Wednesday, June 17, 2009


(Posting some Divrei Torah from the past few weeks that I've been writing for a local Parashah sheet)

The Torah uses an unusual word to describe what the Jews in the desert had to do when they came forward to be counted in the census: "They gathered together the entire congregation on the first of the second month and they were registered (va-yisyaldu) by family ancestry according to the house of their fathers..." (Bamidbar 1:18). What does it mean va-yisyaldu? Rashi explains that they brought witnesses and their genealogical documents to prove their ancestries.

Ramban points out that this is difficult. Why would they have to do this?

Click here to read more
Ramban points out that this is difficult. Why would they have to do this? These are people who were only a few generations removed from the twelve sons of Ya'akov, all of whom had lived together for two hundred years in a confined area in Egypt. Certainly anyone who tried to falsify his ancestry would be detected by someone. Additionally, they were presenting themselves to Moshe Rabbeinu. Is it possible that they would be able to trick him about their ancestries?

I think that the explanation of Rashi's approach can be found when we keep in mind an earlier explanation of Rashi. It says that “Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak” (Bereishis 25:19) and Rashi explains that this phrase comes to tell us that the scoffers of the generation, leitzanei ha-dor, were saying that Sarah was impregnated by Avimelech. Therefore, Hashem made Yitzchak look exactly like Avraham – so everyone would know that the gossip was false. But the question remains, why should any of us care what the leitzanei ha-dor say? Perhaps we do not have to worry about the leitzanei ha-dor, because there is no way to satisfy them, but we have to be concerned about those who hear their accusations think. “Vihyisem neki’im” (Bamidbar 32:22) teaches us that, in and above being good, we have to make sure that we appear innocent to everyone who sees. We have to do what we can to prevent the leitzanei ha-dor from having an opening in which to spread lies about us.

It is true that during Moshe Rabbeinu’s census in the desert, no one would have been able to lie about his ancestry. However, in order to preclude anyone in the future objecting to the ancestry of the Jews who left Egypt, or even their contemporaries in other nations who would want to insult them by denying their heritage, they came forward with solid proof of their ancestry. They intentionally created a process that was transparent and unassailable, at least to those with reasonable standards. The lesson of va-yisyaldu is that it isn’t enough to do the right thing. We have to make proof available demonstrating that it is right.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More