Our view of the Galile

Friday, June 3, 2016

For the Love of Numbers- Bamidbar

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
June 3rd 2016 -Volume 6, Issue 35 26th Iyar 5776
Parshat Bamidbar

(For my Diaspora friends who are a parsha behind us and would like a Dvar torah on the Parsha of the week click on the following link for Bechukosai

For the Love of Numbers

I’m not a numbers person. I’m a words guy. Math was not my favorite subject to say the least. Addition subtraction multiplication were fine. Division already getting challenging. Forget about algebra and geometry. Trigonometry is a word that is even painful for me to write. It was certainly invented by some anti-Semite in my humble opinion, serving no practical purpose besides torturing words vs numbers oriented people like myself. My son, Yonah, I was proud to note is of a similar bend. Although rather than words oriented he is more basketball oriented; A sport I also believe was also invented by anti-Semites. After attending cheder here in Israel, needless to say that although he exceled in his Torah studies, they didn’t put a strong emphasis on math. So when it came time for him to go to High School and he had to ‘catch up’ in order to be prepared for his government bagrut exams, we hooked him up with a tutor. Now Yonah, being his father’s son, has inherited some of those “know it all” genes... from his mother of course J. And I remember him sitting down with his tutor the first night and quickly leafing through his algebra book. After a few minutes he turned to his tutor and exclaimed in that self-assured way
“This is easy. What’s the big deal? I could solve this no problem. I mean I don’t know why they have the X and the Y stuck inside of there. But the rest seems quite easy.”
Ouch! I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree...
Anyways, that being said, I guess I am leading up to what to me was always the most boring titles of a book of the Torah that we are beginning this week; Bamidbar or as they call it in English the book of Numbers. That title actually is not made up by the Hertz Rent a Chumash, or even the Christian bible author or Shakespeare or Mark Twain, rather it is a name given to the book by our sages in the times of the MishnaChazal. Now Genesis Exodus Leviticus and Deuteronomy are pretty cool sounding names. Some of them have movies named after them, some sound like the came out of a Harry Potter dictionary or some sci-fi movie. Numbers is just boring. It’s math. It’s a strange name to title a book and as the great author of that best-selling seminal work “The Most Enjoyable Book You’ll ever Read about Pesach” notes it’s all in the title. So what’s it all about? There are a lot of fascinating stories in this book. Even a translation of the word Bamidbar- the wilderness might be a better title, as the book covers the story of our sojourn in the wilderness for forty years, the trials, the rebellions, the struggles the wars and the victories. Sure there is the counting of the people in the book as well but that seems to be just a technical detail. Certainly not something to name an entire book for. Why would our sages feel that the essence of the book as encapsulated by its title be best described as the Sefer HaPikudim- the Book of the Counting or Numbers.
The first Rashi in this book subtly seems to give and explanation or a clue as to where our sages derived this name for the book. Basically Rashi seems to address the perplexing fact that our book begins in the 2nd month of the 2nd year with the counting of the Jewish people, despite the fact that in chapter 9 the Torah will revert to telling the story from the first month of Nissan of that 2nd year. In a nutshell the Torah jumped ahead out of order to highlight the fact that Hashem’s order to Moshe to count the Jewish people is the focal point of this book. Rashi notes
“Because of their dearness before Him He counts them at all times. When they left Egypt He counted them, when they fell at the golden calf He counted them... And when He came to rest His Shechina/Divine presence upon the He counted them. On the first of Nisan the Mishkan was erected and on the First of Iyar He counted them"
This has always been a Rashi that troubled me. Again, maybe because I’m not a numbers guy. But why does it show love when you count someone? Generally, counting is just a practical thing to know how many people you have. I do it all the time on my tours on buses with students. It’s not a particularly loving moment, I can tell you. Also seemingly the function of counting is to clarify the number. One of the basic things I can be pretty sure of is that Hashem knows, who’s on the bus and who’s not and how many people we have. Why does he mandate this count? Why does this show His love ‘before Him’? Finally, Rashi notes that Hashem counts them ‘at all times’. He lists 4 times. In fact according to our sages in the Midrash there are a total of 9 counts in all of the books of Tanach in our history. The tenth they assure us will be when Mashiach comes. 10 counts in 5000 years is certainly not ‘at all times’. The US census is more often than that. Forget about before Israeli elections, when they make sure that the dead are not voting still. So what’s going on with this Numbers thing?
Sometimes you can only understand a concept with a story. And for the really good stories, it really hits the nail on the head. I like stories like that. I’m a words guy, remember. And a story that can answer a numbers question, it doesn’t get better than that. Recently I heard an incredible story from one of my Rabbis and teachers. He had visited the Soviet Union and had visited the shul in Moscow. After davening he noticed that there was, what he described as, a beautiful looking older yid- a yid from the Baal Shem Tov was the way that he put it. He approached the yid and asked him his name and his story. It turns out that Grisha who was born in Moldavia was more than happy to talk and to share his story. Even better, he was able to do so in an incredibly fluent English. The reason for his good English as well his proficiency in quite a few languages was because Grisha was the former Minister of Culture in Moldavia. As a young boy he went to cheder in a small shtetl there, but he got swept up in the communist revolution and quickly moved up the ranks until he reached that honored position. The ministry of culture in Moldavia is a big thing it seems, particularly under the communist watch, kind of like the minister of defense of Israel. Every country’s go their thing.
 during the 80’s though,  Perestroika, when communism pretty much fell apart, Grisha saw the writing on the wall and understood that it would not be safe for any card-carrying old guard to stick around. So he pretty much disappeared to the big city of Moscow where he was forced to change his identity, and start again anew. He got a job working in a small newspaper and teaching. One morning on his way to work, he was stopped by a Chabad Rabbi who asked him the question that would change his life.
“Are you Jewish?” Grisha hadn’t been asked that question for decades. He had decades before shed any remnant of that archaic past. Yet quite startled by the question he answered in the affirmative. The Chabad Rabbi then asked him if perhaps he could help them with a Minyan. Would he be the 10th man? And right there it struck him. His entire life, all that he had worked for and given his years to had disappeared in a matter of a few days. But he was still a yid. He still counted. He could still be part of a Minyan. 9 Jews, even 9 Moshe Rabbeinus couldn’t make a minyan. But he Grisha being the 10th could bring down the presence of theShechina to this world. He was one, just as the greatest Rabbi was only one. No less and no more. Each one counts. Each yid is special. From that moment on Grisha started attending shul and in fact became the Gabbai in the shul in Moscow. He understood the significance of being counted. He understood that Hashem counts His people ‘at all times’. Every Minyan, three times a day. We are special and dear before Him. Whether we are coming from the 49th
level of impurity when we leave Egypt, when we have fallen after the sin of the Golden Calf, and when we come to bring the Divine spirit into the holy home that we build for Him. He counts us. We all have a number that only we can realize.
That is the title of the book of Bamidbar, the introduction of the book Rashi notes is the first of the 2nd month. The month of Iyar that we complete this week. It is a month that we have spent counting each day. Today I am a new number. Today is another day in the counting of the omer. It is another day from the moment that we left Egypt that we move closer to that historic revelation on Sinai. The moment when we stood as ‘one man, with one heart’. Our number was complete. Everybody was on the bus, we became united with our Creator. That is the essence of the Book of Bamidbar, recognizing that Hashem is counting on us to bring Him into the Holy Land, and though we may fall, we can always get back up again. We are still part of the minyan. We are all number one. 

Have a majestic Shabbos, a Yom Yerushalayim Samayach and a blessed Rosh Chodesh,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyzydnXmxTE - Yom Yerushalayim at the Kotel concert so awesome..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MamM5d0iWaw   -The capture of Jersusalem 1967! Har Habayis Bi Yadeinu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAarYUhkuPs&index=102&list=PL9w_0PxsHZzNYIQNpDLqGGNzUxla2dKUJ-Shlomo Carlebach golden oldie cool footage Uvney Yerushalayim
“Verter zol men vegn un nit tseyln.”-Words should be weighed, not counted.
All the rabbis and scholars who had been in Jerusalem, both Ashkenazi and Sephardi, had fled for their lives, because those corrupt politicians had treated them so badly. There had been almost 300 Jewish families in Jerusalem, but they had all left, one by one, to escape the heavy taxes that the politicians had imposed on them. Now, only the poor and women are left in Jerusalem, and practically no one of any stature.”
“About three-quarters of a mile from Jerusalem, at a place with rough, descending steps, we saw the praised city, the city of our joy. There we tore our garments in accordance with Jewish law. And when we came a little closer and saw our holy and beautiful Temple now in ruins, we again tore our garments.
We arrived at the gates of Jerusalem and entered at noon on the thirteenth of Nissan, 5248. On that day, “our feet stood within your gates, O Jerusalem!” (Psalms 122:2).
Most of Jerusalem is in ruins, and it goes without saying that there is no wall about it. According to what I was told, a total of 4000 families live in Jerusalem. But of these, only 70 are Jewish, the poorest of the poor, who earn no money. Almost everyone lacks basic food items. If someone has enough food for the year, he is considered wealthy. There are many old and lonely widows, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and from other lands, “seven women to a man” (Isaiah 4:1).”
“The reward of a mitzva is a mitzva and of a sin is a sin can be explained that the enjoyment and pleasure that one has from doing and fulfilling a commandment of Hashem is in itself considered a mitzva and alternatively the pleasure and enjoyment one has while sinning is considered itself a sin and he will be punished for the sin and the accompanying pleasure as well”
Rabbi Ovadia Bartneura- 3rd of Sivan 1529 This Thursday -I have always been an adventurer and the story and life of one of our greatest commentators in the 15th century has lawys captured my imagination. Rabbi Ovadia Bartenura was born in Italy in the city of Bartenura-from where his name comes although his family name it seems was Yar”ei- which staood for Yehi Ratzui Echav- he shall be beloved amongst his brothers. He studied under the great Reb Yitzchak Colon and then served as a Rabbi in various communities as supporting himself as a banker one for the few that were permitted to lend money with interest to the Christian neighbors in Italy. When his wife died Rav Bartenura began his famous journey to Israel along the way chronicling for us what life was like in the Middle Ages for the various communities and countries that he visited. Those journeys have been kept in the form of letters that have been published.
 Rabbi Bartenura, the famous commentator of the Mishna, decided to move to Jerusalem, even though this meant he would be leaving behind a settled and prosperous land in order to live in a remote and poor place. He left his rich family behind in Italy and began a long and arduous journey which took two and a half years. He sailed from Naples, in Italy, to the island of Sicily, and from there he continued through Rhodes to Egypt. At every stop along his way, the Jewish community quickly discovered his wisdom and begged him to remain with them as their leader. But in spite of the hardships of the journey, Rabbi Ovadia maintained his goal - to reach Jerusalem. He continued on his journey in a camel caravan which crossed the Sinai Desert and reached Azza. From there he rode on a donkey through Chevron and Beit Lechem. In the spring of 1488 he arrived at his yearned for destination. Here is how he describes his view of Israel at the time.
A large measure of faith and dedication was needed at the time to go to live in the holy city. The situation in the city in general and the status of the Jews in particular were very bad. Only seventy Jewish families remained, out of a total population of about 4,000. The Jews were less than 2% of the total number of inhabitants. Rabbi Ovadia continues:
“Jerusalem was desolate and destroyed, and it did not have any wall around it... The Jews once had many buildings, but they were all destroyed and desolate, piles of rubble... A small section of the Western Wall still exists. Its stones are huge and thick, I have never seen such great stones in any ancient building, neither in Rome nor in any other land.
“The Jews are the poorest of the people, with no livelihood... One who finds a single loaf of bread for an entire year is considered rich in this place. There are many widows, old and lonely, seven women for every man... And they all remain poor and wretched... There was a harsh famine in the land, and many of the Jews died of hunger... Many people ate grass from the fields, searching like the deer for fodder... Or they ate the remains of carob fruit...”
There was also a lack in the life of Torah. Most of the rabbis had fled Jerusalem because of the decrees of the Arabs, and this also led to a poor state of the synagogues. As a result, there was a severe shortage in the city of Torah scrolls, holy books, and other holy items.
Rabbi Bartenura was the right man in the right place. As soon as he arrived, he began to revitalize the destitute community. He became known as a Torah scholar and a beloved and admired leader, not only among the Jewish community but also among the government authorities. They respected him, and he tried through the authorities to lighten the heavy burden of taxes. While he was there, the Jewish community of Jerusalem grew and became stronger, partly because many of those who were expelled from Spain in 1492 came there. His connections in Italy supplied him with money for the support of the poor, which also added not a little to his influence.
These Spanish Jews presented made Rav Bartenura with a site for a yeshivah in Jerusalem, which he founded, more than a thousand years after the extinction of the last academy in Palestine. Considerable support for the maintenance of the yeshivah was given by the Jews of Egypt and Turkey at the Rav’s written solicitation. 
In the decade during which RavBartinura thus controlled the best interests of the Jewish community at Jerusalem, a radical change for the better developed. Shortly after his arrival he had actually been compelled upon one occasion to dig a grave because the community had provided no one to perform that labor; a few years later there had come into existence such benevolent institutions as hospitals, charitable relief societies, and similar associations, all under excellent management. His fame spread to all parts of the Orient, and he came to be looked upon as a rabbinical authority of the highest eminence; even the Muslim population frequently called upon him to decide judicial cases. He harshly reproved rabbis for exacting fees for services at weddings and divorces, a custom then general in Germany. He believed it their duty to perform religious ceremonies without monetary remuneration.
 Rabbi Ovadia was honored both as a Torah scholar and as a political leader. The following was written about him:
“The man is very great, and everybody in the land listens to what he says. Without his permission no man will lift his hand, and many Gentiles come from far to hear his advice, which they always follow.”
Later that year, on 17 December 1489, he writes that he had moved to Hebron where he found the atmosphere much more conducive, and a small Jewish community numbering some twenty households who were of a better temperament than those in Jerusalem, and where they lived along one alleyway.
Rabbi Ovadia was buried in a small cave at the foot of the Mount of Olives, near the spring of the Shiloach. This is very appropriate, because his wellsprings of Torah and wisdom continued to spread out among all the different communities of Yisrael.
answer below at end of Email
Q. Ruins of a Crusader church can be seen in:
 A.    Sephoris (Tsipori)
 B.  Capernaum
 C.  Mount of Beatitude
 D.  Kursi
Every single word of Rashi is important any nuance is meant to be studied and when one does so you can find the greatest secrets and insights. In this week’s Torah portion Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer Zt’l reveals such a diyuk-(inference?). Rashi notes that on the command to count the tribe of Levi they are meant to be counted from one month and older.
Rashi explains- once he leaves the category of nefel-possibly being an inviable infant {that dies within 30 days} he is counted. To be called to the service of ‘one who safeguards that which is holy”. Rabbi Yehudah the son of Shalom says ‘That tribe {of Levi} have a history of being counted from the womb...
Rashi points out that by Yocheved the mother of Moshe gave birth upon entering Egypt and the child is counted amongst the 70 that came down to Egypt.
Rav Isser Zalman notes that a few verses later when the Torah commands to count the first-borns and to redeem them with the Levites they are also meant to be counted from 30 days old. However there Rashi explains that it is done from the age when they will the category of doubtful Nefel the inviable infant. Rav Isser Zalman asks why is it over there Rashi says they area safek-doubtful nefel and here by the Levis Rashi states that they have left the category of Nefel without that word Safek doubtful. Seemingly by both cases until 30 days there would be a doubt if they will be die or not.
He explains that Rashi explains this in the next Rashi. There Rashi notes that the counting of Levi was done Al Pi Hashem- through the mouth of Hashem-instead of Moshe walking into every tent of nursing mothers, He would stand outside the tent and Hashem would call out the number of infants. Thus Rav Isser Zalman notes by the Levis there was never any doubt whether a child would make it to 30 days or not, as Hashem was the one that was announcing their count. On the other hand by the first-born it was not clear and thus Moshe had to count because of the doubt.
One word, one nuance and an incredible insight. `
29th of Iyar June 8th 1967- The Return to Chevron -This whole week celebrates the miraculous success of the Jewish people to liberate almost four times of the previous size of Israel from the arabs who had sworn to push us in the sea. Yom Yerushalayim, this Sunday is the day that celebrates the liberation and return to the Kotel. The following day was the return to Chevron and this is the incredible story.
Who was the first Israeli to return to Hebron in 1967? Who was the first Jew to enter the Cave of the Machpela in over 700 years? (Moslems refused to permit Jews into the Cave of the Machpela. Jews were allowed to pray outside, at the infamous "7th step". Anyone attempting to get any closer to the entrance was beaten by the Arab guards stationed there.) Surprisingly enough, the first Israeli in Hebron and in the Cave of the Machpela was the then Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, z”l. And here is his story:
Rabbi Goren was present with Israeli forces as the IDF conquered the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Holding the rank of general, Rabbi Goren knew that the army's next mission was Hebron. Wanting to be among the first Israeli's in the ancient City of the Patriarchs, he joined the armed forces stationed at the recently captured Etzion Block, on their way to Hebron. On the night of 28 Iyyar, before retiring for the evening, he requested to be awoken when the soldiers began their march to Hebron the following day.
The next morning he awoke, only to find himself alone with his driver. Realizing that he had been "left behind," he ordered his driver to begin the 20 minute journey to Hebron, expecting to meet the rest of the army, already on their way.
Rabbi Goren thought it pecular that he hadn’t encountered any other Israeli soldiers on the road as he reached Hebron. He thought to himself surely the Israelis had already finished the job of marching on Hebron already. Driving into Hebron, Rabbi Goren was greeted by the sight of white sheets, hung from roof-tops and windows, throughout the city. He was astounded, but understood. In the summer of 1929, Arab residents of Hebron had massacred 67 Jews and wounded many others. The 1967 Arabs of Hebron were, very plainly, scared of Jewish retaliation. So, they did not fire one shot. Instead they hung white sheets from windows and roof-tops.
Rabbi Goren quickly made his way to the Cave of Machpela. Finding the huge doors bolted, he tried breaking in by shooting at the lock, firing his Uzi submachine gun. Finally, after getting into Ma’arat HaMachpela he blew the Shofar, as he had done 24 hours earlier at the Western Wall.
Only afterwards did Rabbi Goren discover that when he left the base at the Etzion Block, the rest of the forces were on the other side of the hill, making plans for the attack on Hebron. They did not know that the Arabs would surrender. In other words, Rabbi Goren, a single Israeli soldier, single-handedly conquered a city of 80,000 Arabs. Jews had returned to Hebron and to Ma’arat HaMachpela!
Rabbi Goren hung an Israeli flag outside the Ma'ara and brought a Sefer Torah inside. The next day he received a telegram from Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan. It read, "Take down the flag, take out the Sefer Torah, and everyone who enters must take off his shoes, because the building is a Mosque!" Rabbi Goren sent back a telegram saying, "The Sefer Torah is Kodesh (holy) - it stays. The flag means to me what it means to you. If you want to remove it, do so. I will not touch it."
Dayan sent an officer into Hebron to remove the flag and Torah. On the way back to Jerusalem, the officer was killed in an automobile accident. Dayan then rescinded his order to remove shoes in the Ma'ara. (This story was told to a group of people by Rabbi Shlomo Goren in Kiryat Arba about 8 months before he passed away.)
An opinion without 3.14159... is just an onion
Parallel lines have so much in common. It’s a shame they will never meet
Q: Why wasn't the geometry teacher at school?
A: Because she sprained her angle!!
Q: Why did I divide sin by tan?
A: Just cos.
Q: Where do math teachers go on vacation?
A: To Times Square.
There are three people applying for the same job. One is a mathematician, one a statistician, and one an accountant.

The interviewing committee first calls in the mathematician. They say "we have only one question. What is 500 plus 500?" The mathematician, without hesitation, says "1000." The committee sends him out and calls in the statistician.
When the statistician comes in, they ask the same question. The statistician ponders the question for a moment, and then answers "1000... I'm 95% confident." He is then also thanked for his time and sent on his way.
When the accountant enters the room, he is asked the same question: "what is 500 plus 500?" The accountant replies, "what would you like it to be?" They hire the accountant.
Son: "My math teacher is crazy".
Mother: "Why?"
Son: "Yesterday she told us that five is 4+1; today she is telling us that five is 3 + 2."
And finally...
MATH stands for Mental Abuse To Humans.
Answer is A - I got this one wrong. It probably would have been my last guess as well.. But the correct answer is Tzippori. The reason I got this wrong is because I’ve been there a bunch of times and never saw any Crusader ruins. Tzippori is a place to talk about the Mishna and Roman city. It’s probably the least Christian of all of the above sites. Kursi being the ‘miracle of the pigs’ Capernaum where the J-Man was thrown out of shul and Beatitudes being the sermon on the mount. All information I have pretty much deleted from my arsenal. However it seems that Tzippori is the correct answer as if you look over the ledge to where the grave of the grandson of Rebbe Yehudah Ha’Nasi is buried although I don’t really go there there’s a crusader church called St. Anna the grandmother of J-man. I remember after looking it up that I had seen it before. And I remember saying I would never bring anyone here. So take my advice Don’t visit it it’s a waste..

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