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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5755) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of RabbiYissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torahportion: Tape#13is: Yerushalayim in Halacha. Good Shabbos!

Netziv: Two Countings Mark Transition Points in Jewish History:

Sefer Bamidbar begins with a counting of Klal Yisrael. Inclassical Jewish works, Bamidbar is referred to as Sefer Hapekudim(the Book of Countings, or as it is called in English — “The Bookof Numbers”). When one thinks about it, that seems like a strangename to give the book of Bamidbar. We can understand calling itBamidbar, because the entire book deals with the trials andtribulations that the Jewish people underwent during theirwanderings in the desert. But, why should the entire book becalled Numbers, just because the book begins with a census thattook place during the beginning of their sojurn in the desert?

In his introduction to Sefer Bamidbar points, the Netziv out thatthis is not the only census that we have in Sefer Bamidbar. Thereis the census mentioned in this week’s parsha, during the secondyear of their wanderings in the wilderness, and then there is asecond census that was done at the end of the 40 years in thedesert. But still why is this so important? The Netziv says thatthese two censuses mark a distinct transition in the history ofthe Jewish people. The first census was not done chronologically.Tribes were not counted based on age. They were counted by the”Degalim” (flags) — based on the way they traveled in the desert.Each tribe traveled in a certain position and that’s how they werecounted. This travelling based on the “Degalim” was corresponding– according to Chaza”l — to the Heavenly Chariot. The way theyappeared down here on earth; is the way the Heavenly Chariottravels, as it were. The counting at the end of Sefer Bamidbar,however, was done chronologically. The Netziv says that the firstcounting took place when the Jewish people’s existence wasmanifested on a supernatural level (L’maale min haTeva) — theyhad Manna from Heaven, water from the Well, etc. That was theirexistence in the Wilderness.

At the end of Sefer Bamidbar, they entered a different type of life — a normal type of existence; that second counting marked a transition in the history of Klal Yisroel. The Jewish people went from being a nation which lived on Bread from Heaven and became a nation that had to live based on the Laws of Nature. These points in time were marked by the twocountings. The first counting, done based on the Degalim, wasreminiscent of the Shechina and remeniscent of a supernatural –Lemaaleh min haTeva — lifestyle; the second counting was done in a natural way. And that, says the Netziv, was why the book is called the Book of Countings, because these countings mark the transition of Klal Yisroel from a supernatural to what, at least on the surface, appears to be a natural existence.

Reb Yaakov: Travel Assignments Delayed Until After Mishkan Inauguration

Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky in his sefer, makes a very interesting observation:This counting happened in the second year, the second month; whathappened before that time, queries Reb Yaakov. This counting,based on the position of the tribes in their travel formation tookplace a year and fifteen days after they left Egypt. Why wasn’tit done immediately? Since the Jewish people had to travel rightaway, it makes sense that they should have set up a travel orderright away as well.

We see from Chazal, says Reb Yaakov, that when Moshe Rabbeinu made up this travel plan, he was afraid that the Jewish people would have complaints. One tribe would say “How come I’m in front of the Mishkan and they’re in back?” or “How come we’re in back and they’re in front”. Moshe Rabbeinu had a legitimate fear that Klal Yisroel would have complaints. Indeed, we see from Chazal that the assigned travel positions related not only to how they would move in the desert, but they related to the positions the respective Tribes would take in the life of the nation, as well. That’s why, says Reb Yaakov, this had to happen in the second year. What was the difference between the firstyear and the second year? The difference was the Mishkan. In thefirst year there was no Mishkan. “Bashana haShenis…” this wasnow a month after they inaugurated the Mishkan. Now there was aMishkan in the center. The difference was… as long as there wasno Mishkan in the center, as long as there was no unifyingpurpose, as long as there is no commonality of purpose… that isa situation that is rife for dissention and machlokes. But whenthe Jewish people know that there is a Mishkan in the middle, thatthere is a mission in life, to spread the Shem Shamayim, toSanctify the Name of Heaven… then and only then can one start assigning jobs.

The first year when there was no unifying force of the Mishkan, Moshe Rabbeinu would have in fact have had problems … ” Why should I do this? Why is he better than me?… But when one can infuse a people with a higher purpose when one can put a Mishkan in their midst, that they know they’re all pulling for a common goal, then one can mitigate, if not totally eradicate, any dissension . When the Klal realizes that they are all working for something bigger than any one individual, then and only then can there be a unity and completeness in the Jewish people.

Chasam Sofer: Children as a Motivator to Character Improvement

A Gemara in Yevamos (64) illuminates a verse in this week’sParsha. The Gemara states: Whoever does not occupy himself withthe precept of procreation is deserving of death. How do we knowthis? Rabbi Eliezer states that it is derived from the verse”And Nadav and Avihu died and they did not have any children.”The implication from this is: Had they had children they wouldn’thave died. The commentaries are all bothered by this Chazal: Weknow from the previous parshios that the sin of Nadav and Avihuwas that they brought a “strange fire before Hashem”. The pasukseems to indicate that there was something wrong with the Korbanthat they brought. One Chazal says they were somewhat intoxicatedwhen they brought it, and another Chazal says they did not consultwith their Master before bringing it, but the common denominatorof both of these opinions is some type of lack of Derech Eretz(proper etiquette). And here Rabbi Eliezer introduces a totallynew concept — they died because they didn’t occupy themselves inprocreation. Why suddenly attribute their death to a “new” sin?

The Chasam Sofer introduces a very interesting thought: Elu v’eludivrei Elokim Chayim: Both opinions are included in this teachingof Rabbi Eliezer. As mentioned, both opinions attributed the sinof Nadav and Avihu to a lack of proper respect. The Chasam Soferasks: Do you know what the greatest motivation to make a personinto a Baal Midos is? Do you know the greatest motivator intoimproving one’s own Derech Eretz? It is having children. When youhave children and you see that they treat you without DerechEretz, then you know that something is lacking with you.

Rav Wolbe writes in his Sefer Alei Shor: “There is no greater factorin improving one’s midos than having children.” Because even ifone can live with one’s own poor midos, to see that in one’s ownchildren with improper character traits, forces the individual toclean up his own act and improve his own midos. This is whatChazal may mean when they say Nadav and Avihu died because theydid not have children. Chas v’sholem, we can not say they did nothave proper manners, since we’re talking about Gedolei Olam. However, according to their level, there was a lack in theirDerech Eretz. Had they had children, the Chasam Sofer says, theywould have been much improved in their own Derech Eretz.

What this is in effect saying is that the responsibility for havingchildren entails within it a responsibility for a person’s ownbehavior. Since a person knows that how he acts is going toaffect his own children, this itself can become a powerfulmotivation to improve his own character.

Mechilta on Yisro: Ten Commandments Can be Read Across as well as Down

Relating to Shavuos and continuing with the same theme, there’s aninteresting Mechilta on Parshas Yisro. The Mechilta states: “The10 Commandments were given 5 on one tablet and 5 on the othertablet”. The implication, the Mechilta says, is that not only canthe commandments be read down the tablets… 1,2,3,4,5, but theycan also be read across. And the Mechilta goes out of its way toshow a connection between the parallel commandments on the twotablets 1 and 6, 2 and 7, etc. For instance, the Mechilta saysthe First Command is “I am the L-rd your G-d” and the parallelsixth command is “Thou shalt not kill”. This implies, the Medrashsays, that one who commits murder is not only sinning against hisfellow man, but he is — as it were — diminishing the DivineImage, for man was created in the Divine Image. The Medrashcontinues: ” Thou Shalt Have no other Gods” is parallel to” ThouShalt not commit adultery”. This teaches that one who displaysinfidelity to G-d is comparable to one who displays infidelity tohis own wife. The Medrash goes on through all the commandments…It is written ” Remember the Sabbath Day” opposite it is written”Do Not Bear False Testimony against your Neighbor” to teach thatone who does not keep the Shabbos is as if he gave false testimonythat the Ribbono Shel Olam did not create the world.

All of the examples of the Medrash seem to make sense…until the last one. It is written “Honor Your Father and Mother” The parralelcommandment is ” Thou Shalt Not Covet”. The Medrash continues…”Any person who is jealous will ultimately give birth to a child who will curse his own father and he will give respect to someone who is not his own father”. What is the connection that the Medrash is trying to tell us? If you think about it, the connection of the Medrash is obvious. When we are jealous of our friends — whether it be their wealth or their position in life or their position in the community — what message are we telling our children? The message we are getting across is that “the other one has better”. If you are constantly jealous of your neighbor’s house, car, honor, etc. what you are saying and teaching is that what I have is never good enough, is never sufficient. What this Medrash is teaching us is that in addition to this attitude which is inherently wrong, we also have a corrosive effect on our children. A child will be taught to not be happy with what hehas. What does a child really have? A child has a father. Thechild will eventually learn from his father that what he has isnever good enough and someone else always has better; the resultwill be a child that won’t be happy or satisfied either… hetherefore, won’t be satisfied with his own father and will find aneighbor whose father seems better and nicer and he will curse hisown father and honor someone who is not his father. This is againwhat the Chasam Sofer said: If there were no other reason for aperson to improve his own character traits, having children wouldsuffice. What you are is what your children will become andtherefore there is no greater motivator to correct charactertraits than having children!


Midos — Character Traits
Derech Eretz — Proper Etiquette
Chas V’Sholom — Heaven forbid
Chaza”l — Our Sages of Blessed Memory
Mechilta — Medrash on the Book of Exodus
Mishkan — Portable Sanctuary

Personalities & Sources:

Netziv — R. Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin (1817-1893) Rosh Yeshiva ofVolozhin Yeshiva; Lithuania.
Chasam Sofer — (1762-1839) Rabbi of Pressburg, leader ofHungarian Jewry Rav Yakov Kaminetzky — (1891-1986) Rosh Yeshivaof Mesivta Torah Vodaath; New York.
Rav Shlomo Wolbe — Leading contemporary Israeli Mussar personality.

Transcribed by David Twersky assistance by Dovid Hoffman.

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#13). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: #13is: Yerushalayim in Halacha. The other halachic portions for Parshas Bamidbar from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:

  • Tape # 058 – Going Up To Yerushalayim for Yom Tov: Does It Apply Today?
  • Tape # 101 – Teaching Torah To Women
  • Tape # 147 – Sefiras HaOmer, Shavuos & the International Dateline
  • Tape # 194 – Can One Charge for Teaching Torah?
  • Tape # 240 – An Early Start for Shavuos?
  • Tape # 284 – Birchas HaTorah
  • Tape # 330 – Sefer Rus and Its Halachic Implications

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:

Yad Yechiel Institute
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.

Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:

Rabbi Yissocher Frand: In Print

and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: