Volume 35, No. 31
11 Sivan 5781
May 22, 2021
With 176 verses, Naso is the longest single Parashah in the Torah. R’ Yitzchak Meir Rotenberg-Alter z”l (1799-1866; first Gerrer Rebbe, known as the “Chiddushei Ha’Rim”) observes that the Midrash Rabbah on this week’s Parashah is significantly longer than on any other Parashah. Also, the Zohar on this week’s Parashah, while not the longest, contains some of the most noteworthy sections (known as the “Idra Rabbah”).
The Chiddushei Ha’Rim explains: Parashat Naso is nearly always read on the Shabbat after Shavuot. Every year, on Shavuot, Hashem, in His goodness, renews the Giving of the Torah for the coming year. This renewal enables us to plumb the depths of the Torah, as recorded in the Midrash, and to see the light of the Torah, as reflected in the Zohar. (The Chiddushei Ha’Rim notes that the Zohar frequently uses the expression “Ta chazi” / “Come and see,” in contrast to the Talmud Bavli’s “Ta shema” / “Come and hear.”)
The Chiddushei Ha’Rim continues: Referring to the Torah’s “light,” we say in the blessing before Kri’at Shema, “Enlighten our eyes in Your Torah.” However, our intention is not to derive personal benefit from that “light.” Rather, we continue, “Attach our hearts to Your Mitzvot.” (Sefer Ha’zechut)
R’ Tzaddok Hakohen Rabinowitz z”l (1823-1900; Chassidic Rebbe in Lublin, Poland) adds: Parashat Naso includes “Birkat Kohanim” / the blessing the Kohanim give to the Jewish People. When one gives a blessing, he gives what is at the root of his soul. The Kohanim are meant to be the teachers of the nation; thus, their blessing leads to increased Torah study, as reflected in a longer Midrash and a very deep section of the Zohar. (Pri Tzaddik: Naso 7)
“This is the work of the families of Gershon–to work and to carry.” (4:24)
R’ Moshe Sofer z”l (1762–1839; rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva in Pressburg, Hungary) writes that the names of Levi’s three sons–Gershon, Kehat, and Merari–allude to different periods in Jewish history. “Gershon” alludes to the period of exile, since the root of that name (Gimmel-Reish-Shin) means to expel.
As such, writes R’ Moshe Gruenwald z”l (1853-1910; rabbi of, and Rosh Yeshiva in, Huszt, Hungary), our verse can be understood as follows: The task of a Jew in exile is to “work”–serve Hashem–and “carry”–be patient. Even when we see that the nations are successful and their cities are built up, while the Jewish People are downtrodden and the cities of Eretz Yisrael are in ruins, we should not question G-d’s ways. (Arugas Ha’bosem)
“They shall confess the sin that they committed; he shall make restitution for his guilt in its principal amount and add its fifth to it, and give it to the one to whom he is indebted.” (5:7)
Our verse speaks of a thief who repents and pays back what he stole (“He shall make restitution . . .”). Why, then, is the first part of the verse in the plural form (“They shall confess the sin that they committed”)?
R’ Chaim Zaichyk z”l (1906-1989; Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Bet Yosef-Novardok in Buchach, Poland; later in Israel) explains: How does a person succumb to the temptation to steal? Sometimes, it is because his business failed due to unfair competition, leaving him no obvious way to provide for his family except by stealing. Other times, it is because his wife and family members make him feel like an inadequate provider, leading him to steal so his family can keep up with the Joneses. Or, perhaps his business was struggling, and no one stepped forward to fulfill the Mitzvah (Vayikra 25:35): “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him–proselyte or resident–so that he can live with you.” In short, R’ Zaichyk writes, only one person is the actual thief, and he is the one who has to pay restitution. Nevertheless, there may be many people who need to confess an indirect part in this sin. Therefore, our verse says, “They shall confess . . .”
R’ Zaichyk adds: A precedent for this explanation is found in the Mitzvah of Eglah Arufah. When a murder victim is found on the highway, the elders of the nearest city must proclaim (Devarim 21:7), “Our hands have not spilled this blood . . .” The Gemara (Sotah 45b) asks: Would I have thought that the elders did spill this blood? Rather, the Torah is teaching that the elders are at fault because they failed to ensure that the traveler had provisions, which may have led him to attempt to steal and to be killed in that attempt. (Ohr Chadash)
“The Kohen shall inscribe these curses on a scroll and erase it into the bitter waters.” (6:23)
The Gemara (Sukkah 53a-b) relates: When King David excavated for the foundations of the Bet Hamikdash, he reached the water table and displaced a shard of pottery on which Hashem’s Name was engraved and which had been there since the time of Creation. Immediately, the waters rose and threatened to flood the world. King David asked: “Does anyone know whether it is permissible to write Hashem’s Name and throw it into the water?” An advisor named Achitophel knew, but he did not answer, because he was angry that King David had not appointed him to a position of honor. King David then pronounced a curse on anyone who knew but did not speak up. Hearing that, Achitophel responded, “If Hashem’s Name may be erased to bring about peace between a husband and wife [referring to our verse], it certainly may be erased to save the entire world!” [Until here from the Gemara]
Rashi z”l writes that King David also knew this Halachah, but he did not want to issue a Halachic ruling in the presence of his “teacher,” Achitophel. R’ Yerachmiel Shulman z”l Hy”d (Menahel Ruchani of the Bet Yosef-Novardok Yeshiva in Pinsk, Poland; killed in the Holocaust) observes: The Mishnah (Avot ch.6) says that King David learned only two things from Achitophel; nevertheless, King David honored Achitophel as if the latter were his teacher. As such, R’ Shulman writes, the above Gemara is teaching us the extent to which a person can be influenced by jealousy and a desire for honor, on the one hand, and by Mussar / working on refining one’s character, on the other hand.
He explains: The waters were rising from the excavation, and they were threatening to destroy the world. Nevertheless, Achitophel would not come to King David’s aid until he was threatened by King David’s curse. At the same time, King David would not cross the bounds of proper behavior by ruling in the presence of his teacher, even a minor teacher, even to save the world! [Generally, saving lives supersedes nearly all Mitzvot, but not if the same goal can be accomplished without transgressing, as was the case here.]
Logic would dictate that the flood should have been stopped as quickly as possible. However, writes R’ Shulman, man’s natural instinct to seek honor and to be jealous is stronger than logic; thus, Achitophel did not respond at first. Likewise, the demands of character refinement go beyond what man’s logic dictates; thus, King David refrained from saving the world in order not to rule in the presence of his teacher. The practical lesson for us is that we cannot rely on our own intellects to determine the demands of character refinement. (Peninei Ha’shlaimut: Introduction p.4-5)
This year, we will iy”H devote this space to discussing various aspects of our prayers. This week, we continue discussing the thirteen types of prayer identified by the Midrash Rabbah and Midrash Yalkut Shimoni.
R’ Yitzchak Ze’ev Yadler z”l (1843-1917; Yerushalayim) offers the following definitions for the sixth and seventh types of prayers. (The first through fifth types were discussed last week.)
– “Bitzur” (Tehilim 18:7)
– “Keri’ah” (ibid)
The cited verse states: “Batzar / In my distress Ekra / I will call to Hashem, I will cry out to my Elokim. From His temple, He will hear my voice; my cry to Him will reach His ears.” R’ Yadler writes: The Name “Hashem” refers to G-d’s Attribute of Mercy. Thus, our verse refers to someone who calls out to Hashem when he is in distress, but does so with a recognition that his distress is a reflection of Hashem’s mercy; for example, because it atones for that person’s sins.
R’ Yadler continues: The other form of prayer referred to here is prayer that recognizes that the Shechinah is, so-to-speak, “suffering” with us. [This refers to the fact that G-d wants to be good to us, but we “frustrate” Him by not deserving His goodness.] The person referred to in our verse prays to “my Elokim,” i.e., he has a personal relationship which causes him to put G-d’s “feelings” first. [R’ Yadler does not explain which of these forms of prayer is “Bitzur” and which is “Keri’ah.”] (Tiferet Tziyon Al Midrash Rabbah)
R’ Chaim Tirer z”l (1760-1818; rabbi of Czernowitz) writes: In connection with the prayer called “Keri’ah,” we read (Tehilim 20:10), “The King will answer us on the day we call (‘Kor’enu’).” This may be understood in light of the statement of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa (Berachot 34b), “If my prayer flows smoothly, I know it has been accepted.” Often, we pray for things that are in the distant future. Nevertheless, we sometimes can know on the day that we call whether we have been answered, i.e., if our prayer flows smoothly. (Sha’ar Ha’Tefilah VI ch.1)