People Need Protection From Their Own Wealth
The Sifrei on the pasuk in Birkas Kohanim – “May Hashem Bless you and Guard you” (Bamidbar 6:24) – analyzes the blessing (Yevarechecha) and the guarding (V’Yishmerecha) that Hashem provides. The Medrash provides an entire listing of opinions as to what each of these terms represent.
One opinion in the Sifrei is that Yevarechecha refers to acquiring property (i.e., wealth) and V’Yishmerecha refers to Hashem saving you from all the potential hazards that might take away your property. However, the first opinion in the Sifrei is that both Yevarechecha and V’Yismerecha simply refer to a person’s property. We readily understand the opinion that Yevarechecha refers to acquisition of wealth and V’Yishmerecha refers to preservation of that wealth. However, what exactly is meant by saying that both Yevarechecha and V’Yishmerecha just refer to wealth?
Perhaps the thought is that a person should be blessed with wealth, but that this wealth should not ruin him—something which is an all-too-common situation. We see repeatedly that money does something to a person. Someone can be the most wonderful and generous of individuals, and yet when he makes a few bucks, he turns into a different type of person.
This opinion in the Sifrei is teaching that Hashem should protect us from our own money – that it shouldn’t ruin us. In one of his books, Dr. Abraham Twerski, ob”m, wrote that when he was growing up in Milwaukee, there was a Jew who was a very poor man, but anytime he had any money whatsoever, he would give it to charity. Even when he could not afford it, he would give his money to tzedaka – to such an extent that Dr. Twerski’s father, Rav Yaakov Twerski – the patriarch of the family – had to tell this person NOT to give away his money!
One day, the man became wealthy. He made a lot of money. At that point, he became a cheapskate. It was crazy. When he had no money, he gave it away and when he had money, he couldn’t give it away! That is what the bracha means to protect against when it teaches “Yevarechecha HaShem, v’Yishmerecha.” May your wealth not come and corrupt you, which unfortunately is not an uncommon occurrence.
The Husband Who Withholds Priestly Gifts May One Day Need the Kohen’s Services
In Parshas Nasso, the Torah teaches, “And all that is raised up of all the holy things that the Children of Israel bring to the Kohen, it shall be his. A man’s holy things shall be his, and what a man gives to the Kohen, it shall be his.” (Bamidbar 5:9-10). In effect, a person must give all his “Priestly Gifts” to the Kohen.
This is immediately followed by the laws of Sotah, a man who suspects his wife of being unfaithful. Rashi comments on the juxtaposition of these two parshios: If someone holds back that which he is obligated to give to the Kohen – “By your life, you will need to come to him to bring your wife for the Sotah ritual.”
This fellow is stingy. He does not want to give to the Kohen what he is supposed to give. The Torah says, as it were, “Guess what fella: One day you will need to depend on this Kohen because you will suspect your wife of infidelity and you will need to bring her to him in order for her to once again be permitted to live with you.”
The problem with this drasha is, how does it happen that just because I am stingy, my wife is going to turn into the type of woman that will potentially engage in adulterous relations? Where is the cause and effect? What is the connection between my stinginess and my wife’s infidelity?
I would like to suggest the following answer: There are two types of women who can wind up being a Sotah. There is a woman who is in fact guilty as charged, and was indeed unfaithful to her husband. She suffers the consequence of the Sotah. The “Bitter Waters” that she drinks do their work and she explodes from this potion. However, there is also another type of woman who is falsely accused of being unfaithful.
If we think about the type of male personality who does not give his Priestly Gifts to the Kohen, we are talking about a person who is a cheapskate. We are talking about the type of person who holds onto his money. We are talking about the type of person who is not generous, who is not giving. This is the type of person who often has a jealous personality. There is a personality profile here which combines the traits of cheapness, jealousy, and an uncompromising nature.
This is the type of person who, when he sees his wife having an innocent and innocuous conversation with another man, because of his perspective on life—always viewing people in a negative light—jumps to conclusions and asks: “What is my wife doing with this guy?” Therefore, he right away makes a kinui on her (warning her not to be seen in private with this fellow) and if there happens to be steerah (where the woman is subsequently seen in private with him), he will drag her to the Kohen. The truth of the matter may very well be that this woman has done nothing evil. But because of her husband’s negativity and his outlook on life, he sees sinister events where no such events have transpired.
So it does not automatically follow that a stingy person has a wife who is a run-around. She in fact may be perfectly innocent, but such a person views his wife with his negative perception which may lead to kinui and steerah, and eventually may necessitate him needing to bring his wife to the Kohen.
The Singular Individual Who Accepted Nezirus Was Usually Single
Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky shares a very interesting idea in his sefer, which is most appropriate for the person who wrote it!
A Nazir can raise his personal sanctity up to the level of a Kohen Gadol. Just like a Kohen Gadol is forbidden to become tameh by contact even with dead relatives, so too a person who is a Nazir has the law of a Kohen Gadol and cannot defile himself, even to become involved in the burial of his father or mother!
Rav Yaakov notes something unique in the pasuk that states that a Nazir cannot become tameh “to his father, his mother, his brother, or his sister.” Rav Yaakov points out that there is a difference between what the Torah says by a Kohen Gadol and what the Torah says by a Nazir. By the list of relatives for which a Nazir is forbidden to defile himself, the Torah omits “his son or his daughter,” which are both included in the list of relatives for which a Kohen Gadol may not contaminate himself. The halacha, of course, is that a Nazir CANNOT become tameh for his son or daughter, just like a Kohen Gadol cannot do so. Why then does the Torah not mention them by the Nazir?
Rav Yaakov suggests a novel idea. Generally speaking, the only people who became Nezirim were bochurim, unmarried young men. Unmarried young men did not have sons or daughters, so there was no need to mention them. Rav Yaakov asks, why is it that, generally speaking, it was only bochurim who became Nezirim? He offers the following theory:
The Gemara—in explaining the juxtaposition of the laws of Sotah with that of Nazir—says that someone who sees the disgrace of a Sotah should take a vow to abstain from wine. The type of people, Rav Yaakov says, who when they see something dramatic are likely to become inspired and change the directions of their lives are typically bochurim.
The unfortunate reality is that the older we get, the more set in our ways we become, and the harder it is for us to change. This does not mean it is impossible. We see that people do change all the time, and we see people who are in their thirties, forties, and fifties – and even in their sixties – who become Baalei Teshuva. But the reality is that the older we are, the harder it is for us to change.
It is the bochur who is not yet set in his ways who can more easily be inspired and take dramatic action to alter his life behavior and take himself to a higher spiritual level. That is why the majority of Nezirim were in fact bochurim, and so when the Torah enumerates the dead relatives whose contact the Nazir must avoid, it omits “his son and his daughter.”
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Nasso is provided below:
- 059 Sheitel: A Woman’s Obligation to Cover Her Hair
- 103 Birchas Kohanim
- 148 Sotah: The Case of the Unfaithful Wife
- 195 Birchas Kohanim: Who Can and Who Can’t?
- 241 Yichud and the Housekeeper
- 285 Sa’ar B’isha Ervah
- 331 NassoMust A Kallah Cover Her Hair at the Chasunah?
- 375 Ain Osin Mitzvos Chavilos
- 419 Causing the Erasure of Hashem’s Name
- 463 Dee’chui Eitzel Mitzvos
- 507 The Faithful Unfaithful Wife
- 551 Being Motzi a Wife in Kiddush
- 595 Chazonim and Chazanus
- 639 The Unfaithful Wife – Is Ignorance an Excuse?
- 683 Shalom Bayis – How Far Can One Go?
- 727 Singing During Davening – Pro or Con?
- 771 Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Bishul Akum,
- 815 The Laws of Sotah – Still Very Relevant
- 859 Walking Behind a Woman
- 903 Shavuous- Fascinating Halachos
- 947 Birchas Kohanim−Whose Mitzva−The Kohain or Yisroel?
- 990 Cutting Down A Fruit Tree for Home Expansion
- 1034 Ba’alas Teshuva Who Was Not Honest With Her Husband
- 1078 The Elderly Gentleman and the Female Nurse – A Yichud Problem?
- 1121 The Enigma of Shimshon HaGibor
- 1163 Avoiding Yichud: Must the Door be Open or Merely Unlocked.
- 1207 Listening to music – as mutar as you think?
- 1251 Sitting Next to a Woman on an Airplane
- 1295 Davening/Bentching/Making Kiddush in Front of a Woman Who Is Not Properly Dressed
- 1339 The Sole Practiioner Lawyer and His Jewish Secretary – A Yichud Problem?
- 1383 Birchas Kohanim – Whose Mitzva Is It?
- 1427 Giving Yasher Koach to the Kohain After Birchas Kohanim – Why?
- 1471 Birchas Kohanim – Why Only on Yom Tov?
- 1515 Some Fascinating Yichud Shailos
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.