Our small children, our wives… will be there (Bamidbar 32:26)
One year in South Africa, I met a Chassidic Jew from Brooklyn who told me the following story: As the Germans prepared to invade Warsaw, my mother who lived there with her family at the time was expecting a child. Sometime then, however, she needed to see a doctor. Managing to escape from the ghetto, she came across a Christian doctor from the old Polish aristocracy. Successfully treating my mother, as she was just about to take leave, the doctor said, “Do you know what will happen to you if you return to the ghetto?” “Yes,” my mother replied. “Well, come and stay with me. I will take care of you.” “But I cannot leave my husband,” my mother said. “Bring him too.” “But I cannot leave my family,” continued my mother. “Bring them as well.” Returning to the ghetto, my mother told my father how this Christian lady had offered to save their lives. “But I cannot leave my family,” said my father. Making their way over to this lady’s house were thirteen people – my mother and father and their respective families. She placed them in her attic for twenty-two months, including a time during which the Gestapo occupied her house. There was no bathroom, no water and no food in the attic. But this woman single-handedly took care of all their hygienic needs, and provided them with food and water. After twenty-two months of staying in the attic, the Christian woman managed to safely get them all out of Poland to New York. Incredibly, all thirteen people survived. Decades later, a wedding was held in New York for one of the grandchildren of those thirteen survivors. Before the wedding, however, my family knew that they needed to take care of one thing: return to Poland. Doing their utmost to track down this Christian woman who had saved their lives, they eventually were successful. She was by now an elderly lady, but agreed to attend the wedding thousands of miles away. And so, they brought her back. At the wedding, there were two hundred people who danced around her as she sat in the center. And they were all “her children.” Those two hundred people were all descendants of those thirteen people she had sacrificed her life to save seventy-five years earlier. There were children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. All thanks to her.
During the meal, we asked her the question which had preoccupied all of our minds for years. “Why did you risk your life to save the Jews?” “Because I read the Bible,” she said. “And I saw that when G-d was about to annihilate the city of Sodom, Abraham negotiated with G-d. He said, ‘If you can find fifty righteous people, will you save the city?’ And G-d said ‘Yes.’ ‘Forty-five righteous people?’ And G-d said, ‘Yes.’” “And I chose to follow Abraham’s lead,” concluded the woman. She indefatigably cared for those thirteen people despite the danger that existed and gave them her life. And years later, she merited seeing the tremendous dividends it paid off. Here was one small action whose ripple effect carried on and on. While this woman may have believed she was saving merely thirteen people, little did she realize the magnitude of her actions. She was saving parents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and on and on. In essence, she was doing no less than fulfilling the dictum of our Sages, “One who saves one life is as if he saves an entire world” (Sanhedrin 37a). That is how we ought to view every little deed we perform. Its effect lasts forever.
Splitting the Tribe of Menashe
Carefully calculate and consider every action
In Parashat Matot we read of the request made by the tribes Reuben and Gad, who approached Moshe to ask if they could permanently reside in the territory east of the Jordan River. Beneh Yisrael had captured this region from the kingdoms of Sihon and Og, and Reuben and Gad decided that the lush pastures in this region suited them well, as they had large herds of cattle. They therefore asked permission to settle in this region rather than live together with the other tribes in Eretz Yisrael. Moshe was initially angered by Reuben and Gad’s request, but he later acquiesced once they expressed their intent to join the other tribes in the war to capture Eretz Yisrael.
Surprisingly, at the end of the story, a third tribe suddenly enters the picture. The Torah (32:33) tells that Moshe granted the region east of the Jordan River to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and also to half the tribe of Menashe. The question naturally arises as to why half of Menashe received part of this territory, if the request was made only by Reuben and Gad.
The answer, perhaps, emerges from a story told in last week’s Parasha, Parashat Pinhas. There we read of the five daughters of Selofhad, a man who had died in the wilderness and left five daughters and no sons. The five daughters approached Moshe and asked for the right to receive their father’s portion in the Land of Israel. G-d then spoke to Moshe and affirmed that this request was legitimate, and that Selofhad’s daughters rightfully deserved the portion that was to have been granted to their father (27:7).
Rashi notes that when the Torah there introduces Selofhad’s daughters (27:1), it tells us that they belonged to the tribe of Menashe, and it emphasizes that Menashe was a son of Yosef. Of course, we are already quite familiar with Menashe, and there thus seems, at first glance, to be no reason for the Torah to have to identify him as Yosef’s son.
Rashi explains that the Torah emphasized the relationship between Selofhad’s daughters and Yosef to allude to us that they both shared a genuine love and affinity for the Land of Israel. Yosef, at the end of his life, made his brothers swear that they would bring his remains to Eretz Yisrael for burial, and Selofhad’s daughters desired a portion of the land. The Torah therefore associates Selofhad’s daughters with Yosef to express the fact that they loved and cherished the Land of Israel just like their ancestor, Yosef.
This may shed light on Menashe’s portion east of the Jordan River. Reuven and Gad’s request was ultimately granted, but it reflected a deficiency in their connection to Eretz Yisrael. Their preference to settle across the river to accommodate their herds indicated that they did not sufficiently appreciate the special sanctity of the Land of Israel. Moshe therefore decided to have the people of Menashe, the tribe of Selofhad’s daughters, reside in the eastern territory together with Reuben and Gad. This was done to help infuse these two tribes with the genuine love for Eretz Yisrael that they were lacking.
The question, however, remains, why did Moshe instruct only half of Menashe to reside east the river? Why did he not simply have all of Menashe live in this region together with Reuben and Gad?
Our Sages explained that the division of the tribe of Menashe was a punishment, of sorts, for an act committed by the founder of this tribe. Many years earlier, when Yosef was the vizier of Egypt, his brothers came from Eretz Yisrael to purchase grain in Egypt. Yosef ordered his servants to place his goblet in the luggage of the youngest brother, Binyamin, and then, after the brothers left Egypt, Yosef sent his son, Menashe, to run after them and accuse them of theft.
Sure enough, Menashe searched through the brothers’ luggage and found Yosef’s goblet in Binyamin’s bag. Realizing that they had been framed, and fearing that they would be severely punished, the brothers tore their garments as a sign of mourning (Bereshit 44:13). Hazal teach that as Menashe caused his uncles to tear their garments, it was decreed that his tribe would be “torn” into two segments, each residing in a separate territory. This is why only half of the tribe of Menashe settled east of the Jordan River together with Reuben and Gad.
This demonstrates the far-reaching repercussions of each and every action we perform. Menashe’s act, causing his uncles great distress, yielded significant consequences for centuries. We never know how our seemingly small decisions, words and actions will affect our lives and the lives of our children, grandchildren and future descendants. The story of Menashe thus reminds us of the need to live with a keen sense of responsibility, to carefully calculate and consider every action, to ensure that the long-term outcome will be positive and beneficial for ourselves and for future generations.
By Rabbi Eli Mansour
The Incredible Salvation Of One Act of Chesed
Rav Eliezer Ginsburg, the Rosh Kollel of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn recently gave a shiur at a Flatbush shul and related an amazing middah keneged middah story that reveals the incredible salvation that a father in Lakewood merited because of his special concern for the welfare of another boy.
Five American bochurim drove from their yeshiva in Yerushalayim early Friday morning to Netanya with the intention of spending Shabbos there. Before Shabbos, they hoped to have a chance to go to a deserted beach and enjoy a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, when they got to the beach, they found it crowded, and since there was no separation between the genders, they quickly left and hailed a taxi to drive them down the coast in hopes of finding an isolated beach. After a ten-minute drive, the taxi driver left them off at a perfectly deserted, isolated beach.
After quickly putting on their swimming suits, the five boys went into the water. Then, without any warning, one of the boys was swept 400 feet into the ocean by a dangerous riptide. The other four boys were helpless to rescue their friend, and the bochur himself, despite making a valiant effort to swim back to shore, was unable to do so. With his strength used up, the young man cried out to Hashem, “Only You can help me. There is so much more I want to do to serve You.”
At that very moment, the boy saw a not-so-young man, perhaps 65 years old, with a long gray beard, on a surf board, gliding towards him in the choppy waters. The man instructed the bochur to grab part of the board. He then guided the boy safely back to shore.
Wanting to express his hakorat hatov to his rescuer, the bochur asked, “Who are you? What’s your name?”
The man simply replied, “Thank the Borei Olam.(Hashem)” With that, he disappeared back into the water.
Grateful for his new lease on life, the boy waited a few hours for his father to wake up back in Lakewood in order to tell him of his neis. He related the frightening story and how Hashem saved him through the messenger of that elderly surf boarder.
Excited by what his son was telling him, the father at that very moment received a message on his phone. It said: “You are a lifesaver!”
Earlier that week, on Monday morning, after davening, the father entered a local shul in Lakewood and noticed a teenage boy looking glumly at the table in front of him. The man asked with concern, “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you learning in yeshiva?”
The boy answered, “No yeshiva wants to take me in and I have nothing else to do.”
“I’ll get you into a good yeshiva,” the man answered. “I have connections with the yeshiva at Waterbury Yeshiva in Connecticut.”
He used his cell phone right then and there to call someone at the yeshiva. Based on his plea, they agreed to accept the boy, who thanked the stranger for his intervention.
On Wednesday, two days later, the father entered the shul and was surprised to see that the same teenager was there, doing nothing.
“I thought you were going to the yeshiva in Waterbury. Why are you still here?”
“I have no way to get there,” said the boy.
“If that is the problem,” the man said, “I’ll take you. Go home and pack your stuff. I’ll pick you up.”
When the man returned home and told his wife what he was going to do, she asked, “What are you doing? The journey to Waterbury from Lakewood and back is at least six hours. You are 65 years old. You can’t do it. It’s too much physical exertion for you. Pay someone else to drive the boy.”
The father agreed, and he asked his son-in-law to find someone to drive the teenager. He found a person who agreed to drive the young man for $200. That same day, the boy began learning in Waterbury.
It was that same boy who, two days later, when his benefactor was talking to his son in Netanya, sent the following message: “I am having a great time learning in Waterbury. You are a lifesaver!”
Rav Ginsburg related that this was clearly a case of middah keneged middah. That father had made an extra special effort to save a bochur (spiritually and perhaps even physically) by getting him accepted into a yeshiva in Waterbury. And the result? Two days later, his own son was saved by Hashem from being buried in the water off the shores of Netanya.
By Daniel Keren from the Yated Ne’eman.
First aliya: The laws of personal vows are detailed and Moshe is instructed to “take revenge” against Midian. In the battle, both Balak and Bilaam are killed.
second Aliya: In the aftermath of the war, Moshe instructs the soldiers regarding the applicable laws of Tumah – impurity, and deals with the division of the booty between the soldiers, community, and the Mishkan. Note verses 22 and 23 which teach us the laws of how to make kosher our vessels, and the Torah requirement for metal vessels made by a non-Jew or purchased from a non-Jew to be immersed in a mikvah before being used. (the Rabbis extended this law to included glassware). In appreciation for the fact that not a single soldier was lost in battle, the Generals and Captains donate their personal percentage of the captured gold to the Mishkan. The total weight of the donated gold weighed 837.5 lbs.! (Areyeh Kaplan)
third/fourth aliyot: Moshe is approached by the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 of Menashe to acquire the Trans-Jordan territories captured from Sichon and Og. Moshe first treats their petition with suspicion; however, an agreement is reached between the 2 1/2 tribes and Moshe: Trans-Jordan in exchange for manning the front lines in the campaign to take Eretz Yisroel.
fifth Aliya: Moshe instructs the Bnai Yisroel to clear out the Land from all negative influences, and sets the Biblical boundaries of the Land.
sixth Aliya: New leaders are appointed to oversee the division of the Land, and the 48 Levitical cities, including the 6 Cites of Refuge, are mandated.
seventh Aliya: The laws regarding the inadvertent murderer are detailed, and the prohibition against marrying outside one’s tribe is established. This prohibition was only for the generation that occupied the Land.
Wife: I’m heading to the store. Do you want anything??
Husband: I want a sense of meaning & purpose in my life. I seek fulfillment and completeness to my soul. I want to connect to G-d and discover the spiritual side to me…
Wife: Be specific- Black Label or Chivas??