Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Bamidbar + Shavuous Thoughts

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha and the upcoming holiday. 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. 

R' Frand noted that Sefer Bamidbar begins with the counting of the Jewish people. Then, towards the end of Sefer Bamdibar they are counted again in Parshas Pinchas. The Sefer is nicknamed Chumash HaPikudim and even the secular world calls it the Book of Numbers.

Rashi comments that the reason that Hashem counts the Jews so often is to show His love for them. Rashi notes that the Jews were counted many times by Hashem. They had been counted when they left Egypt and again after the Golden Calf and now at the beginning of Sefer Bamdibar.

But this also poses a question because in Ki Sissa (Shemos 30:12) the Torah states that there should not be a plague when they are counted. Later, when Dovid Hamelech counts them, more than seventy Jews die.

R' Frand explained that the way that the Jews are counted here demonstrates that it is different and positive as the Torah uses the term "Seu es Rosh" - lift up their heads. The way to count without creating issues is to recognize that each person is not a number - the person is an individual with his own traits and accomplishments. The Jews should not be viewed as 600,000 people but 600,000 individuals.

R' Frand next quoted Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who talks about crowd mentality and how people follow a trend and all act en masse in a particular way. People act in a herd mentality and they get so wrapped up in what everyone else is doing that they lose their individuality. They are viewed as part of a crowd and they see themselves as part of a crowd and not individuals.  R' Frand also quoted a bank which advertises that the patrons are not "just a number" but when you call for customer service you have to punch numbers after numbers to get where you need to go.

Hashem is not like this. The Gemara in Berachos mentions a blessing to say when you see a large crowd of Jews. The blessing ends "Chacham HaRazim" - Hashem sees our individual traits and actions and omissions and sees each of us for what we are.

R' Frand next quoted a Gemara in Pesachim wherein R' Yosef said on Shavuous - make me a special dish. He remarked - if it were not for today there would be many Yosefs in the marketplace. R' Frand explained that if it were not for the Torah, R' Yosef would be like any other Joe in the marketplace.

But R' Frand gave a deeper meaning based on a teaching of R' Ruderman zt'l - he explained that R' Yosef meant that without the Torah, he would be conflicted and would be many different kinds of Yosef - a Joe this or a Joe that. But the Torah is a unifying force so that he has one personality.

R' Frand contrasted this with the story of Ruth and how she differed from Orpah. They both came from the same background but they made different choices. R' Moshe Schwab explains that Orpah looked and said that the life of a Jew has too much sacrifice and would be too hard, so she went back to an easier life. Ruth on the other hand made a more difficult choice - for a life of mesiras nefesh. But in the end, the life was more rewarding - both in this world and in the World to Come.

This is a common misconception - people think that by following the Torah the person is giving something up, but they don't see how much more rewarding the life is. R' Frand compared this with an athlete - Michael Phelps will spent more time in the pool than people may spend in the Beis Medrash. But he also won more gold medals than anyone else.

R' Frand tied this to the Rasha in the Pesach Seder - the Rasha says - why do you need this sacrifice? The answer to him is that Hashem saved our families - our homes so that they we could bring the Pesach sacrifice. It looked like it was tough but it was a gateway to greatness. 

People may look at being a Torah Jew and think that it is difficult. But everything in life that is worthwhile requires hard work. And if you try it - you will see that it is worthwhile. 

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