Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden
This week's parsha concludes with the gifts and offerings brought to the
Mishkan (Tabernacle) by each of the princes of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The Torah enumerates every facet of each prince's gift even though they are
all identical. Nachmanides (R' Moshe ben Nachman; 1194-1270; of Gerona,
Spain; one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages; successfully
defended Judaism at the dramatic debate in Barcelona in 1263) comments that
while the Torah does not contain any extraneous information - some laws are
encoded within and derived from the existence of a superfluous letter - the
Torah needs to relate the same narrative twelve times for us to understand
how Hashem (G-d) bestows honor upon those who fear him. The tribal leaders
were all ready on the same day to offer their sacrifices. They could not
bring them simultaneously; one would have to precede the other. But it was
unacceptable to elucidate the components of the first prince's gift,
mentioning him by name, and then simply acknowledge that the other princes
brought the same gift, for this would diminish the honor due each prince.
Therefore, Hashem mentioned each one by name, gave each one his own day and
listed all the elements of each gift.
Rabbi Yechezkel Levinstein (1884-1974; "Reb Chatzkel", as he was known, was
the mashgiach/spiritual mentor of two of the most illustrious Yeshivos in
the world, Mir (Poland) and Ponovezh (B'nai Brak, Israel)) notes that the
Torah going to such efforts in order to give appropriate honor demonstrates
the lengths we must go to uphold the honor of others in our daily affairs.
Once, Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer (d. 1953; Rav of Slutsk, and later Rosh
HaYeshiva/Dean of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim in Jerusalem) was up into the late
hours of the night with his disciple, Rabbi Dovid Finkel, when a knock on
the door disturbed their concentration. A young man entered, asking the
elder Rabbi for some of his time in privacy. With a welcoming smile, Reb
Isser Zalman jumped up and escorted his guest into a side room. After a few
minutes, Rabbi Meltzer stormed out of the room, visibly upset. "How can I be
lenient with such a law?" he muttered to himself, as he walked into another
room, closed the door, and remained in solitude for a considerable period of
time. Rebbitzen Meltzer became concerned for her husband's health; such
stress was harmful at his age. She prevailed on his student to check on her
husband's well being. Rabbi Finkel trembled as he slowly entered the room.
His mentor was sitting on a bed, deep in thought, holding his head. Rabbi
Finkel asked, "What happened?" but Rabbi Meltzer firmly insisted that he
immediately be left alone. Soon after Rabbi Finkel stepped out rejoin
Rebbitzen Meltzer, the door burst open, as Reb Isser Zalman swiftly crossed
the room to rejoin his guest. From within that room they heard the master of
the house demand, "This can't happen. We cannot allow the murder of a Jewish
girl. Absolutely not!" The young guest understood and took leave of the
Rabbi Meltzer then explained to his bewildered wife and student that the
young man is engaged to be married to a young lady from a distinguished
family. The bride-to-be was recently informed by her doctors that they
questioned if she would ever be able to bear children. Because of the
Torah's mandate to have children, the future groom had come to ask if he
should preemptively break off the engagement. "My dilemma was great: on the
one hand a situation of doubt with a biblical commandment requires
stringency...but what of her embarrassment and pain? I eventually ruled they
should be married because her inability to have children is subject to
doubt, in contrast to her shame and humiliation she would suffer if the
engagement were broken, which is certain. Causing the embarrassment of a
fellow Jew is also a Biblical prohibition, which our Sages teach us is
tantamount to murder! I then blessed him that Hashem should grant them
children, and asked that he invite me to the bris (ceremony of ritual
circumcision) next year."
Such is the impact of one who genuinely feels the need to maintain the
dignity of his fellow Jew. And Rabbi Isser Zalman Meltzer did attend the
bris the next year!
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999