Sunday, May 23, 2010

Parshat Naso: extreme reactions and normal behavior

Extreme Reactions and Normal Behavior

Parshat Naso

In this weeks parsha we find the portion regarding the sotah woman, and following in close proximity is the portion regarding someone who accepts upon himself the oath of the nazir.

Rashi brings the famous statement regarding why the portion of the nazir follows immediately after that of the sotah saying that someone who sees the woman in her shameful state of the progress of dealing with a sotah will swear himself off of wine - as a reaction in order to not be subject to a similar degrading fate.

It seems clear to me that this reaction is just that - a reaction to a tragic event. An extreme reaction at that, though called for under the circumstances. The only reason he became a nazir, the only reason he swore off the wine, is because of what he saw happen to the woman who teetered down the road of being a sotah, having begun it with an innocent sip at the shabbos table or in a kiddush in shul, a flirtatious nod of the head and flip of the hair.

Being that this is a mandated reaction, one can safely assume that normally we should not be swearing off the wine. We are meant to be drinking and enjoying wine (in moderation of course).

Why? If we know that wine has such a dangerous potential, if it can lead to the tragic demise of what was probably an innocent, naive woman, perhaps we should be rejecting wine completely! Why start with wine when it can lead to such a disastrous end? Ban the whole thing - all alcoholic drinks should be off limits. Yet we know that wine is something that we completely embrace. We use it to sanctify all our holiest days, we are told to drink it on holidays , either as a symbol of or as a catalyst to, a sense of joy and happiness.

Why? So it has some good and importance, but it has such a disastrous potential - we should reject it outright?!

Clearly we see that the correct way is not one of rejection. Just because something has the potential for bad, and to be used for bad, is not a reason to reject it. We are told to use wine and to enjoy it, despite its potential. We are meant to enjoy the pleasures of the world, and use them to sanctify the world and Gods name, and even if just for enjoying the physical bounty of our world. The fact that such a bad potential also exists is a reason to work harder to make sure you use and enjoy it properly and don't end up with the fate of the wrong end of the potential, but it is not a reason to reject it outright.

Sure, there is room for the sometimes necessary extreme reaction of rejecting it because of its negative potential, but that is only on the rare occassion, for the person who saw the "sotah b'kilkulah" and needs to somehow react in order to properly cope with what he saw - not for the average person. And even for the person who saw the sotah and needed to reject the wine, it was only a short term rejection.

The same is true with all the pleasures of the world. They might have the potential for bad, but that is not a reason to reject them. That is a reason to embrace them and use them carefully, for good.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

B'Shalach: Drying up the Sea

Bshalach: Shedding light on the Splitting of the Sea

In Sefer Yehoshua in 2:10, Rahav is talking to the two slaves Yehoshua had sent. She is describing how they know the Jews are going to take over the land. Rahav says "for we heard that Hashem dried out the waters of the Yam Suf before you, when you left Egypt".

I wonder - does this statement by Rahav shed any light on to how the actual splitting of the sea went down? Can we rely on her statement to understand the splitting of the sea? Perhaps she heard wrong? Perhaps the news media outlets got the details inaccurately? Or maybe this is how it went down - rather than moving the waters to the side, the water in the middle (on the created paths) dried up leaving a path...

What do you think?

B'Shalach: Money makes you insane

Parshat B'Shalach: Money makes you insane


Pharoah had had enough of the Jews and the trouble they brought with them. He finally agreed to let them go.

Now that they are gone, and he sees they are not coming back, Pharoah decides to chase them down. Not because he wants them back - he doesn't (according to Rashi in 14:5, at least) - all he wants is the valuables they took with them.

In verses 6 and 7, which is still before Hashem hardens his heart, he decides to chase them down. The pasuk says he gathered all the chariots in the country, including 600 top level chariots, and filled them with his officers.

I don't know if this was the whole Egyptian army, or just part of it. It is at least a significant portion. Add to this the fact they they were still licking their wounds form the plagues - a lot of people died in the Plague of the Firstborn, they might be weak from lack of food as crops had been destroyed and cattle had died in plagues. They are in a pretty prone condition and weakened state.

Yet Pharoah decides to go with a strong force to chase down a bunch of slaves for some jewels. I would even dare say that this was not a great amount, relative to what Egypt still had - we see by the splitting of the sea that they had brought tremendous amounts of valuables with them.

Egypt is in an extremely weakened state, and very prone. They had been the leaders of the world. there must have been other countries chomping at the bit waiting for this opportunity to attack and take over control of such a powerful country.

yet Pharoah leaves Egypt largely unprotected and vulnerable. Just to chase down some slaves to retrieve some money? It doesn't make sense.

I would suggest that this shows us how money can drive a person insane and make him think irrationally.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and the Artscroll biography

The Torah repeats the story of Eliezer looking for a wife in great detail. Rashi tells us that from this we learn how beloved the simple, mundane, talk of even the slaves of the forefathers is more beloved to Hashem than even the Torah of the future generations.

Why? Why is the talk of the slaves so beloved to Hashem? What is so special about what Eliezer said that we dedicate so much space to his words, more so than the Torah itself later?

There is obviously something very special about Eliezer's words and conversation. If you look at the whole story, the whole conversation, you will see that Eliezer was imbued with a level of emuna that we rarely find in any person.

Avraham gave Eliezer a job - to find a wife for Yitzchak. He did not tell him how to look or what to do. Just to do it.

Yet the whole method selected by Eleiezer, a simple Canaanite slave, was based on how Hashem would help him find that woman. Nothing was done without basing it on Hashem.

A simple slave. A Canaanite from the people Avraham refused to trust. Yet Eliezer had, and described, this amazing level of emuna.

All too often our torah, the torah of the children, as too academic. I once heard a quote from a rav that a yeshiva bochur nowadays, growing up in our yeshiva system, could learn many pages of gemara, finish many tractates, spend many years learning the torah, yet never once think about Hashem.

But the talk of the slaves of the forefathers, a simple slave, is more beloved.

That is why it repeats the story of Eliezer a second time in full detail. To tell us that we can, we should, learn from Eliezer about emuna. That is what we need before we worry about anything else. The emuna is the basis for the Torah of the Children, and that we get from even a simple slave like Eliezer.

Just looking at Avraham's level of emuna might not teach us this. Avraham was great. Looking to him for a lesson is like reading an ArtScroll biography of a great rabbi. You cannot really relate to it, because the picture painted is just in a different world. Yet a slave with this level of emuna? That is something we can learn from. if a slave can have such emuna, for sure we can aim for it.

this dvar torah was said at my sons bar mitzvah - Parshat Chayei Sarah 5770

Chayei Sarah: Responsibility

In Parshat Chayei Sarah we find the Torah going through great length and detail in relating the story of how Eliezer, servant of Avraham, searched for a wife for Yitzchak. Not only does it go through unusually lengthy detail in relating the story, it repeats it a second time also in great length and detail, as Eliezer reviews the events for Lavan, Rivkah's brother.

Rashi quotes a saying by Rav Acha that this shows us how beloved the simple talk of the servants of the forefathers were to Hashem, much more so than even the actual Torah of the future generations.

But still, I ask, why spend so much time describing these events in such great detail? No matter how beloved Eliezer was, there are other important lessons that can be taught to us in that amount of space. If it reviewed it in such detail, it must be teaching something.

It must be that the Torah is telling us that we can even look to the slaves of the forefathers for lessons in how we should be living and behaving.

Eliezer said, when relating to Lavan, that, after Avraham appointed him to the job of searching for a wife, he had responded to Avraham - what do I do if I find a woman and she chooses to not come back with me to marry Yitzchak. Rashi explains that Eliezer had a daughter and he wanted to propose her hand in marriage for Yitzchak. He was suggesting that if he cannot find a wife, perhaps Avraham would consider his own daughter as a wife, even though they were from Canaan.

Even without it being his own daughter, surely he wanted to marry Yitzchak to a neighbor or a cousin or friend. He wanted to be released from his oath and suggest a Canaanite girl.

Despite the conflict of interests in which Eliezer found himself, he still accepted the job which Avraham had appointed him to. And Avraham trusted him to fulfill it faithfully.

The torah repeats the story of Eliezer in such great detail because it shows us that despite Eleiezer's personal preference, and despite his conflict of interests, Eliezer had accepted upon himself a certain responsibility - he made a commitment - and he put aside his personal issues and fulfilled his commitment.

I said this dvar torah at my sons bar mitzvah shabbos on Parshat Chayei Sarah 5770. I concluded the dvar torah by adding that if there is one thing I hope we have taught you while we were raising you, it is that idea of commitment and responsibility.
Sometimes you have to do things that are less than pleasant, that conflict with other things you find important, that present you with a dilemma. Life is not always easy, and often a job you get is not exactly what you want or find to be in your best interests.

But when you accept a responsibility, and commit to doing something, we can look at Eliezer and see that you have to put aside your personal issues and fulfill your commitment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Parshat Va'Eira: no unnecessary bad words

Parshat Va'eira

In 6:11-12, Hashem tells Moshe that he should go to Pharoah and tell him to send out My people from his land. Moshe responds that the Jews did not listen to me, so how will Pharoah listen to me, and I have [uncircumcised] blemished lips.

Then the Torah goess a bit off topic and describes some of the lineage of some of the fmailies of the tribes.

Then the Torah gets back on topic and repeats the last conversation between Hashem and Moshe and then moves on.

Rashi explains that the reaso why it repeats that last conversation is because that is the normal thing to do. After going off-topic, when getting back on-topic it first repeats the last item and then goes forward.

But what did the Torah repeat? In 6:29-30 Hashem said to Moshe to go speak to Pharoah, and Moshe said to Hashem how will Pharoah listen to me, as I have uncircumcised lips.

According to Rashi that it is repeating the last conversation, why did it leave out the part of Moshe comparing the Jews not listening to Pharoah potentially not listening? That was the basis for his assumption that Pharoah would not listen, so why leave that part out?

I was thinking that perhaps, while it was necessary in the actual conversation for Moshe to make his point by comparing it to the jews not listening, in essence that is really a complaint against the jews. Sure they were overworked, impatient, frustrated, and did not listen to him for good reason. No time for false hope. no energy to get worked up over aanother likely false start. etc. But the fact is it was a sort of complaint that the jews did not listen to him.

So, while it was necessary at the time for Moshe to say it, and therefore it got relayed in the Torah as part of the conversation, but the second time when it is just repeating to get back on topic, there is no longer a need to say that aspect of the ocnversation. The point was already made. No need to repeat a complaint against the Jews.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Va'Yigash: The first message

Parshat Va'Yigash

In 45:9, Yosef finally can't hold back any longer and just has to tell them who he is. He tells them, and then he says, "Go up quickly to my father and tell him that God has made me a king in Egypt. Go quickly, do not delay."

That is the first message he sends? Not "Tell my father I am alive"?

If you heard your friend was in a car accident, and you heard he died in the crash. Suddenly 20 years later you get an email from his saying "Long time no speak. Update - I am president of a major corporation." that would be strange. At that point, you could care less about what job and title he holds. You first want to hear "I am alive." - you want to hear how he survived, what happened, etc.

Yaakov at this point would not care what position Yosef is holding. He would want to hear "I am alive". He would want to hear what happened, how he survived, etc. Only later would he be interested in what Yosef is up to and how he earns a living.

Why is this the message, and specifically the first message, Yosef sends to his father?

I think Yosef is really sending a message within the message. i think he is telling his father that what happened along the way is not important, becuase this was the ultimate goal. Hashem made me king in Egypt so I would be in place to protect the family. Hashem did whatever he did to save me the past 22 years because I was meant to be king. Dad, you can ignore the past 22 years - that was all for the purpose of my being here today as king of Egypt.

The first message is not specifically that he is king, but that his whole life, his whole time away, has been directed by God up to this moment and place. And that is the message that was important for him to send to his father.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ki Seitzei: honesty

Parshat Ki Seitzei

In 25:15 it is talking about keep honest weights and scales. The passuk says "So that you will extend your days on the land that I have given you".

Why does your fair scales and weights affect the life in Eretz Yisrael? What is the connection between the two? Yes, the next passuk calls it an abomination, but the Torah does not punish us with being thrown out of Eretz Yisrael for transgressing other sins called abomination? Why this? Why not just say it is an abomination so don't do it?

The warning, as it is given, shows us how serious the issue of honesty and fairness is. Whether you keep honest scales or not is something nobody else will ever know. It is something you have to have your own integrity about.

If you set out to deceive others by keeping dishonest scales, and they will never know about it, you are undermining the foundation of society. For that, for living lives of dishonesty, where we make others think we are being honest (which makes it much worse), we lose our right to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shoftim: pointless killing

Parshat Shoftim

In Perek 21, it discusses the concept of Egla Arufa - a person was found dead outside a city and the elders have to bring a calf to the nahal, kill it by breaking its neck and say they did not spill the blood of the man.
What does killing a calf have to do with this mans death? We find killing for a korban, killing for food, killing for punishment - but since when do we kill something, specifically in a way it cannot then be eaten, for no specific reason?

Whenever you take a life, whenever you kill (let's talk about killing an animal not a person), it affects you in some way. True, the killing is allowed, and even required, but it still affects you to spill the blood and take a living being and kill it. Perhaps it makes you consider the fraily of life, perhaps it makes you consider the necessity to repent (as it should when bringing a korban), perhaps other thoughts would be aroused. But it somehow affects you.

When you kill this calf, it has to affect you. Even more so because there is no direct reason this calf is being killed - it is not being eaten, it is not being punished for something it did wrong, it is not being offered as a korban. The elders will be affected by the killing of this calf.

And that is the desired goal. They will see the killing of this calf and consider what a waste of a life. They will regard the useless, pointless loss and take it to heart. They will compare it to the loss of the person's life, that it too was useless and pointless, and only happened simply because they did not treat him properly (escorting him, as chazal say).

They will learn the lesson, by "pointlessly" killing this calf, that people need to be treated with some base level of respect.

Re'aih: a blessing for nothing special

Parshat Re'aih

In 15:18 it says that when you release the servant, it should not be difficult for you... and Hashem will bless all that you do".

Why? Why should you be blessed for letting him go? You bought him for 6 years and the 6 years is up. He is a free man. Why do you deserve a blessing for this?

Some meforshim say, including Rav Hirsch, that this blessing is not referring to this passuk, rather to the previous passuk of drilling his ear, that you will get the blessing...

Not to argue with the meforshim, but to take it more along the actual pshat - the passuk says the blessing on the verse of not feeling bad about letting him go. I think the Torah is telling us an important lesson - that even though it is not up to us, even though it is something we have to do, we still might not want to do it.

It is very natural that the owner will feel bad - he has gotten close to the servan perhaps, he has gotten used to having a sevrant take care of his needs, etc. Even though he has to let him go, he might feel bad about it. He might even try to prevent it, or convince the servant to sign on for more time, or maybe not at all but still feel bad abou tit.

The Torah is giving the blessing to the owner for, despite the natural feelings, not doing anything to prevent the slave from leaving.

Eikev: one way or the other

Parshat Eikev

In Perek 9, Moshe tells the nation that they should not think it is because they are so worthy that is the cause of Hashem choosing them and to place them in Eretz Yisrael. He then goes on to remind them of all the bad things they have done and all the ways they have upset Hashem.

I think the lesson being given here is an important one. It is similar to the way Moshiach can come. The passuk says "Be'ito Achishena" and chazal explain that as indicating their are two ways moshiach can coem - either because we are so worthy and then his arrival will be hastened or despite our not being worthy, and then he will come at a certain time and we will experience certain trials and tribulations.

The same thing here. Moshe is telling them don't let it get to your head. Don't think this validates your behavior until now. There are two ways this can go down. Either you can be good, and then your migration into Israel will be smooth and simple, or you can be pains in the neck and then your migration will be difficult.

It is going to happen anyway. You might as well get on the train and make the trip smoothly rather than difficult..
Time to catch up with posts I never posted... sorry for the delays...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Vaeschanan: 2 parts to a mitzva

Parshat Va'eschanan

In 7:1-3 the Torah commands us to wipe out the nations already residing in the Land of Israel. It then commands us to not allow them to continue living there, and to not intermarry with them....

If we already have to wipe them out, then why is it necessary to have secondary commandments of not letting them buy property and not intermarrying?

It is true that if we would fulfill our obligation of wiping out these nations, then the secondary commandments will have become moot and pointless. The problem is if we do not fulfill our obligations and we do not wipe them out completely. The Torah seems to be predicting that we will not fulfill ourobligations so it is letting us know what the natural results of such inaction will be.

If we let them stay, they will end up demanding rights. They will buy property, they will integrate. They will become a part of society. If we allow them to remain, natural relationships will develop.

Therefore the Torah has to command us to not allow those relationships.

By not fulfilling the first part of the mitzva, the second part becomes necessary.

Vaeschanan: being proactive

Parshat Va'eschanan

In 5:12, as Moshe is transmitting the second set of the 10 Commandments, he says, "שמור את יום השבת" - Guard the day of Shabbos to keep it holy.

Rashi brings the famous question that in the first set of Commandments the word used for keeping Shabbos is 'Zachor' - 'remember', while here in the second set it uses the term 'Shamor' - 'Guard'. Why the change? and Rashi explains that both words were said at the exact same moment, and they were divided up between the two sets of commandments for us.

Yet the question still remains why 'Zachor' was chosen to be immortalized in the first set of commandments and 'Shamor' in the second set? Why not write both both times, or write the opposite order? Why write first 'zachor' and then 'shamor'? If both were said, then both should be written in the surviving luchos!

I do not have an answer to explain why it chose to write 'zachor' and one and 'shamor' in the other. But perhaps we can understand that once it did shoose to break it up and seperate the two words into the two tablets, why it chose to write 'zachor' first and 'shamor' second.

I would suggest that this order points us to an understanding of our history and of our approach to Judaism and mitzvos.

'Zachor' - remembering, is a passive approach to Judaism and mitzvos.
'Shamor' - guarding, is a more active, and proactive approach to Judaism and mitzvos.

Being passive has a danger to it; the danger that you will miss something, you will not perceive a threat to your lifestyle, you will not react to a threat, etc.You might not recognize the time has come to act.

At first, the passive approach was dominant. The Jews were mostly living a life, in the early desert years, of everything being done for them. Moshe broke the luchos because he saw where their passivity had brought them.

The second luchos say 'shamor' becausenow God demands a much more proactive approach to Judaism and to mitzvos. Don't just remember shabbos, but guard it.

'Shamor' is written in the surviving set of luchos, because in order to survive, as a people, as a nation, as Jews, we have to be proactive in our service of God.

Va'Eschanan: entering Eretz Yisrael

Parshat Va'eschanan

Moshe reviews the experience of the giving of the Torah, and how it happened. It raises the question - why did Hashem give the Torah in Chutz La'aretz? Why not take the Jews right into Eretz Yisrael and give the Torah there?

There can be a number of answers to this question, but I would like to suggest one. In 4:14 Moshe gives us an indication of why this was done ni chutz la'aretz. He tells the nation "וְאֹתִי צִוָּה יְהוָה, בָּעֵת הַהִוא, לְלַמֵּד אֶתְכֶם, חֻקִּים וּמִשְׁפָּטִים: לַעֲשֹׂתְכֶם אֹתָם--בָּאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ" - "And Hashem commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it. "

The Torah had to be given over in chutz la'aretz, because you cannot just go into Eretz Yisrael. You have to prepare yourself, you have to educate yourself, before you can go into Eretz Yisrael. The Jews, in order to be able to successfully acclimate to Eretz Yisrael, had to be taught the Torah prior to their having entered the land.

Only with proper learning, only with proper preparation, could they go into Eretz Yisrael. Only with proper knowledge of the mitzvos, only with a solid relationship with Hashem, only with that could their entry into Eretz Yisrael possibly be successful.

So had they entered Eretz Yisrael and then been given the Torah, perhaps it would have been a failure. They would have looked at the holiness of the land differently, and they would have perhaps looked at the goals of the Torah differently, and that would have led to their abandoning the Torah and the Land.

The parsha starts out with Moshe davening to Hashem to be allowed in to Eretz Yisrael, after he had been punished and banned from the land. He even davens just to be allowed to pass through quickly to see it. yet his pleas are rejected by Hashem.

Chazal ask why Moshe wanted so badly to go into Eretz Yisrael. What is the big deal? Hashem said no, so no. Was it so important that he needed to see the sights?
Chazal say that Moshe's strong desire to go in was because he wanted the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvos ha'tluyos ba'aretz. Again, it was for the relationshiup with Hashem that had been developed in Chutz La'aretz. It could be brought to new heights, but only in Eretz Yisrael could it reach the pinnacle.

It is a tremendous zchus to be able to go into Eretz Yisrael, and even more so to be able to live there. Even the great Moshe, our greatest Navi ever, could not get in, and could not get Hashem to change His mind on this one topic. Yet we can go there with ease. We have a tremendous opportunity and a tremendous zchus that Eretz Yisrael is so accessible to us. But we have to go in with the proper education and preparation.

Dvarim: the most important lessons

Parshat D'Varim

Moshe reviews the events and lessons that they encountered and experienced in the desert.

Why does he go into great detail when discussing the more recent events, such as the battles they had just fought, which are probably still fresh in their minds, while the more distant events, such as events that they experienced 30 or 40 years ago, events whose details might no longer be so fresh in their minds, those he just mentions briefly. Why? Perhaps more time should be spent reviewing the older, more forgotten events?

Moshe's goal here was not just to review what they had experienced in the desert. Rather it was to teach them the lessons they would be required to glean as they are about to embark on a new life in a new country. The greatest of those lessons was the lesson mentioned in the last few psukim of Parshas D'varim - that they should know when they enter the Land of Israel that Hashem will always be there fighting their battles and protecting them.

That lesson is mostly derived from the more recent events, and therefore those are the ones Moshe dwelled on, for the most part.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Masei: women of great fortitude

Parshat Masei

In 36:10-11, it says the daughters of Tzlafchad did as Hashem had commanded Moshe and they married their cousins.

From the fact that it says this only after the representatives of Menashe petitioned Moshe on the subject, and from how it says it here that they did as Hashem commanded and married their cousins, I would suggest that we can deduce that the girls originally intended to marry out of the tribe and not marry their cousins. Perhaps that is why the reps of Menashe felt the urgency in suddenly petitioning Moshe - they were about to lose that portion.

The passuk here testifies that they did as Hashem commanded. They did not come forward with counter-arguments. they could have argued that they should not be limited, they could have said the case was already decided with no such condition, etc. They could have put forth a number of arguments. but they did not. They did as Hashem commanded, and married their cousins.

This is a testimony to their great fortitiude, and to their integrity in the sense that they were all along really just trying to do the right thing, and not personally profit from the loophole. They changed their plans, they cancelled their plans with whomever they were considering marriage, they made no peeps or complaints about it. They simply did what Hashem said to do.

We should all be so honest and deal with such integrity in our dealings.

Masei: righting a wrong

Parshat Masei

In 35:5-6 the representatives of the tribe of Menashe come complaining that by giving Tzlafchad's portion in Israel to his daughters, they are hurting the tribe of Menashe - the girls will marry out, and the land will follow them to the husbands tribe.

Moshe agrees and makes a stipulation that the girls should only marry within the tribe of Menashe.

Why did Moshe not respond to them that it is too late - they should have argued this when he first brought the issue up before God? Nobody mentioned such an issue then, so what right do they have to limit the girls now after the case has already been decided and closed?

A person has to not be afraid to do the right thing. Even if that means re-visiting something previously decided. Even if it means looking at something previously discussed in a new light. If something was done unjustly, it should be fixed. The wrong must be righted. If there is a way to do so, if the wrong can possibly be righted, even if it seems unfair, like to impose conditions on Tzlafchad's daughters well after they were given their freedom, a person must have the courage to step in and right that wrong.

That is what Moshe did. Yes, he had already told the girls the inheritance is theirs. Now he heard of a new issue and had to find a way to make sure his previous decision did not hurt the greater community, and that required imposing a new condition. It is never too late to right a wrong.

Masei: affecting others

Parshat Masei

In 35:34 it says, "ולא תטמא את הארץ... אשר אני שכן בתוכה כי אני ה' שכן בתוך בני ישראל" - do not defile the land... that I dwell within it, for I Hashem dwell amongst Israel.

We live in a global village of sorts. Nothing we do is contained and limited to our own sphere of influence. Everything has an affect on the greater community.

Hashem says don't defile the land that you live in, because I live there too.

In other words, your actions do not affect only you, but other people as well. And Hashem as well. So when doing things, any thing, one must consider the ramifications of his actions, and not just the ramifications that will be to him, but how it will affect other people as well...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Matos: not making them resent you

Parshat Matos

One point, among the many, that jumps out at me from the discussion between the tribes of Gad and Reuven and between Moshe is this - the impression of being unified. Of feeling, and knowing, that everyone is contributing to the whole of the nation equally.

the whole problem with their taking the parcel of land in the Eiver HaYarden was that the rest of Israel would think they do not want a part of the land, and that they are trying to avoid fighting in the wars alongside the rest of Israel.
Moshe is concerned the people will see them setting up their homes while they themselves are about to embark on a lengthy battle to conquer the Land of Israel, and he knows that they will come to resent Gad and Reuven. They will call them shirkers. They will say they are living off our backs and blood.

The whole discussion, and the agreement they worked out, was based on this premise; to avoid a situation where the rest of Israel would resent them, even if only because of a false impression.