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Torah Sparks

June 2, 2001 - 5761

Prepared by Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg
Temple Sinai, Hollywood, FL

Edited by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, PhD
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Num. 4:21-7:89; Hertz Chumash, p. 586
Triennial Cycle III: Num. 7:1-89; Hertz Chumash, p. 596
Haftarah: Judges 13:2-25; Hertz Chumash, p. 602

(4:21-49) The continuation of the census of the Levites, and their responsibilities in serving at the Tabernacle.

(5:1-4) A short list of certain ritually impure individuals who were to be exiled from the camp.

(5:5-10) Laws of theft and restitution.

(5:11-31) The laws of the unfaithful wife, the sotah, and the testing ordeal to which she was subjected.

(6:1-21) The laws of the Nazirite, a person who took a vow to accept extra restrictions upon himself: abstaining from alcoholic beverages, not shaving or cutting his hair, and other extra ritual purity restrictions.

(6:22-27) The Priestly Blessing.

(7:1-89) The Nesi'im, the chieftains of each of the 12 tribes, bring a joint gift, carts, and oxen for the transportation of the Tabernacle when it is disassembled for travel. Then, on 12 consecutive days, they each bring identical gifts for the Tabernacle.

Theme 1: The Past and Future of a Present

On the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings, as well as the altar and its utensils. When he had anointed and consecrated them, the chieftains of Israel, the heads of ancestral houses, namely, the chieftains of the tribes, those who were in charge of enrollment, drew near and brought their offering before the Lord:... (Num. 7:1-3)

  1. Rab expounded the following: Something that has never happened from the time the world was created until then took place on that very day. From the time when the world was created until that moment the Shechinah had never dwelt in this lower world. It only did this from the moment when the Tabernacle was erected and afterward. For this reason it says, "Vayachi" because it was an innovation. Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai said it was something that, having already been in existence, had ceased and now returned to its previous state. Actually, from the beginning of the world's creation the Shechinah had dwelt in this lower world; as it is said "And they heard the voice of the Lord G-d walking in the Garden" (Gen. 3:8). But once the Shechinah departed at the time when Adam sinned, it did not descend again until the Tabernacle had been erected. It is for this reason that the expression Vayachi" is used, signifying that something which had already been in existence, and had ceased for many years, returned to its original state. (The word is a combination of a past with a future.) (Numbers Rabbah 7:6)
  2. There was woe (vay chaya). Who was it that exclaimed "Woe"? Rabbi Abin said: The Holy One, blessed be He, if the expression may be permitted, exclaimed, "Woe!" How may this be illustrated? By the case of a king who had a cantankerous lady as his wife, so he told her, "Make me a purple robe." As long as she was busy with that robe she never grumbled. After a time she finished the robe and gave it to the fuller, who made it ready, and she brought it to the king. When the king beheld her, he began to cry, "Woe! Oh that she return not to her cantankerousness (now that the robe is finished)!" In the same way you find that Israel was constantly muttering.... So the Holy One, blessed be He, requested that they should make a Sanctuary for Him;... You find that during the whole period in which they were occupied with the work of the Tabernacle they did not mutter. But as soon as they had finished the work of the Tabernacle the Holy One, blessed be He, began to cry aloud, "Woe! Oh that they murmur not again, as they did in the past!" (This is the first of many times in this Midrash that the Rabbis claim "Vayachi" is an exclamation of woe.) (Numbers Rabbah 7:7)

Discussion Sparks:

The Rabbis were sometimes a bit ambiguous about the completion of the Tabernacle. Certainly a lot to be joyous about happened on that day. But recall that after the Tabernacle was finished and erected and the priests installed, Nadav and Abihu died offering a strange fire. Also, the princes bring gifts, but there appears to be no quick acceptance of them by G-d. So too - have you ever had a day that should have been a celebration and then it turned from happiness, to sadness? Have you ever completed a long held dream only to find it is not the dream you thought it would be? Do we, as a people, take our happiest moments and often temper them by finding a cloud that comes with every silver lining? At a Jewish wedding, we break a glass. What does all of this tell you about the "personality "of the Jewish People?

Theme 2 To Everyone a "Gateway" to Prayer

On the second day, Nethanel son on Zuar, chieftain of Issachar made his offering... That was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar. (Num. 7:18 & 22)

  1. Following each set of offerings, the Torah says "this was the offering of..." as though to say, "since he brought it with this unique pious idea in mind, he gained Hashem's complete acceptance." These words constitute, as it were, the Divine seal of approval placed on each offering. The entire chapter of the leader's offerings is of great importance because it provides us with a fundamental principle regarding prayers now that they have replaced the sacrificial services in the temple. Just as the twelve leaders were, because of their sincerity and fervor, able to put their individual stamp on their offerings and all were eventually accepted, so too with prayer. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria states that all prayers are acceptable to Hashem if said with sincerity and devotion. In effect, there are twelve gateways to Heaven, just as there are twelve tribes, each created by Hashem. (Teshuvot Hatam Sofer on Orech Hiyyim 15,16; quoted by Elie Munk, The Call of The Torah p.78-79)
  2. The Zidizover told the following story: Rabbi Joseph Caro was accustomed to express a holy intention in words before doing anything. Once he arose in the night for a drink of water, but he could remember no words of holiness to utter. Finally he said, "As I am about to quench my thirst with this water, may it please the Lord to still the thirst of plants and trees." This prayer was accepted and rain, which was sorely needed, came down in abundance. (Peer ve'Chavod p. 44a in L.I. Newman, "The Hasidic Anthology;" p. 335)

Discussion Sparks:

There are "12 gateways" to prayer. What names would you give to each "gateway" - to each entry way to genuine prayer? What do you think about Caro's approach of making our personal needs and desires an opportunity to pray on behalf of others?

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