The Great Scribe and Counter

The Kiddush was sponsored by the Schreiber family in honor of the birth of a baby girl.

The word Schreiber is very much connected to Parshas Bamidbar because Shcreiber means “writer”. The Gemara in Sotah 13b refers to Moshe Rabbeinu as the ספרא רבה דישראל, which simply means the great scribe of Yisrael. Why is Moshe Rabbeinu called the great scribe of Yisrael?

The Maharsha there is bothered why Moshe is called the ספרא רבה דישראל, specifically the great scribe of the Jews if the writing of the Torah was on behalf of Hashem. So regarding why he is called the scribe of Yisrael specifically, as opposed to of Hashem, he gives two answers. The first answer is as follows:

והוא מבואר כי לא נקרא משה כותב לישראל רק הנגלה של התורה כי הנסתר של התורה כבר כתובה לפניו יתברך ב"ה קודם בריאת עולם באש שחורה ע"ג אש לבנה וע"כ אמר כי הוא ספרא רבא דישראל שהוא כתב התורה ויתנה אל הכהנים בני גו'

True the Torah was written on behalf of the Ribbono Shel Oilam, but Moshe didn’t really write it on the level of the Torah itself, נסתר של התורה, rather he wrote it on the level of Klal Yisrael, נגלה של התורה, the recipients of the Torah. That is why Moshe is specifically called the ספרא רבה of Yisrael.

The second explanation is או ספרא שהיה מונה מספרן של ישראל ב' פעמים, meaning that ספרא doesn’t mean a scribe but can also mean “counter.” Therefore Moshe Rabbeinu was known as the great counter of Yisrael because he counted them twice.

But what is so impressive about counting that Moshe Rabbeinu is referred to as the ספרא רבה דישראל-great counter of Yisrael?

When people are counted, they become numbers and there is a risk that they’ll lose their identity and individuality. When people are counted, they become just part of a sum total. What made Moshe Rabbeinu the ספרא רבה דישראל, the great counter, was his ability to count each and every person in Klal Yisrael while retaining the individually, uniqueness, and identity of each one of them. The Pasuk says במספר שמות which is seemingly a contradiction because if you are a number, then you aren’t a name and if you are a name then you aren’t a number. The reason why Moshe Rabbeinu is called the great counter is because he was able to count the Jews without them losing their identity.

These two meanings of ספרא, “the great writer” and “the great counter” are connected with each other. The Zohar says יש ששים ריבוא אותיות בתורה that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah (not clear how to count it to get to that number because as we see it, there are much less) each letter corresponding to the 600,000 Jews. Each letter contributes to the kashrus of the Torah because if one letter is missing, the entire Torah is invalid. On the other hand, every letter has its own צורה and if any two letter are touching and each letter isn’t מוקף גויל, then the entire Torah is also invalid. We see that each letter needs to have its own individuality which contributes to the kedusha of the entire Sefer Torah. A great writer is able to put together the specific letter and words and put it all together without losing the individuality and uniqueness of each letter.

So according to all this, that which Moshe Rabbeinu is called the ספרא רבה דישראל which could either mean great writer or great counter are both two sides of the same coin. In both cases, the greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu was that he was able to put individuals together, be it numbers or letters, and still retain the identity and individuality of each person.

Importance of the build up and the process

The Haftorah for Parshas Bamidbar concludes with the Psukim וארשתיך לי לעולם וארשתיך לי בצדק ובמשפט ובחסד וברחמים, וארשתיך לי באמונה וידעת את ה' (הושע ב, כא-כב). Why is Hashem promising Klal Yisrael that he will be to them וארשתיך לי לעולם, as an ארוסה to him forever if אירוסין is not the final goal rather it is seemingly just a step in the process to reach נישואין? And furthermore, the Pasuk וארשתיך לי לעולם is seemingly suggesting that we will remain in a state of אירוסין forever. But the Gemara in Ksubos 108b says about a woman who remains a ארוסה- תשב עד שתלבין ראשה. So what type of הבטחה is this וארשתיך לי לעולם that we should remain to Hashem as a ארוסה?

Besides for the above questions, the earlier Pasuk in the Haftorah says והיה ביום ההוא נאם ה' תקראי אישי ולא תקראי לי עוד בעלי. The Gemara in Ksubos 71b says on this Pasuk אמר רבי יוחנן: ככלה בבית חמיה ולא ככלה בבית אביה. It’s clear that a ארוסה in the Pasuk is referred to as בעלי and that a day will come that Klal Yisrael will reach the level of נשואה and will then be called אישי which is the level of נשואה who is a כלה בבית חמיה. These Psukim are clear that the goal for Klal Yisrael is not to remain on the level of ארוסה. Therefore, what is the meaning of this promise וארשתיך לי לעולם?

Perhaps the answer could be that there is a מעלה that אירוסין has over נישואין, specifically the fact that the connection has not yet been completed. That which a ארוסה remains in her father’s home for twelve months is not merely to take care of physical preparations rather it’s the excitement, anticipation, and ambition that builds up during those twelve months which creates a much deeper connection between the husband and wife. The connection that has not yet been actualized and completed is what creates a deep connection. This is the מעלה that אירוסין has over נישואין. According to this, the הבטחה of וארשתיך לי לעולם is that even once we are ככלה בבית חמיה, nevertheless we should still retain that constant excitement and anticipation that a כלה בבית אביה has during אירוסין.

In a similar vein, it says אילו קרבנו לפני הר סיני ולא נתן לנו את התורה דיינו. Even after we reached Har Sinai and received the Torah, the fact that we were קרבנו לפני הר סיני ולא נתן לנו את התורה is a טובה כפולה ומכופלת and there is still a מעלה to it. What could be the מעלה of reaching Har Sinai without receiving the Torah? It could be this idea mentioned above that the longing, aspirations, striving towards a goal has lasting effects that are only reached before the goal is actualized and reached. Even if a person doesn’t reach the goal, there is tremendous value to each step of the journey.

The Gemara says לא יגעת ומצאת אל תאמין יגעת ומצאת תאמין. But There are some people that are brilliant who are barely יגע but they get it instantly and then there are people who sweat and toil but and barely get it. However it is really how you define the מצאת. A person who is brilliant and doesn’t need to toil that much, he might understand it but he won’t make it personal and it won’t make an impact on himself. As opposed to the individual who isn’t as smart but toils and just barely understands it, to him the connection is much deeper and personal.

This idea is also expressed in the Mitzvah of Sfiras Haomer. Tosfos in Menachos 66a brings the well-known opinion of the Behag who hold if a person misses a day of counting the Omer, he doesn’t continue counting the remaining days. Although Tosfos asks on this ותימא גדולה היא ולא יתכן, nevertheless we take into account the opinion of the Behag להלכה and therefore in such a situation, a person would continue counting the Omer without a Brachah. Tosfos gives a reason for the Behag which is because it needs to be תמימות and like the Achronim say about the counting the days of the Omer שכולם מצוה אחת.

Based on the Behag, there is a question amongst the Achronim if a person knows before he begins counting the Omer that he will miss a full twenty four hour period for example he is going to have a surgery and will be unconscious for twenty four hours, should he even start counting. According to the Behag, it would seem that the person should not even beginning counting the Omer. This is even the implication of the Mishna Berurah 489:3 who writes, quoting the Magen Avraham that nowadays the Minhag is for women not to count the Omer. The Mishna Berurah concludes with the ספר שולחן שלמה saying that they should at least count without a Brachah: דעכ"פ לא יברכו דהא בודאי יטעו ביום אחד וגם ע"פ רוב אינם יודעים פירוש המלות. The implication for such a thing is because if in the future a person will miss a day, retroactively all the Brachos the person did make until that point will be לבטלה because he didn’t count all forty nine days.

However, the Rav said in the name of his father that he felt that couldn’t be the explanation and he felt that the Mishna Berurah didn’t quote the full piece from the שולחן שלמה. He asked the Rav to go to the New York public library to find the sefer and look it up inside and sure enough, it was clarified that the שולחן שלמה writes דהא בודאי יטעו ביום אחד ולא ידעון הדין. Meaning the concern of women is that if they miss one day, they won’t know the Halacha is to continue without a Brachah. The concern wasn’t that the Brachos retroactively will be לבטלה rather their subsequent Brachos will be לבטלה. According to this, it could be the Behag as well holds that the issue is only if someone misses a day of counting but not if he knows he will miss and therefore even if a person knows he will miss a day, he should still begin counting with a Brachah.

The Rav brought the following to prove this point. According to most poskim, counting the Omer nowadays is not מדאורייתא because the Torah says the counting of the Omer is dependent on הקרבת העומר and בזמן הזה that we don’t have הקרבת העומר, so counting the Omer is only a זכר למקדש (Menachos 66). But for sure if the Beis Hamikdash would be built, all תקנות that are זכר למקדש would be בטל. Therefore, if the Beis Hamikdash would be built, במהרה בימינו, in between Pesach and Shavuos, the מצוה דרבנן of ספירת העומר would be בטל. But on the other hand, a new Mitzvah מדאורייתא of ספירת העומר wouldn’t set in because the עומר wasn’t brought ממחרת השבת. It would come out in such a situation where the Beis Hamikdash would be built in between Pesach and Shavuos that counting the Omer would cease that year. But even though we are מחכה בכל יום שיבא and we believe that the Beis Hamikdash can be built any second, we don’t say a person shouldn’t begin counting the Omer with a Brachah because there is a chance that counting the Omer that year might be בטל. Not only would we not say such a thing, but immediately after we count the Omer each day we say הרחמן הוא יחזיר עבודת בית המקדש למקומה במהרה בימינו אמן סלה. Therefore, it must be that there is no issue if a person knows he will miss a day of counting the Omer and all his previous Brachos don’t become לבטלה.

But one could still ask, if the idea behind the Behag is because all forty nine days are considered one Mitzvah, what is the difference if a person misses a day that past or if he will miss a day in the future?

The answer could be based on the Chinuch in Mitzvah 606:

ויש שאמרו שמי ששכח ולא מנה יום אחד, שאין יכול למנות עוד באותה שנה, לפי שכולן מצוה אחת היא, ומכיון ששכח מהן יום אחד הרי כל החשבון בטל ממנו.

The Chinuch concludes that if a person misses one day of counting, הרי כל החשבון בטל ממנו. Those words seem superfluous because if the idea of missing one day of the Omer was similar to that of eating a חצי כזית of Matzah, that the שיעור is missing and the שיעור of the Omer is forty nine days, then he doesn’t need to write הרי כל החשבון בטל ממנו. Rather it must be that the forty nine days aren’t a שיעור in the Mitzvah but each day is a מצוה בפני עצמו. But if each day is a מצוה בפני עצמו, then what does the Behag mean when he says שכולן מצוה אחת?

It must be that when the Chinuch writes that by missing one day כל החשבון בטל ממנו, it’s clear that the Mitzvah is not to single out one day of the forty nine days of the Omer as an independent Mitzvah rather the Mitzvah is to count it cumulatively. This is evident being that we don’t count היום יום שני לומר rather we say היום שני ימים, meaning it’s not day two rather it’s two days. This is the meaning of what the Chinuch says כל החשבון בטל ממנו that the cumulative count is off once a day is missed. According to this, all the days of the Omer are still כולן מצוה אחת in the sense that they are dependent on each other, because if they weren’t, then we wouldn’t count cumulatively and we would just count the independent day of the Omer.

According to all this, it is clear why according to the Behag its all an issue of missing a count in the past but not if he knows he’s going to miss because when he misses a day, the cumulative count is off and he can no longer say today is five days of the Omer if he didn’t count four days. But that which he won’t count a day in the future has no effect on his current count that he is holding.

Therefore, along with everything mentioned before, the idea of counting the Omer is the journey to the goal. But even if a person doesn’t reach the goal, he doesn’t lose what he gained during the journey. Every step in the right direction has inherent value.


Significance of Counting

In the end of Sefer Vayikrah, we spoke about counting animals as the Pasuk says וכל מעשר בקר וצאן כל אשר יעבר תחת השבט העשירי יהיה קדש. And now as we begin Parshas Bamidbar, it also begins with counting but it is an entirely different type of counting as the Pasuk says במספר שמות. But the phrase במספר שמות is confusing because on the one hand were counting just numbers, but on the other hand we are counting שמות as if to say you have a name and unique qualities and a distinction?

Therefore it is obvious that the counting of Klal Yisrael is not just a counting of number but it can be explained with the Mishna in Avos (1:14) that says אם אין אני לי מי לי that everybody has something special that he brings to the table. But then it continues וכשאני לעצמי מה אני in the sense that if I keep my qualities to myself, then what am I worth? Everybody recognizes that the unique qualities that a person has are to be used to enhance the Tzibur and therefore he is part of the big picture. But not because he needs them in order to be who he is but on the contrary he contributes to the bigger picture by being who he is. This is the idea that the counting of Klal Yisrael was במספר שמות.

A similar idea is expressed in the idea that יש ששים ריבוא אותיות בתורה and each letter contributes to the kashrus of the Torah because if one letter is missing, the entire Torah is invalid. On the other hand, every letter has its own צורה and if any two letter are touching and each letter isn’t מוקף גויל, then the entire Torah is also invalid. We see that each letter needs to have its own individuality which contributes to the kedusha of the entire Sefer Torah. This is the idea of אם אין אני לי מי לי first of all, and then וכשאני לעצמי מה אני that if I keep myself for myself, then I am very far from fulfilling my mission and therefore what am I.

Necessary Outsiders

After the Torah counts all the tribes, it mentions the total being 603,550. The Zohar says that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah (not clear how to count it to get to that number because as we see it, there are much less) each letter corresponding to the 600,000 Jews. However, from the total count, it would seem that there was an extra 3,550 and therefore where are they included in the Torah?

The Chasam Sofer in Parshas Pekudei explains the following with the Medrash Rabba in Pekudei (51:6) which says as follows:

משנגמרה מלאכת המשכן, אמר להם בואו ואני עושה לפניכם חשבון, אמר להם משה אלה פקודי המשכן, כך וכך יצא על המשכן עד שהוא יושב ומחשב שכח באלף ושבעה מאות וה' וע' שקל מה שעשה ווים לעמודים ,התחיל יושב ומתמיה אמר עכשיו ישראל מוצאין ידיהם לאמר משה נטלן, מה עשה האיר הקדוש ברוך הוא עיניו וראה אותם עשוים ווים לעמודים אותה שעה נתפייסו כל ישראל על מלאכת המשכן מי גרם לו ע"י שישב ופייסן, הוי אלה פקודי המשכן

While Moshe was going through what material was used for what, he forgot what he used 1,775 pieces of silver for (as indicated with the cantillation mark on the word האלף) and he was worried that Klal Yisrael is going to think that he took them for himself, until Hashem came and revealed to him that he used that silver for the ווים לעמודים.

The Chasam Sofer explains that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah corresponding to 600,000 Jews, so those נשמות who have a letter in the Torah Moshe remembered them and what he did with them. But then there are נשמות נדחות, outsiders, those that don’t have a letter in the Torah. Those נשמות, Moshe initially forgot about them but he used them as if to say, for the ווים לעמודים because they couldn’t be in the inside of the Mishkan, but they were just on the outside of the Amudim. They were on the outside to the point where Moshe forgot about them until Hashem reminded him because they weren’t really part of his thinking because they weren’t really part of the 600,000.

Those נשמות נדחות are the 3,550 that were above the counting of 600,000 which the מחצית השקל brought by those Jews ads up to 1,775 pieces of silver that Moshe forgot about until he was reminded that they were used for the ווים לעמודים.

This corresponds to what it says in the (אות עג) מגלה עמוקות in ואתחנן that it was the Neshama of Rebbi Akiva that reminded Moshe that he made the ווים לעמודים out of those pieces of silver. The Rav suggested that we know in Menachos 29b, Reb Akiva was the one who was expounding on the תגין and Moshe had חלישת הדעת that Reb Akiva knew things that he didn’t know. So this that Reb Akiva expounded on the תגין, maybe we could say that these נשמות נדחות who don’t have a letter serve as the תגין and that’s why it was Reb Akivas Neshama that reminded Moshe what he did, as if to say, with these Neshamos.

In general, that which Reb Akiva is considered the שורש of תורה שבעל פה which is the unwritten Torah, beyond the written letter. So these Neshamos, even though they aren’t part of the 600,000 and therefore aren’t part of the Mishkan, but they are the ווים לעמודים which holds together the Mishkan and without them, it could be that the Mishkan would fall apart. Therefore, these outsiders who have a longing and a desire to be a part of and within, hold a certain power that they can keep it all together and there is a need for the outsiders. Even when a person feels like an outsider, he should recognize that even as an outsider, he plays a role and it’s only a role that he can do and those within can’t play that role.

On A Mission

The Haftorah this Shabbos was מחר חדש. In the Navi, the Psukim says as follows (שמואל א, כ:כ-כב):

ואני שלשת החצים צדה אורה לשלח לי למטרה

והנה אשלח את הנער לך מצא את החצים אם אמר אמר לנער הנה החצים ממך והנה קחנו ובאה כי שלום לך ואין דבר חי ה'

ואם כה אמר לעלם הנה החצים ממך והלאה לך כי שלחך ה'

Reb Eliyahu Meir Bloch and Reb Mottel Katz came to America escaping Europe in 1941 and they called for a meeting with Bala Batim to discuss reestablishing the Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland. At that meeting, Reb Eliyahu Meir Bloch quoted the above Pasuk לך כי שלחך ה', and said that the Pasuk should say that he escaped because he was in danger. Yet the Pasuk says כי שלחך ה because a Jew has to know that even when he is escaping danger, he is on a mission and the danger was only to put him in a place where he could fulfil his mission and therefore he felt that they were not just escapees rather they were on a mission and therefore it was there mission to reestablish the Yeshiva in America.


In the Haftorah, Shaul says to Yonason ויחר אף שאול ביהונתן ויאמר לו בן נעות המרדות הלוא ידעתי כי בחר אתה לבן ישי לבשתך ולבשת ערות אמך (שמואל א, כ:ל)
Rashi explains the meaning of נעות to mean לשון נע אשה נעה ונדה יוצאני'. Rashi on the word מרדות says כשחטפו בני בנימן מבנות שילה שיצאו לחול בכרמים היה שאול ביישן ולא רצה לחטוף עד שבאתה היא עצמה והעיזה פניה ורדפ' אחריו. Shaul was shy and his wife sought him out and went out to him. So by calling Yonason בן נעות המרדות, he was saying that your mother acted improperly being that she sought him out.

The question is why is Shaul saying this to Yonason as if to say that it’s his fault? Furthermore, why does the Pasuk say ולבשת ערות אמך, meaning why is it an embarrassment to his mother because he was בוחר בן ישי?

The Gemara in Yevamos 77a has a discussion regarding if Dovid Hamelech was fit to be king. The Gemara interjects and says before you can discuss being fit for king, you have to ask if he was ראוי לבא לקהל because he is a descendent of רות המואביה. To which the Gemara brings an explanation why the prohibition of marrying from Moav and Amon only applies to the men and not the woman is because על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים - דרכו של איש לקדם וכו. Since it’s not the way of women to go out, therefore it wasn’t a טענה on them.

So Shaul was saying to his son Yonason that if you weren’t בוחר בן ישי, then it’s as if to say that there isn’t anything wrong with women going out and it is דרכה של אישה לקדם and there was no issue with his mother seeking out Shaul and she wouldn’t be a נעות. But now that he was בוחר בן ישי saying that a descendent of a מואבית is כשר, so you (Yonason) are suggesting that it’s not the דרך for an אשה לקדם and that’s why there was no טענה on women from Moav, which was turning his mother into a נעות because now it was inappropriate that which Shauls wife went after him.


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5782


Thursday Night Parsha Shiur 5781