any existence except when they are united together like the sand on the shore of the sea (Mayana Shel Torah - from one of the great Mussar sages). 


The Torah was given in Sivan

The Torah was given in the month of Sivan.  The Hebrew letters that spell "Sivan" are Samech, Yud, Vuv, Nun.  These letters are Roshei Teivot (initial letters), and have significance, as follows:
Samech has the numerical value of 60.  60 groups of 10,000 = 600,000 men stood there at the occasion of receiving the Torah
Yud has the numerical value of 10.  That refers to the 10 commandments.
Vuv has the numerical value of 6.  Shavuot is celebrated on the 6th of Sivan.
Nun has the numerical value of 50.  We count 50 days until the receiving of the Torah.  (That is, we count 49 days during Sefirat Haomer, and on the 50th day is the receiving of the Torah.)

The Shabbat before Shavuot

There are those who call  the Shabbat  before Shavuot "Shabbat Derech Eretz", the Shabbat of courtesy, because Derech Eretz (courtesy) comes before the Torah.  And there are those who call it Shabbat Kallah, the Shabbat of the Bride.

"Moshe received the Torah from Sinai" (Avot 1:1) 

Why was it not written "at Sinai"?  The Bartenura explains that the intention is, from the One who was revealed at Sinai, and that is the Holy One Blessed Be He.  The Tiferet Yisrael explains that the word "Sinai" implies humility, since that mountain was lower than the other mountains, and that is why is says "from Sinai";  one needs to learn from Moshe who was humble and then he will have great success in the Torah.  The Sages say that the mountain of Moriah was removed from its place and came to the mountain of Sinai, in order that the Torah would be given on it, for it was worthy that the Torah should be given on the place where Yitzchak was bound (at the Akeidah). 

"And they journeyed from Rephidim...and they encamped in the desert and Israel encamped there..." (Shemot 19:2)

The Ohr HaChaim writes that there are 3 ways to succeed in the Torah (as hinted at by the above verse):  1) "And they journeyed from Rephidim", first one needs to remove himself from the desires of this world and from laziness (from things which weaken him -- since the place name Rephidim has the same root letters as the Hebrew word for weakness). 2)  And afterwards "they encamped in the desert" -- one needs to make himself like a desert, abandoning his selfishness and giving in to other people, and not being  overbearing toward other people.  3) And afterwards "Israel encamped there" -- one needs to be in unison with all of Israel like one person with one heart.

Megillat Ruth: 

Ruth, the Moabite woman, lived until Shlomo Hamelech as it was written "and Shlomo put a chair for the mother of the king", and that chair was for Ruth. Shmuel the prophet wrote Megillat Ruth in order to tell of the ancestry of David.   And the reasons we read Megillat Ruth on Shavuot are : 1) Because David was born on Shavuot and died on Shavuot. 2) Because the Torah is not given except through suffering and poverty, and that is similar to what Naomi and Ruth experienced. 3) In order to strengthen the Oral Torah, since it is written in the Torah "An Ammonite and a Moabite should not come into the congregration of Hashem", and the Sages said "An Ammonite man and not an Ammonite woman, A Moabite man and not a Moabite woman", and that is an example of Oral Torah.  And it is from this which we learned in the Oral Torah that Ruth the Moabite woman was permitted to get married to Boaz. 

The Name Ruth

The name Ruth has the Gematria (numerical value of its Hebrew letters)  of 606, and if we add to that the 7 Mitzvot of the children of Noach which she was required to fulfill prior to conversion, together we come up with "Taryag" (that is, 613) which is the number of Mitzvot we have in the Torah. In the Midrash Tanhuma for the Portion of Vayelech it is written that the name "Ruth" is because she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion.  And in the Gemarah Brachot 6b, it is written that the name Ruth is related to the Hebrew word for quenching thirst,  because she merited that David descended from her, and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs and praises (as written by him in the Book of Tehillim).  And the Gr"a explains that certainly the main point of the name "Ruth" is that she had 606 Mitzvot added to her by means of her conversion, but one could question why she shouldn't have been called Tur (which also has the Gematria of 606).  And on this the answer was given that David descended from her and he quenched the thirst of the Holy One Blessed Be He with songs, and therefore she was called Ruth and not Tur.  

The Seven Mitzvot of Bnai Noach  (the children of Noach)

The Seven Mitzvot of the children of Noach are, according to the order of the Hebrew alphabet:
1. Aleph - Aiver Min haChai, not to eat a limb from a living animal.
2. Beit - Birkat Hashem,  not to curse Hashem.
3. Gimel - Gezel, not to steal.
4. Dalet - Dinim, to establish a court system for enforcing the laws.
5. Hey - Hariga, not to kill.
6. Vuv - V'avoda Zara - not to worship idols.
7. Zayin - Z'nut - not to have illicit relations.

 "Who is that young woman?... She is a young Moabite woman"  (Megillat Ruth 2:6)

Boaz asked: "Who is that young woman?" (Megillat Ruth 2:5).  And the young man answered him "She is a young Moabite woman" (Megillat Ruth 2:6), because he wanted to embarrass her.  Boaz said to her, "Have you not heard, my daughter...." (Megillat Ruth 2:8) --- they are embarrassing you, and you are among those who receive insults and don't insult others, who hear their disgrace and don't answer, therefore I call you "my daughter", a term of importance, for now you are more important to me.

"The name of the man that I did (something) for today, is Boaz"  (Megillat Ruth 2:19)

This presents a difficulty, for it should have said "The name of the man that did (something) for me", because Boaz did her a favor.  But rather, we learn from this, that moreso than the  good that the householder does for the poor person, the poor person does good for the householder.  (from the Sages) 

"Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth than thousands of gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:72)

The Sages say that after David killed Goliath, everyone threw him lots of silver and gold.  And Doeg the Edomite who hated David came and said to them, why are you honoring him, isn't he from Ruth the Moabite and it's forbidden for him to come into the congregation of Hashem?  Afterwards the Sanhedrin came and said that thus it has been received from Shmuel HaRamati, "A male Amonite and not a female Amonite..."  And that is what David meant when he said "Better for me is the Torah of Your mouth from thousands of gold and silver"  (Tehillim 119:72), since the Torah Shel Baal Peh (the Oral Torah) saved me from the words of Doeg who wanted to embarrass me because I received silver and gold. 

The Torah Portion of Bamidbar has 159 verses.  Haftora: "V'haya mispar yisrael" (Hoshea 2)  

Pirkei Avot Chapter 1

Chag HaShavuot:

Two Torah Scrolls are taken out.  In the first, 5 men are called for reading in the Torah Portion of Yitro, "Bachodesh hashlishi".  In the second, the Maftir is read from the Torah Portion of Pinchas, "Uvayom habikurim".  Haftora: "Vayehi beshloshim shana" (Yechezkel 1) until "Kol midabair", then skipping to Chapter 12 verse 3, "V'tizaeini ruach" until "mim'komo".

May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Yom Tov.  Good Yom Tov.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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