A Lack of Marital Peace

(איש איש כי תשטה אשתו” (במדבר ה:יב”

“A man, a man when (if) his wife appears unfaithful” (Bamidbar 5:12)

We can suggest that the repetitive wording of “איש איש” / “a man, a man” is hinting to the reason why this man suspects that his wife has been unfaithful to him based on the opinion of Reish Lakish (Sota 3a) who explains that this posuk teaches us that a person does not sin unless a wind of foolishness enters his mind as it states “איש איש כי תשטה אשתו”. (תשטה is from the same root as שטות – foolishness.) Rashi explains that a spiritually impure wind emanating from the Satan/evil inclination entered him with the intent of causing him to sin in suspecting his wife.

It appears that the double wording “איש איש כי תשטה אשתו” / “A man, a man when (if) his wife appears unfaithful” is hinting to us that the reason why the husband fell prey to the evil inclination is because he ignored his wife’s needs. That is, he didn’t discern between her outlook and his and looked at everything through his eyes alone. And thus it states “איש איש” / “a man a man” – only from a man’s point of view, in ignorance of her outlook and needs. For if he would have looked at the situation from her viewpoint, he would quickly discover that she had absolutely no lacking and he would therefore have no reason to suspect her. When he will broaden his perspective to include hers as well he will see that the cause of his suspicion was his ignorance of his wife’s needs!

Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5777

The Priestly Blessing: Contained within it are the Pillars of Torah Study, the Fulfillment of Mitzvos and the Return to Hashem

יברכך ה’ וישמרך. יאיר ה’ פניו אליך ויחונך. ישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום” (במדבר ו:כד-כו)

“Hashem shall bless you and He shall guard you. Hashem shall shine His countenance upon you and grant you grace. Hashem shall lift his countenance toward you and He shall grant you peace” (Bamidbar 6:24-26)

It appears that we can gain a deeper understanding of our pesukim based on the words of Shlomo Hamelech in Mishlei (6:23) where he writes”כי נר מצוה ותורה אור ודרך חיים תוכחות מוסר” / “For a mitzvah is represented by a candle and Torah by light and the way of life is rebuke of one’s behavior”. Shlomo Hamelech divides the posuk into three sections: (1) “כי נר מצוה” / “For a mitzvah is represented by a candle (2) “ותורה אור” / “and Torah by light and (3) “ודרך חיים תוכחות מוסר” / “and the way of life is reproofs of instruction”. It appears that these three sections are meant to shed light on the intent of the three short pesukim here in the priestly blessing.

a. “יברכך ה’ וישמרך” / “Hashem shall bless you and He shall guard you” – Relating to this part of the blessing Shlomo said “כי נר מצוה” / “For a mitzvah is represented by a candle”. That is, “יברכך ה'” / “Hashem shall bless you” is hinting to the positive commandments as blessing means expansion and growth and this is the idea behind the positive commandments. “וישמרך” / “and He shall guard you” is referring to the negative commandments as Rebbi Avin in the name of Rebbi Ilaoy said wherever the wording “השמר” “פן” ו”אל is used it is referring to a negative commandment (Eruvin 96a).

b. “יאיר ה’ פניו אליך ויחונך” / “Hashem shall shine His countenance upon you and grant you grace” – This section is explained by that which Shlomo said”ותורה אור” / “and Torah light”. That is, the posuk here is telling us that Torah study shines its light on the mitzvos one performs, magnifying the quality of the mitzvah, and this in three stages:

(1) Through initial Torah study which informs one of the instruction and details of the mitzvah,

(2)  “יאיר ה’ פניו אליך” / “Hashem shall shine His countenance upon you” is referring to an increased dosage of light which Hashem shines upon a person as he deepens his Torah study (see Brachos 6a),

(3) ויחונך” / “and grant you grace” – This teaches that one who shows continual commitment to Torah study and endeavors in order to reach a complete understanding of his learning will merit that the Torah will be absorbed into his very being which will be “graced” with the grace of the Torah. Moshe Rebbeinu reached the full magnitude of this blessing as the posuk states”וירא אהרן וכל בני ישראל את משה והנה קרן עור פניו וייראו מגשת אליו” / “And Aharon and all of the Jewish people saw Moshe and behold his face shined and they feared to approach him” (Shemos 34:30).

c. “וישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום” / “Hashem shall lift His countenance toward you and He shall grant you peace” – This blessing can be understood through that which Shlomo said “ודרך חיים תוכחות מוסר” / “the way of life is reproofs of instruction”. The wording “וישא ה’ פניו אליך” / “Hashem shall lift his countenance toward you” hints to the bearing of a yoke, as we find (Rosh Hashanah 17a) Rava said that in response to one who withholds expressing justified anger, etc., Hashem will overlook his sins, as it states”נושא עון ועובר על פשע” / “He carries sin and overlooks sin” (Micha 7:18). To whom does Hashem bear his sin? To one who withholds expressing justified anger, etc. And this is “דרך חיים” / “the way of life” for “אין צדיק בארץ אשר יעשה טוב ולא יחטא” / “there is not a righteous person on earth who will do good and will not sin” (Koheles 7:20).

Therefore, a person should be quick to amend his ways and return to Hashem and not wait until his sins have blossomed into an orchid causing Hashem’s wrath to befall him.

What stirs the heart of a person to return the Hashem? “תוכחות מוסר” / “reproofs of instruction “! And, regarding the person who returns to Hashem, our posuk concludes “וישם לך שלום” / “and He shall grant you peace”. “שלום” meaning “שלמות” / “wholeness”. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu will return to the person that which he lost because of his sin and his soul will gain the completion, the wholeness and purity it had before he sinned!
Iyar 5777

Similarities and Differences between the Offerings of the Princes of the Twelve Tribes at the Inauguration of the Alter in the Mishkan

נשיא אחד ליום נשיא אחד ליום יקריבו את קרבנם לחנוכת המזבח” (במדבר ז:יא)

“One prince per day, one prince per day they shall offer their offerings for the inauguration of the alter” (Bamidbar 7:11)

Behold, all the princes brought exactly the same offering down to the minutest detail. Therefore, it seems redundant for the Torah to relate the story of the offering of each and every prince!?

We can suggest two possibilities to solve the above dilemma:

(1) That the Torah means to teach us through this obvious redundancy an principle in G-d’s holy work. That is, Hakadosh Baruch Hu is concerned primarily with one’s internal connection to the mitzvah; one’s preparation, one’s intention and one’s feeling and connection to the mitzvah – more the actual physical performance of the mitzvah. This is as the sages have told us that “Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants one’s heart” (Sanhedrin 106b). Therefore, the princes were commanded to bring the exact same offering, for one’s internal preparation and connection to the mitzvah is imbedded in one’s heart, unseen to all except Hakadosh Baruch Hu. This is as the Torah writes wherever it is referring to an action whose intention and purpose is unseen by other men “ויראת מאלקיך” / “and you shall fear from your G-d” (Vayikra 19:14) as Rashi explains there.

(2) Alternatively, we can suggest that the princes were commanded to offer the very same offering in order to teach us that although it may appear that two people perform a mitzvah in the same manner, this is only an allusion, for no two people prepare for the mitzvah in the same manner or have the same intention when performing the mitzvah.

This is actually a great sign of lovingkindness on the part of Hashem and for a number of reasons:

(1) Each person is a unique and independent creation, and on this note the sages have said that although each individual is created in the image of their forefather Adam, Hashem stamped a slightly different look on the face of each individual. Therefore, each person is obligated to say that the whole world was created for me (Sanhedrin 37a).

(2) Each person can serve Hashem without having to worry how another person serves Hashem (besides his additional responsibility to work for the spiritual improvement of others).

(3) The honor each individual can afford Hashem is unique to him and no one else in the world can honor Hashem in the same manner. This greatly exalts the power and the value of the individual’s service in Hashem’s eyes.

(4) A person’s destiny is in his hands alone.
Additionally we can ask, why was each prince commanded to bring his offering on a different day?

In response to this question, we can suggest five different answers:

(1) We can learn from the fact that there was no difference between the offerings of the different princes other than each one brought his offering on a different day, that each and every prince reached perfection in his preparation and intention as well as in the exacting performance of the mitzvah as the only difference between them was the day in which the offering was brought. (This is similar to that which is said regarding Moshe and Aharon”ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן יען לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל לכן לא תביאו את הקהל הזה אל הארץ אשר נתתי להם” / “And Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the people, therefore you shall not bring this gathering to the land which I have given to them” (Bamidbar 20:12). Rashi explains that the posuk is teaching us that if it were not for this sin, Moshe and Aharon would have led the Jewish people into the land of Israel, so the Torah specified that for this particular sin they would not merit to bring the people into Israel so that people shouldn’t say that Moshe and Aharon sinned as did the rest of the Jewish people in the desert and thus were not permitted to enter Eretz Yisrael similar to them.)

(2) From another point of view we can explain that the wording”נשיא אחד ליום נשיא אחד ליום” / “one prince per day one prince per day” teaches us that just as each day was different than the previous day, so too each and every offering was different than the others for each and every prince had his own approach in serving Hashem in line with the approach of the members of his tribe and according to the blessing they received from Yaakov.

(3) Additionally, we can answer that each prince was commanded to offer his sacrifice on a different day so that he could concentrate on his own individual offering and not become confused seeing other princes sacrifice on the same day (for as we mentioned above, each prince has his own particular way to serve Hashem).

(4) Or we can suggest that each prince offered his sacrifice on a different day in order to emphasize the supreme importance of each one’s offering. For if the princes would sacrifice on the same day, than one would proceed the other and it would appear that one prince’s offering was greater than the others, and this was not the case.

(5) Or we can learn from the fact that it states “נשיא אחד ליום נשיא אחד ליום” / “one prince per day one prince per day” and not “יום אחד לנשיא יום אחד לנשיא” / “one day per prince one day per prince” as it states “יום לשנה יום לשנה” / “one day for a year one day for a year” (Bamidbar 14:34) that the day was not dependent on the prince, but rather the prince was dependent on the day! Meaning, each and every day of creation holds within it new work and new challenges and in order to relay this important message each prince was commanded to sacrifice on a different day!
Sivan 5778

Tehillim

A Glimpse into the Humility of Dovid Hamelech (the King)

“אני תולעת ולא איש” (תהלים כב:ז)

“I am a worm and not a man” (Tehillim 22:7)

From that which Dovid Hemelech said “אני תולעת” / “I am a worm”, do I not know that he means to say that he is “not a man”!? What is this addition of “and not a man” coming to teach us?

Now, in reality, Dovid Hemelech was not only not “a worm” but he was the powerful king of Israel as well as a tremendously righteous and wise person. Why then did he call himself a “worm”!?

From that which he added “and not a man” we learn than he is referring to himself in relation to other important people, as we find that the word  “איש” / “man” is used in the Torah to refer to a person of great distinction, as it is written “כולם אנשים ראשי בני ישראל המה” / “all of them are men, the heads of the children of Israel they are” (Bamidbar 13:3) and Rashi comments that whenever the word “אנשים” / “men” appears in the Torah it is referring to men of distinction.

Who are men of distinction in the eyes of Dovid Hamelech? Our great and distinguished forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov through whose merits the world exists. That is, in relationship to the people he was King, but when he compared himself to the Avos, he considered himself a worm.

This is learned from the Gemora in Chulin (89a) which says as follows: Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to the Jewish people, I desire you for even when I bless you with greatness you humble yourselves before Me! I bestowed greatness on Avraham, and he said before Me “ואנכי עפר ואפר” / “and I am but soil and ashes” (Bereishis 18:27); I bestowed greatness on Moshe and Aharon and they”ונחנו מה” / “and we are what”!? (Shemos 16:7).

That is, Dovid saw the great humility of Avraham and Moshe and Aharon and said to himself, even if I lower myself in my eyes as a worm, I will never be able to reach the humility of my forefathers.

However, Dovid did not despair, for he knew that it was through his humility that he would merit to be the fourth leg of the heavenly chariot from which Hakadosh Baruch Hu would shine His countenance on earth. (See the Holy Zohar Parshas Vayeitzei pg. 154b, pg. 345-6 in the Metok Midvash.)

Now, the work of the Avos/forefathers was to perfect the three pillars on which the world stands: lovingkindness, standing up to obligations, and truth, while it was Dovid’s job to lower the extraordinary spiritual achievements of the Avos down to the common man. To achieve this, Dovid had to humble himself to the point where his “self” did not play a role, and only because of his great “self” he was able to act as a conduit for the great spiritual power and awareness the Avos generated. Thus Dovid saw himself as a “worm” and through this became worthy of being the fourth and stabilizing leg of the heavenly chariot.

Alternatively, we can explain the expression “אני תולעת ולא איש” / “I am a worm and not a man” to mean that Dovid, in his incredible humility, humbled himself until the earth, where only worms and the like walk.

Dovid added, “ולא איש” / “I am not a man”, meaning that I am not like another creature which is referred to as “a man” which moves from place to place on his belly as does a worm, meaning the snake, concerning which it is stated “על גחונך תלך ועפר תאכל כל ימי חייך” / “You shall crawl on your stomach and you shall eat soil all the days of your life” (Bereishis 3:14). This is the snake, which is the embodiment of the evil inclination and it presented himself to Chavi as an “איש”, a man with logic, whereas his true intention was to express the physicality of his manliness toward her (see Rashi 3:1). And so we find that the wording of “אישות” is mentioned by the snake as it states “ואיבה אשית בינך ובין האשה” (ibid. 3:15). Answer similarly we find the phrase”הלוא ידעתם כי נחש ינחש איש אשר כמוני”. / “Didn’t you know that a person like me would be as sly as a snake”!? (ibid. 44:15). All this backs our premise that Dovid meant to exclude the snake from his expression of humility.

In doing this, Dovid distanced himself from all feelings of importance until he saw himself to be no greater than a worm, which is among the smallest and least significant of creatures. The word “תולעת” / “worm” is comprised of the same letters as the word  “תועלת” / “benefit” hinting that David felt he was no more significant than a lowly worm. All this, in order to prepare himself to accept upon himself Hashem’s yoke in full.

If you’ll ask, why did Dovid have to exclude the snake which is representative of the evil inclination as he expressed his humility!? Would we have thought to compare him in any way to the evilness of the snake!?

It appears that by means of this wording, Dovid Hamelech is teaching us that there is a danger in overextended humility, for through it one can distance himself from Torah and wisdom and allow the mundaneness of physicality gain influence over him. Through this, as well, he may edge to the border of sin which stems from a heightened sense of physicality. Therefore, in order to keep himself far removed from sin and it’s like, Dovid proclaimed “אני תולעת – ולא איש” / “I am a worm – and not a man”, meaning that as I climb the ladder of humility, I am careful not to fall into the treacherous web of the snake or evil inclination.

Isru Chag Shavuos 5778

Have a nice Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!
Yona Vogel
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