More Precious Than Pearls
Volume 20, No. 31
14 Sivan 5766
June 10, 2006
Yitzchok and Barbie Lehmann Siegel
in memory of father Dr. Manfred R. Lehmann a"h
(R' Menashe Raphael ben He'Chaver R' Chaim and Fayga)
and brother, Jamie Lehmann a"h
(Chaim Menachem ben R' Menashe Raphael and Sarah)
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Yoma 3
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Terumot 36
Our parashah opens: "Take a census of the sons of Gershon also."
Why "also"? R' Avraham Saba z"l (Spain; 1440-1508) explains that
Gershon was the oldest son of Levi, and his descendants had a claim to
be counted before the descendants of Gershon's younger brother Kehat.
Since the family of Kehat was already counted at the end of last
week's parashah, our parashah says, "Take a census of the sons of
And why were the descendants of Kehat counted first? R' Saba
explains that the Torah honors Kehat for his Torah knowledge, just as
we read in Divrei Hayamim I (4:9), "And Yaavetz was honored more than
his brothers." As the Gemara explains, Yaavetz was one of the
greatest Torah scholars of the generation following Moshe Rabbeinu.
Similarly, Kehat's family was honored over the family of the
firstborn Gershon because of the former's association with the Torah.
On the verse (Mishlei 3:15), "It [the Torah] is more precious than
peninim / pearls," the Midrash comments: "More precious than a
firstborn" (a play on "lifnim" / "earlier," i.e., the firstborn, who
is the early one). The family of Kehat carried the Ark which
contained the luchot. Moreover, Kehat used to assemble crowds and
teach them Torah. [Ed. note: The publisher of R' Saba's work notes
that the source for this fact is unknown.] Kehat's name alludes to his
assembling crowds, just as King Shlomo is called "Kohelet" because he
also assembled large audiences; however, King Shlomo has an additional
letter "lamed" ("Kohelet" vs. "Kehat") because the Mishnah (Avot ch.6)
states that a king has 30 special attributes. (The gematria of
"lamed" is 30.) (Tzror Hamor)
"The kohen shall make one as a sin-offering and one as an
elevation-offering, and he shall provide him atonement for
having sinned regarding the person." (6:11)
Why is a nazir / a person who because of a vow abstains from
grape products, does not cut his hair and avoids corpse-impurity
called a sinner? R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (1865-1935;
first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) explains:
Man was created with body and spirit, and perfection is attained
by continually developing each one in harmony with the other. Our
Sages teach that there is no human who never sins. However, the
greatest sin is committed when one tries to ignore the fact that he is
human. This is the sin that the nazir commits.
R' Kook adds: The correct approach (unlike the nazir's mistaken
belief) is to realize that the fact that a person is susceptible to
occasional sin does not detract from his perfection. This is because
the foundation of perfection is not to be perfect (which is
impossible, for every man must sin), but to truly desire to come as
close to perfection as possible.
(Orot Ha'teshuvah ch.5)
"May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you . . ."
R' Joseph B. Soloveitchik z"l (1903-1993) comments (citing the
Arizal): This verse reflects one of the two ways in which we feel
Hashem's influence. One, alluded to here, is "hashpa'at panim" / "the
influence of the face." The second, alluded to in Shmot (33:23), "You
will see My back, but My face may not be seen," is "hashpa'at oref" /
"the influence of the nape (or back)."
R' Soloveitchik continues: These two concepts may be understood
through the following illustrations: A river in summertime flows in
its bed, kept within its banks and its path. Water comes to those who
have prepared for it by digging canals, building dams, pumping water,
etc. In contrast, in the spring, when the snow melts and the river
rises, the river flows and overflows lawlessly, flooding and damaging
fields and orchards on all sides.
The river in summertime is the symbol of hashpa'at panim--a flow
that is measured and precise. This is alluded to in the verse
(Yishayah 66:12), "Behold, I will incline to you like a river of
peace." The wild river of springtime represents hashpa'at oref--an
uncontrolled flow. Our Sages say that when we are deserving, rain
will flow exactly where and when it is needed. This is hashpa'at
panim. When we are not deserving, rain will fall in greater quantity,
but with an offsetting loss of quality. For example, the rain will
fall where it is not needed and when it is not wanted.
Another illustration: A reading lamp gives off a small amount of
light, but focuses it where it is needed. This is hashpa'at panim--
quality over quantity. In contrast, an overhead bulb bathes the room
in light, not discriminating between the person reading in one corner
and the person sleeping in the other corner. That is hashpa'at oref--
quantity over quality.
The mahn in the desert is a perfect example of hashpa'at panim.
It was given in precise measure, and no matter how hard one tried, he
could not gather more than one omer's measure per member of his
household. But having a hashpa'at panim relationship with G-d comes
with a price. Specifically, it calls upon one to distinguish between
the sacred and the profane. Thus, for example, the mahn came with the
command (Shmot 16:25-26): "Today you will not find it in the field.
You may gather it for six days, and on the seventh day it is Shabbat,
it will not appear."
Our Sages say that the verse, "You will see My back, but My face
may not be seen," was taught to Moshe Rabbeinu in response to Moshe's
question: "Why do the righteous suffer?" R' Soloveitchik explains
that the answer to this question lies in the difference between
hashpa'at panim and hashpa'at oref. A righteous person receives
goodness in a precise, targeted manner-quality over quantity. The
wicked, on the other hand, experience unrestrained, overflowing
goodness-quantity over quality.
(Festival of Freedom p.75)
"Yesod Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah"
("The Foundation and Root of Divine Service")
This year, we are presenting excerpts from the work Yesod
Ve'shoresh Ha'avodah by R' Alexander Ziskind z"l (died 1794),
whose primary theme is improving one's concentration in
prayer. In Sha'ar Ha'ashmoret, ch. 8, the author writes:
Before donning tallit and tefilin, one should be very careful to
recite the verse (Tehilim 90:17), "May the pleasantness of Hashem, our
G-d, be upon us; our handiwork establish for us; may our handiwork
establish it." Likewise, it is appropriate to say this verse before
doing any mitzvah, and this will accomplish the purpose of standing
one at the gate of proper kavanah / intention. The Zohar explains:
What is meant by, "Our handiwork establish for us"? Cause our deeds
to establish the proper effects in the worlds above even though we
don't know how to evaluate Your will. "May our handiwork establish
it" means: Let our deeds reach whichever level of the heavens needs a
R' Yitzchak ben R' Shmuel z"l
R' Yitzchak was born in Ramerupt, France in approximately 1120.
His father was the son of R' Simcha, author of Machzor Vitry, one of
the earliest siddurim. His mother was a granddaughter of Rashi, and
the sister of Rabbeinu Tam and Rashbam. Those two uncles of R'
Yitzchak were his foremost teachers.
R' Yitzchak was one of the greatest of the Ba'alei Tosfot, the
sages whose teachings are recorded in the Tosfot commentary to the
Talmud. Only R' Yitzchak's uncle Rabbeinu Tam is quoted more
frequently in that commentary. Regarding the genesis of R' Yitzchak's
Talmud commentary, it is reported that he used to sit with sixty
students before him, each of whom was studying a different Talmudic
tractate. Between them, these students had the entire Talmud at their
fingertips, and whenever R' Yitzchak would speak, they could challenge
him from any tractate. When R' Yitzchak was questioned, he and his
students would debate the matter until it had been fully resolved.
R' Yitzchak was known for his humility and his piety. He was
known to pray for an exceedingly long time, and he used to observe Yom
Kippur for two consecutive days (just as we observe all the other
holidays for two days outside of Eretz Yisrael).
R' Yitzchak's students included the Mishnah commentator and
Tosafist, R' Shimshon of Sens, and R' Yitzchak's own son, R' Elchanan.
The latter was martyred in his father's lifetime, in 1184. R'
Yitzchak died in Dampierre, France in approximately 1200.
Copyright © 2006 by Shlomo Katz
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 Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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