The Kiddush this Shabbos was sponsored by Kobe Schwarzbaum. Schwarzbaum means black tree in Yiddish so from that, the Rav went on to talking about trees.

  1. There is a מנהגin כלל ישראל to put non-bearing fruit trees in shuls on שבועות because on עצרת the judgement for the upcoming year’s fruit tree is decided (מג"א או"ח ס' תצד ס"ק ה). There are two questions that can be asked. Firstly, if we are judged in regard to fruit bearing trees, why do we put non fruit bearing trees in shul? Secondly, why is it that on ט"ו בשבתwhich is ראש השנה לאלנות do we celebrate by eating fruit and not with trees, an on שבועות which we are judged for the upcoming year’s fruit do we celebrate by putting trees in shuls, it should be the opposite? When אדם הראשון sinned and was punished, the ground was also punished because it did not produce trees that tasted like its fruit. The fact that some trees don’t produce fruits can be understood as an extension of this punishment. In fact, in the beginning of פרשת בחקותי, on the Pasuk “ועץ השדה יתן פריו”, Rashi says it is referring to non-bearing fruit trees which will produce fruits in the future. קבלת התורה was a תיקון for the חטא of אדם הראשון because the idea behind the sin was not wanting to take responsibility for ones actions, as we see from his response to Hashem האשה אשר נתתה עמדי הוא נתנה לי מן העץ ואכל. However, when the Jews were מקבל the torah at הר סיני, it was an acceptance of responsibility that we understand that our actions have consequences and ramifications and we are willing to take אחריות for our actions. This idea is also reflected in the Zohar. The Zohar says that the זוהמא that came into the world by the חטא of אדם הראשון was פסק at הר סיני (temporarily) and it was a moment ofאדם הראשון קודם החטא . Therefore we specifically put אילני סרק in shul on שבועותbecause קבלת התורה was a תיקון for the חטא of אדם הראשון which also included the חטאof the אדמה that it produced trees that didn’t have טעם פרי and trees that did not produce fruits. This also answers the second question because with the תיקון of for the חטא of the אדמה, trees will revert back to tasting like their פרי. Therefore we put trees in shuls even though עצרת has to do with fruits because with the תיקון, trees will be like the fruit itself.
  2. But even withקבלת התורה , it is difficult for an individual to find his place in the big picture. Being that each and every one of the 613 mitzvos are commanded to every Jew in the same way, an individual may find it difficult to connect in his own unique way. The Gemara in מנחות דף סה: learns from the Pasuk “וספרתם לכם”-שתהא ספירה לכל אחד ואחד. This counting is in contrast to the counting by יובל which is only done by the סנהדרין. The counting by Sefira is to be done so much by the individual that one can’t fulfil his חיוב with שומע כעונה. Numbers and calendars are the most universal and objective thing that we have. No matter who the person is, black or white, one plus one is two and every number means that exact same thing for everyone in the world. Therefore, the message of ספירת העומר leading up to קבלת התורה is that every person must find his individuality in something that seems the same to everyone. This idea can further be seen in how the Ramban explains why the Torah repeats the same identical קרבנות that each נשיא brought during the חנוכת המשכן. He explains that although each one did the same thing, each had something unique and different in mind when they were bringing there קרבנות. The same goes for us when it comes to the mitzvos that although we all have the same mitzvos, there is room to find individuality in each one.
  3. Our Parsha begins with the different roles of Kehas, Gershon, and Merari. It then goes into the Parsha of Sotah and Nazir and concludes with the קרבנות brought by the נשיאים during the חנוכת המשכן. The question is what do all these things have to do with each other? The Gemara in סוטה ב. says למה נסמכה פרשת נזיר לפרשת סוטה לומר לך שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין. The question is that איפבא מסתברא, that a person who witnessed crime and punishment, and saw how low and disgusting a person could become should not need to prohibit himself from wine and someone who did not witness a Sotah should need to make boundaries? Reb Yerucham answers with the following idea. When it comes to exposure, a person has to create גדרים. Once a person is exposed, he becomes desensitized and callous and therefore even though he sees clearly that ramifications of such actions, he specifically must create boundaries for himself more than a person that was not exposed. Like it says in Parshas Nitzavim, that Hashem warns us against following after עבודה זרה which are described as שקוציהם and גלליהם. One would think that to stay away from such disgusting things does not require boundary and warning, but it is on the contrary that since there is exposure, we becomes desensitized and theretofore it is that person specifically that witnessed the lowliness who needs to set up the boundaries. Another answer is from Reb Menachen M’Vitebsk in his sefer Pri HaAretz. He explains based on the idea חכמה מרובה ממעשיו that having more חכמה can sometimes be more detrimental. In order to harness the intellect and prevent it from leading to עבירה, a person must act and make boundaries. We see this today where we have thousands of shiurim online and tremendous access to knowledge yet we are not growing tremendously. As opposed to in the shtetle when a person would hear one vort every six months, he would live with that vort. Having tremendous intellect and knowledge will do nothing, and on the contrary be dangerous, if we do not put it into action. The last answer is as follows. This lady did a מעשה בהמה and that’s why her korban is with שעורים which is מאכל בהמה. We see from the Sotah that a person could fall below sub-human. Therefore, if a person could become sub-human, than a person can also become super human. From seeing a Sotah, a person can recognize that there are no parameters to בחירה and if a person could sink to the level of a בהמה, than they could rise to super human levels of a Nazir who is נזר אלקיו על ראשו. He becomes on the level of a Kohen that he is אסור to be מטמא to the שבעה קרובים. Not only does he become on the level of a Kohen, but there is an indication from a Gemara in Nazir that he is on a higher level than the Kohen Gadol. There is an opinion in the Gemara that says if a Nazir and Kohen Gadol are deciding who should be מטמא למת מצוה, the Kohen Gadol should be מטמא. We see the super human levels a person can reach by becoming a Nazir. With this last answer, we can understand that the Parsha seems to have many levels of hierarchy like the נשיאים, לויים etc. and the Sotah is there to express the message that there are no parameters to בחירה and in as much as a person could fall below sub-human, he could rise above to the super human.
  4. There is a moving Chasam Sofer regarding the words גם הם and the order of לבית אבתם למשפחותם that is said by Gershon. (The Rav went on to read the piece. I was told to translate the last couple of lines starting from where the Chasam Sofer talks about Merari.) Merari refers to the דורו של שמד whose lives are bitter with יסורין קשים ובניו מחלי כל חולי, and what should we say to them? Should we say to them נשא את ראשם לבית אבותם? Behold their fathers are considered טפלים in comparison, as they are greater than them!
  5. The Pasuk by Kehas says בכתף ישאו. Regarding the source for ,עיקר שירה the Gemara in ערכין יא. Says as follows: ותנא מייתי לה מהכא ולבני קהת לא נתן כי עבודת הקדש עליהם בכתף ישאו ממשמע שנאמר בכתף איני יודע שישאו מה ת"ל ישאו אין ישאו אלא לשון שירה וכן הוא אומר שאו זמרה ותנו תוף. Here you find a source to the phrase “carry a tune” because the Pasuk uses the lashon of שאו when talking about singing. It seems odd that the Gemara chose a Pasuk for the source of שירה that really has to do with carrying a burden, just it could also refer to שירה because we find שירה associated with the לשון of שאו. However the explanation could be that the Torah is displaying the idea that even while a person is burdening a load, be it physically or emotionally, he should still be able to sing. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 92b says: אמר רבי יצחק יוצק זהב רותח לתוך פיו של אותו רשע שאילמלא (לא) בא מלאך וסטרו על פיו ביקש לגנות כל שירות ותשבחות שאמר דוד בספר תהלים. The Kutzker asked that at the end of the day נבוכדנצר was able to deride all the שירות ותשבחות of דוד המלך so why was it that he was hit on his mouth? The answer is that the Malach was saying let’s see if he could still do it while getting a smack on his mouth. Dovid Hamelech endured tremendous צרות throughout his life and was nonetheless able to sing שירות ותשבחות. That is the message of בכתף ישאו.
  6. If you don’t understand Yiddish it might not sound as good but the Pasuk say כף אחת עשרה זהב. A yid is עשרה because he is a yud. So with כף אחת, one כפיפה, one bending, a yid could become עשרה זהב.