Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Volume XII, Number 33
3 Tamuz 5758
June 27, 1998.
Yerushalmi Shabbat 62
R' Gedaliah Schorr z"l taught that in this week's parashah,
Bnei Yisrael enter a transitional period - the beginning of the
end of Moshe's reign. He explained as follows:
According to one opinion in the gemara, there are not five
books of the Torah, but seven. The Book of Bemidbar is actually
three books, of which the end of one, all of the second, and the
beginning of the third are found in our parashah. (According to
this view, verses 10:35-36 are a free-standing book.)
At the end of the "first" book, we read that Bnei Yisrael
traveled a distance of three days from Har Sinai. Rashi writes
that they made this trip in only one day because Hashem was "in a
hurry" to take His people into Eretz Yisrael.
Indeed, had Bnei Yisrael loyally followed Moshe, they would
have entered the Land at that time and never been exiled.
However, this did not happen. Instead, the "third" book opens by
informing us that Bnei Yisrael were complaining about an
unspecified subject. What was their complaint?
Chassidic works explain that Bnei Yisrael were unsure whether
the miracle of traveling three-days' distance in one day was good
or not. The root of this uncertainty, R' Schorr explains, was
the fact that Bnei Yisrael had made the golden calf at Har Sinai,
thus distancing themselves from Hashem and also from Moshe (who
was on the mountain and was not involved). Because of this
distance between Moshe and Bnei Yisrael, he could not lead them
once-and-for-all into the Land. [Bnei Yisrael were unsure whether
it was good to rush to the Land because they sensed that Moshe
was no longer the right leader for them.]
In the verses which follow, Bnei Yisrael lodge their complaints
against the mahn. This is consistent with the above, for Chazal
say that the mahn fell only in Moshe's merit. This is why
Hashem's response to Bnei Yisrael's complaints was to appoint a
sanhedrin/high court alongside Moshe. This is also why it is in
our parashah that two Jews prophecy that Moshe will not enter the
Land. (See Rashi to11:28) (Ohr Gedalyahu)
"With matzot and bitter herbs they shall eat it." (9:11)
R' Moshe Sherer z"l (see page 4) writes: Compared to the
symbols of the other holidays, matzah is rather low-key. On Rosh
Hashanah, the shofar is blown loudly. On Sukkot, we parade with
the lulav standing tall. On Chanukah, we light menorahs in our
windows. On Simchat Torah and Purim, we also celebrate
Why is it, then, that throughout history, it was Pesach which
seemed to enrage our gentile neighbors the most? Why was it
typically at Pesach time that Jews suffered from blood libels and
Certainly, writes R' Sherer, this was the work of the sitra
achra (loosely translated: the angel who is the guardian of all
evil forces) himself. Matzah represents too much for us to be
allowed to eat it in peace.
What does matzah represent? It reminds us of Hashem's strong
hand and of the eternity of the Jewish people. Even when our
ancestors in Egypt fell perilously close to spiritual oblivion,
Hashem saved them. Also, matzah represents the transmission of
our heritage and beliefs from generation to generation, as it is
written (Shmot 13:8), "And you shall relate to your son . . ."
Over the matzah, we tell our children of the many empires that
forced our ancestors to eat matzah in secret and of the fact that
we outlived those empires.
From matzah, we also can learn how to fight those empires, R'
Sherer writes. The gemara states that matzah which is made in
direct sunlight is unfit for Pesach. So, too, our activism must
be low-key. Matzah also may not contain food coloring. So, too,
our activism must be free of foreign, non-Torah influences.
(Be'shtei Enayim p. 43)
"When you go to wage war in your Land against the enemy who
oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of the trumpets
. . ." (10:9)
From the seemingly superfluous words, "against the enemy who
oppresses you," Rambam derives that there is a mitzvah to sound
the trumpets and pray to Hashem over any form of oppression, be
it a drought, plague or other trouble. He writes that this is
part of the process of teshuvah/repentance, and that through
teshuvah one causes his troubles to depart. The biggest sin,
Rambam writes, is to ascribe one's troubles to fate or
R' Yaakov Yitzchak Halevi Ruderman z"l added (during the Yom
Kippur War): Even those who ascribe troubles to coincidence start
to pray when the troubles are their own. That is how we must see
the troubles of our brethren in Israel - as our own.
Moreover, said R' Ruderman, Chazal teach that every person
should believe, "The whole world was created for me." This
obligates each of us to believe that his prayers can make a
(Masat Levi p. 332)
"Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom
you know to be the elders of the people and its officers . .
Rashi quotes the midrash which says that the term "officers"
refers to those people who were assigned by the Egyptians to whip
Jews who failed to meet their work quotas. In fact, these
officers failed to do their "duty" and were beaten themselves.
R' Aharon Kotler z"l asks: Why is this a qualification to serve
on the sanhedrin/high court? He explains that a Jewish leader
can succeed, not in his own merit, but only in the merit of the
Jewish people. It is therefore incumbent upon a would-be leader
to demonstrate his total commitment and self-sacrifice for his
people. Moshe, too, the midrash tells us, used to help his
brethren with their slave labor although, as a Levite, he was
exempted by Pharaoh.
(Mishnat R' Aharon Vol. II, p.113)
"My servant Moshe, he My whole house he is trusted." (12:7)
What does it mean when the Torah says the Moshe was a "servant
of Hashem"? R' David Kimchi z"l ("Radak") explains (in his
commentary to Yehoshua 1:1) that someone who devotes all of his
powers to serving Hashem and who, even when he is engaged in
mundane matters, does them for the sake of serving G-d, is called
a "servant of Hashem."
R' Elchanan Wasserman z"l hy"d elaborates: Slaves cannot own
property; everything they acquire belongs to their masters.
Similarly, when a person recognizes that all of his powers and
belongings belong to Hashem and must be used exclusively to serve
him, he can be called a "servant of Hashem." [Ed. note: Hebrew
uses the same word - "eved" - to mean "slave" and "servant."]
In this light, adds R' Wasserman, we can understand Rambam's
statement that, although no person will ever be as great a
prophet as Moshe, one can be as great a tzaddik as Moshe. Anyone
can choose, as Moshe did, to direct all of his actions to serving
Of course, it was easier for Moshe to do this than it would be
for any of us. However, the gemara teaches that a poor person's
sacrifice of wheat is as beloved to Hashem as a rich man's
sacrifice of an ox. One must only make the sacrifice.
(Kovetz Ma'amarim p.48)
How can one serve G-d all of the time? R' Eli Reingold shlita
(maggid shiur/lecturer at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington)
answered with the following parable:
Imagine that you need to move your car from City A to City B,
but you do not wish to drive it there yourself. There are
companies whose business is finding people who need to travel
from City A to City B but who have no cars. These companies
match car to driver, collect a fee, and everyone's needs are
To ensure the delivery of the car, the company gives the driver
a deadline by which he must arrive at the destination (after
which the police will be called). The length of time that the
driver is given depends on the distance; however, the driver is
not expected to drive 24 hours a day. Time is built in to the
schedule for an appropriate amount of rest and relaxation.
As long as the driver keeps his destination in mind, a
reasonable amount of time may be spent on diversions. So it is
with serving Hashem. One is not expected to learn Torah and
perform mitzvot 24 hours a day or even at every waking moment.
One is expected to keep the ultimate destination in mind and to
relax so that he will be able to serve Hashem better. If he does
that, even his diversions become part of serving Hashem.
(Heard from R' Reingold)
Rabbi Moshe Sherer z"l
born June 8, 1921 - died May 17, 1998 (21 Iyar 5758)
This week marks thirty days since the passing of one of the
most influential lay leaders of 20th century Orthodox Jewry. As
Executive Vice President of Agudath Israel of America from 1941
to 1963 and then its President until his death, Rabbi Sherer
helped develop the group into a politically and religiously
significant force, both in the U.S. and in Israel.
(The "Agudah," as the group is known for short, was founded in
1912 by a group of rabbis, roshei yeshiva and chassidic rebbes
which included the Chafetz Chaim and the Gerrer Rebbe. From the
beginning, it served the dual function of promoting Torah values
and Torah study amongst Jews while representing Torah-true
interests to the secular world. For example, amongst the
Agudah's most famous leaders was R' Meir Shapiro, who instituted
the Daf Yomi program at the 1923 Agudah convention and also
served in the Polish Senate as a representative of the Agudath
R' Sherer was born in Brooklyn and, at a young age, was drawn
into Agudah activities under the leadership of the young R'
Gedaliah Schorr (later rosh yeshiva of Torah Vodaath). R' Sherer
studied in Torah Vodaath under R' Shlomo Heiman and in
Baltimore's Ner Israel under R' Yaakov Yitzchak Halevi Ruderman.
He also became close to R' Elchanan Wasserman, and served as his
attendant during the latter's stay in the U.S. in 1938-39. Still
later, R' Sherer became close to R' Aharon Kotler, whom he
considered to be his teacher.
With the outbreak of World War II, R' Sherer was drawn into
rescue and relief efforts by his cousin Elimelech "Mike" Tress,
president of the Agudah's youth movement. After the War, R'
Sherer was active in organizing food shipments to displaced Jews
in Europe and assisting those who wished to immigrate.
In postwar years, the Agudah under R' Sherer has continued to
be involved in Torah-related activities such as promoting the
study of Daf Yomi (and sponsoring the once-in-7«-years Daf Yomi
siyum at Madison Square Garden) and in legal and lobbying
activities on behalf of Jewish causes. In that role, Agudah
representatives frequently appear before the U.S. Supreme Court
and at Congressional hearings. (However, unlike the many
advocacy groups whose policies may be defined by politicians or
pollsters, Agudath Israel's agenda is set in consultation with a
"Council of Torah Sages" made up of roshei yeshiva and chassidic
In 1988, R' Sherer published Be'shtei Enayim, a collection of
his articles, memoirs and divrei Torah. Among other subjects,
that work explains the Agudah's philosophy on political activism,
Zionism and other issues of the past five decades. (Sources: The
New York Times, May 19, 1998, p. A22; Be'shtei Enayim)v
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ("lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah"), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Project Genesis
start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Text archives from 1990 through the present
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