Thursday, May 24, 2018



   Toward the end of his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1981, President Ronald Reagan spoke of monuments to heroism. Struggling to control his emotions, he drew attention to “the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row upon row of simple white markers.”
   He continued, “Under such a marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small-town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division.” Treptow was killed while serving as runner in the battle of the Ourcq River on July 29, 1918.
   Reagan related that after Treptow was killed, a diary was found in which he inscribed the following message: “America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the whole struggle depended on me alone.”   

   Doctor Joel Berman[2] related that in the IDF, if a soldier loses his gun he is sentenced to five years in military prison. A soldier who falls asleep at his post however, is sentenced to seven years in military prison. Falling asleep and failing to be vigilant can endanger numerous lives, and is therefore a more serious violation than being careless with a weapon.

   At the end of Parshas Naso, the Torah relates each of the offerings donated by the Princes of each Shevet during the first twelve days of Nissan. Although they all brought the exact same offering, the Torah repeats each one, symbolizing how special each one was to Hashem.
   The Torah introduces the topic by stating, “Vayehi – And it was the one who brought the offering on the first day, Nachson ben Aminodov of the tribe of Yehuda.”[3]
   The Medrash[4] notes that the expression “Vayehi” is one of distress – “Vay- Woe!”  The Medrash offers various explanations as to who was distressed at that time.
   Oznayim laTorah suggests that the entire nation was in distress because this was shortly after the sudden deaths of Nadav and Avihu in the Mishkan. It occurred shortly after a heavenly fire descended upon the Mizbeiach, symbolizing the commencement of the Avodah in the Mishkan. In a moment intense national celebration was transformed into overwhelming grief. “And your brethren the entire House of Israel shall bewail the ‘burning’ that Hashem has ignited.”[5]
   At that moment, the princes paused. They were to begin offering their special korbanos that day. But who could offer a personal korbon immediately after such a paralyzing tragedy befell the nation?
   It would seem that Nachson ben Aminodov would be the last person to offer his korban that day. His grief was more intense than anyone else because Nadav and Avihu were the sons of his sister Elisheva, the wife of Aharon. It was his nephews who had died.
   Yet his fellow princes chose him. Just prior to the Splitting of the Sea, at that frightful moment when the Egyptians closed in upon the hapless nation and the sea was raging before them, it was Nachshon who plunged into the sea. He had no idea that a miracle would occur but his unyielding faith in Hashem impelled him. When the sea reached his nostrils, it split before him, and the nation was able to proceed.
   The princes reasoned that Nachson would be able to sublimate his own grief, in order to serve as an example for the entire nation of selfless Service to Hashem. A korbon symbolizes man’s willingness to sacrifice his entire being for the honor of Hashem. There was no one more fitting than Nachshon who could master his own feelings and offer such korbanos for the honor of Hashem.
   Regarding what occurred just prior to the Splitting of the Sea, the gemara[6] relates two different opinions: “This one (tribe) said ‘I will descend (into the sea) first’, and this one said ‘I will descend into the sea first’. The tribe of Binyamin jumped in and descended into the sea first.
   “Rabbi Yehuda says that is not the way it transpired. Rather, this one said, ‘I won’t descend into the sea first’ and this one said ‘I won’t descend into the sea first’. Nachson ben Aminodov jumped in and went down into the sea first.”
   According to the first approach mentioned in the gemara, what was the basis of their argument regarding who should plunge into the sea first. The sea has more than ample place for everyone to jump in simultaneously?
   Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt’l[7] explained that although the other tribes claimed to want to enter the sea first it wasn’t with complete personal abandon.
   The Medrash[8] asks “What did the sea see?” In other words, what caused the sea to split? The Medrash answers it saw the bones of Yosef[9]. Yosef was a strikingly handsome seventeen-year old bachelor, rejected from his family, and all alone. Yet, incredibly he refused the advances of a beautiful woman who desperately tried to seduce him and threatened him with terrible suffering for resisting. Yosef overcame his nature in a most profound manner.
   At first the sea did not want to alter its natural flow. But when it saw the bones of Yosef who had overcome his own nature, it felt compelled to alter its own nature as well.
   As the nation stood facing the ominous sea with the Egyptians behind them, Moshe urged them to faithfully proceed into the sea. Each tribe declared that they would be willing to descend first, but only if they were grasping the coffin containing the bones of Yosef. They understood the powerful symbolism and protection that those bones would offer, and they were only confident to continue with them.
   The tribe of Binyamin however, countered that there was no time to waste. If Hashem willed them to proceed that did not require any propitious symbolisms or protections. Therefore, while all the other tribes converged upon the bones of Yosef, Binyamin plunged into the sea with nothing but their unyielding faith in Hashem.
   It seems that the same was true about Nachson. He too did not seek the protection of the bones of Yosef, but rather he plunged into the sea with total faith and a feeling of responsibility that the fate of the nation rested upon his shoulders.

   The holiday of Shavuos is a celebration of our acceptance and compete subjugation and adherence to Torah. The Torah not only contains the guidelines of halacha, but also provides us with a framework for every aspect of our lives.
   Nachson was the ultimate example of one who lived by his faith and was undeterred by anything that could shake his faith. It made him worthy of being the ancestor of Boaz, the Davidic dynasty, and the eventual birth of Moshiach. A king has to be able to put aside his own personal agendas and desires for the betterment and welfare of his kingdom.[10]
   During times of national panic and mourning, the nation was able to draw comfort and encouragement from the sterling example of Nachshon. That too became the legacy of his descendants Dovid and Shlomo, and will be the legacy of Moshiach.

   “And this one said ‘I will descend into the sea first”
   “On the first day, Nachson ben Aminodov of the tribe of Yehuda”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rabbi, Kehillat New Hempstead
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] Based on the lecture given at Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh parshas Naso 5777
[2] Dr Berman was a soldier in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). He is currently a beloved rebbe, teacher, and Assistant Principal in Heichal HaTorah 
[3] Bamidbar 7:12
[4] Bamidbar Rabbah 12:7
[5] Vayikra 10:6
[6] Sanhedrin 36b-37a
[7] הערות – מסכת סוטה
[8] Bereishis Rabbah 87:8
[9] Based On Yosef’s instruction prior to his death, his bones were carried out of Egypt and accompanied the nation throughout their travels in the desert. They were eventually interred outside Shechem.
[10] It is interesting for us to contrast such lofty ideals of true monarchy with the disgrace of what has become of the remaining royalty in our world. This week the world watched a prince marry a movie star, both of whom do not live exemplary lives as role models for others. 


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