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Bamidbar

Parashat Bamidbar 
by Adrian Kelaty, Dvar Yerushalayim Student
Gur Aryeh

DEDICATED TO:
YEHUDA BEN MOSHE KELATY, Z"L

SHABBAT SHALOM


The parsha of Bamidbar deals extensively with the arrangements and
divisions of Israel according to their tribes, camps and flags. Each
one had his specific place. As they camped, that is how they
journeyed, each one according to his camp, and each one under the
insignia of his host. We learn from here that the variations and
differentiations were characteristic of the nation from its inception.
The variations combine to make a mosaic of many colours. In the same
way, the different types of worship bring us to one, united and shared
purpose.

The word "shalom" does not only mean peace, the opposite of
war. It derives from a word which yields two other important meanings:
completion and wholeness. Indeed, these meanings are actually
essential parts of the concept of peace.

The concept of peace does not pertain when there is only one thing.
Peace can only exist between two separate entities. When two entities
exist together harmoniously, then it can be said that peace reigns
between them. And the more that they are different and opposite but
exist together under one roof, bridging their differences, then the
more can it be said that peace rules over them.

There is no more obvious difference than that between men and women.
The opposition between them is so great that the Sages have said that
women by themselves are a different nation. However, it is when shalom
reigns between these two opposites, precisely, that G-d's Divine
Presence dwells between them. Shalom is so great that G-d did not find
anything else that better served to be a vessel for blessing than it.

Furthermore, the Sages said that a man is not complete until he
marries a woman. When thetwo different entities complete each other's
various characters and unite into one whole, then there can be peace.
Shalom exists when different parts unite to complete each other, like
the right and left sides of the body. Each one on its own is only half
a body.

The parsha teaches that this is the proper arrangement for Israel. The
tribes are arranged according to their camps, and each one must
accomplish its own special function. In that arrangement specifically
the Mishkan journeys within them and G-d says, "I will dwell within
them" (Exodus 25:8).

Precisely because of the variations in function and character,
intermixture threatens to cause a situation of argument, hostility and
conflict. From the perspective of narrow attitudes, it seems that
each one wants to nullify and negate the other. However, from a higher
viewpoint, it is possible to appreciate how each one can complete the
other and unite into a beautiful harmony. Then, together, united into
one whole, they are able to march forward like one man with one heart
to accomplish the will of our Father in Heaven.

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The Gemara (Yevamos 64) states: "Whoever does not occupy himself with
the precept of procreation is deserving of death". How do we know
this? Rabbi Eliezer states that it is derived from the verse "And
Nadav and Avihu died and they did not have any children." The
implication from this is: Had they had children they wouldn't have
died. The commentaries are all bothered by this: We know from the
previous parshios that the sin of Nadav and Avihu was that they
brought a "strange fire before Hashem". The verse seems to indicate
that there was something wrong with the sacrifice that they brought.
One opinion says they were somewhat intoxicated when they brought it,
and another one says they did not consult with their Master before
bringing it, but the common denominator of both of these opinions is
some type of lack of Derech Eretz (proper etiquette). And here Rabbi
Eliezer introduces a totally new concept-they died because they didn't
occupy themselves in procreation. Why suddenly attribute their death
to a "new" sin?

The Chasam Sofer introduces a very interesting thought: "Elu v'elu
divrei Elokim Chayim" - both opinions are included in this teaching of
Rabbi Eliezer. As mentioned, both opinions attributed the sin of Nadav
and Avihu to a lack of proper respect. The Chasam Sofer asks: Do you
know what the greatest motivation to make a person into a Baal Midos
(person with exemplary character traits) is? Do you know the greatest
motivator into improving one's own Derech Eretz? It is having
children. When you have children and you see that they treat you
without Derech Eretz, then youknow that something is lacking with you.


Rav Wolbe writes in his Sefer Alei Shor: "There is no greater factor
in improving one's midos ( character traits) than having children."
Because even if one can live with one's own poor midos, to see that in
one's own children with improper character traits, forces the
individual to clean up his own act and improve his own midos. This is
what Chazal may mean when they say Nadav and Avihu died because they
did not have children. Chas v'sholem, we can not say they did not have
proper manners, since we're talking about Gedolei Olam. However,
according to their level, there was a lack in their Derech Eretz. Had
they had children, the Chasam Sofer says, they would have been much
improved in their own Derech Eretz.

What this is in effect saying is that the responsibility for having
children entails within it a responsibility for a person's own
behavior. Since a person knows that how he acts is going to affect
his own children, this itself can become a powerful motivation to
improve his own character.

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The words resounded like the battle cry of our destiny, "we shall do
and we shall listen!" (Exodus 19:8). They were words that
characterized a superhuman commitment to observance of G-d's Torah.
After all, most people listen, ponder, and then accept to execute.
The Jews, however, when asked if they want the Torah, used a
terminology that is only expressed by angelic beings - first we shall
do, then we shall listen.

That being the case, the Tosfos (French medieval commentators) in
Tractate Shabbos question a Talmudic interpretation of a difficult
verse.

The Torah, in painting the scene at Sinai, places the Jews in a very
strange location in relation to Mt. Sinai. "And the Jews stood under
the mountain" (Exodus 19:17). The wording is strange. The Torah
should have written that the Jews stood at the foot of the mountain or
at the bottom of the mountain. The wording "under the mountain"
seemsto be unsuitable.

The Talmud in Tractate Shabbos explains this verse in a literal
sense. Hashem, the Talmud explains, literally placed the Jews under
the mountain by lifting the mountain above them like a giant pot! And
in that state, the Talmud continues, Hashem decreed, "If you will
accept the Torah, fine. However, if you do not accept the Torah, this
will become your final resting place."

On any level this Talmudic interpretation is difficult to understand,
but in the light of the Jewish nation's unwavering acceptance of Torah
- we shall do and we shall listen-it is almost incomprehensible. Thus
Tosfos asks a powerful question: "why did Hashem force the Torah upon
a nation that had already accepted it, lovingly and willingly in
superhuman terms?"

When Queen Victoria (1819-1901) of England was about to marry Prince
Albert, she wanted to have him bestowed with the title King Consort
through an act of the British Parliament. Prime Minister William
Melbourne, knew the strong opposition he would face in making such an
unprecedented move, especially since Albert was of German descent. He
strongly advised the Queen against such a move. "Your Majesty," the
Prime Minister explained, "we can't have any of that." After all,
if the English people get into the habit of making kings, they will
get them into the habit of unmaking them as well!"

The Torah, as the Maharal of Prague (1526-1609) explains, is a vital
necessity for worldly existence. It is more than the blueprint of
creation, it is the raison d'etre of the entire universe. And its
presentation had to personify such. Though there was unmitigated love
and wholehearted enthusiasm in the Jewish nation's acceptance of the
Torah, Hashem had to make a point that would be as eternally powerful
as Torah itself. He presented the Torah with unmitigated force-a
manner that characterized its essence -- a vital necessity for mortal
and universal existence.

Torah's acceptance could not be left to the fortunate goodwill of a
very spiritual and wanting nation. It was wonderful that the Jews
accepted the Torah as such, and their acceptance merited endless
reward. But it was time to show what the Torah truly meant to the
creation at large. Otherwise, for generations, the emergence and
observance of Torah would be an outcome of mortal benevolence -- and
that is not the case. The Torah is planes above the mortality of its
observers, and its transmission and acceptance must represent that
immortality-even if took raising Sinai!


SHABBAT SHALOM

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Shabbat Shalom

Sources:

"Insights into the Torah" - Rav Zalman Soratzkin
"The Midrash Says" - Rav Moshe Weissman
"The Call of the Torah" - Rav Elie Munk
"Love your neighbour" - Rav Zelig Pliskin
"Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities" - Yishai Charidah