Illuminations #161, Sivan, 5778, Parshat Bamidbar

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Illuminations #161, Sivan 5778, Parshat Bamidbar

Torah Gems

B’nei Israel are ready to enter into the Promised Land and Hashem instructs Moshe to take another census of the people. Moshe is told, when the counting was to take place: “And with you shall be one man from each tribe…”. (1:4) There had to be a representative for every tribe present when his tribe was being counted. In the Book of Shemot a census was also taken as we read in the Portion of כִּי תִשָּׂא. There we find no mention of a tribal representative. Why the difference?

The first counting mentioned in the Book of Shemot in כִּי תִשָּׂא took place soon after the Shemot from Egypt. It did not matter what the population of every individual tribe was. The purpose was to know the total number of the People of Israel. There was no need for tribal representation.

The census in this week’s Portion had a different purpose. Here the reason for counting the tribes was to know its size and how much land was to be allocated for each tribe when the land was to be divided up amongst them. For this reason a representative of the tribe had to be present so that there be no dispute about its size.

In our daily dealings we must also be very mindful and careful to act in such a manner so as not to leave any doubt in someone’s mind about what we are discussing and what the appropriate facts are. This prevents later troubles and arguments.

Parsha Pearls

When Hashem instructs Moshe to take a census of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, he charges him to appoint a representative from every tribe to serve as part of the census takers. This individual had to be: “ A man who is a leader of his father’s household.” (1:4)

The word used to designate a leader of the household is “Rosh” which in Hebrew means head. Implied in this choice of word is a considerably noteworthy meaningful message. The leader should be the head of his family, that is, he is to be the guide and the one who sets the direction for his tribe.

This implies that he should not be chosen on the merits of his father or his inherited status. He must be a leader in his own merit. Too often we find people attain positions of leadership, not because they are capable or worthy of the position but because of who their family is or who they know. This can be disastrous if they really have no inherent ability.

 

Glimpses of Greatness

The Rebbe Shlomoh from Zvhil was known for his self-effacement. In his house, there were always cats and he himself would take care of all their food. It is told that once the Rebbe was lying in his bed, and he asked his servant to give him the book he used to learn before sleeping. The servant wondered, “What happened to the Rebbe, asking me to bring him the book? After all, every day the Rebbe would take it by himself and would not ask others anything he could do himself!” When the Rebbe noticed his servant’s wonder, he moved the blanket a little and showed him that at the end of the bed there was a cat, and that if he were to get up from the bed, she might wake up!

Halacha Weekly

Q. Do we permit one who says he is a kohen to read first from the Torah? [ I-EH1-418]

A. Rambam ( Hil. Isuriei Biah 20-13) writes that a person in the present time that says, “I am a kohen” is not believed, and we do not raise his status to that of a kohen based on his own words . We do not call him first to the Torah, he does not raise his hands to bless (the congregation), and he does not eat sanctified foods until there is a single witness for him (testifying he is a kohen). Maggid Mishneh (Ad. Loc. ) gives the reason for this ruling, saying that if he is called to the Torah first on the basis of himself (his own words), it will necessitate raising his status to these other things (which are Torah obligations) also on his own words. Shulchan Aruch[Even Haezer 50-1] rules like Rambam that he is not believed. The Ramah writes, however, “There are those opinions which say that he is believed to be [called] first to read the Torah and to raise his hands in blessing in the present day.”

Chelkat Mehchokek (Ad. Loc., R. Shabbatai ben Meir haKohen, Z”L ) raises a difficulty on the Ramah: “How can one rule that he is believed also for a matter which is a Torah obligation, for example raising hands in blessing?” In Yeshuot Yaakov he gives two answers: 1.) A person would not be so brazen to raise his hands publically [if he were really not a Kohen] and [he] is therefore believed to say he is a kohen.

2.) Since there is a mitzvah of the kohen to bless, and he claims he is a kohen, and the mitzvah obligation falls upon him, it is not in our power to prevent him from performing his mitzvah.