Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chukas

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Bamidbar 21:4-10, the Torah recounts the story of the Jews' complaint about the manna and the Jews punishment for speaking out. The Torah states that the Jews complained that there was no food or water and their souls were disgusted by the "lechem haklokel" - the insubstantial food. As a result of their complaints, Hashem sent the snakes which bit the people and many Jews died. When the Jews ran to Moshe to save them, Hashem told Moshe to make a copper snake and put it on a high pole and that anyone who looks at it will live.

R' Frand asked a series of question about the above story. His first question was - why did the Jews complain about the manna? The manna tasted like whatever the consumer wished it to taste. If he wanted meat it would be meat and if he wished for dairy it would taste like dairy. The medrash explains that the manna's miracle also included that it would not become waste in a person's body. So why did the Jews complain about the manna?

R' Frand's next question was --why did Hashem punish the Jews with snakes? Why not have them struck by lightning or drop dead immediately?

R' Frand's final question on this point had to with the treatment for the plague. Why were the Jews saved by looking up at a snake atop a pole?

R' Frand answered the questions by citing to his son Ya'akov who said in the name of R' Bukspan that the answer lies in a gemara in Yevamos. The gemara asked - why is is that the manna fell daily and not once a year? The gemara answered by way of a mashal about a King who needed to provide for his son. The king would give his son an allowance once a year. Not coincidentally, this was also the only time that the king would see his son. The king changed his habit and began to give his son his needs on a daily basis. As a result, he would see his son much more often.

R' Frand then connected the mashal to the Jews in the desert. Since the manna fell daily and would spoil if kept an extra day, the Jews needed to go out and gather manna every day. Thus a man with a family would worry on a daily basis as to whether there would be manna the following day. The Jews complained about the manna because they did not want to be beholden to Hashem and need to seek him out for sustenance on a daily basis.

R' Frand then cited to the Sfas Emes who observed that the snake in Bereishis received a curious punishment. Hashem tells the snake that he will crawl on his stomach and eat dirt. On the surface, this appears to be a blessing as the snake will never want for food. However, on a deeper level it is apparent that it was truly a punishment. Hashem in effect said to the snake - I don't want to see you ever again. You can eat eat all the dirt you want, just don't come back to me.

R' Frand explained that it was for this reason that the snake was chosen as the method of punishment. Hashem was saying to the Jews - you don't want to depend on Me on a daily basis for food? Well, if you want to be like the snake, then I will send the snakes after you.

R' Frand concluded the vort by stating that the cure for the plague of snakes was more than just looking at a copper snake. It was looking at a snake which was raised up on a pole. Hashem was thus hinting to the Jews - if you look up and recognize that it all comes from Me, then you will be saved.

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Postscript - I have been contacted by Rabbi Bukspan and he has graciously allowed me to post his vort which Rabbi Frand quoted. The link to the complete vort is here

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