יום ראשון ט"ז באדר תשפ"א 28/02/2021
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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בראי היום

  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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In Weekly Parsha

Redemption of the Levi'im

We learn in this Parsha that giving tzedaka to Yeshivot and other chesed institutions is equal to dedicatng life to Torah study.

Menachem Ginosar 17/05/2009 08:00

Representatives of Torah institutions in Eretz HaKodesh often tell donors that their contribution to the Jewish people is exactly equal to the contribution of the Jew who sits and learns Torah. Indeed, many people who write checks to support Torah study or who drop their coins into the kupat tzaddaka, the charity box that is a feature of most Jewish homes, do indeed feel that their contribution to Torah learning is as great as that of the one who, immersed in the Gemorah, frequents the beis medrash.

Can it be that a monetary donation is of equal value to the efforts of the Jew who toils in the tents of Torah?

The account of the redemption of the Levi'im that appears in our parasha enlightens us regarding this important question.
The narrative of the Levite redemption tells us that HaShem commanded Moshe to redeem the first-born males from the sanctified status that had been bestowed on them after the Plague of the First-Born. This redemption was effected by the sanctification of the Levites for work in the Beis HaMikdash in place of the first-born males.

A question arose, however, before the exchange of Levites for first-born took place.

There were 22,000 male Levites and 22,273 first-born males. How would the "extra" 273 first-born males transfer their sanctified status if there were not enough Levites to whom to assign their sanctity?

HaShem commanded Moshe to redeem the sanctified status of the "extra" first-borns in a novel way. Each "extra" first-born was to give five of the shekel ha'kodesh as a monetary representation of his status, and these shekels were then to be given to Aharon and his sons. The commandment is couched in these terms in the Torah (Parashas B'midbar 3:45-47):

Moshe Rabbeinu experienced some difficulty in fulfilling this command, because he was plagued by a doubt that each first-born male would claim that he had been redeemed by a Levite, and would not want to give five of the shekel ha'kodesh.

What did Moshe do? He took 22,000 blank notes and wrote on each one, "ben Levi". He then took 273 blank notes and wrote one each one, "five shekels". Then he put all the notes in a ballot box. Moshe Rabbeinu said to the first-born males, "Come and pick up your notes according to your lot" .(Rashi)

The commentators ask why it was necessary to write "ben Levi" on each of 22,000 notes. They say that it would have been enough to write "five shekels" on each of 273 notes, and to mix them in the ballot box with 22,000 blank notes.

Some commentators explain that there was a suspicion that individuals would bring a blank note from home and present it as if it had been drawn from the box, thus claiming exemption as one of the redeemed first-born. Therefore, in order to avert any fraud, "ben Levi" was inscribed on each of the 22,000 notes indicating the exchange of a Levite for the first-born.
The Chasam Sofer, however, presents an additional difficulty. He says that according to the view that inscribing the words "ben Levi" on 22,000 notes would preempt efforts at cheating, it follows that there should have been no need to write "five shekels" on the 273 other notes. According to this reasoning, no one would have forged a note requiring that he redeem his sanctity with five shekel ha'kodesh. 

It's possible that if the words "five shekels" had not been inscribed on the 273 notes for the extra first-born males, the first-born who gave five shekels would have assumed that the main point of the redemption was the substitution of the first-born by a ben Levi. They would have thought that only b'deived (a posteriori) would it be possible to redeem their sanctified status by giving five of the shekel ha'kodesh.

The Torah comes to teach us here that the status of those first-born who were redeemed by means of the five shekel ha'kodesh is equal to the status of those first-born who were redeemed by a ben Levi. Each Jew has his own way of being redeemed.

A Levite redeemed a first-born by assuming the sanctified status formerly held by the first-born, and by taking on the tasks of serving in the Beis HaMikdash, concentrating on serving the Creator. The Levite was able to achieve this focus by leaving behind the pleasures of this world, here defined as not possessing a portion and an inheritance in the Land.
The extra first-borns effected their redemption by giving money that was transferred to Aharon and his sons. These and those achieved the redemption of their sanctity, each according to the way he was commanded, as indicated according to which note was drawn from the ballot box.
~~~
In previous generations, when the majority of the Jewish People lived in the lands of the Exile, and only a tiny fraction of the People merited to dwell in the Land of Israel, the dispersed Jews in the Exile know how to appreciate the virtue of supporting the Torah community and its institutions in the Land.

By means of the "sheklei ha'kodesh" that they transferred periodically to Torah observant institutions and organizations in the Land of Israel, Jews of the Diaspora expressed their connection to Eretz Israel and their identification with the Land and its Torah.

In our days, having merited to dwell in the Holy Land, to glory in her very dust, to establish institutions for disseminating Torah education, it's appropriate for us to adopt the approach of our forebears towards Eretz Israel. We need to admit of those same emotions, those same longings for admas kodesh - the Land - that informed the actions of our ancestors as they actually set aside money needed for food in order to assist those dwelling in Eretz Israel. This mitzvah they called maot Eretz Israel, coins for the Land of Israel.

We see the fruits of those longings for the Land, of Jewish dedication to Torah institutions and associations in Eretz Israel, whenever we look at a yeshiva building or observe the workings of a chesed (benevolent) organization.