Weekly Torah Portion – Parshat Hashavua Bamidbar.
Contributed by: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
In Yirmiyahu it is stated: “Who is the wise man, who will understand this, what the voice of G-d spoke to him, and told: For what was the land lost, and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through? And G-d says: Because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, not walked therein!” (Yirmiyahu 9:11)
Chazal explain this as follows: (Baba Metzia 85): This matter was asked of the sages and they could not explain it, asked of the prophets and they could not explain it.
No one knew what it mean until Rabeino Shel Olam explained it Himself, as it says: “And G-d says: Because they have forsaken my Torah which I set before them”meaning because they did make a blessing for the Torah beforehand.
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Rashi explained: When they would learn Torah, they would not make a blessing beforehand, and since they did not make a blessing, they revealed that they did not consider the Torah an important gift. Therefore this matter is relevant on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah, the holiday of appreciation of this important gift. However, anyone who looks at that chapter in Yirmiyahu will be shocked and stunned! The chapter begins with the most stringent sins that were done in Israel in that period, not individuals but the nation “For they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men…They proceed from evil to evil, and they know me not, says G-d…And they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity…have walked after the stubbornness of their own heart, and after the Baalim (idolatry), as their fathers taught them.”
“The first Temple, for what was it destroyed? For three matters that were there- idolatry, forbidden sexual practices, and murder.” (Yoma 9) These are clear statements! How can we then understand the question: “Who is the wise man, who will understand this” this matter was asked of the sages – and they could not explain it “what the voice of G-d has said to him and told” – this matter was asked of the prophets and they could not explain it, “Why does the land perish, and is burned up like a wilderness, that none passes through?” The sins are explicit in the words of the prophets, revealed clearly to all! More than that: they are listed in that very chapter, in that very prophecy.
And they most pointed question: Instead of the Creator, may He be blessed, mentioning the serious, terrible sins, the sins of idolatry, forbidden immoral sexual practices and murder, he mentions the lightest of transgressions, the lack of performance of the positive commandment of the blessing of the Torah!
This matter certainly begs for explanation!
However, when we look further at the matter, we will understand. The question was much deeper than that, and only the Creator could answer it.
This is what Yirmiyahu the prophet asked: It is true that the situation has declined, and we have reached a point of no return. (See Rashi Shir Hashirim 5:6, that in the days of Yirmiyahu the decree about the Destruction had already been made, and it was impossible to nullify it!) It is true that the nation is stained with the most terrible of sins but how did this happen? Didn’t “I plant thee a noble vine, an entirely right seed: how then are you turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine to me?”
(Yirmiyahu 2:21) This was such a holy and elevated nation, the nation of G-d in the full meaning of the word, how few years had passed since they checked from Dan to Be’er Sheva and did not find an ignoramus! (Sanhedrin 94) What happened, how did this quick, crushing decline occur?
To this, no man had an answer. Not the sages, not the prophets, they all stood shocked. Until Hakadosh Baruch Hu came, Who investigates hearts and insides, and revealed the secret: Because they did not make the blessing on the Torah beforehand, even if they did learn it, even if they kept its commandments, it was not a precious gift in their eyes! There was crookedness in their list of values, they reversed the order of priorities.
They did not understand that the matters of this world are a door, an entrance to the matters of the world to come, to the eternal acquisitions that are the main thing. Certainly, one must work and profit, to plow and sow, everything in everything, but this is not the main thing and this is not the goal.
The goal and the main point are spiritual advancement, one’s complete personal acquisition. Instead of recognizing this, they “overturned the creations.” They turned physical matters into the main point, used wealth to measure success, and property to measure happiness; Status and material possessions were in forefront of their vision. No, this is not a sin, but it is an opening to destruction of values, and the animalization of society, for “Without vision the people become uncontrolled!” (Mishlei 29:18)
History, unfortunately, repeats itself, with incredible precision! Let us look at the serious thought of the voter who thinks about the acquisition of more values for the children of Israel, about the increase in education, about the spreading of even more classes in Torah? Who trembles at the spreading violence in the schools, at the plague of drugs that destroys all goodness, at the destruction of all barriers and the impassioned furthering from the eternal values of the nation?! Woe is to the nation that does not make the blessing on the Torah first; Without vision, there will be no control! Fortunate are those who prevent the erosion, who cry out loudly with the voice of Judaism! Let’s rejoice and be thankful that Am Yisrael accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai.
As heard from my teachers
With Torah blessings and Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Nissim Makor
Machon Kibutz Galuyot