Parshas Beha’aloscha: Why does the Trumpet Blast Save Us From Our Enemies?
In this week’s parsha we find a pasuk (Bamidbar 10:9) that says : “And when you go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with two trumpets; and you shall be remembered before Hashem your G-d, and you shall be saved from your enemies.”
The Seforim explain this pasuk that the cause of war, as well as the cause of all our suffering, is due to our sins. As the Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (“Maimonides”) (Hilchos Ta’anis 1:1-3) says: “It is a mitzvas aseh -positive commandment- of the Torah to cry out and blow the chatzotzros [trumpets] for every trouble that befalls the community- whether drought, epidemic, locusts or the like—we must cry out, and blow the trumpet! Indeed, this is one of the paths of teshuvah because if people raise the alarm or stridulate when a calamity happens, everyone will know that it is because of their evil deeds that the evil has befallen them. If they will then repent they will be rescued from the calamity that befell them. If the alarm is not raised or they do not sound out through the designated instruments, if instead they shrug off any misfortune and declare that the event is a mere coincidence- a natural event brought about by a sequence of natural events And not a decree from Heaven, this obnoxious state might lead to additional calamities which might be even more catastrophic in nature.
Similarly, says the Meiri (Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249 – 1310)) in his commentary on the Gemara’s (Yevamos 63A) statement that “No punishment comes to the world except because of Yisroel.” The Meiri says: A person should always accept upon himself the justice of punishment that befalls him and should reflect that all that happens to him is “a storm that is because of him.” He should not make allowances for himself saying, “My behavior is perfectly satisfactory, so how could such-and-such befall me?” Even if he where indeed righteous, a tzaddik, Hashem might be more exacting with him and castigate him to reach greater heights. This is what [Chazal] meant when they said: “Punishment only comes to the world because of Yisroel,” meaning, to cause them to fear and do teshuvah.
All our sins are rooted in our Yetzer Hara – Evil Inclination. We might therefore explicate the pasuk “And when you go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you” either metaphorically when we war against our chief “adversary” , our evil inclination whom (indeed the Chovos Halevavos (Rabeinu Bachyaibn Paquda (he lived at Zaragoza, Spain, during the first half of the eleventh century)) (Shaar Yichud haMaaseh Chapter 5) describes the “real” battle in one’s life as being against an internal enemy, rather than against external forces. He quotes a pious man who met some men returning from a war against enemies, and they brought spoils after a raging battle. He said to them: “you returned from the small war with spoils, now prepare for the great war!” They asked: “What great war?” He replied: “the war of the yetzer hara and his minions”. we vanquish through prayer and repentance,) or literally that when you go to war against your enemies the engagement of which is caused by your sins, “Then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before Hashem your G-d, and you shall be saved from your enemies.” The sounding of the trumpets will cause you to do teshuva and thus through your repentance you will be saved from your enemies.
The Sifri (refers to either of two works of Medrash Halacha, or classical Jewish legal Biblical exegesis, based on sefer Bamidbar and Devarim) explains our pasuk “‘By an adversary that oppresses you” – the pasuk is speaking about the war of Gog and Magog. Do we conclude that the text is speaking of the war of Gog and Magog [alone], or about all of the wars described in the Torah? [In order to clarify this question,] The pasuk says, ‘And you will be delivered from your enemies.’ But which war is it that from which Israel is delivered never again to subjugated? The only such instance is the war of Gog and Magog the final apocalyptic event. As the prophet says, (Zecharya 14:3), ‘Hashem will go out and wage war against those nation, ‘And Hashem will be King over all the earth’ (ibid. 9).
The War of Gog and Magog, was explained by the Baal Shem Tov (Reb Yisroel the son of Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov [“master of the good Name”], 1698-1760. He founded the Chassidic movement. Although he authored no books, many of his disciples disseminated his teachings in lectures and they were subsequently published.) is a war of emunah, a battle of faith (the war against apikorsus). It will not necessarily be a physical war but a spiritual war.
Reb Shamshon Refoel Hirsh (of Frankfurt, 1808 – 1888) explains that ‘Gog’ uses the terminology of “gag” which means roof in Hebrew, which underlies their philosophy of protection and strength – believing in one’s own might and in one’s own strength rather than in Hashem’s. In Hebrew, when you add the prefix “M’” or “Ma” to any word (as in MaGog) it expresses the idea of projection of that concept into the wider world. Therefore “MaGog” signifies the promulgation of the idea of “roof” or “ceiling” – of human dependence on our own strength and cunning, to shelter us and make us safe.
How do we defeat the Yetzer Hara? How would we read the end of this pasuk, according to both of these explanations in the pasuk?
A story is told that a certain Jew was very close to the Be’er Mayim Chaim (Rabbi Chaim
Tirar of Tchernovitz 1760 — 1817). He would write down his Rebbe’s original Torah thoughts in order to commit the Torah insights to paper. He once visited the holy Rizhiner Rebbe (
Rabbi Yisroel of Ruzhin (1797-1850), known as “The Holy Ruzhiner.” Rabbi Yisroel was a great-grandson of Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch, he was recognized by all chasidim of his generation as one of the greatest Chasidic masters) for Shabbos, and he was awed by the tzaddik’s sublime avodah. Before taking leave of the Rizhiner, he asked the Rebbe for personal guidance in Avodas Hashem. The Rebbe told him that Yaakov Avinu told his children before he expired. “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days.” (Bereishis 49:1) The Rizhiner gave the following interpretation: “At the end of days, Satan will cause ‘vayikra’ (literally ‘and he called’) which can mean cold. The yetzer hara will infect the Jewish people with a cold attitude to Torah and mitzvos. How will they overcome this assault by the yetzer hara? By “gathering and telling” – those loyal to Torah and mitzvos should gather in groups and recount to each other the traditional and inspirational stories of tzaddikim. They should inspire each other with anecdotes of our great forebears and teachers, especially on Friday
nights. This will keep the Jewish people strong during those difficult times!” The Rizhiner added, “They may even tell stories about us… and it will also help them.” Before the Jew left the Rebbe’s room, the Rizhiner added three directives: “You should remember what I told you, you should fulfill it, and you should repeat it to others.”
The Maggid of Mezritch (Rabbi Dov Ber the Maggid of Mezhirech, (the successor of the Baal Shem Tov the founder of the Chasidic movement) he passed on 1772) interprets the expression in our pasuk shnai chatzotzros, (lit. “two trumpets”) as shnai chatzi tzuros, “two half-entities,” for a Jew and Hashem (is figuratively a half entity, although in reality He is the only Completeness that exists) are both “half-entities” until a union is established between them.
We can understand “two half entities” a bit differently and it will be understood that each and every Jew has to remember that alone he can do very little. It is only together with another Jew that he can accomplish the desired result.
The great Tzadikim said one Jew, even a great Tzaddik, alone cannot form a minyan. However, ten Jews, even the simplest of Jews, can form a minyan.
This can be the continuation of the pasuk both to thwart of the Yetzer Hara and to be able to withstand the struggles of the end of days.
“Then you shall sound an alarm with shnai chatzotzros – two trumpets”; this alludes to the concept of Jews clinging to each other, “and you shall be remembered before the Hashem your G-d” by talking about Hashem and remembering the great things that Hashem does and did for us. In the merit of this activity “you shall be saved from your enemies.”
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