Chemed Wide

Finding our own Unique Share in the Torah

May 13, 2010

Hashem commands Moshe Rabenu to position the tribes around the Mishkan in a specific order as they travel through the desert - three tribes on each of the four sides.  The tribe of Levi was positioned adjacent to the Mishkan on the different sides of it.  Why was Am Yisrael not permitted to divide themselves up in any manner they felt comfortable with?
There is a Midrash which states that the Jewish nation themselves requested this division:
When HaKadosh Baruch Hu revealed Himself upon Mount Sinai, twenty-two thousands angels descended with Him, as it is said ... and they were all arrayed in separate degalim ... When Israel saw them arrayed in degalim they began to long for degalim, and said, 'O that we also could be arranged in degalim like them!' ... Said HaKadosh Baruch Hu to them: 'How eager you are to be arranged in degalim; as you live, I shall fulfill your desire!' Hashem immediately informed Israel by telling Moshe, 'Go, arrange them in degalim as they have desired.' (Midrash Rabbah - Bamidbar 2:3)

Rashi brings a Midrash that indicates that the allotment actually came from Yaakov Avinu: 
      "R. Hama, son of R. Hanina, said: 'When our father Yaakov was
      about to depart from the world he summoned his sons - as it is written, "And
      Yaakov called to his sons (Bereishit 49:10);" and he blessed them and
      commanded them concerning the ways of God, and they accepted upon
      themselves Divine Sovereignty. Having concluded his address, he said to
      them, 'When you carry me to my last resting-place you must escort me with
      proper reverence and respect. No other man shall touch my bier; neither an
      Egyptian nor any of your children, because you have taken wives from the
      daughters of Canaan.' For this reason Scripture says, "And his sons did as he
      commanded them;" (Bereishit 50:12) his sons, but not his grandsons; "and his
      sons carried him." (ibid. 13) How did he command them to do it? He said to
      them: "My children, when my bier is being carried, Yehudah, Yissachar and
      Zevulun shall be on the east side; Reuven, Shimon and Gad shall be on the
      south side; Efrayim, Menasheh and Binyamin shall be on the west side; Dan,
      Asher and Naftali shall be on the north side. (Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar 2:8)

According to this Midrash, Hashem divided the Jewish nation in precisely the same manner in which Yaakov Avinu had divided them.  What is the meaning behind this division?  Why must every person remain with his own tribe?  


Am Yisrael is comprised of different tribes each playing their role in avodat Hashem.  The same may be said regarding Torah and mitzvoth - each tribe, each person, is assigned all 613 mitzvoth, yet an individual may emphasize one part over the other - he may feel that this is his special role in avodat Hashem. We all accepted the Torah at Har Sinai by announcing "naase venishma" "we will do and we will obey" (Shmot 24:7).  The entire nation witnessed tremendous revelations, of which we are told: "a maidservant at the sea witnessed what the prophets did not" (Rashi Shmot 15:2), and the revelations at Sinai were even greater.  Although we are each obligated in all 613 mitzvoth (barring of course those that do not apply to us, such as those specifically applying to Kohanim, Leviim, kings, etc.), each person has a portion of the Torah that is unique to them. Chazal tell us that many Amoraim had specific mitzvoth that they were particularly careful to adhere to (see Shabbat 118b).  Clearly, the Amoraim observed all the mitzvoth properly, yet they felt a special connection to certain mitzvoth in particular.

Each tribe also had its own characteristics.  The Gemara relates "there was this man who would always say 'judge my case in court', they said: learn from it that he comes from the tribe of Dan, as it is written 'Dan will judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel' (Bereishit 49:16) (Pesachim 4a).  Dan has a tendency to judge, thus there is a good chance that the man was from the tribe of Dan.  Similarly "There was this man who would go around saying 'on the shore of the sea I will establish a palace', they investigated and found out that he came from the tribe of Zevulun that which is written 'Zevulun shall dwell by the seashores' (Bereishit 49:13)" (Pesachim 4a). There is an opinion cited by Chazal that the prophet Yonah was a member of the tribe of Zevulun (Yerushalmi Sukkah Perek 5, Halacha 1). Perhaps this can explain why when he wished to flee from Hashem, he ran to the sea - it was there that he felt safe and at home.

When Shlomo HaMelech began to construct the Beit HaMikdash he was assisted by a man named Chiram.  Chiram's mother was from the tribe of Dan. The two people charged with the building of the Beit HaMikdash were therefore Shlomo HaMelech, from the tribe of Yehuda, and Chiram who, although his father was not from the tribe of Dan, had a connection to Dan through his mother.  This parallels the main architects and builders of the Mishkan in the desert - Bezalel was from the tribe of Yehuda, and his assistant Oholiov was from the tribe of Dan. There must have been something in the makeup of the Beit HaMikdash which required the combination of the characteristics of these two tribes.


We know that the service in the Beit HaMikdash was designated for the tribe of Levi, while the kingship was assigned to Yehuda.  Every tribe has their assigned part in the overall service of Hashem.  Of course, there is no prohibition against someone who is not from the tribe of Zevulun to live by the sea, but one who has not descended from Aharon HaKohen may not serve in the Beit HaMikdash.  In the Shmone Esrei for Mincha on Shabbat we recite the pasuk: "and who is like Your people Israel, one nation on earth" (Divrei Hayamim I 17:21). Why are the Jewish people referred to as "one nation on earth", are there not many other nations? One explanation is that the word "echad" is from the word "leyached" - "to ascribe uniqueness to His Name in this world".  I think that we can offer another explanation.  What is the difference between one individual and many?  When we speak of many individuals their roles and tasks can be interchangeable.  Within one person, however, we cannot alter the function of various organs in the body.  We cannot suddenly decide to walk on our heads or to see with our ears. Similarly, within the Jewish nation, each tribe has its own function which cannot be exchanged with another. The work of a Kohen can only be done by a Kohen, the work of a Levi by a Levi, and the work of the king only by a descendant of Dovid.  Regarding other nations, an Archbishop can become king, and a king can one day become Archbishop. Thus, we are as one person, they are simply many who settle together.

We can also explain that the word "echad" is from "meuchad" united.  Many of the Crusaders who were French, settled in the Land of Israel.  Their descendants are today's Christian Arabs. One finds little or no connection today between the French people living in France and the Christian Arabs who reside in Lebanon.  This is not so regarding the Jewish nation.  We have been dispersed for much longer, yet we still feel a connection to Jewish communities throughout the world.

What we have said describes not only the Jewish nation but applies to the Land as well.  Eretz Yisrael was divided among twelve tribes. Although there is no halachic prohibition against residing in an area designated for another tribe, a person's soul is connected with the tribe he belongs to and the area apportioned to that tribe.  Fulfillment of the mitzvah of Yovel is dependent upon each tribe dwelling in their own portion of Eretz Yisrael.  

Last week we read of two types of fields: a sedeh mikneh - an acquired filed and a sedeh achuzah - a field that is an ancestral heritage. The ancestral heritage was given to a particular family based on its character makeup - this must remain within the family because a person may not sell his soul.

We mentioned above that each person has their own unique share in the Torah. We pray to Hashem to guide us in helping us find what is appropriate for us: "veten chelkenu beToratecha" "give us our share in Your Torah" (end of Shmone Esrei).  There are people who have a tendency towards learning mussar, while others may be drawn to other areas.  Chazal teach us that whenever we come across a dispute between Rav and Shmuel, the halacha follows Rav when it comes to matters of issur (prohibitions) and Shmuel when it comes to monetary laws.  Does this mean that Rav was not well-versed in monetary laws and Shmuel was not well-versed in matters of issur?  That is highly unlikely.  It is simply that issur was more part of Rav's soul, it was his share of the Torah, while monetary laws were more a part of Shmuel.

The Ram"a and the Ar"I lived in the same generation but in all probability the Ar"I could not have written the Ram"a's comments on the Shulchan Aruch and I do not believe that the Ram"a could have written the Ar"I's works.  Everyone has their own unique share. We should all try to record our own chiddushim on the portion of the Torah which we truly consider ours.  When Moshiach arrives, speedily in our day, we will all merit a deeper understanding of the Torah, and live in our own portion of Eretz Yisrael and merit the geulah sheleima. Amen.

Venue: Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh


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