It is Eli’s birthday and we had a birthday Friday night meal. Tzvi came over.
Davened at Sidney’s garage / driveway Minyan. I spoke before Musaf and these are my words:
וָאֶתְּנָ֨ה אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֜ם נְתֻנִ֣ים ׀ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן וּלְבָנָ֗יו מִתּוֹךְ֮ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ לַעֲבֹ֞ד אֶת־עֲבֹדַ֤ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וּלְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֨א יִהְיֶ֜ה בִּבְנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ נֶ֔גֶף בְּגֶ֥שֶׁת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶל־הַקֹּֽדֶשׁ׃
19: And from among the Israelites I formally assign the Levites to Aaron and his sons, to perform the service for the Israelites in the Tent of Meeting and to make expiation for the Israelites, so that no plague may afflict the Israelites for coming too near the sanctuary.Chapter 8 Verse 19
ואתנה וגו’. חֲמִשָּׁה פְעָמִים נֶאֶמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִקְרָא זֶה, לְהוֹדִיעַ חִבָּתָן, שֶׁנִּכְפַּל אַזְכְּרוֹתֵיהֶן בְּמִקְרָא אֶחָד כְּמִנְיַן חֲמִשָּׁה חֻמְשֵׁי תוֹרָה, וְכָךְ רָאִיתִי בִּבְ”רַ:
׳AND I HAVE GIVEN [THE LEVITES etc.] — Five times are the “children of Israel” mentioned in this verse (where the last four times they might have been alluded to by a personal pronoun), in order to show what affection they are held by the Lord in that the mention of them is repeated five times in one verse corresponding in number to the “Five Books of the Torah”. Thus I have seen stated in Genesis Rabbah(Leviticus Rabbah 2:4; cf. Genesis Rabbah 3:5).
The actual Merdrash does not say that the five times correspond in number to the five books of the Torah. Rashi adds them from a Midrash on creation from Genesis Rabbah 3:5.
The Medresh itself says:
רַבִּי יוּדָן בּוֹא וּרְאֵה כַּמָּה חִבֵּב הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁמַּזְכִּירָן חֲמִשָּׁה פְּעָמִים בְּפָסוּק אֶחָד, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר ח, יט): וָאֶתְּנָה אֶת הַלְּוִים נְתוּנִים וגו’.
By repeating בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל Hashem is showing how much he loves the Jewish people. The reason why Hashem is showing his love here is because at this time when their Bechorim were being replaced because of the sign of the golden calf, this is a slap in the face of the Klal Yisroel. Hashem says do not feel diminished, I love you.
Why does Rashi add to the Medresh that the times represent the 5 books of the Torah, when the Medresh does not mention it?
The Kotzker says on this Rashi:
וָאֶתְּנָ֨ה אֶת־הַלְוִיִּ֜ם נְתֻנִ֣ים ׀ לְאַהֲרֹ֣ן וּלְבָנָ֗יו מִתּוֹךְ֮ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒
“יען שראו ישראל כי נפרשו הכּוהנים והלוים מתוך כלל ישראל מיוחדים לעבודת הבּורא יתבּרך נחלשׁו דעתם וצעקו מעמק לבּם היכן אנחנו? הודע להם השי”ת חבתן שׁהם כחמשה חומשי תורה שאף שכל אחד ספר בּפני עצמו הרי כל התורה אחת היא, כך ישראל אף שנחלקו לכּוהנים לוים וישראלים הם עם אחד”
When the Kohanim and Levim were separated to work directly for Hashem, the Jews minds weakened (they felt terrible and cried from the depths of their hearts, what about us (we want to serve Hashem)? Hashem let them know that just as one book of the five books is a book unto itself, the five books are one Torah. You cannot have Genesis without the other four books. The entire Torah is one. So too with the Jewish people, even though they are 3 different groupings of peoples, Kohanim, Levim, and Yisralim, they are one nation. You cannot have a Kal Yisrael without all three together, unified. And according to the Baal Haturim, five groupings of people. Meaning we all have a part of Hashem’s services of the Kohanim and Levim because they are us and we are them, we should not feel excluded in the least. We move forward as one unit and everyone has separate jobs. Everyone doing their individual jobs, fulfils their job for the Klal, for everyone. When I learn, I learn for Klal Yisroel. When a boy is in the IDF, he is fighting for me and I am doing Chesed and learning for him.
In fact the Ba’al Haturim says different than Rashi. The five times it says בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל represents Kohanim, Levim, Yisroalim, Converts, and Freed Slaves, and then links this to the Pasuk in Jeremiah 2:3: קֹ֤דֶשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לַיהוָ֔ה רֵאשִׁ֖ית תְּבוּאָתֹ֑ה – Israel was holy to Hashem, The first fruits of His harvest.
The Baal Haturim then adds seemingly as way of explanation – ‘.תבואת הּּּ – Hashem’s produce. I think the Baal Haturim is saying that Hashem is telling the Jewish people we are all God’s product, and all the Jews have God within us. Do not be despondent because all of you serve Harshem in every facet of their lives, by being holy and representatives for the entire Jewish people, just like the Kohanim and Levim do their share for the entire Jewish people.
Let us understand what was happening on a deeper level.
The Jews are watching as their children, their first born, are being stripped of service in the Temple because of the sin of the golden calf. This is the biggest rebuke. They lost eternity for their families and their firstborn. As the Kotzker said, Klal Yisroel was forlorn, depressed – we also want holiness and we lost it.
Could this result in long term damage to the Jewish people? The answer is yes and perhaps it did affect them. Imagine if the first born retained their status. There would have been a core group always in Yerushalayim by the Bais Hamikdash. Throughout the land when the time came for the first born to go up to Yerushalayim to serve his Mismar, the family and entire city would have escorted the firstborn to the city gates with dancing and singing. When they came back after serving their week, the firstborn would relate everything that happened during his week of service. That would have brought tremendous unity and purpose to all the Jews of Israel. It would have strengthened the people to be loyal to Hashem. The Jewsh people lost this, a tremendous blow.
Hashem is reassuring the people, you are one nation, you have a part of the Kohanim and Levim’s service, you have Hashem within you. The promotion of the Kohanim and Levim is your promotion. Celebrate. They will keep the holiness of the Bais Hamikdash for you.
Rabbi Eliyahu Ki Tov brings down a story about Kotzk. He asked the Kotzker – when my friends go out to their Rebbes, the entire city gives them Kvitlach, they escort the Chassidium on the start of their journey with songs and dancing. When I go to you, people curse me and I have to go out like a thief in the night. The Kotzker answered, perhaps this is your Avodas Hashem, in hardship.
This sense of unity is in everything we do. When I learn or say a Torah thought, I am not only doing it for myself, but for all Jews. When a boy goes into the IDF, he is serving and protecting the country for all Jews. We owe him. When I work and bring praise to the Jewish people, I am doing it on behalf of all Jewish people. When a Rosh Yeshiva gives a Shiur and his students listen, they are doing their part for Klal Yisroel. A farmer produces food to feed all Jews.
On Thursday, June 12, 2020, I went to Waldheim cemetery to be counted as a Minyan for Sidney Glenner’s Bubbe’s Yahrzeit. I came a little late and could not find the family or the gravesite. I saw a funeral and went over to attend. It was for Bernard Judah Matkowsky. I did not know the family. The Niftar’s son spoke and talked about his father’s love for Israel. The son served in the IDF and said that on his first night in the IDF the unit sang Moaz Tzur. The kid cried. This is a song sung by his family and all Jews everyone, for hundreds of years. He was able to sing it in Israel, doing a holy service. His emotions welled up and there were tears streaming down his face. Rabbi Zvi Engel spoke and said Bernie Matkowsky was a mathematician, highly proficient, and published many papers. The university where he taught gave Bernie upon his retirement a collection of his papers bound in four very thick books. Bernie had an ancestor , I think the Revash, who had to flee the Cossacks during the 1648 and 1649 Chmelecki massauces. He barely escaped to Vilna. Vilna became dangerous and they fled. They ended up being captured by the Swedes. He was one of the few that survived the Swedish massacre of 45,000 Jews. He wrote in his introduction of his Sefer, we escaped the lion only to be captured by the bear. Rabbi Engel said that Bernie’s sons had the merit to serve in the IDF protecting Israel and not being chased by our enemies. Bernie is also from the Sh’law
We are all one nation and we compliment each other.
לעבוד את עבודת בני ישראל באהל מועד. לעבוד אותה העבודה שהיתה ראויה לבכוריהם:
To perform the very duties which, previously, it had been the duty of the firstborn to perform on behalf of the Children of Israel.
Compare this Sforno to the language used by the Chazkuni:
לעבד את עבדת בני ישראל עבודה שהיתה מוטלת על בני ישראל לעשות.
The Sefrno and Chizkuni say slightly different words. Seforno – the work of the first borns; Chezkuni – the work of the Jewish people.
The person who translated the Sforno for Sefaria put the two together by saying, “it had been the duty of the firstborn on behalf of the Jews.”
Perhaps there is a difference. The Chazkuni is saying that the work of the first born that is being transferred to the Levim is really the work of all the Jews, however, not everyone can do it, so first the Behorim did it and now the Levim. Every Jew has to see that the Bais Hamikdash functions smoothly and the Levim are our representatives. How do we support it? The next Sferno answers this
ולכפר על בני ישראל. בקבלם את המעשרות מישראל כדי שיובלו לעבוד את האל יתברך
יכפרו על ישראל שגרמו כולם בעגל שאמאס את בכוריהם:
and to be the instrument of the people’s atonement by their accepting the tithes tendered them by the people so that they would be free to perform the duties G’d has now assigned to them. Hashem had come to despise the firstborn, seeing that they participated also in the sin of the golden calf which had caused Hashem so much grief.
(By us giving to the Levim) and the Levim accepting מעשר, the Levim can focus on their holy job and we are part of it, not only because we gave money, but, the more you give the more you love someone. We should feel an emotional attachment to them and their work; and we also have a monetary attachment to the Levim. When a farmer works his field and knows that his work will go to support the Levim, we are one. I admit that the Sforno says that this is an atonement for the Jewish people. Perhap what is the atonement for the sin of the golden calf is by the Levim accepting the מעשרות from the Jewish people.