Torah Fax
Friday, May 18, 2007 - 1 Sivan, 5767

Torah Reading: BaMidbar (Numbers 1:1 -  4:20)
Candle Lighting: 7:50 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:58 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 6

Just A Second?

In this week's parsha, the Torah tells us that originally the first-born were selected to be the priests who would work in the Temple. This was due in part to the fact that their lives were spared during the plague of the first born when their Egyptian counterparts were killed. Since G‑d spared their lives, they became G‑d's special "possessions" as it were. But later, when the firstborn worshipped the Golden Calf, along with the vast majority of the Jewish people, they were stripped of their priestly distinction. In their place G‑d chose the Levites, the only ones who did not participate in that horrible crime of idolatry and were therefore the natural replacements for the first born.
 
In truth, they were not just replacements, but their selection in place of the first-born served as the atonement for the first-born. Hence the Torah uses the expression of pidyon-redemption to describe the substitution of the first born with the unblemished Levites.
 
Interestingly, the number of Levites were almost the same as the number of first-born Israelites - except for 273 additional first born.
 
Now, if each Levite was to take the place of a first-born and serve as his "redemption," removing him from his priestly obligations, how did the 273 additional first-born find their redemption when there were no Levites to replace them?
 
The answer is provided in our parsha. The additional 273 first-born were to give a five-shekel coin as their form of redemption.
 
Every detail of the Torah is precise and there are no coincidences or arbitrary pieces of information. The fact that there were 273 "extra" first-born that had to be redeemed separately must have some deeper significance.
 
Moreover, as some commentators have pointed out, the verse that describes the 273 first-born stands by itself: "And as for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy three of the first-born of the children of Israel, that are over and above the number of the Levites." It does not mention that they were to redeem themselves with five shekel until the next verse. It seems therefore that the Torah wishes to tell us that the fact that there were 273 additional first-born that had to be redeemed is in and of itself a noteworthy detail.
 
But what is the significance of the number 273?
 
One explanation of this matter, based on the exposition given in the Chassidic work entitled Arugat Habosem, is that the number 273 is the numerical value of the word rega, which means moment or instant.
 
And here is the dual lesson:
 
First, by stating that the 273 first-born Israelites required redemption, we learn that even an instant wasted or abused necessitates redemption. There is no truth to the assumption that seconds can be trifled with. Every second is precious and must be filled with meaning and purpose.
 
Second, even one instant that is utilized properly can be sufficient to turn one's life around. In Chassidic literature there is an expression that is used repeatedly: "in one moment; in one instant." This echoes the Talmudic statement that "one could acquire their world in one instant." Just one significant change of heart can turn a person's life around and bring salvation to him or herself.
 
Moreover, it takes just one movement-the Hebrew word for moment can also be translated as movement-to turn the whole world around and bring salvation and assistance to the entire world.
 
When the Jewish nation was asked whether they wanted to receive the Torah, the people's response consisted of just two words in Hebrew-na'aseh v'nishma (We will do and we will listen.") These few words did not take more than a moment or two to utter and yet they brought salvation to the entire world . For, as our Sages tell us, if the Jewish people had not accepted the Torah, there would have been no purpose in the creation of the world. Indeed, the Talmud relates that G‑d created the world tentatively. If the Torah will be accepted then the world would endure, otherwise, G‑d forbid, it would revert to nothingness.

Just those few moments made a world of difference.
 
Similarly, now, with just one moment's movement in the right direction, one person can literally save the world and usher in the Messianic Age of Redemption and peace. It could very well be that the entire world and all of the generations before us are waiting with bated breath for us to make a difference in just one moment. 
 

Moshiach Matters

"For six years he shall serve and in the seventh year he shall be set free" we read in the Torah (Ex. 21:2). These six years hint to the six kingdoms to which the Jewish people were exiled: Egypt, Assiriya, Babylonia, Media, Greece and Rome - our current exile. We are currently in the "sixth year" from which we will be set free - for eterenity - by Moshiach. (Sefer Haparshiot)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

 

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