Torah Fax

Friday May 30, 2008 - 25 Iyar, 5768

Torah Reading: BaMidbar (Numbers 1:1 - 4:20 )
Candle Lighting: 8:07 PM
Shabbat ends: 9:11 PM
Pirkei Avot: chapter 5

We Bless the New Month of Sivan

Chain Link

The beginning of the fourth book of the Torah – Bamidbar – describes the census of the Jewish people in the desert. Moses was commanded to gather all of the people and count them family by family.
The Torah sums up the project by stating:
"They assembled the entire congregation on the first day of the second month and verified their family lineage, according to their paternal houses, keeping a count of the names…"
The Midrash explains the juxtaposition the end of the book of Leviticus where it says: "These are the commandments that G‑d commanded Moses at Mount Sinai for the children of Israel" with the opening of the book of Numbers that deals with Jewish genealogy in the following manner:
The nations of the word complained that G‑d had chosen the Jewish people to give them the Torah at Sinai. G‑d's response to them was that the Jewish people were indeed deserving of the Torah because they were able to trace their genealogy unlike the other nations. Thus after the Torah mentions how the Torah was given at Sinai to the Jewish people in the end of Leviticus, it follows with a narrative concerning their genealogy to justify why the Torah was given to them specifically and not to other nations.
But commentators ask: couldn't other nations trace their lineage as well? Indeed, the descendents of Yishmael and Esau can even trace their lineage to Abraham and Isaac. What was so unique about the genealogy of the Jewish people?
One explanation bases itself on an alternate translation of the words "And verified their family lineage" (In Hebrew: "Vayityaldu al Mishpechotam.") These same words, when translated somewhat more literally, yield the following: "And they regarded themselves as children (VaYitayladu, from the word yeled, child) in comparison with their ancestors."
In other words, even the grown and mature people always looked up to their parents and forebears and always regarded themselves as children and secondary in comparison with them. This is certainly out of character with many societies that prefer to see themselves as being far more sophisticated than their old-fashioned parents and grandparents.
Indeed, in the secular mindset, it is almost axiomatic that we are so much more advanced than our ancestors and members of earlier generations.
The Jewish nation at that time viewed themselves humbly as little children in comparison with their forebears. And that trait of humility, made them worthy of receiving the Torah.
But if it was humility alone that was their claim to the Torah, why does the Torah emphasize the genealogy aspect of it? Why not simply describe the Jewish people as a humble people?
The answer is that while humility is indeed important, it is the humility that manifested itself in the way they viewed their relationship with their elders that was crucial to their ability to receive the Torah.
When people are asked to subject themselves to an outside authority, it certainly requires that they be receptive to the dictates of others. And this trait of humility and receptivity was powerfully expressed at Sinai when the Jewish nation responded in unison "Na'aseh v'nishma-We will do and we will listen."
But it was not so surprising that they exhibited that humility. Anyone who witnessed the awesome experiences of the Exodus from Egypt and its aftermath would be hard pressed to resist and not humbly accept the Torah. It was as if G‑d "twisted their arm" with love to accept the Torah; they had no choice, as it were.
But for that acceptance to be transmitted to future generations not directly exposed to the Sinai experience it requires a powerful link with the generations before them. If the new generation views itself as sophisticates and trailblazers that look back not with awe and reverence but with scorn and derision at their elders, they could never humble themselves sufficiently to unconditionally accept the Torah they received from their parents and grandparents.
There is also the other side of the coin. The same phrase Vayityaldu al Mishpechotam that was retranslated "And they regarded themselves as children in comparison with their ancestors," can also be rendered, in the very opposite manner, as: "their children dominated their families (elders)."
This translation reflects a modern phenomenon that has been predicted thousands of years ago by the prophet Malachi, that a day will come, before the coming of Moshiach that the hearts of the fathers will be restored through the children.
In these days, when even the parents and grandparents often have no conscious memory of the Sinai experience even in its transmitted form because the link of tradition has been severed  often due to circumstances beyond their control, the children, miraculously, search and discover the treasure of Sinai and in turn inspire their elders with the beauty of Judaism.
This new phenomenon, coupled with the reverence of our ancestors, is what prepares us for the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai some 3320 years ago. It is therefore so fitting to celebrate this twin phenomenon by having the parents bring their children and children bring their parents to hear the reading of the Torah and the narrative of the experience of Sinai this coming Shavuot holiday.
This twin phenomenon, of the parents' influence on children and the children's influence on their parents will also prepare us for the future Redemption, at which time the Sinai experience will reverberate throughout the world permanently.       

Moshiach Matters 

The Ba’al Shem Tov, whose Yahrzeit is the first day of Shavuos, writes that he asked the Moshiach when he will finally come. Moshiach’s answer: “When your wellsprings (meaning the teachings of Chassidus) will spread forth.” The learning and disseminating of Chassidic thought is the key to bringing Moshiach.
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit 

© 2001- 2008 Chabad of the West Side