Parshas Bamidbar 5757 - '97
Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha
The fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar (Numbers), begins:
Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Desert of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they came out from the land of Egypt, saying...
The Mishnah in Tractate Brochos (Chapter 2, Mishnah 50) exempts the Chason (groom) from the recital of the Shema. The recital requires a certain amount of concentration, and presumably the groom has other matters on his mind. Since marriage and having children is a mitzvah, his concern over the mitzvah at hand exempts him from the mitzvah of reciting the Shema.
Rabban Gamliel nonetheless recited the Shema at the time of his marriage. However, his son, Rabban Shimon, said that such an attitude is not for everyone. Most of us don't have the intense concentration of Rabban Gamliel, and to make claims to the contrary would be arrogance (Chapter 2 Mishnah 8).
The standard commentary to Mishnah, known as the Rav, explained how the law is different today. Today, people don't truly concentrate; certainly not in a way comparable to the great teachers of the Mishnah. Therefore, we will say the reverse: One should always pray. True, the wedding night is an unusual circumstance; however, something pressing is always occurring, and I am always being distracted with something or other. For me to claim that I cannot concentrate on my wedding night is to suggest that I really have an appreciation of what it means to concentrate. This is arrogance, or at least takes on the appearance of arrogance: I am special, I only pray when I can concentrate.
The Mishnayos and the Rav's Commentary are well known. The Noam M'gadim, however, points out a beautiful idea: In humility, a person will always pray. Even in extremely difficult circumstances, the humble person should say that the present time is no different than any other time, for worldly concerns are always distracting. People often ask: "What if I just can't concentrate? Must I still pray?" This is arrogance -- we haven't the slightest idea of what true concentration really means!
By the way -- the Noam M'gadim lived in the latter part of the 18th century, the Rav lived in the late 15th century. I recently read a quote from an expert, who said that the fast pace of our world, and constant reliance on technology, are producing a new form of ADD (attention deficit disorder). Modern science indicates what our Rabbis told us -- we haven't the slightest idea of what true concentration really means! (See the article on "Data Smog" in the MY `97 issue of Hemispheres.) This has other ramifications -- adults often use ADD as some sort of personal excuse; according to the quote, anyone may be affected by ADD -- it is not only inherited, but can be developed...
Dovid Hamelech (King David) would say, "I will bless Hashem at all times; constantly His praise is in my mouth." (T'hilim [Psalms] 34:2). It is known that Dovid Hamelech was one of the humble personalities. Here is a sufficient example of this humility. "I will bless Hashem at all times..." Why? "Constantly His praise is in my mouth," even if not in my heart. Even if I am unable to concentrate due to extreme anxiety and bewildering distractions, nonetheless, I accustom myself to daven -- for there are always distractions.
Hashem spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they came out from the land of Egypt, saying...
The Noam M'gadim explained the verse homiletically.
The "first day of the... month" refers to those great people who make the soul the first and foremost. Such a person would pray when he could muster great concentration, perhaps once a month, as in the example of Rebbi Yehudah (Rosh Hashanah 35a).
The words "second year" in Hebrew are "shanah shniyah." Both these words seem similar to "sleep," which is "sheinah." They refer to the person who makes the soul secondary to the body, as the majority do. For such individuals, the soul is sleeping.
The words "after they came out from the land of Egypt," refer to great troubles and burdens.
"Saying..." Everyone should say the prayers, regularly. Whether you are one who can muster great concentration -- occasionally -- or someone who never does, daven every day. Even following great upheavals, such as leaving Egypt. Even if you really could concentrate, but now isn't the time -- be humble, don't be arrogant. Say: "Constantly His praise is in my mouth," even if not in my heart. Hashem accepts the prayers of the humble.
The Month of Sivan
Shmos (Exodus) Chapter 19:
1. On the third month from the departure from Egypt -- on this day they came to the desert of Sinai.
Rashi explains: "On this day" -- it was Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the month). The Torah only had to write "on that day." Why did it write "on this day?" The words of the Torah should be renewed for you, as if they were given today (i.e. this day -- Rosh Chodesh Sivan of each year).
Avodas Yisrael states that from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until Shavuos, everyone should study the section describing the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The Torah refers to "this day," indicating that something very special occurred at this particular time. We need to prepare deliberately from this important day (Rosh Chodesh Sivan), because the precise events that occurred in history re-occur at the same time each year.
This is actually a unique explanation. Elsewhere (Devarim 11:13), Rashi says that the word "today" means you should see it as if the Torah was given today. That is, every day should be as fresh as if it were new today. In our verse, however, the Avodas Yisrael says that the reference is specifically to Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Presumably this is because Rashi told us that "this day" is Rosh Chodesh; therefore, every year at Rosh Chodesh Sivan, we should see it as if we have returned to that same gathering at Mt. Sinai.
Although this is a special time of year, and by tradition Shavuos celebrates the receiving of the Torah, nonetheless, the verses nowhere state the date of the giving of the Torah. In fact, there is a debate in the Talmud as to whether the date was the sixth or seventh of Sivan. Many commentaries, based on the Medrash, explain why: Torah is truly beyond time, and cannot be linked particularly to one day. It must be appreciated every day!
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.
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Last Revision: January 27, '97