Monday, June 2, 2008

Naso, Bamidbar 5:12. Matnos Kehuna/Sota. Gifts and Family Dynamics

Brachos 63a: The Gemara asks, why is the pasuk stating that “ish es kodoshov lo yihiyeh,” ("to each man shall belong his tithes", which teaches that a farmer has the right to decide who will receive his tithes) next to the parsha of Sotah? The Gemara answers that the first pasuk has an additional homiletic meaning: If a person neglilgently retains his trumah and ma’asros in his house, if he doesn't distribute them to the kohanim with alacrity, in the end he will need to seek out a kohen to resolve his wife’s Sotah status.

Some years ago, the Rosh Yeshiva of Lomza in Petach Tikva, Rabbi Ozeir, was in my home, and he told me an excellent pshat in this smichus. It doesn’t mean that the dilatory husband is punished through his wife’s bad behavior. Such a thing is not possible--why would his wife’s behavior be influenced by his aveira? Instead, the Gemara is not introducing a new meaning into the pasuk: the Gemara is referring to the literal legal meaning of the first pasuk: that unlike tzedaka, which a person is obligated to give to the first poor man that asks for it, a person has a din of tovas hana’ah by matnos kehuna, as we learn from “lo yihiyeh”, and one may refuse to give his tithes to a kohen that requests it, and instead give all his tithes to the kohen with whom he has a special relationship. Why is this so? Why shouldn’t any kohen be able to demand that a homeowner tender whatever tithes he has in the house, just like a poor man can when asking for tzedaka? The answer is, that the Torah wants a person to establish a relationship with a talmid chochom, whom he sees as his rebbi. It is better that each person have ‘his kohen,' to whom he gives all his matanos. If, then a person is mafrish trumos and maisros, and he doesn’t give them to anyone, that shows that he doesn’t respect and love any kohanim, and that he has no such relationship to a rebbi. (The kohen was assumed to be the rebbi who is dedicated to limud and harbotzas torah--sifsei kohen yishmeru da’as.) "I should give it to him? Who is he?! When I find a Kohen that really knows how to learn, that deserves my respect, then I'll give it to him, but I don’t know anyone around here like that." If the head of the household lacks respect for talmidei chachomim, and doesn’t have a rebbi to whom he listens, his attitude will percolate through his family, and his wife and children will not have any respect for the local spiritual leaders. The madriega of yiras shomayim in his home will deteriorate to the point that his family will not have the strength to withstand the yetzer hora. Asei lecha Rav! If you don't, you'll have to find one to save you when your family life self-destructs.

This is a good time for each of us to think about whether we have a personal relationship with a Rav; whether it's a "mashpi'ah," or a Poseik, or your local Rabbi, or a Rosh Yeshiva, or anyone in in that category. When Chazal said "Asei lecha Rav" they did not mean that you should only choose someone who is like Moshe Rabbeinu. They want us to have someone to whom we feel we need to answer, someone whose opinion matters to us, someone to whom we always turn when we don't know what to do. I don't think this means that we need to abandon our free will. In life questions, sometimes, perhaps, we might ask for advice but choose a different path. But at least we need to have someone we ask, whom we respect, and to whom we bring our halacha questions. It is having the Rav, having the relationship, that is of the primary importance-- for our own good, as well as for the good of our family relationships.

Coincidentally, the Chasam Sofer says something here that dovetails with this. The Chasam Sofer says that we find that the Gemara in two places talks about things that can generate a good parnasah— aseir te’aser (Brochos 63a), giving tithes, and mechabeid ishto yoseir migufo, honoring your wife more than you honor yourself. The Gemara (Bava Metzia 59) says that you should be mechabdah yoser meigufo because the parnasah of the house comes in her zechus. So a person might say, instead of being zocheh to ashirus through tzedoka, he’ll do it through mechabda. He will buy her nice clothes and jewelry simply as a segulah to become wealthy. Buy her a platinum and diamond Hamsa! (That will not only make you rich, it will also protect you from an Ayin Hara!) The Chasam Sofer says that if he does this, he accomplishes nothing. Mechabdah only works if your motive is to be m’chabeid her. Simply draping her with jewelry as a segulah is not called m’chabdah. In fact, it might have a negative effect– people will be so attracted to her that she will be tempted to be mezaneh-- which leads to the parsha of Sotah. If, on the other hand, you actually are mechabdah because you respect and love her, the kavod she perceives in the gifts will strengthen the relationship.

Just as the level of your respect for talmidei chachamim influences your family’s attitude toward da’as Torah, and a haughty and egoistic perspective is self-destructive, and will rot your family’s middos from within, while humbly accepting the authority of Talmidei Chachamim will raise your respect from members of your family, so, too, your selfless respect for your wife– honoring her not because her status reflects upon you, but because she is an independent person worthy of your respect– ultimately reflects back upon you yourself.

These ideas share this element: One should not feel that his support of his Rebbi, or his spouse, demonstrates his largesse and benevolence. Supporting a Rebbi, and honoring one's spouse, is a lucky opportunity that you should be grateful for. The one who appears to be the patron needs to realize that he is, in truth, the beneficiary.

After posting this, someone wrote me that he disagreed with the dynamics of Rabbi Ozeir's vort. He said that he believed that a husband that lets his wife see that he follows a particular rabbi will be scorned by his wife: a wife needs to see that her husband is a manly man, a man who is capable of making his own decisions, not a unctuous nebach'el. In case his comment is marginally above being unworthy of notice, I would say that his comment is a symptom of two pathologies: self esteem and marital relationships.


  1. Parshas Naso
    נָשֹׂא אֶת-רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי קְהָת מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי לֵוִי לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם.
    There is an amazing fact about this weeks Parsha it is the longest coming in at 176 Posukim ,it does not end there the Perek in Tehillim with the most Pesukim has 176 of them, and Baba Basra the longest Masechta in Shas has 176 Daf. What is the significance of this number? Rav Isbee answers there are 22 letters of the aleph-beis. Therefore this number represents Torah. The natural world Teva is always in sevens: there are seven days of the week, there are also Shivas Minim, seven continents, seven notes on a musical scale, last but not least seven seas. That being established the world beyond Nature Mimaleh Min Teva is always represented by eight. Now we know the secret of the number 176. When you take the torah represented by 22 and multiply by 8 Mimaleh Min Teva it equals 176.The secret to our number is Hashem is showing us the torah is above other studies it is Mimaleh Min Teva.
    דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַיהוָה
    The Nazir is a person who is described as one whom by not drinking wine and not cutting his hair. That is he separates himself in order to reach a higher level of Kedusha. The Gemara in Nedarim has a similar case of spiritual climbing, when addressing a person who accepts upon himself optional fasting. The Gemara there says כל היושב בתענית נקרא חוטא. The question is why is this separation from worldly pleasures viewed negatively? It would seem natural for a person climbing the spiritual ladder to want to take an active role in reaching his goal of spiritual growth. Why does the Gemara look at it as a negative thing? The Ostrovtze Rebbe gives a profound insight into the Gemara's question. A closer look at the words reveals the truth of the question. The Gemara does not view separating yourself from worldly matters negatively. The words are כל היושב that is one who sits, he tortures himself and does not let the message reach him, he is unmoved it is only then that the gemara says it is as if he is נקרא חוטא.
    שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמֵאָה הַקְּעָרָה הָאַחַת כֶּסֶף וְשִׁבְעִים הַמִּזְרָק הָאֶחָד כֹּל כֶּסֶף הַכֵּלִים אַלְפַּיִם וְאַרְבַּע-מֵאוֹת בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶש כַּפּוֹת זָהָב שְׁתֵּים-עֶשְׂרֵה מְלֵאֹת קְטֹרֶת עֲשָׂרָה עֲשָׂרָה הַכַּף בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ כָּל-זְהַב הַכַּפּוֹת עֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה. ׁ
    The Torah tells us what each Nasi brought to the Mizbach a set of gifts .Why in this Posuk does it only say the Keilim they where brought in and not the contents? The second question is why by the ladles of קְטֹרֶת it does mention what was in them? The answer requires a slight background in Kedoshim. The Griz answers all the Nesiim came together to offer their gifts. They thought it was possible Hashem would tell them each to offer separately. They knew the Din that if you make hekdesh your gift it must be offered on that very day if not you have LINA. That means a Korban left over night which is Pasul. Therefore when the brought in the Keilim only with the קְטֹרֶת full because it says in the gemara in Shevous on Yud aleph Amud aleph by קְטֹרֶת there is no LINA. The posuk does not mention the contents of the Keilim because they would have become Pasul because of LINA. The קְטֹרֶת was mentioned because for the קְטֹרֶת there was no such concern. Therefore we see not only where they leaders of Klal Yisroel they where also Bekiem in Kodeshim.

  2. Thank you, necklace. When my year of aveilut ends, I will, indeed, be in the market for Jewelry.