Category Archives: Sefer Bamidbar

Parshas Pinchas: Love Conquers All!

Parshas Pinchas

Love Conquers All!


“Give us a possession [in Eretz Yisroel] among our father’s brothers” (Bamidbar 27:4)

Hillel used to say that we should emulate Aharon Hakohen, who loved peace and chased after peace, who loved people and brought them closer to Torah (Pirkei Avos 1:12). If a person was a sinner, Aharon would befriend him, showing his love for him. That person would feel, “If this Tzadik would know about my evil deeds, he would stay far away from me” (Rav Ovadia MiBartenora). The person would feel embarrassed about his evil deeds and would improve his ways. Aharon’s love “conquered” the sinner’s mindset and helped rehabilitate him.

Hashem told Moshe which Jews would inherit land in Israel. Only males inherited portions of the Land. Tzelafchad’s five daughters approached Moshe with a complaint. They said that their father had died and did not have any sons. Therefore, they wanted to inherit their father’s portion in the Land of Israel. Moshe brought their claim to Hashem who agreed that they should inherit their father’s portion. Rashi says that the daughters were not motivated by the desire for financial gain but were motivated by a passionate love for the Land of Israel.

Their love for the Land was in stark contrast with that of the men who scouted the Land of Israel. The spies did not have true love for the Land of Israel. It says in Tehillim (106:24) that “they despised the desirable Land”. The Malbim explains that this pasuk is referring to the spies. Since the spies did not have true love of the Land, they did not believe Moshe’s words that the Land was good.

Rav Avraham Pam (Rav Pam on Chumash by Rabbi Sholom Smith) explains that the spies described the Land exactly as they had seen it. The cities were heavily fortified, the land was inhabited by giants, the fruit was unusually huge, and many funerals took place there. Nevertheless, the spies should not have worried. They should have trusted in Hashem who promised them that the Land was wonderful and that He would destroy its inhabitants. Since their love for the Land was lacking, the obstacles they had seen appeared to be overwhelming. This feeling caused them to abandon hope of entering the Land. This was their sin. However, Yehoshua and Kalev described Eretz Yisroel in glowing terms. They said, “The Land we passed through … is very, very good” (Shmos 14:7). Since they had a love for the Land, they did not view the obstacles they saw as obstacles. They knew that the obstacles could be overcome.

All the Jewish women of that generation had a passionate love for Eretz Yisroel. That love negated all the fears and doubts that troubled the men who did not have the same degree of love for the Land. Therefore, while the men, from the ages of twenty to sixty, died in the desert, the women merited entering Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Pam says that this insight teaches us a very important message. Often, one is inspired to action. It may be to learn more Torah, to do an act of kindness to others, to do any other mitzvah or any positive act. After planning to act on his inspiration, often a person can be plagued with doubts. He may feel, “Can I really do this? Am truly qualified? Is it too hard for me? There are too many things that can go wrong”. He may see so many issues that he may change his mind and decide not to do it. 

The lesson of the daughters of Tzelafchad is, if one has intense love for something, that can help him overcome all obstacles. It will help him shake off inevitable uncertainties and give him the drive to accomplish his goals.


My Mother, Risha Toba bas Reb Gershon, passed-away last week. She exhibited many good character traits. One of her strengths was the sincere love and graciousness that she showed to everyone. In different ways, she connected to people of all ages. She connected to both Jews and non-Jews. She loved people – and they felt her love! The way she treated people was truly mekadesh Shem Shamayim. May her neshama find its eternal rest in Gan Eden!


Parshas Chukas: One Thing Leads to Another!

Parshas Chukas

One Thing Leads to Another!


“But Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Jewish people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” (Bamidbar 20:12)

It was an awesome miracle! Every day in the desert, millions of people and their animals were provided with plentiful water. It miraculously flowed from a rock, known as the Well of Miriam. When Miriam died, the Rock hid itself and the Jewish People no longer had a source of water. They complained to Moshe. Hashem told Moshe to find the Rock and speak to it, and it would, once again, provide water. Moshe ended up hitting the rock and water burst forth.  “But Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Jewish people, therefore you shall not lead this congregation into the land that I have given them.” (Bamidbar 20:12)   Clearly, Moshe and Aharon committed some sin. Their punishment was that they would die before the Jews entered the Land of Israel. They would not be privileged to enter the Land of Israel.

Numerous commentaries attempt to explain Moshe and Aharon’s “sin”.  Some say it had to do with Moshe hitting the Rock instead of speaking to it. Others say, it had to do with the way Moshe spoke to the Jewish People. Abarbanel quotes 10 different explanations, asks questions on all of them, and gives his own interpretation.  

It says in Tehillim (62:13), “…and faithfulness is Yours, Hashem, to reward each man according to his deeds”. Hashem always punishes “measure for measure”, i.e. the punishment is similar, to the sin. The Metzudas Dovid explains, when a person contemplates his punishment, he will be able to figure out what his sin was and what he would need to do to improve himself.  The Abarbanel asked, “What was the connection of Moshe and Aharon’s “sin” to their punishment?”  Why were they punished by being barred from Eretz Yisroel?

Furthermore, the Abarbanel asked, “What did Aharon do?” Moshe hit the Rock and spoke to the Jewish People. Aharon just stood there. Why was Aharon also punished? 

In Sefer Devarim (1:37) before Moshe died, he mentioned some of the past sins that the Jewish People had done. He spoke about the sin of the spies and said, “Hashem was also angry at me, because of you….” Therefore, I, too, will not be privileged to enter the Land of Israel. It seems that Moshe forfeited the right to enter the Land of Israel because of the sin of the spies and not because of what happened with the Rock?

The Abarbanel asks numerous other questions. His explanation is that Moshe and Aharon were not punished because of what occurred with the Rock. Rather, Aharon was punished because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Aharon formed the calf to delay the people from sinning, while he awaited Moshe’s return from Har Sinai. Aharon had good intentions. However, his actions led to catastrophic results. It led to some Jews sinning, causing their deaths immediately by plague or sword. It also resulted in the decree that the Jews would die in the desert and would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. Since this resulted from Aharon’s actions, it would not have been proper for Aharon to enter the Land of Israel while the rest of the Jews were forbidden. (Shmos 32:1-7). This was clearly a punishment, “measure for measure”.

Similarly, Moshe was punished because of his actions with the spies that he had sent to the Land of Israel. The People had asked to send spies. Their only concern was to discover the best route to take and which cities to capture first (Devorim 1:22 and Rashi). Hashem had just said to scout out the land. Moshe added additional questions for the spies. Moshe had asked that they find out the strength of the people and the fortification of the cities. Moshe purposely and with good intentions, added these questions. When the Jewish People would find out that how powerful these people were, that there were giants, and that the cities were exceedingly fortified, they would further appreciate Hashem’s kindness in enabling them to conquer the land.  However, these additional questions resulted in the spies terrifying report. As a result of that, the Jews felt they were powerless, and that Hashem was incapable of conquering these nations. This resulted in Hashem’ decree that they would die in the desert and not enter the Land. Moshe’s unintentional actions indirectly caused this decree. Therefore, it would not have been appropriate for Moshe to enter the Land while the rest of the People were forbidden to.

To show respect for Moshe and Aharon, Hashem concealed these larger sins with the smaller sin by the Rock, even though Aharon did not sin at all by the Rock. The sin by the Rock wasn’t the reason for their punishment. Rather, Hashem used it as a means to punish them for their previous actions, without embarrassing them.

The Abarbanel teaches us a powerful thought! One is held accountable for the results of his actions. If noble intentions result in negative actions by others, one is still held accountable for them. We also see a level of fairness by Hashem. If one caused a negative action which resulted in another person being punished, one should not derive benefit from that which another lost, because of that action.

On the positive side, if one’s intentions result in positive actions, one is rewarded for them! Imagine if one taught Torah to a Jew who had little, or no Torah knowledge and that person became a very learned and righteous individual. Would it be fair if the student went to Olam Habba while the teacher did not?

We must be very careful and think through the possible repercussions of our actions!

We may be punished for negative repercussions and we will be rewarded for positive ones!


Parshas Korach: More Powerful than…!

Parshas Korach

More Powerful than…!


“…and Moshe said to Hashem, “Do not turn to their gift offering!’” (16:15)

Chizkiyahu, King of Yehuda, was an extremely righteous king who disseminated Torah among the Jewish nation.  He became deathly ill and the prophet, Yeshayahu son of Amotz, came to him and said, ‘So says Hashem: Prepare your household, for you shall die …!’” Yeshayahu the prophet was informing King Chizkiyahu that a death sentence was already decreed upon him. King Chizkiyahu replied, “Son of Amotz, finish your prophecy and leave! I have a tradition handed down from my ancestors that even if one has a sharp sword laying on his throat, he should not hold back from requesting Hashem’s mercy!” Whereupon, Chizkiyahu turned his face towards the wall and whole-heartedly prayed to Hashem. Immediately afterwards, Hashem reappeared to Yeshayahu the prophet and told him: “Return to Chizkiyahu, … and tell him: ‘So says Hashem, G-d of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I shall heal you! On the third day ascend to the House of Hashem and I shall add fifteen years to your life.’” (Melachim II (Chapter 20)


Korach was very wise and very rich. He experienced prophecy, futuristically seeing that his descendants would be very prestigious. He was a member of the Leviite family of Kehas, the family who was entrusted to carry the holy vessels of the Mishkan. Nonetheless, unfortunately, all of that was not enough for him. He became jealous of Moshe’s appointments of Aharon as Kohein Gadol and Elitzafon as head of the family of Kehas. Hashem had told Moshe to make those appointments. However, Korach’s jealously led him to claim that Moshe had made the appointments on his own.   To bolster his claim, Korach declared that not only did Moshe make-up the appointments on his own, he even made-up some of the mitzvos that he taught them. Korach claimed that the mitzvah of tzitzis made no sense. On a garment of any material, one string of techailes (wool dyed a bluish-purplish color) together with the other strings, would suffice to fulfill the mitzvah of tzitzis. Then, why should a garment made totally from techailes need one extra string of tchailes to be acceptable? Also, why would a room that has a sefer Torah need a mezuzah, in addition? The Torah itself contains the parsha of the mezuzah as well hundreds more mitzvos.


Korach’s pronouncements were very dangerous. He attacked the fundamental belief that the Torah is the word of Hashem. If one would suggest that Korach could have succeeded had he davened to Hashem for success, you would think that person was crazy. How could Hashem accept such a prayer which would undermine Hashem’s own Torah?


Yet, we see something very fascinating. Moshe attempted to make peace by going to the homes of Dassan and Aviram, the other two leaders of the rebellion. Dassan and Aviram rebuffed Moshe and responded with brazenness. Moshe then beseeched Hashem not to accept the korban of ketores that they were going to bring on the following day.


Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv Broida, the Alter of Kelm, says we see from this, the tremendous power of prayer. Moshe had to beseech Hashem not to accept their korbanos, representing their tefillos. Had their tefillos been accepted, they would have succeeded in denying that Moshe was teaching Hashem’s Torah. If the Torah was not from Hashem, then they would have succeeded in denying the validity of the Torah itself. The entire Torah would have been nullified!  Moshe was concerned lest their prayers be accepted. Hashem set up the World in such a way that sincere and totally heartfelt prayer is very powerful and has a good chance to be answered, even if the request runs contrary to Hashem’s will. Moshe knew that principle. Therefore, he had to pray to Hashem to counter their prayer.


We see a similar idea in the Talmud (Yoma 53A). When the Kohain Gadol exited the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he prayed for the needs of the Jewish People. One of the prayers was that Hashem should not listen to the prayers of the travelers who had come to Yerushalayim. The travelers were returning home. They prayed to Hashem that it should not rain, which would cause the roads to become muddy, making the travel home very difficult. Rain, however, is important to everyone else, other than the travelers. Rain is needed for drinking water and to help crops grow. Other Jews prayed for rain. Why was it necessary for the Kohain Gadol to add this to his prayers? The traveler’s prayers were totally sincere and from the heart. They understood that only Hashem could help them. Those prayers were so powerful, that the Kohain Gadol’s prayers were needed to counteract them. (based on a dvar torah quoted in Yalkut Lekach Tov.


When we daven to Hashem with a complete heart, and with the realization that only Hashem can help us, our tefillos are very powerful. Even if we do not see the results that we hope for,
due to our powerful tefillos Hashem will help us in some way either now or in the future.



Parshas Shelach: Things Are Not Always What They Seem To Be!

Parshas Shelach

Things Are Not Always What They Seem To Be!


“And they spread an evil report about the Land that they had scouted, saying, ‘The Land that we traversed and scouted is one that devours its inhabitants…’” (13:32)

Sam was walking outside and glanced inside the window of a nearby building. He noticed a man pull out a large knife and head towards another man lying on a table. Sam’s first reaction was to take out his cell phone and call 911. When he looked further into the matter, he realized that the man with a knife was a doctor who was about to perform an operation.

As Berel walked down the street, he noticed a man trying to get into a car with a key. Berel thought nothing of it until he looked further.  This man had an entire handful of keys and was trying one after the other. That seemed suspicious so Berel called 911.

From these two instances, we see that all is not always the way it seems.

The Jewish People were taken out of Egypt and were poised to enter the Land of Israel immediately. The Jews wanted to first send spies to observe the Land. When the spies returned, they, except for Yehoshua and Calev, discouraged the Jews. They said that it would be impossible to conquer the powerful nations that lived in the Land. The Jewish People cried in fear, thinking that Hashem would be unable to conquer those powerful nations. Their behavior showed a lack of trust in Hashem. Therefore, Hashem punished them and caused a 40- year delay before the Jews entered the Land of Israel, during which time all the males between the ages of 20 and 60 died.

This week’s Haftorah discusses the spies that Yehoshua had sent before conquering Yericho. The Midrash Tanchuma (Paragraphs 1 and 4) contrasts this successful spying mission to the abysmal failure of 40 years earlier. The earlier spies did not exhibit the same mesiras nefesh (giving one’s all and sacrificing oneself to ensure success) as the later ones. The Midrash pinpoints this lack of mesiras nefesh as atzlus, laziness. Since the earlier spies had a small degree of laziness, they were not totally moser nefesh in their mission. A person who is a little lazy, does not put in the required effort to analyze a situation. Rather, he understands his observations at face value. That lack of effort caused a calamity. Had the spies been more motivated, they would have analyzed their observations differently. Their report would have been accurate and would have been the opposite of what they initially had thought. (Based on a dvar Torah by HaRav Henach Leibowitz zt”l).

When the earlier spies returned, they reported that the air of Israel was very harsh. “Everywhere we went, we saw burials taking place”. Rashi comments that this was an act of kindness from Hashem. Hashem wanted the inhabitants of the Land to be so preoccupied with funerals that they would not notice the spies. Wherever they went, they saw huge crowds attending funerals. The Kli Yakar asks, If the spies saw so many funerals, weren’t they correct in reporting that the climate was harsh? After all, isn’t that what they saw?  The answer could be that their degree of laziness prevented them from realizing the truth.  A casual observation would lead one to the conclusion that they gave. However, had they delved into the matter more closely, they would have come to a totally opposite conclusion. They would have understood that the funerals were not a typical occurrence and were clearly orchestrated by Hashem. They would have realized that if people dying and funerals was so common, they wouldn’t have been attended by large crowds (Rabbi Frand on the Parsha). Society could not function if everyone spent much of their day attending funerals. People would only attend very few funerals. Since the crowds at funerals were so large, it must have been that death was an uncommon occurrence. Had the spies understood this, we would have entered the Land of Israel immediately and would have been spared from much heartache, pain, and death.

The negative trait of laziness can have dire and far-reaching consequences. It impacts a person in this world and in the World to Come. King Solomon said that a lazy man’s field will not produce food because he will not work hard enough. Even if he puts in the effort, he will lose his produce because he will be too lazy to fix his broken fence.  Animals and thieves would then take everything. A lazy person will also not take advantage of the opportunities to learn Torah and do mitzvos. He will push-off the opportunities with excuses followed by excuses. (Orchot Tzadikim)

Beyond that, we see that the trait of laziness can cause us to misread any situation that we observe.

That can lead to strained personal relations, bringing us misery, grief, and unhappiness.

It is imperative to put in the complete effort needed to accurately assess all situations.


Parshas Beha’aloscha: Feel the Love and Show the Love!

Parshas Beha’aloscha

Feel the Love and Show the Love!


“Then I assigned the Leviim to be presented to Aharon and his sons from among the Jewish People, to perform the service of the Jewish People in the Tent of Meeting, and to provide forgiveness for the Jewish People, so that there will not be a plague among the Jewish People, when the Jewish People approach the Sanctuary.” (Bamidbar 8:19)

Kalman grew up in Petach Tikvah, in Israel.  He did not have friends. He ate alone, walked-around alone and studied alone. Even when he was invited to join a group he declined, thinking that the invitation was issued out of pity. One day, Kalman felt so sad that he decided to leave yeshiva and start following a less-religious lifestyle. He thought that maybe, in his new lifestyle, he would feel as if he belonged and would feel happier. A few days before Kalman decided that he was going to leave, he remembered that one of the popular boys in the yeshiva was getting married. A bus was going to take all the boys from the yeshiva to the wedding. Kalman did not want to go, but decided that he would, but only if one of the other boys would ask him to join them. The boys ran onto the bus, but no one asked Kalman to come. Feeling dejected and lonely, Kalman went to his dormitory room and started crying. Suddenly, there was a knock on his door and Naftali asked Kalman if he was coming. Naftali was the one person who tried to include Kalman in different things. “We are waiting for you.” Kalman headed for the bus, happy that one person had remembered him. While on the bus, the driver announced that he was leaving at 11 PM sharp and would not wait for anyone. The wedding was beautiful. At a few minutes before 11, all the boys started boarding the bus. As the driver was about to leave, Naftali called out that Kalman was not there. The driver did not care to wait and started the engine. Naftali did not want to leave Kalman alone, so he exited the bus. When the other boys saw what Naftali had done, all 40 of them also left the bus. The bus left, empty of passengers. A minute later, Kalman came rushing outside. He wondered why all the boys were waiting around. Naftali said, “The bus driver was going to leave without you, and we said that we were not going unless you were with us. We just want you to know how much we care.” All the boys went home by taxis. That was a night that Kalman never forgot. He stayed in yeshiva and became a changed person. He began to develop friendships and feel better about himself. Eventually he married and raised a wonderful family.  Kalman’s life was changed because one boy cared and showed him love. (Touched by A Prayer, Volume 1 by Rabbi Yechiel Spero)


Hashem said that the Leviim would be serving in the Mishkan in place of the firstborn of all the tribes. Rashi questions an anomaly in this pasuk. Why does it say the “Jewish People” five times in the same pasuk? Rashi says, it shows us how much Hashem loves the Jewish People. Hashem loves us like the Five Books of the Torah. HaRav Hayyim Yoseph Dovid Azulay zt”l, the Chida, (in his sefer Nachal Kadumim) adds, if you love someone so much, you want to constantly refer to them by name.

Hashem loves each of us so very much!

The question remains, why did Hashem give this message of love, specifically in this pasuk?

Rabbi Yehudah Lowy zt”l, known as the Maharal, in his sefer Gur Aryeh, explains that this pasuk is exhorting the Leviim to do their job very carefully. One of their jobs was to guard the area around the Mishkan, to prevent other Jews from straying there and incurring the death penalty. That would be a major catastrophe “for each member of the Jewish People is as important as the Five Books of the Torah. If one Jew would die it would be as if a sefer torah was burned.” Rashi explains because this Jew could have learned more Torah.

I found it interesting to note that Rabbi Lowy did not say that a learned Jew or a Jew that is exceptionally kind, is as important as the Five Books of the Torah. Rather he says, “each member of the Jewish People,” because each Jew has the potential to learn Torah.

Every single Jew, learned or ignorant of the Torah, religious or irreligious,

is precious to and beloved by Hashem!

That knowledge should make us feel special and feel comforted during challenging times.

It should also teach us a very important lesson. We are taught to follow in Hashem’s ways.

If Hashem loves each Jew, no matter what, so should we!


Parshas Naso: Strength in Unity!

Parshas Naso

Strength in Unity!


“And they [Nesi’im] brought their offering before Hashem: six covered wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for each two leaders and an ox for each. And they brought them before the Mishkan.” (7:3)
“…They shall be the first to journey” (2:9)

There is a famous story about a father who called his sons to his bedside, as he was nearing death. He gave each of them a stick of wood and asked them to break it, which they easily did. Then he gave each one a bundle of sticks and asked them to break the wood, which they were unable to do. The father wanted to teach his sons the lesson that in unity there is strength. Only when they are unified, like the bundle of sticks, would they have the strength to withstand the challenges of life.

I want to share a beautiful dvar Torah that I read recently.

When the Mishkan was inaugurated, the Nesi’im, the princes of each of the twelve shevatim, brought very generous offerings to Hashem. They each brought twenty-one animals to be sacrificed. They also brought fine-meal offerings in silver bowls and incense in golden ladles. The offerings were brought in six covered wagons that were drawn by twelve oxen. Two Nesi’im shared the cost of each wagon.

If the Nesi’im brought such generous offerings to Hashem why didn’t they bring them in their own individual wagons? Why did each two Nesi’im share the expense of one wagon?

Perhaps the Nesi’im did that to set a very important example for the Jewish People. Each Nasi was given one day to demonstrate his commitment to Hashem. That could have presented the potential for competition and “one-upmanship”. Each Nasi may have been tempted to show that he loved Hashem more than the other one, by bringing a larger and more expensive offering. That could have led to jealousy and fighting which could have spread from the Nesi’im to the entire nation. Instead, they avoided divisiveness. The Nesi’im each brought the exact same offering. In addition, they further highlighted their unity by sharing the cost of the wagons.

This explanation can help us understand a Da’as Zekeinim in Parshas Vayigash (45:27). Yosef had revealed his identity to his brothers and asked them to tell Yaakov that he was still alive. Yosef told them to bring their families to Egypt where he could sustain them during the remaining years of famine. When Pharaoh heard who Yosef really was, he sent wagons to help bring Yosef’s family to Egypt. When Yaakov was told that Yosef was still alive, at first, he didn’t believe it. Only after he saw the wagons that “Yosef” had sent did he begin to believe. Didn’t Pharaoh send the wagons? What does it mean that Yaakov began to believe after seeing the wagons that Yosef had sent? Rashi explains that it doesn’t refer to actual wagons, the agalos. Rather it refers to the last Torah topic that Yaakov had learned with Yosef. They learned the topic of egla arufa, teaching the importance of escorting guests who are leaving your home. Rashi says that the word agalos is similar, to the word egla. When Yaakov saw “Yosef’s wagons”, the message that only Yosef could have known, that proved that Yosef was still alive, not only physically but even spiritually. Then Yaakov’s spirit was revived.

The Da’as Zekeinim questions Rashi’s explanation. He says that agalah is not the same word as egla. Rather, the wagons that Yosef had sent, represented the six covered wagons that would be brought by the Nesi’im when the Mishkan would be inaugurated. It was those wagons that revived Yaakov’s spirit.

How did it revive his spirit? When Yaakov heard that Yosef was still alive, he was happy that the animosity of Yosef’s brothers did not cost him his life. However, Yaakov was still concerned that the animosity of his children would manifest itself generations later. When Yaakov foresaw the wagons that the Nesi’im would bring, he understood that sharing the cost of the wagons was a sign of unity. That showed Yaakov that the Jews can live in peace with each other. That sign of harmony revived Yaakov’s spirit. (based on Rabbi Frand on the Parashah- 2)

We are all part of one neshama. We must show love and brotherhood to every Jew,

even if they are different than we are.


Parshas Bamidbar: Every Jew Counts!

Parshas Bamidbar

Every Jew Counts!


“Those who camp to the front, at the east, shall be the banner of the camp of Yehudah….” (2:3)
“…They shall be the first to journey” (2:9)

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin zt”l, the Rosh HaYeshiva of the Volozhin yeshiva in Europe, ensured that at all times of the day and night, someone in the yeshiva was learning Torah. The Rabbis are quoted as saying that there is a big difference between a king’s palace that has guards constantly watching it and a palace that does not. The Mishkan was like Hashem’s palace. Leviim took turns guarding it all hours of the day and the night. Similarly, Rabbi Chaim Volozhin zt”l said, in our days, the yeshiva is the palace of the king. It is fitting that there be guards, namely students learning Torah, at all times. (Talelei Oros by Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rubin)

The Mishkan was surrounded by the different tribes. When the Jews travelled in the desert, they travelled in a special formation. The first to journey was the group of shevatim, led by the tribe of Yehudah. Why didn’t the tribe of Reuven, the firstborn, travel first? The Kli Yakar explains that the group of the tribes of Yehudah, Yissachar and Zevulun went first because those tribes were the pillars of Torah learning. The Kli Yakar continues, that they traveled first, because they should be the first in war, for the wars of Israel are not fought with the sword and spear. Rather, they are armed with the merit of the Torah.

The Talmud (Sotah 35A) quotes a pasuk from Tehillim that Dovid Hamelech called the words of Torah, songs. He was so emotionally enraptured by learning Torah that it was like listening to beautiful music. Rashi explains that when Dovid had to flee for his life, from his enemies, he would find refuge in learning Torah, like the sweetest music.

We would think that Dovid Hamelech’s comparison of Torah to music was very special, indicating the emotional impact Torah had on him. However, Hashem was displeased with this comparison.  Since Dovid Hamelech referred to the words of Torah as “songs”, he was punished by the calamity of Uza. The Maharsha explains that one is not constantly singing, whereas learning Torah requires constant and total involvement.  Even when a person goes to sleep, his mind should be working on Torah. There are stories about various gedolim whose Torah was such a part of them that they were heard to be murmuring words of Torah while they were in the middle of sleeping. Hashem said to Dovid, “Matters of Torah are so difficult and demanding that one whose eyes stray from the Torah even for a moment will forget it, and you call them songs? For this reason I will cause you to stumble in a matter that even schoolchildren know, as it is written with regard to the wagons brought to the Tabernacle: “And to the descendants of Kohath he did not give, because the service of the holy things belongs to them; they carry them upon their shoulders” (Numbers 7:9). And although the Ark clearly must be carried on people’s shoulders, Dovid Hamelech erred and brought it in a wagon.

Torah is our life. Rabbi Akiva compared one who does not learn to a fish out of water. He cannot truly live.

What does one do if he is not gifted and feels that he will never truly understand Torah even if he would toil in it his entire life? Obviously, this person will not put as much time or energy into learning Torah because he feels that he will not achieve anything.  Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (quoted in Talelei Oros) has an answer for this person. He explains that Parshas Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbos before the holiday of Shavuos. Why? The parsha discusses the census that was taken in the desert. In the census, every Jew was visited personally, and counted by Moshe and Aharon. That showed the importance of every single Jew. Every Jew matters!

Every Jew’s contribution to Torah learning is important!
Everyone should dedicate himself to Torah to the best of his ability!
Let’s all commit ourselves to learn extra Torah this Sunday night,
when Jews worldwide, stay up all night, learning Torah.
Even if we are only able to learn for a short time, it is valuable to ourselves,
our People, and, of course, to Hashem.


Parshas Matos-Masei: Hashem Can Do The Job!

Parshas Matos-Masei

Hashem Can Do The Job!


“Avenge the Jewish People on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your People.” (Bamidbar 31:2)


The Midrash (Bamidbar 22:6) in this week’s parsha says that Yehoshua was supposed to live for 120 years, just as his teacher, Moshe Rabbeinu, did. However, Yehoshua lost 10 years of his life and only lived for 110 years.

Hashem told Moshe to avenge the death of the 24,000 Jews whom Midian had led to sin. Hashem added that Moshe would die as soon as the battle was ended. One would think that Moshe would delay in going to battle. On a personal level, any delay would mean that Moshe would live longer. On a communal level, it would mean that the Jews would benefit from Moshe’s leadership and influence for additional time. Furthermore, Hashem did not give Moshe a specific time when to go to battle. Despite these factors, Moshe followed Hashem’s command with zrizus, with alacrity. He went to war to fulfill Hashem’s command as quickly as possible.

Yehoshua was told to battle the 31 kings in Eretz Yisroel. Yehoshua knew that he would die as soon as his mission was complete, just as Moshe had died. Yehoshua felt that it would benefit the Jewish People if he would remain alive longer. He knew that after his death the Jewish People would sin by turning away from Hashem (see Devorim 31:29 and Rashi). The Maharzu explains, Yehoshua felt that Moshe erred by not delaying the battle against Midian. Therefore, when it was up to Yehoshua to determine what to do, he delayed in fighting the remainder of the battles. Even though Yehoshua’s intentions were noble, his inaction was considered a sin [for someone as great as he] because he did not fulfill Hashem’s command quickly, with zrizus. As punishment, Yehoshua lost 10 years of his life.

Rav Henach Leibowitz zt”l explains that a person is obligated to do the right thing. If the Shulchan Aruch (Books Codifying Jewish Law) indicates he should do something, then he should do it. He should not be concerned about what is going to happen in the future. Hashem runs the World and Hashem takes care of the Jewish People. If Hashem wanted the Jews to remain on an exalted level, they would remain so even without Moshe or Yehoshua’s leadership and guidance. Halacha dictated that Yehoshua act with alacrity. He did not and for someone as great as he, it was considered a sin that cost him 10 years of his life.  That was despite his noble intentions. [Nowadays, if one feels that he can benefit others in a way that is contrary to halacha, he should always ask his Rav for advice. Sometimes extenuating circumstances may determine an alternate course of action that is still within the guidelines of halacha.]  The end does not justfy the means! The Rosh HaYeshiva zt”l used to say that the biggest moralists who are concerned about the World, shed the most blood. They believe that the end justifies the means. Thus, they will kill anyone who get in their way of helping the World.

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz zt”l gave two other examples of this idea. One is recorded in the Talmud (Brachos 10A). The prophet Yeshayahu came to King Chezkiyahu, telling him that he would soon die.  Yeshayahu told him that Hashem was upset that he did not get married and did not fulfill the mitzvah of having children. King Chezkiyahu felt that he had a very good reason not to marry. He foresaw that he would have a descendant, Menashe, whose actions would cause the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. King Chezkiyahu’s calculation was an error. He was obligated to follow the halacha and

marry, hoping to have children. That was his mitzvah! As to what his descendant would do, that was Hashem’s “worry”. Again, we see that our obligation is to follow the halacha.  We must “let” Hashem concern Himself with what happens in His world. [King Chizkiyahu davened to Hashem with intensity, did teshuvah and did not die at this time.]

The Midrash (Braishis 61:6) gives a third example. Hashem blessed our forefather Avraham with the power to bless (see Rashi on Braishis 12:2 and 25:5).  According to one opinion, Avraham did not to give these blessings to his son, Yitzchak, even though the brachos meant so much for the future of the Jewish People. Avraham felt that that it would not be proper to give these brachos only to Yitzchak but not to his other children, Yishmoel and the sons of Ketura (see the Matnos Kehuna on the Midrash). Avraham felt that the end does not justify the means and it would not be proper to give the powerful blessings to one of his children if that would hurt the feelings of his other children. Avraham did not want to give the brachos to Yitzchak because he foresaw that the wicked Esau would descend from him. Avraham felt that halacha determined that he should not give the blessings. Then how would Yitzchak receive them? Avraham said to himself, Hashem runs the World. If Hashem desires Yitzchak to have the blessings, then He Himself will give them to Yitzchak. That is what happened and eventually, Hashem did give the blessings to Yitzchak.

The Midrash illustrates Avraham’s dilemma with a parable. A king hired someone to tend to his orchard. In the orchard there were two trees intertwined with one another. One of those trees produced a life-giving potion while the other one produced a deadly poison. The hired hand was in a dilemma. If he watered and tended to the good tree, the poisonous tree would also flourish. If he would not tend to it, then both trees would die. He decided to do nothing and let the owner of the orchard decide what to do. Similarly, Avraham did not pass down the blessings to Yitzchak. He decided to let Hashem, the “owner of the World”, figure out the solution.

Hashem wants us to follow His will, to follow halacha.  This is true even if we feel that we know better and can achieve better results if we do not follow halacha. We should trust that the Creator and Maintainer of the World has a plan and can take care of things even better than we can.




Parshas Pinchas: Sometimes We Love, Sometimes We Mourn!

Parshas Pinchas

Sometimes We Love, Sometimes We Mourn!


“The daughters of Tzelafchad, who was the son of Chefer, the son of Gilad, the son of Machir, the son of Menashe from the family of Menashe, son of Yosef—came forward. …”. (Bamidbar 27:1)


Throughout our history, Jews have always loved and longed for Eretz Yisroel, the Land of Israel. Many Jews throughout our history made the perilous land and sea journey to immigrate to Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (born in Spain in the year 1080) was one of those who made this dangerous journey.  He is known for his beautiful poetry which is included in our machzorim and in the kinnos that we recite on Tisha B’Av. Many of his poems showed his intense love of and longing for Eretz Yisroel.

In this parsha, the Jews were counted in order to determine how to divide the Land of Israel. After hearing that Eretz Yisroel would only be given to the males (Ba’al Haturim), the daughters of Tzelafchad approached Moshe. They presented a well-thought out argument (see Midrash) that they should inherit the portion that their father would have received had he been alive. Moshe presented their case to Hashem.  Hashem said that they were correct and can inherit a portion in the Land of Israel.

Rashi explains what motivated the daughters of Tzelafchad to protest. The pasuk (Bamidbar 27:1) tells us their genealogy. They were the daughters of Tzelafchad, the son of Chefer, who was the son of Gilad, who was the son of Machir, who was the son of Menashe. The pasuk adds that they were from the family of Menashe, the son of Yosef.  The Torah just said that they came from Menashe. Why does the Torah add those seemingly extra words? Rashi says that the Torah is explaining their motivation. They were not motivated by the desire for material gain but by their passionate love for Eretz Yisroel. They loved the land as did their ancestor, Yosef Hatzadik. The Malbim concurs and adds that half of the tribe of Menashe was willing to accept their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River, outside the Land of Israel. The daughters of Tzelafchad could easily have taken their inheritance from that land. However, because of their burning love for Eretz Yisroel, they wanted to join the other half of the tribe of Menashe in the Land of Israel. This part of shevet Menashe loved Eretz Yisroel and only wanted an inheritance there. This is what the pasuk means. Bnos Tzelafchad were “from the family of Menashe”, from the half of shevet Menashe who passionately loved Eretz Yisroel just as Yosef Hatzadik had loved Eretz Yisroel.

Nowadays, throughout our prayers we beg Hashem to restore The Land of Israel to its former glory. We ask Hashem to restore the holy city of Jerusalem, together with the third and eternal Beis HaMikdash (speedily in our days).

We mourn daily for the destruction of the first and second Beis HaMikdash. During these upcoming Three Weeks (from the 17th of Tamuz until the ninth of Av) we go into a greater state of mourning. Our mourning intensifies as we approach the 9th of Av when both Temples were destroyed.

The great French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte was once was traveling through a small Jewish town in Europe.  He entered a synagogue and saw an incredible sight.  Men and women were sitting on the floor on small stools, holding candles and weeping, while reading from books.  Napoleon wondered what misfortune had happened to make the people so sad.  A French Jewish officer explained that the Jewish people gathered once a year to fast and pray on the day that marks the destruction of the Jewish people’s two Temples.  The same scene in this town is happening in all Jewish communities. Napoleon wondered how long ago the Temples were destroyed. When he heard that it was over 2,000 years, Napoleon said that a nation that cries and fasts for over 2,000 years for their land and Temple will surely be rewarded with the rebuilding of their Temple.

Those of us who sincerely mourn the destruction and limit our pleasures in the memory of the destruction are promised that we will be privileged to rejoice in the final rebuilding of the Third Beis Hamikdash. Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 66:10) said, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all of you who love her. Rejoice with her with great rejoicing, all of you who mourn for her”. Why did Isaiah the prophet add the word “great”? Rabbi Yaakob Kranz zt”l, known as the Dubno Maggid, answered this question in the form of a moshol (see The Maggid of Dubno and his Parables by Benno Heinemann).

A man went on a long ocean voyage to a far-off land. After many months, his family heard that he had drowned when his ship sunk. The man’s wife and children were devastated. His friends were deeply shocked. Even those who barely knew him were stunned. As months passed, the memory of him grew fainter. His immediate family, however, never stopped mourning for him. One day, the door to his home opened and he walked in! The news of his arrival spread through the town. Those people who had barely known him were happy for his family that he was alive. His close friends were overjoyed. His family were happy beyond words. Those who had mourned the most when they thought he had died, were the happiest now that he had returned alive.

Similarly, Jews, who love Eretz Yisroel and mourn the Beis HaMikdash, will rejoice when the Third Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt. The degree of the rejoicing will depend on the degree of their sorrow about the destruction. Those who feel sorrow, now, will rejoice, then. Those who mourn intensely, will indeed rejoice, “with great rejoicing”.  



Parshas Chukas-Balak: Be Happy With What You Have While You Have It!

Parshas Chukas-Balak

Be Happy With What You Have While You Have It!


“All the Jewish People arrived at the wilderness of Tzin…. Miriam died there and was buried there…” (Bamidbar 20: 1,2)


Reuven and Sara Shapiro were brother and sister.  Reuven was 11 years old and Sara was 9. Early one morning they were awakened by the sound of their doorbell ringing. They ran to their bedroom window to see who was at the door. A truck driver looked up and told them that he had a delivery for them. Reuven and Sara noticed that his truck had huge pictures of cookies and doughnuts on it. They ran down and opened the door. [When I tell this story at JEP Shabbatons, I always warn the children that in real life, they should never open their door for a stranger]. The driver returned to his truck and brought in boxes and boxes, which he put down in the living room. Reuven and Sara started opening the boxes. They could not believe what they were looking at. There were doughnuts of every flavor along with all varieties of cookies, cakes, and pies. They called all their friends to join them in eating these yummy desserts. They shared it throughout the day. Early the next morning, they were awakened by the sound of a doorbell ringing. They ran to their bedroom window to see who was at the door. A truck driver looked up and told them that he had a delivery for them. Reuven and Sara noticed that his truck had huge pictures of games and electronics. The driver brought in boxes and boxes, which he put down in the living room. Reuven & Sara opened boxes full of the latest board and electronic games. They called all their friends to play with all the games.  Meanwhile, they finished eating the delicious cakes from the day before. The next morning, the same thing happened.  This time the truck driver delivered different flavors of ice cream together with frozen desserts. The routine repeated itself for two weeks. Each day, Reuven and Sara excitedly opened their front door. Two weeks later, Reuven had some friends sleeping over at his house. Early the next morning, the doorbell starting ringing. Reuven & Sara heard it and turned over in bed. Reuven’s friends went to the window and saw the truck outside. When they told Reuven, he yawned and told them to have the driver put the boxes in the living room.

What happened? Why weren’t Reuven & Sara excited about the delivery this time? The answer is that they were already used to it coming.  They expected it. Therefore, it was no longer special and exciting. Hashem delivers the greatest gift to us every single morning. Hashem gives us life, by returning our neshama, our soul daily. We should be excited beyond belief, every morning.  We should thank Hashem with excitement, each time.  But many of us do not. Why? We are used to it.  We expect it. It is not new to us, so the excitement has worn off.

The Jewish People, in the desert, had their needs miraculously taken care of. For forty years they received water daily, via a well that traveled with them. Three million people and their animals had their needs taken care of. Yet, not once in those 40 years does the Torah record that they showed appreciation for the miraculous well (Kli Yakar Bamidbar 21:17).

Furthermore, the Torah tells us (Bamidbar20:1) that Moshe’s sister, Miriam died. The very next pasuk says that the Jewish People no longer had water. Rashi connects these 2 psukim, teaching us that the well which supplied water for these 40 years was in the merit of Miriam.  When Miriam died, the well no longer provided the Jewish People with water. The Kli Yakar asks why the well stopped supplying water. He answers that it was as a punishment for the Jews’ lack of appreciation for Miriam. They did not fully appreciate her for the great person that she was and for the great merit that she had earned. Apparently, the Kli Yakar says, the Jews did not eulogize Miriam properly and her memory was quickly forgotten. [After Moshe and Aharon died, it says that the Jewish People cried. It does not say that after Miriam’s death.] As a result, the water stopped flowing. Then the Jewish People realized Miriam’s greatness and that they had received this miraculous source of water only in her merit.

When things are going well, we may tend to take these blessings for granted. We may not fully appreciate our good fortune, as we come to expect it. We may not thank Hashem, as we should, for each kindness that He bestows upon us. Sometimes, only after the blessing is taken away, do we fully appreciate it, retroactively. This trait of not fully appreciating what we have also applies to our relationships with people. Sometimes we do not fully appreciate our loved ones until they are no longer with us.


Be happy with what you have while you still have it! Do not wait until it is gone to appreciate it. Constantly thinking about all the good that Hashem does for you will help you to value it and not take it for granted. Also, do likewise and appreciate your loved ones while they are still with you.