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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Bamidbar

Parshat Bamidbar

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Bamidbar
2nd of Sivan, 5777 | May 27, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Efraim Stauber
Cheesecake on the Tree

The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16a) states that the world is judged at four times during the year: on Pesach for grain; on Shavuos for fruits of the tree; on Sukkos for water; on Rosh Hashanah, all of mankind passes in judgment before Hashem. Furthermore, explains R’ Yehudah, the Torah requires that we bring on Shavuos two loaves of bread, known as the Shtei HaLechem, in order that the fruits of the tree be blessed.

There is an obvious question when reading this Gemara. What does bread have to do with fruit? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to bring fruit so that the fruit will be blessed?

Rashi, noting this question, explains that R’ Yehudah’s rationale is consistent with his understanding that the “fruit” which Adam HaRishon partook of in Gan Eden was that of wheat (Sanhedrin 70b). Although bread no longer grows on trees, at one point it did. Obtaining bread, cake, cookies and cheesecake was as simple as plucking fruit off a tree. Why does wheat no longer grow on trees? It is due to the sin of Adam HaRishon (Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim #8). Subsequent to that time, the plentitude and abundance of the world’s produce diminished.

In light of this, it is odd that we would choose to bring an offering of bread on Shavuos and remind Hashem of Adam’s sin? Just as the Kohen Gadol did not don any gold on Yom Kippur when he entered the Holy of Holies so as to avoid evoking any memory of the sin of the Golden Calf (Rosh Hashanah 26a), the same should be true here. No bread offering should be brought at the expense of provoking our sinful past. Why doesn’t offering the Shtei HaLechem fly in the face of the Talmudic principle (ibid.), “The prosecutor cannot become the defender”?

Herein exists the key to unlocking the secret of Shavuos. There are two ways we can view the monumental event which took place on Har Sinai: we received the Torah or Hashem gave us the Torah. In the former case, the focus is on us as human beings embracing a relationship with the Torah. In the latter scenario, the emphasis is on Hashem in all His majesty and grandeur transmitting to us His Torah. While both are certainly true, with which perspective do we approach the Yom Tov of Shavuos?

As implied by the Torah’s description of Shavuos as “Zman Mattan Torahseinu,” that which is to be focused upon is the manner in which Hashem gives us the Torah. The essence of Shavuos is for us to perceive how and to what degree Hashem grants us His most cherished commodity. For this very reason, the custom amongst Klal Yisrael is to remain awake on the night of Shavuos. By doing so, we show that we are receiving the Torah in a way that does not make sense from a human perspective. If we would do that which logically makes sense, we would go to sleep on time. As we have it now, however, we are tired come Shavuos morning. But that is the point. By shunning sleep from our eyes, we seek to transcend our human limitations and act as g-dly people. We overcome the physical necessity of sleep and act in a manner akin to spiritual beings. We fulfill the Pasuk, “Angelic are you; you are all sons of the Most High” (Tehillim 82:26).

This underscores the reason why we bring the Shtei HaLechem bespeaking the glorious times of Adam HaRishon before his sin. At Har Sinai, Klal Yisrael reached that pristine level of spirituality Adam HaRishon attained prior to his sin. Transcending beyond the constricting dimensions of the physical, they entered a higher plane of living comparable to Adam. Our offering of the Shtei HaLechem takes us back to that world of Adam HaRishon where bread (and cheesecake) grew on trees and where the Torah we receive is on par with the Torah Hashem wishes to give to g-dly people. And that is the essence of Shavuos.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
My Daughter, Ruth

As Boaz is told by his servant overseeing the harvesters that Ruth, a young Moabite girl, has entered his field to harvest grain, he approaches her and says, “Hear me well, my daughter. Do not go to glean in another field, and do not leave here, but stay close to my maidens” (Ruth 2:8). The Midrash explains that Boaz told this to Ruth as the other harvesters had conspired to physically evict her from the field. Believing her to be a Moabite, they were vehemently opposed to her collecting from the field along with Jews. But Boaz reassured Ruth that she had nothing to worry about. She would be safe under his auspices as he was looking after her well-being.

As Ruth heard the kind-hearted words of Boaz, she bowed to the ground and said, “Why have I found favor in your eyes that you should take special note of me even though I am a foreigner?” (ibid. v.10). Herein lays the number one key ingredient in chinuch: noticing a student and giving him or her recognition. When Ruth felt that Boaz was especially looking after her and caring for her, she said, “You have comforted me…you have spoken to the heart of your maidservant…” (ibid. v.13).

How do you console someone who feels left out? When you see a child at risk, how do you open the conversation?

I was once asked by a parent, “What did you do to help my daughter? What is the template? You changed her whole life!” I said to her, “Look in Megillas Ruth. The Pasuk says that Ruth was comforted because Boaz spoke to her heart. He realized that she was special.” The key to parenting and chinuch is to making children feel cared for and special. “Rebbe loves me! Morah loves me!”

But how exactly did Boaz speak to Ruth’s heart? What did he say which so powerfully and effectively made her feel special?

One word – “Biti,” my daughter. Boaz’s opening words to Ruth say it all.

How different would it be if when a parent wished to call over his or her child, they would say, “My daughter, Miriam, come here right now! My son, Chaim, come here right now!” If the same parent would open a conversation with the words, “My daughter,” or “My son,” their feelings would change and their child’s response would likely be positively different.

But why in fact did Boaz give Ruth so much attention? What did he see in her that no one else did?

Boaz realized where she had come from and how much she had given up. She was a female Avraham Avinu. She left her homeland, her birthplace and her father’s house. She gave up everything and loyally clung to Naomi as the two of them journeyed to Eretz Yisrael.

Two people can be looking at the same facts and yet see worlds apart. The young men working on Boaz’s field saw Ruth and said, “She is a Moabite girl!” They negatively focused on Ruth’s past and shunned her for it. That was as far as they saw. But Boaz looked beyond. Boaz focused on Ruth’s positive qualities and noticed how far she had come to develop into who she was today. She was a Moabite princess and gave it all up to join the Jewish people! For the young men, Ruth’s background was something which stained her record; for Boaz, it was the greatest source of admiration and respect. That is the difference between the making of Mashiach and throwing a child over the fence.

I was once speaking to a boy who had been setting aside two minutes to learn every day. But it was for two minutes. Some time later, I again spoke to him and he told me, “Rabbi, you should know that I am now learning ten minutes a day.” Hearing this, I knew that he had improved, but I felt that he could do more.

But then he said something which caught me off guard. “Rabbi, why are you getting so bent out of shape? Look at the percentages. I am now learning five times as much as I was before!”

As he said this, it all of a sudden hit me. I realized how every person deserves to be looked at. You can say, “Ten minutes? Big deal!” Or you can say, “Ten minutes? You are on a mission. You are learning five times more than the last time we spoke. At this rate, if you keep on multiplying your time spent learning by five, you will soon reach a full day of learning! That’s amazing!”

That was how Boaz looked at Ruth. He didn’t see ten minutes; he saw “times five.” He saw how far she had come and thoughtfully addressed her as, “My daughter.” Boaz teaches us the proper way to look at a person, how we are to address them, and what it means to care for someone else when no one else does.

Rabbi Yehoshua Posen
History in Seconds

At the behest of Naomi, Ruth headed in the stealth of night to the threshing floor of Boaz, the respected leader of the generation. But Ruth was not simply on a pointless mission; she had something little, yet very important to ask of Boaz. “Will you marry me?”

Just imagine the scene. Boaz is the gadol hador, the esteemed leader of the Jewish people, and Ruth walks straight up to him with such a question at hand. While Ruth’s status as a Moabite princess was already determined to be a non-issue vis-à-vis marrying into the Jewish religion, why does Boaz have to be the one to do so? True, Ruth was a related cousin, but is that the only compelling reason to marry the greatest of men? Let Boaz say to Ruth, “I can write you a letter of recommendation and assist you in your shidduch resume, but why must you marry me?”

But look how Boaz responds:

“Stay the night, then in the morning, if he will redeem you, fine. But if he does redeem you, then I will redeem you…” (Ruth 3:13)

Boaz immediately tells Ruth that tomorrow morning he will spring into action. No delays. Tomorrow, he will inquire after Ploni Almoni and see if he intends to marry Ruth; and if he does not, Boaz himself will. And when will he marry Ruth? Not in six months, but tomorrow.

The Megillah later continues:

“Boaz, meanwhile, had gone up to the gate and sat down. Just then, the redeemer of whom Boaz had spoken passed by…” (ibid. 4:1)

The Midrash, expounding upon this Pasuk, explains that Ploni Almoni appeared right before Boaz the next morning. In the words of the Midrash, “Hashem would have brought him from one end of the world to the other in order that this tzaddik [i.e. Boaz] not be in pain.” Yet this is particularly troubling. Why is Boaz in pain; shouldn’t Ruth be the one undergoing emotional stress, not Boaz?

But that was exactly who Boaz was. He was someone who saw a problem and immediately reacted. “If Ruth needs to get married, I will not give myself a minute to rest. If Ploni Almoni will not marry her, I will.” Boaz realized what it means to take hold of a situation and seize the moment.

But the story does not end there.

Towards the end of the Megillah (4:17), we read how the neighborhood women named Ruth’s son. But since when do neighbors name a child? What happened to Boaz giving a name?

The commentaries explain that the very night Ruth conceived, Boaz passed away. Boaz was no longer around when his son was born. It was thus those who lived in the community who named the child.

Consider this for a moment. The great Boaz in the bat of an eye decided he would help Ruth. And then, when all other options were out of the question, he even complied to marry her. Within a span of hours, Boaz leaped into action and ensured Ruth future progeny. And then he died the next day.

Boaz’s swiftness ensured that Ruth had a great-grandchild named Dovid Hamelech. How different would the history of Klal Yisrael have been if Boaz would have said, “I am really sorry, but tomorrow is a busy day for me. I don’t think I’ll be able to help you.” Had Boaz said that, who can know what the rest of history would have looked like?

History is made during moments. Within minutes, the ancestry line of Dovid Hamelech was set into motion and guaranteed to last. But that is sometimes all it takes. It is precisely those seconds which seem so small and insignificant in life that change the course of the world. And that moment is right now.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Eytan Feiner

In Parshas Vayeitzei, the Torah relates how Yaakov Avinu beheld the spectacular dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder reaching heaven. On one occasion, a young girl asked Rav Hillel Wieder shlita why in fact the angels needed a ladder if they have wings anyway and can fly? Why was there any need for rungs? Rav Wieder replied that when it comes to spirituality, one must ascend slowly, rung by rung and step by step. One must continuously grow in his or her dedication to Yiddishkeit, yet it must be gradual and steady. The key to success is consistent commitment which is measured and moderated healthily and happily.

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