SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 61 NUMBER 3
JUNE 8, 2012
SIVAN 18, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 8:08 PM
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of Norman Drucker, a budding Talmudic scholar, on the occasion of his 90th birthday. May you live in good health until 120!
Mazel Tov to the 11 boys completing our first Bar Mitzvah Experience program this Sunday.
Join TJE at the Siyum Hashas at Metlife Stadium with 100,000 Jews from around the world this August. RSVP now.
Men’s trip to Israel this fall. Inquire for details.
Off on the Right Foot
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
You’ve heard the phrase, “get off on the right foot”? The first step in any journey or endeavor is a critical one, it has to be right. From this week’s parsha it appears that the Jewish People started off with two lefts.
After receiving the Torah, building the Tabernacle and celebrating the first anniversary of the Exodus, we were finally ready to take leave of Mount Sinai. Everything was ready, G-d was with us and we were literally headed for the Promised Land. But when the Twelve Tribe Desert Marching Band stepped onto the field, there were out of step and horribly off key.
The first thing they did was kvetch. They complained about the manna, the miraculous food that G-d bestowed upon them from the heavens. They said it was nothing but manna, manna, manna every day. What was there to complain about, not enough leftovers?
Later even the great Ahron and Miriam had a few things to say about their brother Moshe. They wondered why he felt it necessary to temporarily separate from his wife in order to lead the people. Their sideways comment was overheard by none other than G-d, and let me tell you, He was not happy.
Our first steps forward were just fraught with dissatisfaction.
In the middle of the Torah’s narrative of these inauspicious beginnings, there are two verses that seem out of place. In one, the Torah tells us that the manna was like “coriander seed, and its appearance was like a precious gem.” Later, after Miriam spoke to Ahron about Moshe, the next verse says, “And Moshe was exceedingly, humble, more so than anyone else on the planet.” In context, these verses are totally out of place.
The Medrish explains, ‘the one who said this didn’t say this.’ In other words, amidst all their dissatisfaction, G-d reminded them about a few things. Getting tired of manna? Don’t forget how fantastic it is. Have a complaint about Moshe? Better realize how great he is.
As the first step went, so has the rest of the journey gone. In life, there are always reasons to kvetch. And if we stop to think about it for a while, we will also realize that there is even more to be satisfied with and appreciative of.
Why Does it Matter?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
Moshe, Ahron and Miriam were the most righteous people of their generation. Yet Ahron and Miriam spoke loshon hora, slanderous speech, about Moshe. They accused him of acting in a way that was inconsistent with his duty as a husband to Tziporah. This conversation was held privately between Ahron and Miriam. Nonetheless, Hashem punished Miriam with a special plague, tsora’as, for her denigrating statements about Moshe. Although her mistake was merely to compare his status as a prophet to that of other prophets, her comments were disparaging because they lowered Moshe from his role as the greatest prophet of all generations.
The question which hangs heavily in the air is why did they do it? There was no gain, neither financial nor otherwise, in Miriam’s hurtful statement. It’s also not likely that they thought to promote their own status in Hashem’s eyes by lowering Moshe’s.
Ohr HaChaim actually explains that Miriam was rebuking Moshe for his behavior. They were all prophets and yet they all lived within the constraints of normal life. They lived with their spouses and felt that Moshe should adjust his perspective to fit with theirs and be more accommodating to his wife Tziporah.
Yet, this quite understandable reprimand made endearingly to Moshe by his beloved sister was deemed slanderous and she was subjected to an entire week of tsora’as. The whole nation waited until she was ‘cured’ of her tsora’as. Was this constructive criticism so terrible that she herself deserved such punishment and embarrassment? Certainly a strong word or two to Miriam and Ahron would have seemed sufficient to drive home the point that Moshe was on an entirely different level of prophecy than they were.
Perhaps we can understand this episode better with a fuller appreciation of Moshe’s role in the formation of the Jewish nation. He was not just another prophet that had attained a rank far beyond any other prophet either before him or after. Moshe is the solitary link that connects us directly to Hashem. It is only through him that we can assume with complete assurance that the Torah is the absolute word of Hashem. Any shred of doubt in acceptance of Moshe’s unique role as the ultimate prophet would cast serious aspersion on the validity of our tradition as it emanates from the mouth of Moshe. Every nuance of our expansive body of Talmudic law would be subject to rejection. Every word of the Torah would have lost its interminable resonance of absolute veracity and authenticity.
When Miriam relegated Moshe to a lower echelon of importance in the prophet category she not only denigrated her beloved brother, she damaged the legitimacy and accuracy of our tradition and eroded the very roots of our seamless heritage. Therefore, although she meant no harm, her words had the potential to handicap all generations to come, and it would have been impossible to repair this devastating remark and its subsequent repercussions.
Perhaps as we continue in the post Shavuos time of year and begin to consider the Three Weeks which climax in the Tisha B’av commemoration of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, we ought to keep this thought in mind. If we weaken our connection to Hashem, we further distance ourselves from closeness to Him, and the consequence that results is the loss of the Beis Hamikdash.
Byte For Shabbos
The Torah tells us that Ahron performed the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah and did not modify the mitzvah in any way. Why would one think that Ahron would change the mitzvah? The answer is that, although Ahron would not change the mitzvah, perhaps the mitzvah would change him! Since he was granted the mitzvah to kindle the Menorah in the Tabernacle, he might become haughty and arrogant by virtue of his position. The Torah testifies that Ahron always performed the mitzvah the same way, i.e., he never changed.
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
What blessing did the Jews make on manna? Did they say the blessing on bread, “…Who extracts bread from the earth”? The manna came from heaven, not from earth! This is discussed by Rabbi Avraham Danzig (Nishmat Adam 152) and is not merely theoretical. He maintains that the conclusion has ramifications in our daily practice. If a vegetable is grown hydroponically and has no contact with or sustenance from the earth, he rules (Chayei Adam 51:17) that one says the blessing “that everything was created with Your word” (shehakol) and not the classic blessing on vegetables, “Creator of the fruit of the ground.” He also concludes that a palm branch, myrtle, willow, and etrog that are grown hydroponically are kosher for use on Sukkot, because even though they are not from the ground, they are nevertheless the correct species. (Of course, one should consult with one’s rabbi on all practical issues of Jewish law.)
Reprinted with permission from Parsha Partner, a publication of Partners in Torah. Please add us to your weekly Parsha reading list. www.partnersintorah.org/parshapartner
Joke of the Week
DISKVELLIFIED adj. When one’s son drops out of law school or medical school
DISORIYENTA n. When Aunt Sadie gets lost in a department store and strikes up a conversation with everyone she passes.