Why Are Children Called “Redeemers”?
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: Tape # 551 – Being Motzi a Wife in Kiddush. Good Shabbos!
Parshas Nasso includes a Mitzvah which Chazal refer to as “Gezel HaGer” [restitution of theft from a deceased convert]. The Torah teaches: “Speak to the Children of Israel: A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing a trespass against Hashem, and that person shall become guilty – and they shall confess their 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 guilty. And if the man has no redeemer to whom to return the debt the returned debt is for Hashem, for the Kohen…” [Bamidbar 5:6-8].
The Gemara [Bava Kamma 109a] explains that this passage, which references a situation where a deceased victim “has no redeemer to whom to return the debt,” is referring to the case of someone who stole from a recent convert who legally has no relatives. This is the only type of Jew who can have absolutely no heirs.
It is peculiar that this pasuk [verse] refers to heirs as redeemers [go’el]. In this context, it does not seem to make sense.
It is not uncommon in Tanach that relatives are referred to as “go’el” — such as in the Book of Rus. When the field of Elimelech was supposed to be sold, Boaz went to the relative, whom the Megilla refers to as the “go’el”. In that case, the relative was called the the “go’el” [redeemer] because he had the ability to redeem the field so that it should stay in the family.
The same expression is used in Sefer Vayikra [25:25] regarding s’deh achuzah [the field of inheritance]. If a person sells a field that is part of a family plot, we give the opportunity to the relative — the go’el, to redeem it. In that case, the term go’el makes a lot of sense. The field has left the family line and he is “redeeming” it to bring it back into the family.
But why — asks the Shemen HaTov — in the case of “Gezel HaGer” in Parshas Nasso are relatives referred to as “go’el”? They are not redeeming anything. We are not speaking of a piece of land that is in jeopardy of leaving the family. The simple way to write the pasuk would be to state “If the person does not have any heirs (yorshim)”! Why are heirs referred to here as “go’el”?
The answer is that many times a child can be a redeemer (go’el) for a parent. The source for the custom of saying Kaddish for a parent is a story in the Midrash about Rabbi Akiva. He met the son of a man who was suffering in Gehinnom. Rabbi Akiva taught the son of this man how to recite the Kaddish. Through the Kiddush Hashem [Sanctification of G-d’s Name] that the son accomplished by reciting Kaddish, he was able to bring his father out of Gehinnom and into Gan Eden.
Is there a greater “go’el” than this? Is there a bigger redeemer on the face of the earth than a child who can redeem a parent from suffering? That is why even regular heirs are called redeemers.
Many times a person can live a life that was — spiritually speaking — not necessarily the best of lives, and he can have a child that is a tremendous spiritual asset. The fact that he was responsible for putting such an offspring on the planet will remain an eternal merit for the parent. That child can be the safest investment and the greatest insurance policy that the parent ever took out in his life. That is why children are referred to as “go’el”. Sometimes children can be tremendous redeemers.
The Dual Meanings of “Ki Yaflee” Coincide Wondrously
Parshas Nasso contains the laws of Nezirus: “Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: A man or a woman who shall set himself apart by taking a nazirite vow to set himself apart to Hashem…” [Bamidbar 6:2].
A Nazir is prohibited to drink wine. He is prohibited from coming into contact with ritual defilement of the dead, and even from attending the funeral of his own relative. He is prohibited from shaving or taking a haircut. By saying the words “Behold I am a Nazir,” he takes upon himself all these restrictions. Regarding the restrictions of avoiding Tumas Mes [death defilement], the Nazir has the exact same status as a Kohen Gadol [High Priest].
This section begins with the words “A man or a woman ki yaflee to make a vow…” What do the peculiar words “ki yaflee” connote and what is the connection between that term and the institution of Nezirus? The early commentaries contain two interpretations. Rashi cites a commentary that “L’haflee” is from the same root as “L’hafrish,” meaning to separate oneself. The pasuk would then read “A man or a woman who chooses to separate themselves by taking a nazirite vow”.
Alternatively, “L’haflee” may mean “to articulate” or “to express” This is the approach of the Rambam. In his 14 volume work, Yad HaChazakah, the Rambam includes the Laws of Oaths, Vows, Nazir, and Cherem in the book of “Hafla’ah”. It is called “Hafla’ah” because all these laws relate to expressions uttered by a person who takes upon himself certain restrictions or responsibilities.
But there is a third possible interpretation to the word “L’haflee”. “L’haflee” could connote “It is a peleh [wonder]!” Whether the interpretation of “L’haflee” is separation or articulation, they both coincide with something that is wondrous (full of peleh).
The Sforno comments that for a person to separate from something he likes (e.g. – to vow not to touch a drop of wine) is wondrous. Think about it. What if someone took a vow not to have another soda in his life? Not to have another piece of cake? Never to have a doughnut again? It would be a peleh that a person would have the ability to voluntarily separate himself from the pleasures of this world.
The second interpretation of “L’Haflee” is also wondrous. The fact that a human being can express himself, the gift of speech, to articulate sensible thoughts and emotions is the greatest wonder. The ability to speak is what separates man from animals. The power of speech is what gives man the power to reveal what is in his living soul. This is a peleh!
With Nezirus, with two words “Hareinee Nazir” [Behold I am a Nazirite], one can gain the holiness status of a Kohen Gadol! Through words alone, he can change his essence to one of great holiness. Through words alone, he can restrain his passions. That is why the two words coincide. Whether Nezirus is separation or utterance, it is all the same. The Peleh that speech can change a person and that the person has the ability to separate himself from his desires is wondrous. That is why the Torah introduces these laws with the words “A man or woman ki yaflee”. Both concepts are indeed a peleh.
Were The Princes Interested In Car Pooling?
Parshas Nasso (towards the end) also contains the sacrifices brought by the Princes: “They brought their offering before Hashem: six covered wagons and twelve oxen…” [Bamidbar 7:3]. Every Prince offered the identical sacrifice. They were elaborate offerings. The Princes did not skimp on their offerings: They each brought large silver bowls and basins filled with fine flour mixed with oil for meal offerings; golden ladles filled with incense; one young bull; one ram, one sheep in its first year for olah-offerings; he-goats for sin offerings; and two cattle, five rams, five he-goats, five sheep in their first year for peace offerings.
The section is introduced by the statement that the offerings were brought in six wagons led by twelve oxen. Now since there were 12 Princes, why were there not 12 wagons? The answer is, they car-pooled. Rather than bringing 12 wagons led by 12 oxen, they were economical and had the 12 oxen pulling only 6 wagons. Could it be that they were over budget and they needed to cut back somewhere, so they cut back on the number of wagons bringing the sacrifices? Obviously not!
What is the real meaning of all this?
This situation was ripe for competition. Every Prince had to bring an offering, every day another Prince. The situation was ripe for jealousy and showboating. Therefore, the Princes made an opening declaration: “We are not twelve independent people. We are six sets of Princes. We are going to share, not to cut down or to save money or to be cheap, but rather we are going to share to show unity. Even though we have to bring 12 separate offerings on 12 separate days, we are not 12 individuals – we are together, we are sharing.”
The verse in Parshas Vayigash says: “And he saw the wagons (Agalos) that Yosef sent to transport him, then the spirit of their father Yaakov was revived.” [Bereishis 45:27]. The famous Rashi there comments that the wagons were sent as a hint to Yaakov that the last Torah portion he studied with Yosef before the latter was kidnapped was the portion of the Decapitated Calf (Eglah = Agala). The message was that Yosef had not forgotten the Torah he studied with his father. He was still involved in learning.
The Daas Zekeinim m’Baalei haTosfos, however, gives a different interpretation. The allusion of the wagons that lifted Yaakov’s spirit was the wagons of the Princes. Yaakov saw that in future generations the 12 Princes would also bring wagons — but they would only bring 6 wagons, indicating that they didn’t want to fight and compete amongst themselves. Thus, the message from Yosef to Yaakov was that in the future, the problem which sent him to Egypt (hatred amongst the brothers) was going to be resolved. This message of brotherly love and unity amongst his children is what revived Yaakov’s spirit.
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. The complete list of halachic portions for this parsha from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:
Tape # 014 – The prohibition of Yichud
Tape # 059 – Sheitels: A Woman’s Obligation to Cover Her Hair
Tape # 103 – Birchas Kohanim
Tape # 148 – Sotah: The Case of the Unfaithful Wife
Tape # 195 – Birchas Kohanim: Who Can and Who Can’t?
Tape # 241 – Yichud and the Housekeeper
Tape # 285 – Sa’ar B’isha Ervah
Tape # 331 – Must a Kallah Cover Her Hair at the Chasunah?
Tape # 375 – Ain Osin Mitzvos Chavilos
Tape # 419 – Causing the Erasure of Hashem’s Name
Tape # 463 – Dee’chui Eitzel Mitzvos
Tape # 507 – The Faithful Unfaithful Wife
Tape # 551 – Being Motzi a Wife in Kiddush
Tape # 595 – Chazonim and Chazanus
Tape # 639 – The Unfaithful Wife – Is ignorance an Excuse?
Tape # 683 – Shalom Bayis – How Far Can One Go?
Tape # 727 – Singing During Davening – Pro or Con?
Tape # 771 – Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Bishul Akum., 2
Tape # 815 – The Laws of Sotah, Still Very Relevant
Tape # 859 – Walking Behind a Woman
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 © 2007 by Rabbi Yissocher Frand and Torah.org.