These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 506, Shavuos: Two Days, She’cheyanu, & Other Issues. Good Shabbos!
Man Plans and The Almighty Laughs
In this week’s parsha, we read about the counting of Klal Yisrael as a whole, as well as a separate counting of the Tribe of Levi. The number of Levites from one month and older totaled 22,000. The Ramba”n (and many other Torah commentaries) is bothered by the fact that there so few Leviim. We read in the census of the other tribes (who were counted from the age of 20 and above) that there were tribes with 70 or 80 thousand individuals. Why were there — relatively speaking — so few Levites?
The Ramba”n notes the irony of the matter. The Leviim were, after all, the Divine Servants. They were The Almighty’s servants and His devoted followers (avadav v’chassidav). Why did they not enjoy the same blessing of fertility that the other Jews experienced in Egypt?
The Ramba”n suggests that this discrepancy supports the Rabbinic teaching that the Tribe of Levi were not enslaved in Egypt. They never became slaves to Pharaoh. In light of this fact, the blessing of “the more they were worked, the more they multiplied” [Shemos 1:12] did not cause them to multiply.
The Be’er Yosef cites a Medrash Rabbah that discusses the reason for the Plague of Blood: The Egyptians — in their plot to destroy the Jewish people — did not allow the Jewish women to immerse themselves in the Egyptian waters (Tevillah b’Mikveh in preparation for resuming marital relations with their husbands). Therefore, G-d utilized His Attribute of punishing “measure for measure” by smiting the Egyptian waters with blood in the first plague.
There is a Medrash Tanchuma that complements the above-cited Medrash Rabbah. Rabbi Levi states that the Jewish women in Egypt did not see menstrual blood because of their fear of the Egyptians. This is in concert with the Talmudic teaching that fear suspends (menstrual) blood [Sotah 20b].
This is an example of the teaching, “many are the thoughts in the hearts of man, but the plan of the L-rd will come to fruition” [Mishlei 19:21]. The Egyptians tried to oppress the Jews and restrict their access to the Mikvehs, but the very oppression of the Egyptians caused the women to be frightened to the extent that they did not see blood and therefore did not need Mikvehs, allowing them to, in fact, become exceptionally fertile and numerous.
The Tribe of Levi, however, was not oppressed. Their wives were not frightened and affected psychologically by the Egyptian enslavement. Those women presumably did experience menstrual periods, but unfortunately they had a problem, in that there were no Mikvahs available for them to use in Egypt. Thus, ironically, although we would expect their lack of oppression to allow them to become more numerous than other tribes, in fact, the situation was exactly the reverse.
The lesson of the above is as follows: Many times in life, we look at situations and we are certain regarding what the outcome will be, al derech hateva [based on natural expectations]. “The Leviim who are not oppressed – they will prosper. The rest of the Jews will dwindle away.” The Torah teaches us that the opposite occurred. Mensht tracht un Gut lacht. [Man has plans, and the Almighty laughs at them.]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (# 330). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: Sefer Rus and Its Halachic Implcations? The complete list of halachic portions for this parsha from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
Tape # 013 – Yerushalayim in Halacha
Tape # 058 – Yom Tov in Yerushalayim
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
Tape # 374 – Bathing on Shabbos and Yom Tov
Tape # 418 – Shavuos Issues — Late Ma’ariv / Learning All Night
Tape # 462 – May A Child Carry A Sefer on Shabbos
Tape # 506 – Shavuos: Two Days, She’cheyanu, & Other Issues
Tape # 550 – Opening Cans On Shabbos and Yom Tov
Tape # 594 – Omer Davar B’Sheim Omro – Giving Proper Credit
Tape # 638 – Eruv and the Big City
Tape # 682 – Carrying on Yom Tov
Tape # 726 – Returning Pidyon Haben Money
Tape # 770 – Let Them Eat Cheesecake
Tape # 814 – Oy, The Eruv is Down. Now What?
Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Seattle, Washington.
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Yerushalayim.