Monday, May 21, 2012


PARSHAS BAMIDBAR - YEHUDA AND YISSOCHOR The Parsha devotes considerable time to describing the formations of the tribes. They were arranged in groups of three. The commentaries point out that they were deliberately placed in such a position so as to be able to exert influence on each other. The first formation was that of Yehuda, Yissochor and Zevulun. Yehuda was directly next to Yissochor. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz zt”l writes that Yehuda’s distinguishing characteristic was the ability to take achrayus (responsibility), both for himself, and for others. He exercised this mida when he took achrayus for the incident with Tamar, when he accepted the consequences of bringing Binyomin down to Mitzrayim and when Nachshon ben Amminadav, the Prince of Yehuda, was the first person to step into the sea at the Yam Suf before it had even split. Yissochor is known to represent Torah; he devoted himself to Torah study whilst his brother Zevulun provided for his physical needs , furthermore, many of the leading members of the Sanhedrin were from Yissochor . In this article we will focus on how Yehuda was intended to exert a positive influence on Yissochor. In Parshas Vayigash, the Torah describes how the Bney Yisroel left Eretz Yisroel to live in Mitzrayim. We are told that Yaakov Avinu sent Yehuda ahead of him to prepare the way in Goshen. Rashi explains that he was sent to start a Beis Talmud. This set a precedent for all Jewish history that the first priority of a Jewish community should be Torah education. However, it is difficult to understand why Yehuda was sent to establish the Beis Talmud - would not Yissochor have been a more appropriate choice, given that his ikar mida is learning Torah? The Tiferes Shlomo answers that Yehuda was the first person to take achrayus for another to the extent that he was willing to give up his own life. We see this when Yehuda guaranteed to Yaakov that he would protect Binyomin from any danger in Mitzrayim. This was an act of incredible self-sacrifice emanating from Yehuda’s deep feeling of responsibility for others. Consequently, the reason that Yaakov sent Yehuda to open the Beis Talmud was so that it’s guiding principle would be a sense of achrayus for the well-being of one’s fellow Jew. This idea can help us explain why Yehuda was placed next to Yissochor in the tribe formation - it is not sufficient merely to learn Torah for one’s own spiritual benefit, rather one must have the attitude that he is learning Torah so that he can pass it on to others. Moreover, the greater one’s ability to learn and understand Torah, the greater the obligation is upon him to be mashpia on others. Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l epitomised such an attitude. “After resolving a difficulty in Rambam, R.Yisroel fainted. “If I have such talent,” he explained upon coming to, “I have a tremendous responsibility. The Heavenly Court will demand of me, “Why didn’t you get the whole world to do teshuva?” How significant a part of our Talmud Torah is the necessity to pass it on to others? The Mishna in Avos states: “If you have learnt much Torah, ‘al tachzik tova’ to yourself, because that is why you were created.” The simple understanding of this Mishna is that a person should not be proud of his achievements in Talmud Torah because learning Torah is his purpose in life. However, many commentaries suggest a different explanation. They explain the Mishna to mean that if a person has learnt much Torah he should not keep its goodness for himself, rather he should teach it to others - why? Because his purpose in creation is to learn and teach.” It is clear from this explanation of the Mishna that passing on Torah is not merely an aspect of one’s Talmud Torah, rather it is part of the very foundation of one’s learning. In this vein, Rav Wolbe zt”l expressed his views on educating our children in their attitude to learning Torah. “I think that we must teach this to youngsters already from the time that they enter into yeshiva katana. Immediately in the first year, we must say to them that they are intrinsically connected to Klal Yisroel, and that they are obligated to give over to Klal Yisroel all the Torah that they will learn in yeshiva katana and yeshiva gedola. This is their avoda - not just to think about themselves. One must know that he must give over his Torah to Klal Yisroel.’ It is clear that Rav Wolbe believed that approaching our learning with a sense of achrayus is not just a good mida, rather it is a prerequisite to our relationship with Torah. If a person does bear this sense of achrayus then he receives a reward over and above the normal reward for Talmud Torah. The Mishna in Avos states that one who is mezakeh the rabim is saved from chet and he receives reward for every mitzva that he caused to be done. The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Zev Segal zt”l would say that if one’s years of learning are a preparation for his disseminating Torah in the years to come, the Torah student is already considered a mezakeh es harabim during his years of learning. Since his learning is done with the intention of enabling him to pass on more to others, then the learning itself provides him with the inestimable merit of one who helps many. Hashem intended for Yehuda to influence Yissochor to learn Torah in order to share it with others. So too we must learn this lesson and approach our own learning with a great sense of achrayus for our fellow Jew, if we do so, then the benefits for ourselves and Klal Yisroel are endless.

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