Friday, June 5, 2015

Your Honor

קוּמָה ה' וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ (במדבר י, לה)
ARISE, O G-D, MAY YOUR ENEMIES BE SCATTERED AND MAY THOSE WHO HATE YOU FLEE FROM YOU (BAMIDBAR 10:35)


Rashi explains that Moshe’s entreaty to G-d, “may those who hate you flee from you,” refers to those who hate the Jewish people. “for anyone who hates the Jewish people, hates the One Who spoke and the world came into being.”
Why did Moshe pray that G-d’s enemies be caused to flee, instead of asking directly that G-d cause the enemies of the Jewish people to flee?
In doing so, Moshe prayed that G-d save the Jewish people even if they are deficient in their worship of G-d, and are therefore unworthy of salvation on their own merits. Moshe demanded that even so, G-d should cause the enemies of the Jewish people to flee because they are His enemies as well. For the enemies of the Jewish people are not concerned with the degree to which the Jewish people are devoted to the Torah and mitzvos, and will not attribute the Jewish people’s suffering to their misdeeds. The enemies of the Jews know, however, that the Jewish people are called the children of G-d. Therefore, if they can succeed at harming the Jews and G-d does not save them, Heaven forfend, it is a disgrace to G-d Himself. To avoid this disgrace to Your holy name, said Moshe, protect the Jewish people even if they are not worthy on their own accord. “For anyone who hates the Jewish people, hates the One Who spoke and the world came into being”—it is Your own honor that must be protected.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

How to Give

וְכָל תְּרוּמָה לְכָל קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיבוּ לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה (במדבר ה, ט)
EVERY RAISED-OFFERING OF ALL THE HOLY THINGS THAT THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL BRING TO THE KOHEN, IT SHALL BE HIS (BAMIDBAR 5:9)


Rashi explains that this verse comes to teach us that bikkurim are given to thekohen. Elsewhere (Shemos 23:19), the Torah instructs us to bring bikkurim, the first fruits of the season, to the Temple, but does not state what shall be done with the fruits afterward. The Torah therefore tells us now, “to the kohen, it shall be his”—the bikkurim are divided among the kohanim.
The Torah’s portrayal of bikkurim as a two-step process, first requiring us to bring the new fruits to the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash, and then instructing us to leave them for the kohanim, teaches us the correct approach that we must have toward giving tzedakah.
Bikkurim must be brought from fruits of the highest quality (see Rambam, Hilchos Bikkurim 2:3), whose cultivation and growing requires great effort and patience. The mitzvah to bring the very first of these fruits to the Temple demonstrates that when we chance upon an opportunity to give to charity, we must not consider how difficult it was for us to earn our money and thus hesitate to part with it. Rather, we should readily give the first and finest of our earnings toward a G-dly purpose, tzedakah.
The ultimate challenge, however, is not in contributing toward a holy or communal cause, but in giving the first of our earnings to the poor, for the personal benefit of another individual. Here one can rightfully argue, why is the next person more entitled to the first fruits of my labors than I am? I too am needy and deserving!
The mitzvah of bikkurim teaches us how to surmount this inner struggle: by bringing the new fruits to the Temple before giving them to the kohen. Figuratively, this means to regard the first of our earnings as funds that already belong to charity. The process must begin with “bringing the fruits to the Temple,” because the struggle of parting with our hard-earned money in favor of giving it to someone else exists only so long as we are parting with our possessions. Once we regard the funds as belonging to charity, keeping them for ourselves becomes much less of a consideration.
—Likutei Sichos, vol. 8, pp. 39-40

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