Illuminations #208, Sivan, 5779, Parshat Bamidbar

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Illuminations #208, Sivan, 5779, Parshat Bamidbar

Torah Gems

On Shavuot, the Torah was given to the Jewish people. The entire creation of the universe was dependent on this occasion. If this didn’t take place, Hashem would not have allowed the world to continue to exist. All of this was contingent on the Jewish people saying “yes” to Hashem’s proposal of accepting the Torah. Our positive response justified the continued existence of the world. Our Sages all ask an obvious question: If the giving of the Torah occurred on this day, why isn’t the holiday called the holiday of Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah? In our prayers, we call it the time of Matan Torah, but in the Torah itself, it is called Shavuot. Why isn’t the holiday named after the main event? Rabbi Nisan Alpert explains that there is an important idea hidden in this question. We know that the Torah is written in a scroll. This is referred to as the Written Torah. There is another part of the Torah called the Oral Torah. This part was transmitted orally from Hashem to Moshe Rabeinu to pass on to future generations. The Oral Torah contains all the explanations of the Written Torah and all of the Halachah, Jewish law, essential to the fulfillment of the Torah. The fact that the Torah was given on Shavuot is not written anywhere in the written Torah. In order to find out what happened on this day, one must refer to the Oral Torah. Only in the Oral Torah is it told to us when the Torah was given. Hashem wanted to teach us how important the Oral Torah is. He kept the name of the holiday ambiguous in order to force us to refer to the Oral Torah. This teaches us that the Oral Torah is more important than the Torah written in the scroll. Our Talmud and our Shulchan Aruch, which are part of the Oral Torah, are the most important parts of our Torah. The name Shavuot should be our constant reminder of the importance of the Oral Torah. We as Jews accept the Oral Torah; there are those who reject it. How fortunate we are to have received the entire Torah!

Parsha Pearls

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai” (Bemidbar 1:1).

The Midrash states on this verse: “Whoever does not make himself open and free like the wilderness will not be able to acquire wisdom and Torah.” This refers to having the trait of humility which enables a person to learn from everyone and to teach everyone. A person with arrogance will only be willing to learn from someone if he feels that it is fitting to his honor to do so. If, for example, someone much younger than he has Torah knowledge that he is lacking, he will not ask that person to teach him, for he feels that would lower his status. If there is something he does not understand, he will be very careful before he asks anyone to explain it to him. He has to size up the situation to see if it is fitting for him. Similarly, he will only be willing to teach someone if he feels that he will gain honor from teaching that person. But the humble person’s thoughts are solely on gaining Torah knowledge. He is willing to learn from anyone who knows something that he does not, even though he might have much more overall Torah knowledge than the other person. Similarly, he wants to spread Torah knowledge to anyone he can. He does not focus on his own ego but on gaining and sharing wisdom. (Growth through Torah)

Glimpses of Greatness

Once while giving a Shiur,  a student asked  Rav Yisrael Salanter  a very strong question which disproved the premise of the entire Shiur.  Rav Yisrael thought for a few minutes, and then he looked at the student who asked the question and told him, “You are right. I have no answer to that question.” He then closed the Gemara and ended the Shiur. After the Shiur he came over to his students and told them, “You should know that while I was thinking about that question, I had five different answers that I could have given. However, I didn’t feel that they were completely Emes, they were not entirely ‘true’. I thought to myself that it might be worth it to say one of these answers just to save my Shiur, but to do something unethical, when I have devoted my life to promote Mussar, would not be very ethical!”

Halacha Weekly

Q. If a Housemaid is alone in the house of a Jew, is there concern with Bishul Akum? [II-17-384]

A. Is one permitted to leave a non-Jewish maid alone when cooking food in a Jewish Home?  In general it is not permitted. However, Minchat Asher ( 2-51, R. Asher Weiss) writes that there are grounds to be lenient after the fact [if a maid is in the home alone]. Also, in a time of pressing need, even in the first instance (lechatechilah)it is permitted to leave a non-Jewish maid in the home alone. The reason is that since in our time it is not the custom of the maids to bring food that requires cooking [into the home], and they know it is forbidden  to use our dishes … as a professional she will not endanger her professional reputation by not following the house rules, and all considered we do not find a prohibition.

Igros Moshe (YD 1-61, 2-51) writes that it is prohibited before the fact (lechatechilah)to leave a non-Jewish lady alone in the home, because perhaps there is concern that she will cook for herself, and from time to time for the children. This is even if there is a Jewish women nearby who accepts on herself the work of cooking. In any event, there is still a concern that she will cook for herself. Furthermore, it is possible that sometimes the neighbor will not come on time, and the non-Jew will come to cook also for the children, and she does not know to be careful regarding prohibitions of meat with milk. There is a concern, too, that for herself, she may also bring forbidden meat. However, after the fact, if she does cook, there  is a basis to be lenient and to use the dishes she used after twenty four hours have passed because then  it is only a doubt on a matter decreed by the Rabbis [which is then involved] as is expressly stated in Ramah (YD 129-9)