Halacha for Friday 4 Sivan 5782 June 3 2022

Bamidbar [outside of Israel, Naso in Israel] - Why Bamidbar is Always Read Prior to Shavuot? Am Yisrael’s Unity Neutralises Them From Any Prosecutions

  רבי אורי זוהר בשיחתו האחרונה עם מרן זצ"ל

From HaGaon Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, The Head of Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Tosafot z”l (Megillah 31b) wrote: Why are we always particular to read Parashat “Bamidbar” prior to Shavuot? “In order to ensure that the curses in Parashat Bechukotai aren’t read immediately prior to Chag Shavuot”. In other words, so that the Satan won’t have a chance to denigrate Am Yisrael on Shavuot. Therefore we are particular to ensure that the curses in Parashat “Bechukotai” are read at a distance from Chag HaShavuot. Indeed, this is the halachah in Shulchan Aruch (OH 428).

HaGaon Rav Yaakov Galinski zt”l (1920-2014) asks that it appears difficult to understand! If the Satan has something with which to prosecute, if for example, he has, G-d-for-bid, found some sins that Am Yisrael have committed, then why would he need Parashat Bechukotai to be an adversary? Can he not two weeks after having read Parashat Bechukotai still be a prosecutor?

The explanation is that Parashat Bamidbar, has a unique segulah to remove any form of prosecution from Am Yisrael. We will now explain this:

When Am Yisrael were counted in Parashat Bamidbar, they weren’t counted just as individuals, rather they were counted with their respective families. Then each according to their tribe and then again each group of three tribes joined as one camp. Then all four camps encamped around the tribe of Levi. They were in the centre and in their centre was the Ohel Moed, which was the beating heart of Am Yisrael. This neutralises any prosecution! But why?

It states in Shir HaShirim (4:7), “…where you will be completely beautiful, My beloved, and no blemish will be in you”. When Am Yisrael are one and united, all beautiful, there is no blemish, no prosecution can be effective. This may be difficult to fathom but this is how it is.

And so, our chachamim said that in the time of David, the young Jewish children were extraordinarily expert in the Torah. Amongst Am Yisrael were phenomenal geonim in Torah learning, piety and righteousness, yet despite this they fell in battle. In contrast, in Achav’s generation, almost all of Am Yisrael were idolators, yet they were united. No one grassed on another, each one sought what was best for the other. Therefore, they were victorious in battle!

This is the efficacy of Am Yisrael’s unity. But there lies here yet a deeper idea:

When a Jew observes a mitzvah, he doesn’t just merit himself with the mitzvah but rather all of Am Yisrael have a part in the mitzvah too. All of Am Yisrael are elevated through his mitzvah. When G-d-for-bid, it is the reverse, a person neglects to fulfil a mitzvah, or worse, actively commits a sin, he spawns corruption for all of Am Yisrael.

And so HaGaon Rav Yaakov Galinski relates that when he was in America they related to him true stories about the activities of the Reform movement. Amongst this they informed him that the Reform have a custom to arrange the “seudat hamafseket” (final meal) prior to the commencement of Yom Kippur. Then they travel to their Temple to hear “Kol Nidrei”, then they pay their rabbi to fast for them, whilst they return home and eat and drink as if there is no fast.

A simple Jew returned home and told his wife what he had witnessed. His wife said to him, “Why didn’t you pay the rabbi for me too?” The husband listened and rushed to the rabbi’s home, shocked, he saw that the rabbi was also sat eating with his family. To his shocked face the rabbi said, “I’m only eating for myself, but for you I am fasting…”

This of course is complete nonsense since everyone knows that there is no such thing that a person may fulfil a mitzvah for another [if the person himself is required to observe that particular mitzvah in person]. Each person is obligated to keep the mitzvot himself. However, the spiritual impact that is contained within every mitzvah, in every Jewish action, this influences Klal Yisrael entirely. Conversely, when a Jew commits a sin, especially if it is a serious sin, together with himself he spawns corruption in all of Am Yisrael.

A precondition to the Giving of the Torah was that all of Am Yisrael respond like one person with one heart [see Shemot 19:2, Mechilta and Rashi ad loc.], and they said together, “We will do and obey!” [Shemot 24:7]. Unity is the most valued prerequisite ahead of receiving the Torah on Chag HaShavuot. Therefore Parashat Bamidbar, which highlights Am Yisrael’s unity, is appropriate and neutralises them from any prosecutions.

It is also for this reason that during Sefirat HaOmer, which are the days to prepare for receiving the Torah, that Rabi Akivah’s pupils died for not showing respect to one another. Because specifically during these days we are expected to display unity in an exceptional manner.

Unity doesn’t mean G-d-for-bid to cheapen the observance of mitzvot by saying “we are all one people”, “there is no difference of opinion” “let’s all go together and succumb to the whims of others”. This is not the intention. Rather, unity means recognising the unique value that our people have mutual responsibility and joint liability. Responsibility, which also encompasses feeling pain and lability for those amongst our people who are still far in their Torah observance. We must exert all our strength, through prayer and good deeds, to turn back to Hashem the hearts of fathers with their sons and the hearts of sons with their fathers [see Malachi 3:24]. We must enquire after the welfare and wellbeing of all Jews and hope that, Hashem who is Good, will open the eyes of the blind and merit them to return.

Shabbat Shalom!

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