UPLIFT THEM & RAISE THEIR HEADS HIGH
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying "Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21)
In his sefer Divrei Yechezkel, Rav Chatzkeleh Shinover conveys the following vort from Rav Tzvi ha'Kohen of Rymanow (also known as Reb Hirschele MeShares). The name or term "Moshe" can be interpreted as referring to a Tzaddik, because often the Gemara refers to a Talmudic sage speaking truth as "Moshe". For instance, "Moshe Shapir KeAmris," Moshe you have spoken truthfully." (Shabbos 101b). The name or term "Gershon" can be interpreted as referring to those who are "gerushin" or "megerushim", that is "sent or chased away".
Thus, we can interpret this pasuk as Hashem telling the Tzaddikim in each generation to uplift and raise the heads of those who feel distant from sanctity and holiness. The Shinover confided that when he heard Reb Hirshele MeShares' words, they uplifted him, enlightening his soul, making it shine and raising him high.
THE POWER AND HOLINESS OF WORDS
"Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23)
"Emor Lahem kemo Zachor veShamor – say to them just like "remember and safeguard [Shabbos]". (Rashi ad hoc)
It was Erev Shabbos. Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanow was in a quandary. He had no fish for Shabbos Kodesh! What should he do? As the afternoon waned and Shabbos drew near, he turned to his faithful servant, Reb Hirschele MeShares, and asked him to prepare the cooking utensils they used to cook fish in honor of Shabbos. Reb Hirschel gathered wood, lit and stoked the fire in the stove and boiled water in the fish pot. Rav Mendel also asked Reb Hirschel to chop and cook up the carrots and the onions. With each act and task Reb Hirschel was instructed to say "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh - " in honor of the holy Shabbos. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A guest had arrived to celebrate Shabbos with his Rebbe. Amazingly, the guest had brought Rav Mendel a gift in honor of Shabbos… Fish!
Later on during the Shabbas tisch, Rav Mendel explained to his followers and Chassidim,: "The sanctity of Shabbos comes down and draws down with it all forms of shefa (abundance) and blessings from on High. Whoever wishes to accept and receive the shefa must prepare himself by transforming his will and desire into speech by saying "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh!" Then the shefa will come down to him. Chazal( our sages) alluded to this when they said: "Zachor and Shamor (remember and safeguard Shabbos) were said together as one – Be'Dibur Echad," (Rosh HaShanna 27a) because all blessing hinges upon and depends upon speech! I based my bitachon (faith) that I would have fish for Shabbos on the fact that Reb Hirschel had prepared everything for Shabbas by saying the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh."
As Rav Menachem Mendel's replacement Rebbe in Rymanow, Reb Hirschel MeShares used to relate this story and to illustrate the meaning behind Rashi's commentary to the pasuk "Ko Sevarchu…Emor Lahem" concerning the Birkas Kohanim – the priestly blessings. Rashi is troubled as to why the verse includes the additional words v'emor lahem – so shall you bless them, say to them? Wouldn't it have sufficed to say "So shall you bless them." Rashi then explains that these extra words "say to them" demonstrate the power of words. Just as with the enactments of Shabbos, the Torah included the words "Zachor and Shamor" both written in words and spoken due to the secret power of the spoken word to bring forth shefa and blessings, similarly this power of words is reflected in Birkas Kohanim as well. Just as the abundance and blessings of Shabbos can be harnessed via the words "Le'Kuved Shabbos Kodesh", Hashem wanted the Kohenim to say the words aloud in order to harness the blessing and abundance that flows from the words themselves.
REUNITING THE CASTAWAYS AND CAPTIVES WITH THEIR FATHER THE KING
A terrible thing had happened! The crown prince had been kidnapped and captured by a band of criminals! Bound and fettered, the prince languished in a cell, a prisoner with no hope of escape. The criminals sent ransom notes to the king asking him to pay them hefty sums to free their captive.
The king had a faithful servant who was a skilled warrior. In order to save the prince, he knew he would have to descend to the deepest rankest, the foulest pits and dens below the earth. The criminals lurked in hiding amidst the scum and filth, sewers and cesspools, in darkness.
The servant approached the guarded den of thieves and criminals.
He steeled and girded himself with courage. He reminded himself of the great service he was doing to his beloved king, and how grateful and happy the king and prince would be when they were reunited. For the sake of the king, the servant slunk down into the depths and descended into the underworld, braving its dangers. Finally, he reached the cell where the prince sat, forlorn and despondent. The prince dreamed of the day when he would once again bask in the light and splendor of the king's royal visage. He longed to be reunited with his beloved father, the king. Waiting for the opportune time, the skilled warrior attacked the guards. Executing a few skilled strokes, the servant defeated the criminals and rescued the prince!
In Mevaser Tzedek Rav Yissacher, Ber of Zlotshuv uses this parable to illustrate the pasuk: "And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying Naso es Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem – please also uplift the heads of the sons of Gershon as well." (Bamidbar 4:21) He teaches that there are Tzaddikim who use their prowess and skills to rescue and uplift Bnei Gershon - the cast away and captives –that is, those that have been sent away and chased away into dungeons – and reunite them with Hashem, their Father the King. These Tzaddikim draw these princes close and reunite them with their loving families to Beis Avosam - their loving Father.
THE WEALTHY SON WHO WORE RAGS
There was once a wealthy man whose only son resisted all attempts at refinement and education. His tutors and teachers could not help, all was to no avail. He simply refused to act and live a just and true life. The wealthy man disowned his son and refused to have anything more to do with him. He neglected him and did not buy him any new clothes or shoes. Eventually, the boy's appearance matched his deeds, he looked as well as acted like a homeless tramp! His once beautiful and refined garments eventually grow soiled, tattered and torn with use and lack of repair. His jackets needed mending, his knees were torn, his shoes were unpolished and full of holes and he looked like an unkempt street urchin.
One day, a former acquaintance of the boy's father saw the son in the street. Appalled by the boy's appearance, he asked , "Why do you, the son of such a wealthy man, go in such a manner, dressed in rags and tatters?!" The silly boy responded that he did not have a penny to his name to mend his clothes or buy new ones. "My father won't have any new clothes made for me!" he finished in a sulk. The man laughed. "You foolish child! I didn't ask you why you don't have new clothes made for you, I am asking why don't you behave yourself and act the way someone of your status and station ought to behave? If you lived a just and righteous life, your father would be proud of you and would care after you, including buying you shiny shoes and a new suit of clothes fitting for the son of a wealthy nobleman! You would not need to wander the streets like some lowlife ragtag. You would make him happy and would enjoy the pleasure of being taken care of and of giving him the nachas he deserves. you would have satisfaction of knowing you deserved this goodness and kindness. He only wants to bestow all his goodness, riches and wealth on you, his precious beloved son?!"
Inn Siach Sarfei Kodesh, the Kozhnitzer Maggid explains that this is the way we, the Jewish people, act. We are Hashem's beloved precious children, the apple of His eye. Hashem wishes to bestow upon us a wealth of blessings and abundance of shefa from His supernal storehouses of Beracha and Hatzlacha. However, we often act in such a way that prevents us from receiving all that goodness. The yetzer hara causes us to deviate from the path of righteousness which breaks the vessel we need to accept His blessings. In this pasuk, "Ko sevarchu es Bnei Yisroel Emor Lahem – So shall you bless the children of Israel, say unto them." (Bamidbar 6:23), Hashem is telling Moshe to tell Aharon that He wishes to bless Bnei Yisroel and they will be the vehicle to carry that out. However, there is a condition embedded in the words "emor lahem" – that is, they must tread on the righteous path of justice and truth and walk in the ways of Hashem with Torah and Avodah. They will only be worthy of receiving the berachos, that is of having a vessel with which to receive the bounty of shefa if their behavior (their sins) break their vessels and thus prevent them from doing so.
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
A TALE OF TWO DRUNKS
Rav Elimelech Biderman taught the following from Rav Aharon of Karlin, author of Beis Aharon.
Once when the Karliner was sitting at his tisch, he sent one of the Chassidim outside to see what was going on in the street and report back what he had seen. The Chassid reported that he had seen two drunks swaying back and forth to and fro across the pavement. They were so drunk they could not walk in a straight line. One drunk said to the other: "Here, let's hold each other and this way we won't fall down!" The holy Tzaddik, the Karliner taught a lesson from these drunks to his Chassidim, "Do you hear?! Did you hear what he said! If we each hold onto each other, then we will not fall!"
The Beis Aharon explained the statement of our Sages (Sukkah 52b) "Whoever is greater than his fellow, his evil inclination is greater than him." . If a person feels that he is "greater than", then that is from "his fellow", this greatness is achieved through his friendship and love and attachment to his fellow Jews. However if his evil inclination is "greater than", then that is from him, then he remains alone because he is by himself lacking the companionship and camaraderie of others to uplift him.
Rav Eliyahu Roth, the faithful gabbai of Rav Shlomka of Zhvill, told the following story in which he himself featured. It was Shavuos night, when Klal Yisroel stays up all night. As dawn approached, the tzadik Rav Shlomka of Zhvill turned to his trusted gabbai and said, "You should know that every year as the dawn of Shavuos approaches, Hashem Himself asks each and every Yiddishe Neshama, "Who is willing to accept the Torah?" and all the Yiddishe Neshamos answer, Naase VeNishma! – "We will do and we will hear!" Turning to Rav Eliyahu Roth, Rav Shlomka said, "Now let us together declare Naase VeNishma."
Rav Meizlish in his sefer Sichos BeAvodas Hashem cites the above story and asks, what is the purpose of declaring "Naase VeNishma" every year specifically before dawn? Would it not be more fitting for us to proclaim "Naase VeNishma" during the day when we hear these same words in Keriyas HaTorah of Shavuos? Furthermore, what is actually achieved when our souls are asked to accept Torah and they reply "Naase VeNishma "? After all, the soul has no free will, and we are not even aware that this dialogue transpires.
Rav Meizlish answers that when studying all night long, you often feel frustration as your head swims, you need another coffee, you push yourself, psyche yourself up. You try harder to keep going, another line, another blatt, another Rashi and Tosfos, another pasuk. The darkness of the night reflects the darkness of our minds, toiling and suffering to break through the obscurity and a lack of clarity.
This is precisely the type of Mesirus Nefesh in learning that Shavuos demands of us. The proclamation of Naase VeNishma is a form of oath. The Beis Avraham says that the name of the Yom Tov of Shavuos can be interpreted as a shavua (an oath) such as the pledge of allegiance that a soldier takes when he is sworn in to serve in the armed forces and fight against the enemy.
We too are soldiers in Hashem's army and on Shavuos we pledge allegiance to Hashem, our Commander in Chief, as we are sworn in with a shavua that we will serve Hashem faithfully and fight against our enemy, the yetzer hara.
The Meor Aynaim of Chernobyl teaches in parshas Yisro that the primary virtue of Klal Yisroel's having declared Naase VeNishma is not that they accepted the pleasant and pleasurable aspects of Torah. This is taanug and neimus (pleasure and delight) in Torah study and observance. When Klal Yisroel said Naase VeNishma, they were accepting the Torah under all circumstances, even when it is an ol (a yoke and a burden), even when it is difficult and requires effort and exertion. Specifically during trying times, when Torah study is challenging, when one lacks the enthusiasm to learn and one needs to push oneself, Klal Yisroel's declaration of Naase VeNishma is relevant! Because, explains the Meor Aynaim, he who wishes to serve Hashem only when it is pleasant is not serving Hashem at all; he is worshipping himself! Such an avodah where you are focused on your own delight and pleasure is in fact a taavah like all the other taavos — a desire like any other desire! Rather, we must be faithful servants of Hashem who serve at all times and under all circumstances. This is the Naase VeNishma that Klal Yisroel accepted upon themselves at Matan Torah.
This is also why we read Megilas Rus, for Rus converted under trying circumstances demonstrating true Mesirus Nefesh, saying, "Where you die there I shall die" (Rus 1:17). Rus was ready to die for Hashem and follow Klal Yisroel even though it mean self-sacrifice and poverty.
This is our affirmation of Naase VeNishma on Shavuos night before the dawn after a long hard night of learning.
FROM THE MAGGID'S TABLE
Rav Elimelech Biderman shares the following story of Hashgacha Pratis apropos Kabbalas HaTorah and Chag HaShavuos:
THE POWER OF KEVIYAS ITIM LETORAH
There was a Yid who made Torah study his primary occupation and his livelihood secondary. Although he was occupied with his business concerns for most hours of the day, nonetheless he punctiliously attended a Gemara shiur each evening. His daily attendance at the shiur was a firm commitment; nothing prevented him from attending the shiur. Nothing…until the day he received an invitation to his nephew's chasuna.
Now he was in a real quandary. On one hand, how could he miss the shiur? On the other hand, how could he miss the chasuna of his own nephew? Not knowing what to do he approached the Maggid Shiur and explained his dilemma. The Maggid Shiur listened patiently, smiled, and said, "No worries, I have a solution for you that will allow you to fulfill both your obligations. What if I told you that you could attend the shiur and still dance at the chasuna?" The Yid was at a loss — he couldn't imagine how he could accomplish both on the same evening. "I already taught this masechta last cycle and recorded all the shiurim," explained the Maggid Shiur with a smile, and with a flourish he presented the man with a recording of the shiur on the same daf that he would be teaching that evening.
Elated, our protagonist entered the car with his family, and as he drove to the chasuna, the shiur began playing. All was going well until the family found themselves behind a large, slow-moving vehicle. The truck's pace was that of a large snail, and gradually the frustration in the car grew until it reached a crescendo. "At this rate we will get to the chasuna after the last mitzvah tantz," cried the exasperated family. Finally the pressure was too much and the driver decided he had to do something about it. (Now let me make this clear, interrupted Rav Biderman, it is absolutely forbidden to do what this Yid did; it is illegal and sakanas nefashos (a deadly danger). We are commanded by the Torah to look after ourselves — "venishmartem me'od lenafshosaychem — and you shall watch yourselves very well." However, we cannot judge the pressure he was under.) Despite there being a straight and unbroken dividing line on the highway that forbids passing in the opposite lane, our driver checked for oncoming traffic and seeing none proceeded to enter the opposite lane in order to pass the truck in front of him.
As soon as he entered the opposite traffic lane, his heart jumped into his throat at the sound of a blaring police siren. "Oh no, here comes a ticket!" Instinctively he pulled back into his lane...just in the nick of time for it seems that although our driver had checked beforehand, a truck was speeding down the opposite lane. He was traveling so fast that although he had not been in our driver's field of vision before, had our driver entered the opposite lane and attempted to pass the truck in front, there was no doubt that he would have collided with the speeding vehicle head on! Amazed at the fact that Baruch Hashem their lives had been saved, our driver braced himself for the chastisement and ticket that the traffic cops would surely hand him after pulling him over. He was happy to pay, since they had clearly just saved his life. To his amazement, however, there was no siren, no police car in his rearview mirror, nor any other car behind him on the road at all! The police seemed to have somehow vanished into thin air. Well, he didn't need to actively seek a ticket and so he continued driving. At a further point the slow-moving truck in front of him pulled over a little onto the shoulder. This, combined with a now-dotted line, allowed our driver to legally and safely pass the truck and make it together with his family to his nephew's chasuna and fulfill the mitzvah of simchas chosson vekallah.
On the way home after the mitzvah tantz, the driver decided to make good use of his time and review the shiur. He turned on the tape and after a short while in the middle of his listening to the shiur his heart jumped as again he heard the loud blare of a police siren. It was then that he grasped that the siren was in fact recorded on the tape! The Aibishter had prepared the refua before the maka (the cure before the calamity). Hashem had arranged it so that a police car with shrieking sirens had passed by the shiur while this very daf was being taught, and it had all been recorded. Due to our driver's diligence and unfailing devotion to kevias itim leTorah, he had procured the tape that saved his and his family's life!
EMUNAH IN PARNASSAH FROM SHOMAYIM
After Rav Shlomka of Zvhill got married, he continued eating all his meals in his father Rav Mordechai's home, relying on him for parnassa. Each day Rav Mordechai handed his daughter-in-law a set sum for their needs, until one day Rav Shlomka thought to himself, "Isn't a Jew supposed to believe that Hashem alone takes care of all his physical and financial needs? Isn't it therefore inappropriate for me to rely on my father's help and support? Surely Hashem will send me what is due to me no matter what!" So he told his wife to no longer accept the daily income from his father, Rav Mordechai.
Several days later, there was no food left in Rav Shlomka's home. He began to doubt his decision and reasoned, "Perhaps I was mistaken. Who am I to mix into Hashem's affairs as to how He runs the world? If Hashem chose my father as the emissary, surely I must not question this or decide that my parnassa should come from some other source." And so he asked his wife to go back and accept money from his father as she had previously. When she came into Rav Mordechai he saw her and remarked, "I see you weren't here for a few days, so I shall give you the sum of one full ruble which will total a week's worth of allowance."
That day two wealthy Chassidim came to visit Rav Mordechai and afterwards they decided to visit his son, Rav Shlomka, as well to congratulate him on his recent marriage. They wished Rav Shlomka mazal tov, and one of them took out a ruble from his pocket as they conversed. Rav Shlomka realized that this was to be his wedding gift. However as their conversation drew to a close, the chassid forgot what he had wanted to do with the money and simply slipped the coin back into his pocket. After some time Rav Shlomka's Rebbetzin returned from her father-in-law with a ruble in hand. Then Rav Shlomka put one ruble and one ruble together and understood that a ruble had been ready and waiting for him from Shomayim! The chassid was sent to hand it over to him, however as he was poised to do so, his Rebbetzin accepted the ruble from his father and so the chassid pocketed the ruble.
Rav Biderman said, "Although simple people like us are not on such a high level, we can learn from this an important lesson. Whatever we receive from others is ultimately from Hashem and these people are just his shluchim (emissaries). If someone stops giving us, it is not to them we need to turn to with tearful entreaties, rather it is to Hashem, for that person neither gave nor took, rather Hashem Himself is the Source of all!"