Bamidbar / Shovuois 2018: Seminal Events

| May 17, 2018 | 0 Comments
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Raboyseyee and Ladies,

Seminal Events:

 

Shoin: having recited chazak three times as we ended last week’s parsha, hopefully you’re all stronger and in better shape to take on Sefer Bamidbar and lommer schnel unfangin (let’s quickly begin). The emes is that you’ll need strength just to stay awake because a more boring parsha is hard to find. Every word of the heylige Toirah is avada heylige ober this parsha, not too exciting.  In fact, even Rashi who comments on kimat every verse, was challenged and had little to say. He did, however, get into a huge argument with the Ramban over the census, ober chap nisht; we’ll efsher cover this later.

 

Efsher you’re wondering why sefer Bamidbar is better known as the book of Numbers. Bamidbar, literally translated, means ‘in the desert’ and taka the entire sefer is about the travails of the Yiddin during their 40 year sojourn through the midbar. The heylige Toirah will spare no detail as it recounts one foible after another; stay tuned, they’re mamish givaldig. Ober, why is that all the goyim and even many Yiddin refer to it as the Book of Numbers (Sefer Hapikudim), a book about numbers and counting?  What is taka the relationship between the two?  Who gave it this name and why?

Ober the answer is quite simple: Seemingly our sages whom we lovingly refer to as Chazal, named Bamidbar Sefer Hapikudim’ (the Book of Censes) because it opens with a census of the Yiddin that was carried out in the desert “on the first day of the second month in the second year of their coming out of the land of Mitzrayim”, and nearer to the end, another count will be ordered (Parshas Pinchas). This one, in year 40 but 38 years later and just prior to their entry into the Promised Land.

A previous count was held some 6-7 months earlier and as to why the RBSO wanted the Yiddin counted, why three counts – two in such close proximity- and the differences between them, ver veyst.  Says Rashi azoy: the RBSO counted the Yiddin because He loved them. “Because they  are dear to Him, He counts them all the timeSeemingly this love fest didn’t last all that long; it so happens that kimat all the Yiddin counted  in the first  and second counts will have died out during the 40 year midbar experience.  Back to the parsha: The RBSO ordered a count and that’s what Moishe, Aharoin and their 12 assistants did

 

Before we say hello to Parshas and Sefer Bamidbar (Book of Numbers), let’s pause for a moment and wish each other a belated good Yom Tov.  This week, the heylige Oisvorfer will give only a shtikel parsha roundup,  instead he will teach his fellow Oisvorf talmidim all about a new, yet very old special day in our calendar. Aren’t we epes jumping the gun by wishing each other a gittin Yom Tov three days early? Doesn’t the special Yom Tov of Shovuois, the holiday we celebrate because the Yiddin received the heylige Toirah, begin only this coming Moitzoay Shabbis (Saturday night)?  Has the Oisvorfer gone mad?  Nu, both are taka emes ober listen to this.  Yesterday was taka also a shtikel Yom Tov, ober, mistama, not one they taught you much about in yeshiva.  Welcome to Yom HaMiyouchas (literally – the day of lineage or Pedigree Day).  And what does it taka mean?  Ver veyst ober we know that the word miyuchas means a proper pedigree and pshat is that a person who has good yichus is a person who has descended from proper and important lineage.  Soon we’ll close this subject with a givaldige thought; stay tuned.

Never heard of it?  Guess what. Not many did and even those who epes remember hearing epes something about it, cannot recall what it is they heard much less anything about this day, clueless mamish.  In fact, just last shabbis, the Oisvorfer asked three people, all of them at least somewhat knowledgeable, what this day was: Not a one knew.  Exactly why this day is not celebrated, ver veyst ober leave it to the Oisvorfer to dig up the origins of this givaldige day. The bigger surprise might be why Toirah entrepreneurs haven’t yet found ways to commercially exploit this holiday; that day cannot be far off.  Nu, lommer lernin and zug shoin, vus iz-iz (what is it)?

Ershtens, it’s a real holiday! And here are the facts. It all started on the 2nd day of Sivan in the year 2449 – mamish – but a few days before Matan Toirah. Seemingly what really took place chronologically went down like this.  On the First of Sivan, the RBSO instructed Moishe to tell the nation, “You shall be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation” (Shemois 19:6) – the RBSO informed us that we Yiddin were selected to be His chosen people. On the Second Day of Sivan, Moishe delivered this message and the soon-to-be Yiddin answered azoy: “Everything that the RBSO has commanded we will do” (Shemois 19:8).  So that great Day of Acceptance of the Toirah by the People, though there was no Toirah quite yet, was given the title “Yom HaMiyuchas or Day of Distinction.” That’s it: a gittin Yom Tov!

Want more color? Lommer lernin inaveynig, es ken nisht shattin (let’s review some text, it won’t kill you).  On Rosh Chodesh Sivan (this past Tuesday), the about to be Yiddin arrived at the foot of Har Sinai. The purpose of creation was about to be fulfilled with the greatest seminal event; the Yiddin were about to receive and accept the heylige Toirah. On the second day of Sivan they were informed that their acceptance of the Toirah would elevate them to become the ‘Chosen Nation’. Says the heylige Toirah: (Shemos 19:1-8) azoy: “In the third month from the Exodus of Klal Yisroel from Egypt, on this day, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai. They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness; and Yisroel encamped there, opposite the mountain. Moishe ascended to Hashem, and Hashem called to him from the mountain, saying, “So you shall say to the House of Yaakov and relate to the Children of Yisroel. You have seen what I did to Mitzrayim, and that I have borne you on the wings of eagles and brought you to me. And now, if you hearken well to Me and observe My covenant, you shall be to Me the most beloved treasures of all peoples, for the entire world is Mine. And you shall be to me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Children of Yisrael.” Moishe came and summoned the elders of the people and put before them all these words that Hashem commanded him. The entire people responded together and said, we’re in!  Veyter!

Yom HaMeyuchas coincides always with the forty-sixth day of the Sefiras Ho’oimer. Sadly for many of you, this means nothing because you stopped counting with a brocho by the third or fourth night and without a brocho just a few days later.  Now would be a good time to make a special announcement. Today is the 47th day of the Oimer and miraculously, truly so, the Oisvorfer is – for the very first time in his life – still counting with a brocho. OMG!  Ober avada you are aware that we are rapidly approaching the great Holiday of Shovuois, a Yom Tov not generally observed by the reform Yiddin and one that doesn’t get any mention on the goyishe calendars. On most of our Hebrew calendars, this special day gets no mention either; it’s mamish lost and forgotten. However and as mentioned above, this day is always marked on the  Second Day of Sivan, which happens to be one day before the beginning of the Shloishes Yemei Hagbolo (the three days of restraint).  Halt kup (pay attention) please. What are those you ask? Nu, efsher you recall that Moishe instructed the about to become Yiddin that they needed to restrain themselves from relations and intimacy (at home too) during the three days leading up to big day when the RBSO came down and gave us the heylige Toirah.  More specifically, they were commanded beginning on the third of Sivan to physically and spiritually prepare themselves to receive the heylige Toirah.  Efsher you’re wondering why abstinence during these three days was mamish a critical component leading up to the big event. Is intimacy with the eishes chayil epes a dirty zach?  Were these two seminal events, if you chap,  mutually exclusive?  Not always enjoyable, nu, dus farshteytzich (well understood) ober impure? Seemingly that is or was the case because Moishe specifically told the people that he wanted them to be pure on that special day (Matan Toirah day) and purity included abstinence. And when was that day? Nu, believe it or not, it’s epes not clear.  Says Rav Yosi that this occurred on the 7th day of Sivan (only for this first Shovuois), ober says one Tannaitic opinion that it was on the 6th of Sivan. Shoin!

 

Ober did anything really happen on this day that we now call Yom HaMiyuchas?  Seemingly not and believe it or not, all seem to agree that mamish nothing took place on this date.  In other words, the 2nd of Sivan really has no merit on its own. And if that’s taka the case, why does it have a special name and what’s taka pshat here? Seemingly, Yom HaMiyuchas finds itself in between two other significant days. The day before it is Rosh Choidesh Sivan and the day after is the beginning of the three days leading up to Shovuois. Seemingly, its entire claim to fame is that it is epes sandwiched in between two special days and times and avada from time to time, most taka enjoy a good sandwich, if you chap.

 

Ober if nothing happened that day, why was it taka named and why has it become a special day on the Hebrew calendar? Says the Sefer Taamei HaMinhagim, a more than excellent source for many of the things we do and customs we either observe or don’t, azoy:

 

  • This was the day that the RBSO  told the about-to-become Chosen People  (Yisro 19:6) “V’AtemTihiyu Li Mamleches Kohanim” (you will be to me a kingdom of Kohanim).  So on this day, the Yiddin received their special Yichus setting us apart from the rest of the nations.

 

  • Alternatively, when the other nations questioned why the Yiddin received the Toirah, the RBSO told them to bring their Sefer Yuchasim (credentials), to see if their pedigree would stand up to the level of the Yiddin’s forefathers which included  Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.

 

  • It was a regular day that found itself between two special days and therefore, by proximity and association, it too became special.

And the lesson here? Seemingly Yichus counts for something, sometimes even a lot ober one’s own and not that of his mishpocho.  A person is rewarded for his own achievements, not those of his father’s or his sons’.  A guiding principle that we were always taught in yeshiva and elsewhere is that a Talmid Chochom who is a Mamzer (illegitimate son), is more important than a Kohain Godol who is an Am HaAretz (ignoramus).  And the bottom line: when it comes being counted and yichus, it’s best to make your own. Case closed!

 

 

As mentioned above, the parsha contains none of the taryag (613) mitzvois and other than flag decorating and marching formations, not much else going on this week. Since most of us have been to camp and experienced color war, we’ll leave this topic alone.  Even Rashi, who mamish can opine and often does on even the minutia, has little to say this week. Ober not to worry because as we move along in this Sefer of Bamidbar (book) there will plenty to discuss as the Yiddin committed many chatoim (sins) during their 40 year hike in the midbar. Stay tuned!

 

Here are iber tzi zugin (to tell over), a few random thoughts for the shabbis tish; efsher you won’t look like the am ho-oretz you really are. The parsha opens with the RBSO’s command that a census be taken of the Yiddin, the first of three  such counts taken in the first thirteen months following the Exodus from Mitzrayim.  As to why the RBSO wanted the Yiddin counted, why three counts in such close succession and the differences between them, ver veyst.  Of course Rashi knows and suggests that the RBSO counted the Yiddin because He loved them. “Because they (the Children of Israel) are dear to Him, He counts them all the time: When they went forth from Egypt He counted them; when they fell because of (the sin of)  the Eygel  (Golden Calf), He counted them; when He was about to make His presence dwell amongst them (i.e., in the Tabernacle) He counted them. For on the first of Nissan the Tabernacle was erected, and on the first of Iyar (the next month) He counted them.” Seemingly this love fest didn’t last all that long  and it  so happens that kimat all the Yiddin counted  in the first  and second counts will have died in the coming 40 year trek through the Midbar, but that for another day, let’s stay focused. The RBSO ordered a count and that’s what Moishe, Aharoin and their 12 assistants did

 

 

Interestingly enough, the words of the heylige Toirah in commanding the census are quite ominous. Said the RBSO that Moishe should “count the heads” (1:2) of all the households, ober the Hebrew word used for the counting instructions “Se-u” could also mean, “Lift the heads”. Why would the Toirah use such ambiguous language? Or can we kler (ponder) that lifting their heads actually meant ‘off with them’  and this is  exactly  what would happen to a great majority of them throughout Sefer Bamidbar for their less than exemplary behavior which avada the Oisvorfer will cover in great detail?  Ver veyst. Also, why were they to be counted according to their households, which had never been done in the past? Says Rashi: that prior to the census each Yiddile (Jew) brought the records of his/her pedigree and birth certificate, so that each one could trace his genealogy to a tribe. Each was required to produce a Yichusbreef (book of his/her lineage) and adds the Medrish that producing this book was also a prerequisite for each person to receive the heylige Toirah. Yikes!

 

In fact, though Rashi suggests that the RBSO counted the Yiddin because He loved them, the emes is that they weren’t counted all that often and certainly not  ….”all the time…”  Says the medrish, (Tanchuma, Ki Sissa, 9 and other places): the Yiddin were only counted a total of nine times until today, and the tenth, will be the final count, when the Moshiach arrives. Gishmak.

 

 

Mistama you forgot or never knew because you didn’t pay attention, that  Parshas Bamidbar  is always read just before Shovuois and so says the Shulchan Aruch, Oirach Chaim (428:4). Shoin!  And how was this arranged so perfectly?  Seemingly, our wise chachomim (sages) somehow designed the cycle for the weekly readings to ensure this order ober, taka why? Says Toisfis, the great medieval school of commentators on the heylige Gemora (Megillah31b) azoy:  Chazal (another word for sages) wanted to  “buffer”  last week’s Parsha which contained stern warnings for the wayward bunch of Yiddin that just left Mitzrayim a  few weeks back (just under seven) and its curses (that the chazzan reads in an undertone so that we don’t hear them all that well) in case they were to sin, and the “Yoim HaDin” of Shovuois. Hey, isn’t Yoim Hadin, another name for Yoim Kippur? What’s it doing here in May just days before Shovuois when we’re about to celebrate the great big miracle on the tiny little mountain with cheesecake? What’s pshat? How and why is Shovuois considered a Yom HaDin? And answers the Gemora:  on Shovuois the RBSO determines yield, yet another accounting term, not of humans, but of fruit trees.  Says the heylige Gemora (Rosh HaShono 16a): on Shovuois, the RBSO decides the yield of fruit trees for the coming year. And how is the fruit tree connected to the parsha and Shovuois? Nu, halt kup and the answer is that by placing Parshas Bamidbar between Shovuois and the Toichacha (admonitions), we metaphorically say to the RBSO that “The curses should apply to the previous year’s fruit crop and not affect the coming year.”  Why the poor innocent fruit tree needs to suffer for our behavior, nu, ver veyst but that’s what is says and our job is to believe. Thus, Parshas Bamidbar acts as the stop gap between Bechukoisai and Shovuois to avoid any mention of our misdeeds, (of which, by this time of year, there are plenty) at this critical time when the bounty of our trees and so much of our material well-being is being determined. Confused? Nu, you’re not alone.

 

Some say that Parshas Bamidbar is otherwise also linked to Shovuois since the Parsha presents the names and leaders of each shayvet (tribe) of the Yiddin and some say that this delineation of the leaders promotes the idea that the heads of the community should be paragons or teachers of Toirah. Finally, since the Yom Tov, Shovuois is upon us, let the Oisvorfer remind those that are a shtikel or more lactose intolerant to stock up on whatever helps them get through, before and after. Avada you all know that we Yiddin have a shtikel minhag  to eat milichiks (dairy) over Yom Tov though the Oisvorfer admits to not being able to find any real credible sources for this custom. Mistama this minhag came about as do many others in the frum world because a few people in the dairy business needed to make a parnoso and with the Gemora requiring that meat and wine be consumed in order to enjoy any Yom Tov meal, and with two and three-day Yom Tovs cutting into their revenues, found it necessary to create an exception which avada became a minhag and which ultimately became the law. We call that guerrilla marketing but it seems to have taken hold.

 

One medrish suggests that the Yiddin, upon receiving the Toirah, could not eat any of their meat products since the meat that they had was not prepared in accordance with the newly given shechita  (ritual animal slaughter) and other dietary laws. Once the heylige Toirah was given, the Yiddin refrained from eating meat because they now needed to learn the laws of kosher slaughter and to avada kasher their utensils in the mikveh. Where they found a mikveh in the Midbar, ver veyst but as we have discussed in the past, this Midbar was a magical place and if the RBSO wanted a mikveh to suddenly appear so that the good Yiddin could toivel their equipment and their utensils, is that so hard to believe? But before the magical mikveh appeared, what to do and what to eat? Nu, they improvised and ate milichiks while studying these new kosher concepts. And so it happened that on Shovuois, the great holiday when we recall receiving the heylige Toirah, they ate cheesecake, blintzes, ice cream, pizza and other such delicacies.  Emes, ver veyst?  On the other hand, didn’t we learn that the Yiddin ate Munn for 40 years in the midbar? Indeed we did. Ver veyst?

 

On a more mystical level, the gematria (numeric value of the Hebrew letters) of the word for milk- cholov- is 40 and avada forty corresponds to the forty days and nights that Moishe spent up on the mountain learning the heylige Toirah. Shoin!  And now you know.

What about that big argument between Rashi and the Ramban that we mentioned way back on page one. Nu, since it’s a three-day Yom Tov and you’ll have plenty of down time in shul and of course at home, let’s cover that topic as well.

Said Rashi seemingly quoting or paraphrasing the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 1:10) azoy: they were indeed two different counts. Settled! Ober how could both produce exactly 603,500 men?  And adds the Levush: the chances that incidentally it “happened to work out” that the number of those who died was precisely the same as the number of those who completed their twentieth year are extremely small. It looks epes fishy.

 

Ober Rashi was a genius mamish and using the Hebrew calendar came up with mamish a givaldige yet complicated answer which goes like this:

 

In order to be counted in the census, one was required to be of age twenty or older.  According to Rashi, this did not mean that one was 20 mamish, that he actually reached his twentieth birthday. Instead, it was required that the person would be age twenty or older that year. The first census was taken in Tishrei. Any by unts (us) Yiddin, Tishrei is the first month of the year. Many men did not reach age twenty until later in the year. Nonetheless, these men were included in this census. And the second census was taken in Iyar of the same year. By this point, additional men had reached their twentieth birthday. However, these individuals did not affect the outcome of the census. They had been counted in the original census in Tishrei.  So far so good.

 

In other words: it’s taka emes both censes were conducted in the same year. But in terms of the time elapsed since the exodus from Egypt, the censes took place in two different years. Because the exodus from Egypt is counted from Nissan, as we learn in the heylige Gemora (Rosh Ha-shono); the mishkan was built in the first year and established in the second, for a new year started on the first of Nissan. Ober for people’s ages and birthdays, counting is based on the years of the world which seemingly begin with Tishrei. Thus both censes took place in the same year: the first was in Tishrei after Yom Kippur, when the RBSO forgave the Yiddin for the Eygel and commanded them to build the mishkan, and the second took place on the first of Iyar.

 

The Ramban disagreed vehemently: “I am astonished: How could there be such a large congregation without there being some deaths in half a year, some hundreds and even thousands?” In other words: Rashi is dead wrong!

 

Ober said Rashi: during this period of about seven months no one died. Ober didn’t we learn just last week that the RBSO gave us Pesach Shayne as a make-up holiday precisely because people had died and the some Yiddin came into contact with their bones. In other words: yes people died during that time period. Take that Rashi!

 

Nu, the Ramban wasn’t done and said: “I have another question: A person’s years are not counted according to the years of the world, from Tishrei (as Rashi believes), but rather each according to the date of his birth. Since when do we count our birthdays based on the month of Tishrei? And say the counting instructions, ‘from twenty years and upwards’ –  they should have completed twenty whole years. And likewise in any place where the heylige Toirah counts a person’s years, they are counted from their individual dates, as we learn in the heylige Gemora (Ayrachin 8b).And that being the case, all those born between Tishrei and Iyar had meanwhile completed a year, and many new people should have been recorded in the new census.”

 

Nu, and how do we reconcile Rashi and the Ramban? And do you even care? How will knowing this information affect your shabbis? Mistama it won’t ober its avada interesting to note that  when it comes to interpreting the heylige Toirah, there are many opinions. Shoin!

 

Ober says the Ramban that pshat is like this: It is more probable that this is what happened: there taka were  603,550 at the first census. And it’s also the case that many of them died during the 6-7 months until the next, as is the way of the world. And it’s also emes that many completed their twentieth year between Tishrei and Iyar. And   it so happened to work out that their number replaced exactly the number who had died.  Shoin: audit complete, the numbers reconcile, all are happy and case closed. Is that what really pshat, ver veyst.

 

Seemingly even the Ramban wasn’t all that tzifridin (satisfied) with his answer and quickly suggested an alternative to the identical number of Yiddin in each count. The first census included sheyvet (tribe) Levi, for they had not yet been chosen and were not yet separated from the nation, ober 6-7 months later, right here in our parsha, by the time of the second count (Bamidbar 1:49), we are taught ‘But the tribe of Levi you shall not count, nor shall you number their heads among the children of Israel.’

 

In other words, not counting the Leviim, gave the second count a 22,000 margin of error. Others argue that the Ramban’s assumption that the Leviim were included in the first census  is unsubstantiated. The Ibn Ezra (Shemois 38) explicitly disagrees, and he’s not the only one.

 

Secondly, we come back to the statistical question that was posed by the Levush: How could it be that the number of those who reached the age of twenty happened to work out to exactly the same number as those who died, with the addition of the number of Leviim who were not counted in the second census? The chances that after all the required addition and subtraction the numbers are exactly the same would indeed seem to be “all but impossible, unless it occurred miraculously”.  Did the RBSO perform a miracle with  the count? Were the numbers rounded? Ver veyst; efsher next year we’ll address these topics.

 

Ober as a public service to his readers the Oisvorfer went digging and found that  commentary by Prof. M.D. Cassuto who had a givaldige chiddush. It’s mamish gishmak!

 

According to him, a census was not a simple matter accomplished in one day, but rather took a great deal of time (see II Shmuel 24:8). We can assume that the intention of the heylige Toirah is as follows. During the first year after their exodus, when the artisans were engaged in constructing the mishkan, the first steps of the census were taken. The Yiddin appeared one by one before the designated authorities who then wrote down their names on shards and took a half-shekel from each. This money went towards the construction of the sockets in the mishkan. After these first steps towards compiling a population registry were taken, and after the month of Nisan (dedicated to celebrating the establishment of the mishkan and the holiday of Pesach) had passed, those in charge of the census (see Bamidbar 1:4) began to sort through the list of names and to calculate totals (on the first day of the second month of the second year). As the posik taka  says (Bamidbar 1:2, etc.), this counting was done according to “the number of their names,” i.e. by counting the names written on the shards. Even though several months passed between the beginning of the census and its conclusion, and in the interim some of the people counted had died and others not counted had reached the age of counting, in any case the number of names counted was exactly equal to the number of half-shekels that had been collected earlier – since the counting in the second year was done by means of the names that had been collected at the same time as the half-shekels.” Chap all that? You’re a genius!

 

In other words: we encounter the same totals in the Shemois count and in the beginning of Bamidbar because we are talking about the same lengthy census process. It was one long count, a census designed to count “the sum of all the congregation of the Yiddin, after their families, by the houses of their fathers, by the number of their names, every male by their polls.”Such a detailed count would certainly take a long time (as they do even today (bazman hazeh.)

 

And now it all mamish fits. We can now account for the identical numbers in Shemois and Bamidbar and even the disagreement between Rashi and the Ramban without having to assume an unlikely coincidence or a great open miracle. And mamish so gishmak, we have also have disposed of the question of why there was a need for two censes so close in time, when there was no event in the intervening time that warranted it. It was one census in two parts.

 

 

A gittin Shabbis and a gittin Yom Tov

 

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

 

Yitz Grossman

 

 

Category: Yitz Grossman, Yitz Grossman Torah

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