Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chukas

The following is a brief summary of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts 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.

The Torah states in Bamidbar 19:19 in connection with the procedure of the Parah Adumah that a Tahor must sprinkle on a Tamei on the third day and the seventh day and he will be tahor.

R' Frand quoted a Yerushalmi which stated in the name of R' Yehoshua Ben Kafsa'i that he always understood the pasuk to mean that one Tahor must sprinkle on one Tamei until he saw in the storehouse of Yavne that this is not true, because one person can sprinkle on many people who are tamei.

R' Frand asked the obvious question - what did R' Yehoshua mean that he learned in the storehouse of Yavne?

R' Frand quoted R' Meir Shapiro who cited the famous gemara in Gittin which recites the conversation between R' Yochanan ben Zakai and Aspasyanus wherein R' Yochanan Ben Zakai asked as one of his three wishes that the Beis Medrash of Yavne be saved. We learn from this gemara that if the yeshiva of Yavne had not been saved, then G-d forbid there would not be anyone who could teach Torah. R' Yehoshua was alluding to the thought - I originally believed that one person could teach Torah to one person. But I have seen that one person can teach Torah to hundreds of people - because one person can make a difference in the lives of many.

R' Frand gave numerous examples of this including the icon R' Meir Shapiro himself - he lived less than a hundred of years ago and revolutionized the study of gemara by creating the cycle of Daf Yomi, which tens of thousands of people use to learn every day.

R' Frand also talked about how Ner Israel in Baltimore started with only four students, but it grew and grew and tens of thousands of bochrim have passed through its doors and become rabbanim.

R' Frand closed the vort by saying that everyone can have such an impact by teaching Torah to many people.

R' Frand's second vort discussed the people of Canaan who came and attacked the Jews. Rashi notes that these people were not actually from Canaan, they were from Amalek. However, the people trained themselves to speak Canaan language, thinking that the Jews will pray that they be saved from the people of Canaan, but the prayers will not be useful since they were really from Amalek. 

There was one little problem with their theory. The Canaan/Amalek people dressed like Amalek. The Jews were confused about who their enemies were, so the Jews prayed blankly that they be saved from "this nation"  (Bamidbar 20:2).

R' Frand asked - if these Amalek people were so knowledgeable that they knew that Jews prayed and that their prayers worked, and that Amalek needed to influence the prayers by making them wrong - why do they remain Amalek? 

R' Frand answered that although the people understood these things, their nature did not allow them to abandon their evil ways. Simply put, their desires and agenda just did not allow them to logically follow through on what they knew to be true.

R' Frand gave another example from the story of Moshe hitting the rock. R' Frand quoted the Ramban who cited Rabbeinu Channanel who explained that Moshe asked the people in Bamidbar  20:9, will we be able to take the water from the rock? The Jews could have thought that Moshe was the reason that water was coming from the rock because of him. This according to Rabbeinu Channanel was Moshe's sin. 

R' Frand noted that all the Jews - hundreds of thousands of people were able to stand around this one rock. Furthermore, the Medrash states that all the rocks in the area opened up and water came out.

But with these open miracles, why did people have the impression that it came from him by saying "Notzei Lachem Mayim"? Wasn't it obvious to them that Moshe was not responsible for this? But still, the people's nature did not allow them to recognize this.

R' Frand closed with a story which was said by a gadol, although R' Frand did not know who the gadol was. The gadol was in a cab in Israel and the cab driver who saw he was transporting a great Rav said that he wanted to tell him a story. The cab driver related that he and two friends had gone on an African safari after completing army service. One night they were in a tent and one of the men was attacked by a snake. He began hitting the snake, but it would not release. The other men tried to help but it was no use. They said to the choking man - say Shema Yisrael. The man repeated the first pasuk of Shema and the snake released. As a result, the man went back to Israel and joined a Yeshiva and became frum.

The Rav said to the cab driver, but what about you? The cab driver responded - don't you understand, honored Rabbi, the story happened to my friend.

This is the problem with people's natures - there is a disconnect between the mind and the heart. People can see the miracles and understand the power of tefillah, but still continue on their own course, because that is what they want to do.

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