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Parshas Matos-Maasai ~ Torah Gems

Matos-Maasai

I. Helping one’s fellow

1. ‘Your servants have taken a count of the men of war under our command and not one of them is missing.’ (Bamidbar* 31.49) It is well known [the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that] the Torah* is eternal [and it has lessons for all times. The lesson here is] that every one should help his fellow so that he can stand up against his Yetzer HaRah*. He should also help his fellow so he will be able to do mitzvos*. Even if the person himself cannot do the mitzvah he will be raised up [spiritually] by his fellow’s doing the mitzvah. [Because he has helped him to do it he has a part in those mitzvos and is then raised up spiritually by them.] (Note: This is because of the principle of ‘areivos.’ [Hebrew for mixed, meaning that every Jew is connected together with his fellow Jew.] Because of that principle every Jew is raised up by the mitzvos of his fellow Jew. With Moshe it was like this, since his soul included all of the 600,000 souls of the Jewish people. Therefore, through his service of HaShem* all of the Jewish people were raised up spiritually, so that everyone of them could be a help to his fellow Jew. It could also be said that by being attached to a Tzaddik* he will be able to help his friend to do mitzvos. [Which is what we have seen with regards to Moshe, who was the Tzaddik of his generation.]) This is the meaning of the verse: ‘Your servants.’ [Heb. avdechah] This means your service [{Heb. avdos} of HaShem.] ‘Have taken a count [Heb. nasu] of the men of war.’ This refers to the war with the Yetzer HaRah. [There is a constant war with the Yetzer HaRah, which is trying to keep him from doing mitzvos.] Each one raises up [Heb. nasu] his fellow, to help his friend to do his mitzvah. ‘And not one of them is missing.’ Not a single person is missing [because there is] another who is helping him. [Every Jew is raised up by either his fellow or by his attachment to the Tzaddik] (p. 67 sefer Razin D’Oraysa teachings of Rebbe* Velvel of Zabriz.)                                 * * * II. Conceit 2. ‘This shall be for you the border in the north, from the great sea you shall turn to Mount Hor, and from Mount Hor you shall turn until you approach Chamas, the outskirts of the border shall be Tzidadah.’ (Bamidbar 34.7-8) This verse of the Torah is teaching us musar* [in how to serve HaShem.]  Chazal tell us that the Yetzer HaRah has seven names.  [One of them was given by the prophet] Yoel [who] called it ‘Tzufoni’. As it says, ‘You should keep away from the Tzufoni.’ [It is called this] because it is hidden [Heb. Tzufon] and buried within the heart of a person. The way of the Yetzer HaRah is that when he sees a person who strengthens himself with the fear of HaShem, and it is not possible to make him sin, he causes this person to think that he is a great Tzaddik, who is strong in his fear of G-d. Since this person has fallen into conceit it is easy for the Yetzer HaRah to get him to do things that are forbidden by the Torah. Chazal* teach in the Talmud* Kiddushin* (30) ‘A person’s Yetzer tries to overcome him every day, and it tries to kill him, as it says “The wicked waits for the Tzaddik in order to kill him.” If it were not for the help of HaShem, he would not be able to overcome it. As the verse says, “G-d does not leave me over in his hands.”‘ However the person who falls into conceit does not have this help from HaShem. As we learn from Sotah* (5) [with regards to the one who is conceited, HaShem says,] ‘Me and him cannot dwell together in one place. [As the verse says, ] “It is an abomination to HaShem all those whose hearts are filled with conceit.”‘ [Since HaShem is not there to help him] he will come to do all those things forbidden in the Torah through the wiles of the Yetzer HaRah. This is the meaning of the verse: ‘This shall be for you the border in the north.’ This is the border of the Yetzer HaRah. [This is what will separate you from the clutches of the Yetzer HaRah, which is hidden in you.] ‘From the great sea.’ It is well known that the sea is a remez for the fear of G-d. [As Chazal teach that the color of the sea is like that of heaven… which is like that of the throne of Glory.] That is the meaning of ‘from the great sea.’ These are the people who are great in their fear of HaShem. [Fear of HaSHem is the border.] ‘You shall turn to Mount Hor.’ This means that he is caused to feel conceited. [This is a remez to conceit] because this mountain, [Mount Hor,] is higher then the mountains around it. [The meaning being that] he thinks that he is greater then those around him. ‘And from Mount Hor you shall turn until you approach Chamas.’ This is according to the words of Chazal in Sotah (4), that the one who is conceited is as if he is a heretic. Certainly he will come to do all kinds of sins that the Torah forbids. This is the meaning of ‘And from Mount Hor you shall turn until you approach Chamas.’ The one who is conceited, and is called ‘Mount Hor’ will come to do all kinds of sins. HaShem will hate him, ‘because it is an abomination to HaShem all those whose hearts are filled with conceit.’ ‘The outskirts of the border shall be Tzidadah.’ The one who is conceited is hated by people as is stated in the Tosephos Yom Tov*, on Pirkei Avos* (Mishnah* 21 of chapter 4), ‘There is no person more hated by people then the one who runs after honor.’ Since he is hated by people, he has arguments with them all the time. And he asks those on each side [Heb. l’Tzadadim] that they should support him. That is the meaning of ‘The outskirts of the border shall be Tzidadah.’ He asks those on each side [of the argument] to support him. (p. 339 sefer Orach L’Chaim teachings of Rebbe Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov.)                                 * * * III. Traveling through life. 3. “These are the travels of the children of Israel” (Bamidbar 33:1) It would appear that the Inyan* of the travels of the children of Israel can be understood by what is said in many seforim* that each person is called a ‘traveler’. Because he travels each day from one level [of service of HaShem] to another. I heard from Mori* the Holy Rabbi of Peshischa ZT’L*: It is not possible for any Jew to stay on one level [in his service to HaShem]. If he does not improve his midos* and deeds today over what was yesterday it is certain that this day was of a poor quality and he is on a lower level [in his service of HaShem] then on the day before it. This is because a Jewish person is always moving either in a good direction or a bad direction.  This is the sod* of the travels of the children of Israel. The verses are coming to inform us and to teach us the way that we should go in these travels. ‘These are the travels of the children of Israel.’ This is the way that a Jew should travel through his life.] ‘Who went out of the land of Egypt.’ Before attaining any level [in the service of HaShem] he is required to ‘turn away from evil’, which is the bechina* of the ‘Exodus from Egypt.’ [Egypt refers to] the source of uncleanliness and bad midos.  And then he attains the level of ‘doing good,’ to travel from one level to another level until the level of ‘You shall be Holy’.  [i.e. entering the Holy Land – Israel] (p. 158 Kedushas HaYehudi a collection of the teachings of the Yid HaKodesh [the Holy Jew] Rebbe Yakov Yitzchok of Peshischa)                                 * * * IV. Tshuva* 4. ‘The land shall be conquered before HaShem and then you shall return.’ (Bamidbar 32.22) It appears to me that there is a remez* in this verse. It is well known that when a person sins (G-d forbid) he gets caught up in his sins [and it is very hard for him to separate from them.] The cure for this is that he should do tshuva sincerely before HaShem, and then he should try to correct those sins he has done [in the past.] [After that] he needs to strengthen himself greatly so that he should not return, once again, to his foolish ways. [If he would return to them] he would be like a dog who returns to its own vomit. He has to hold himself fast [to the path he has taken] and not turn [away from this path] so that he should not return to his past evil ways. The truth is that to do this he needs help from Above. [It is not totally within his power to reach this level.] This is the meaning of the verse, ‘HaShem your G-d will bring back your captivity.’ [Heb. shevisecha] The meaning is that HaShem will help you, and strengthen you in order that your teshuva will be acceptable and you will not fall from the level you have obtained. This is the level of ‘return to me and I will return to you.’ HaShem, because of His great mercy, strengthens the hand of the Baal Tshuva*. Chazal teach [with regards to this], ‘Open for Me like the eye of a needle.’ [First you should try a little on your part to do tshuva.] ‘and I will open for you like the opening of the temple courtyard.’ [Then HaShem will help him and give him the strength to continue.] This is because first he does tshuva [returning] to HaShem.  Then HaShem has mercy on him from His Holy Dwelling place and inspires him to strengthen himself in the service of HaShem. In order to merit to all of this he must overcome his physical nature [and not be tied to it.] It should not become like a wall, that is thick and stands before him, separating HaShem from the Baal Tshuva. [If he will overcome his physical desires] HaShem will help him. [This is because HaShem is the one who will] ‘open the gates to those who knock on them to do tshuva’. With this we can now explain the verse: ‘The land [Heb. HaAretz] shall be conquered before HaShem.’ This means he shall conquer his physical nature, [Heb. Artziyus] and overcome them. This [refers to the time] before HaShem has helped him with doing tshuva. ‘And then you shall return.’ This refers to after your tshuva when you are rising higher and higher in the service of HaShem. However the one who does not do this. [i.e. overcome his physical nature] Even if he does tshuva sincerely, and it appears to him that his tshuva was on a very high level. He will still fall from the level he attains. All this is because he has not overcome his physical desires. This is the meaning of the verse, ‘they traveled from the Sinai Desert and they rested in Kivros HaTaiva. [Lit. the burying of desires.] Even though in the desert of Sinai they merited to rise to very high levels. They received the Torah, and heard HaShem’s voice. Even with this they brought themselves to bury their desires. (p. 214 sefer Tepheres Shlomoh teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk.)                                 * * * V. Serving HaShem 5. “And Moshe said to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel saying, This is the thing that HaShem has commanded.” (Bamidbar 26.2) [This verse deals with the laws of oaths.] Our Holy Rabbi, the Admor* of Vorki ZT’L explained [with regards to this verse] that from the words spoken by a person [i.e. his oath] we make a commandment of HaShem.  This means that if a person says ‘I will do this’, these words become a command of HaShem that he is required to fulfil as if it were any other commandment in the Holy Torah. From this we see how important the words of a person are in the eyes of HaShem. Perhaps we can explain this verse according to what has been explained: there is a general principle [in the service of HaShem] that a person should not do anything until after he has thought about it. He should consider before Whom he stands and before Whom he must stand in the future to make a reckoning of every single thing he has done. He should consider before everything that he does if this action will cause pleasure for the Creator, and if it is the will of our G-d. If it is, only then should he think, or say, or do the thing he had in mind. This is the meaning of the verse ‘You shall go after HaShem your G-d’ (Devorim* 13.5). You should only go or say or do ‘after HaShem you G-d.’ You should first consider your Creator and then [after you have considered HaShem] go and do the things you have to do. Perhaps this is hinted at in the verse: “And Moshe said to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel saying.” [The word ‘saying’ implies that] you should teach to the children of Israel. “This is the thing that HaShem has commanded.” You should consider with your intellect before you say, or think, or do anything if this is what ‘HaShem has commanded.’ [You should consider] if this will bring pleasure to the Creator. Then you should do or say it. And if not, then you shouldn’t do or say it. This idea is what it says in Shulchan Aruch* Orach Chaim* section 231, ‘The sages said that all your actions should be for the sake of Heaven, even those things that are not commandments, like eating or sitting or standing, or intimate relations or speaking, or any of your physical needs.’ They should all be done as a service for the Creator, or as something to cause you to be able to serve HaShem. Even if you are hungry and thirsty, if you eat for your own enjoyment this is not praiseworthy, but you should have in mind that you are eating and drinking in order to have the strength to be able to serve HaShem. This is the meaning of what it says in Pirkei Avos (2.1) ‘Understand what is above you’.  Even those things that you are doing because of a physical need should be done for the service of HaShem. [They should be done with the understanding that they are being done] before the one who is above you. This is what the verse says [after this] ‘If a man makes an oath to HaShem’.  [Meaning] that he should be separated [from his desires] and attached to HaShem. He will only do that which will bring pleasure for HaShem. As is written in a later verse, ‘to forbid for himself.’ That he should not have in mind to do things only for himself, but that there should come from his actions pleasure for HaShem. (p. 115 Teferes Shmuel Vol 2, teachings of Rebbe Shmuel Tzvi of Alexander ZT’l)

Zechisom Yugan Aleini v’Al Kol Yisroel

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Glossary:

Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok    Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as    Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant    sinner.
Bamidbar:
Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages    of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical    meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their   higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the   Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud                  2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.

sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.

Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible    b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law    c. also common term for a chassidic teaching

Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance

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