AN "UPLIFTING" INSIGHT
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich
When our sages designed the cycle for the weekly Torah readings, they assured that Parshat Bamidbar would always be read before the holiday of Shavuot.
When our sages designed the cycle for the weekly Torah readings, they assured that Parshat Bamidbar would always be read before the holiday of Shavuot. Tosafot, the great medieval school of commentators on the Talmud, remarks (Tractate Megillah 31b) that this was to guarantee that Parshat Bechukotai, the preceding portion predicting the curses to befall a wayward Jewish people, would not introduce the week of Shavuot, the holiday on which judgment is passed on the fruit trees. Thus, Parshat Bamidbar interposes between Bechukotai and Shavuot to avoid any mention of our misdeeds at this critical time when the bounty of our trees and so much of our material well-being is being determined.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the great Torah leader of the past generation, suggests an insightful and uplifting idea. Parshat Bamidbar opens with Hashem's charge to Moses to conduct a census of the Jewish people. Interestingly, the term employed in the Torah referring to the command to count the Jews is "se'u" (Numbers 1:2). Rabbi Feinstein notes that "se'u" generally means "to uplift". The Torah is teaching us that everyone was uplifted by this count. The awareness that everyone was counted and reckoned equally before Hashem gave each Jew a heightened sense of meaning and significance. After all, each Jew is counted as much as the next in this divinely ordained census.
This notion was to bring home the idea to each Jew that regardless of how he perceives himself, Hashem values his sincere service toward the sanctification of His name, no less than the service of any other person who might outwardly seem to be his superior in spiritual accomplishment.
As the holiday of Shavuot approaches, we endeavor to prepare ourselves emotionally and spiritually to once again renew our commitment to the historic cry of na'aseh ve'nishmah (we will do the mitzvot and later ask why) proclaimed by the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai. We will once again ponder the greatness of our Torah; its awesome breadth, depth, and infinite layers of wisdom and meaning. We will marvel at the profound discussions of the Talmud and the voluminous commentary on Torah matters that continues to be generated to this day. And then the crushing reality sets in. Many will bemoan the elementary level of the knowledge and skills for Torah learning that they possess. They will wonder if their efforts to draw from this vast ocean of knowledge will make a difference when whatever they accomplish is, in fact, only a mere fraction of what is yet to be mastered. And then those nasty thoughts fill our minds. Can my seemingly insignificant accomplishments really make a difference to me or to the Jewish people?
Therefore, Parshat Bamidbar and the theme of "se'u", uplift them, beckons us to the critical truth that in Hashem's eyes we all have something special to offer, each and everyone according to his own abilities. The Torah study of every Jew, regardless of his stature of Torah learning, is precious to Hashem and can literally serve as a trigger in the spiritual cosmos that can affect the events of the world in which we live.
Rabbi Shlomo Freundlich has been a teacher at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta for over a decade.
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