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Posted on June 6, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1338 — Can You Make The Second Day of Shavuos Early? Can American Mohel in Israel Perform A Bris on the Second Day of Shavuos. Good Shabbos

In Parshas Bamidbar, the Torah not only specifies the census of Bnei Yisrael when they came into Eretz Yisrael, it also specifies the “seder hadegalim” – the configuration in which they would travel. The twelve shevatim (tribes) were divided up into four “machanos” (camps), which were all positioned around the Mishkan.

Each machaneh (camp) included three shevatim. Machaneh Don (the camp of Don) included the shevet (tribe) of Don and also the shevet of Asher, led by Pagiel ben Achran and the shevet of Naftali, led by Achira ben Einan. These two princes, from the shevatim of Asher and Naftali, had rather strange names. We have never come across anyone named either Pagiel, Achira, Achran, or Einan! None less a personage than Rabbeinu Ephraim (one of the Ba’alei Tosefos) comments that these four rather strange names were not the names given to either of these princes or their fathers at their respective brissim. He says that they were all adopted names.

Why did they adopt these names? Rabbeinu Ephraim explains that Machaneh Don was situated at the north side of the travel configuration. It is known that Shevet Don brought along an idol, known as Pesel Michah, from the time they left Mitzrayim, until they entered Eretz Yisrael (and even after they entered Eretz Yisrael). Thus, there was an Avodah Zarah in Machaneh Don! The unfortunate neighbors of Shevet Don were Shevet Asher and Shevet Naftali. These two shevatim were none too pleased that they had a neighbor who was travelling with an idol!

Consider a situation where you know that your next-door neighbor is a drug dealer. How will that make you feel? It is not like they had the option to pick up and move because Hashem put them there! The princes of Shevet Naftali and Shevet Asher were very afraid that this proclivity for idols would rub off on them and their shevatim. Therefore, they changed their names to remind themselves of the fact that they were living in a very hostile spiritual environment.

The prince of Asher called himself Pagi-el, which is a short form of the statement “Pagah bi El” (G-d put me in a bad situation). Son of Achran – Achran means a person who corrupts Bnai Yisroel. He wished to announce “I am Pagi-el ben Achran: Hashem put me in this situation where I am in proximity to the people of Shevet Don, who are ocher es Yisrael – they corrupt the rest of Klal Yisrael. He gave himself this name to constantly remind himself and others “I have very bad neighbors and if I don’t watch myself, I am going to wind up like that.” The prince of Naftali called himself Achi-Rah, literally “My Bad Brother,” as if to say “I am next to my bad brother.” Son of Einan – etymologically related to the anan (cloud), which expelled sinners.

In other words, in order to make sure that their defenses would not slip, they changed their names. This is how they called themselves and had other people call them – to remind them all that they had to be on their toes and be constantly aware of their spiritually corrosive environment, so as not to be influenced by their neighbors.

There are three lessons to be learned from this teaching of Rabbeinu Ephraim:

The first lesson is that a person is affected by his neighbors and his neighborhood. A person can live in the best of cities but if his particular neighbors or neighborhood is not up to snuff, it eventually affects him.

The second lesson is that a person should take action when he realizes that he finds himself in a challenging spiritual position. A person should not have the attitude “Okay. Too bad. I am in a bad neighborhood.” These two princes changed their names as a constant reminder. Time will tell whether such action will be effective or not. But at least they were not passive about it. They made an attempt to build up their spiritual defenses.

The third very important and powerful lesson is brought out by a famous schmooze from Rav Chaim Shmulevitz, zt”l:

The Gemara [Sanhedrin 19b] notes that a certain person in Tanach is called both Palti and Paltiel. Rabbi Yochanan says that his real name was Palti but he was also called Paltiel because G-d removed him from doing an aveira (Palto Kel min ha’aveira). What did Palti do? He implanted a sword between himself and his wife (who was really previously given as a wife to Dovid) in their bedroom and said ‘Whoever will engage in this matter shall be pierced with this sword.”

Without going into the halachic lomdus here, King Shaul had previously promised his daughter Michal to Dovid, but Shaul held that she was not really Dovid’s halachic wife. He felt free to give her in marriage to Palti. Palti was in no position to reject the king’s offer to marry his daughter, but he felt that he was now living with a married woman! He recognized that this was a nisayon (temptation) that would be hard to withstand over the course of time. Thus, on the night of his marriage he dramatically stuck a sword between their two beds as if to say “If I touch this woman, I deserve to be killed”. Therefore, the entire time he remained with her, he never touched her.

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz asks: What did sticking the sword in the ground accomplish for him? Just as he stuck it in the ground, he could pull it out of the ground next week or next month! Rav Chaim Shmulevitz explains that Palti was a very smart man. He knew that on this first night, he was fully conscious that he was in a bedroom with an eishes ish (a married woman) and someone who commits adultery with a married woman is deserving of death by the sword. But he also knew that with the passage of time, a person can easily start rationalizing: Maybe Shaul is in fact correct! Maybe halachically she is not married to Dovid. Therefore, maybe I am just torturing myself for nothing.

That is human nature. After a while, we begin to rationalize. So Palti ben Layish placed a permanent symbolic reminder in his bedroom of how he felt the first night when he knew what was right and what was wrong. The sword represented how he felt when he was not overcome with temptation by any ulterior motives to rationalize and reason. Palti knew that without such a symbol, his Yetzer HaRah, after many days and weeks and years, could very well wear him down. The sword was his reminder: “This is how I felt THEN and that is the TRUTH.”

We can say the same thing regarding Pagiel ben Achran or Achira ben Einan. They called themselves these names as a reminder: We are next to Shevet Don. Shevet Don has this Pesel Micha. I don’t really want to be in their neighborhood. They were afraid that after a while, they would succumb to the bad influence of Pesel Michah. So as soon as they moved into the neighborhood, they changed their names: We knew the emes when we entered the situation, and we want to have a perpetual reminder for the rest of our time in that situation!

The Lesson of a Census Anomaly

Rav Chatzkel Levenstein, zt”l, once noted a strange fact in the census of Klal Yisrael, which demographically does not make any sense. Shevet Don had an adult male population of 62,700. They were the largest tribe. Shevet Binyomin, on the other hand, had a population of 35,000. When we look back to Parshas Vayigash and see the number of grandchildren Yaakov had from each of his sons, Binyamin had ten sons and Don had a single son. Not only did Don have only one son, but he was disabled. Chushim ben Don, Chazal say, was deaf. If we were to have taken bets regarding who would be the bigger tribe upon the Exodus from Egypt 210 years later, any sound statistical prediction would of course predict that Binyomin would be the larger of the two shevatim.

And yet, at the end of the day, Don had 62,700 adult male descendants in this census and Binyomin had 35,000. Rav Chatzkel derived the following lesson from this: A person like Don, who knows he has only one child, and a handicapped one at that, turns to the Ribono shel Olam and asks: “How am I going to survive? How am I going to see future generations?” In such a situation, a person goes to the Being who controls everything and pours his heart out. A person with ten sons will be confident and say “Let’s do the math!” My grandchildren and great grandchildren will increase exponentially! Such a person does not daven as much. When someone feels confident, he feels that he can rely “on the data”. There are times, however, that the “data” does not yield the projected result.

That is the lesson of this census anomaly. The lesson is that we never know!

There is a similar story mentioned by the Chofetz Chaim:

In Galicia, the custom was that on Motzai Shabbos (right before Ma’ariv), they would recite Tehillim. A fellow from outside of the city came into shul then and saw that the people were saying Tehillim. He noticed one fellow in particular, in the corner of the shul, pouring his heart out. As he recited his Tehillim, he was crying and banging on the wall. He was literally in a different world! The visitor was so inspired by this scene that he also started saying Tehillim with great inspiration and intensity. After Ma’ariv, he went over to this fellow in the corner and said to him, “I saw you saying Tehillim. It was very inspiring to me. You were crying your eyes out. Do you have a problem?”

The fellow in the corner responded, “Yes. I have a problem. I have a daughter who is not married. The whole week, I am on the road doing business and I am not at home (as was common in many parts of Europe). When I am on the road, my daughter’s situation is “out of sight, out of mind.” But when I come home for Shabbos and I see how broken my daughter is, it really hurts me. That is why I pour my heart out, because I don’t know how I can make a shidduch for her. I have no money!” I don’t have any idea how I can make it happen, so automatically I turn to the Ribono shel Olam!”

The visitor said, “Do you know what? I also have no money. But I have a son. Listen – you have no money and I have no money. Let’s make a shidduch between our children.” And so it was. The daughter of the fellow in the corner married the visitor’s son. That shidduch produced four sons. One of them was Rav Aryeh Leib HaKohen Heller (author of the Ketzos HaChoshen, the Avnei Miluim, and the Shev Shmaytza). The second son was Rav Yehuda Heller Kahana (author of the Kuntres HaSefeikos). The third son was Rav Mordechai Heller, who was a Rav in Chodorov. The fourth son was Rav Chaim HaKohen Heller. So, from this poor shidduch came, among others, the Ketzos HaChoshen. People do not study the Talmudic masechtos in Seder Nezikin without the Ketzos, and people do not learn Seder Nashim without the Avnei Miluim and people do not learn Yoreh Deah without the Shev Shmaytza. Likewise, people do not learn Seder Nezikin without the Kuntres HaSefeikos.

This goes to prove the old maxim: We never know!

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited 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 Bamidbar is provided below:

  • 013 Yerushalayim in Halacha
  • 058 Going Up To Yerushalayim for Yom Tov: Does it Apply Today?
  • 101 Teaching Torah to Women
  • 147 Sefiras HaOmer, Shavuos & the International Dateline
  • 194 Can One Charge for Teaching Torah?
  • 240 An Early Start for Shavuos?
  • 284 Birchas HaTorah
  • 330 Sefer Rus and Its Halachic Implications
  • 374 Bathing On Shabbos and Yom Tov
  • 418 Shavuos Issues–Late Maariv–Learning All Night
  • 462 May A Child Carry A Sefer On Shabbos
  • 506 Shavuos: Two Days, She’cheyanu & Other Issues
  • 550 Opening Cans on Shabbos & Yom Tov
  • 594 Omer Davar B’Sheim Omro – Giving Proper Credit
  • 638 Eruv and the Big City
  • 682 Carrying on Yom Tov
  • 726 Returning Pidyon Haben Money
  • 770 Let Them Eat Cheesecake
  • 814 Oy, The Eruv is Down, Now What?
  • 858 Ms. Cohen for A Pidyon Habein?
  • 902 Dancing on Yom Tov
  • 946 The Beautiful Poem of Akdomus
  • 989 The Mitzva of Talmud Torah – How Much – How Little?
  • 1033 Conning Someone Out of A Mitzva
  • 1077 Can A Father Give Son His Position (Rabbi/Chazan) While Still Alive?
  • 1120 The Zohar vs Talmud Bavli: Whom Do We Pasken Like?
  • 1162 Yahrtzeit/Yizkor Candles on Yom Tov – Is There A Problem?
  • 1206 What Bracha on Cheesecake? Is It BH or BSD? And other Shavuos Issues
  • 1250 Erev Shavuos on Shabbos
  • 1294 When Should Women Light Candles for Shavuos?
  • 1338 Can You Make The Second Day of Shavuos Early? Can American Mohel in Israel Perform A Bris on the Second Day of Shavuos.
  • 1382 The Halachic Issues with Milchig Bread
  • 1426 Shavuos – A potpourri of Dinim and Minhagim – Adding Water to Flowers and more
  • 1470 How is Adopted Child Called to Torah? Named in Kesuba? And other fascinating Shailos.
  • 1514 Shavuos – Women and Candle Lighting for Yom Tov
  • 1556 Shavuos -Yom Tov Candles: Bracha and Then Light or Vis Versa? Parmesan Cheese and Then Fleishig? Is There a Problem?

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