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Parashat Naso 5758
According to the Midrash, although the tributes offered by the Nesi'im (the representatives of the tribes) during the dedication of the Mishkan (Taberbacle) were all identical, nevertheless, each Nasi related his tribute to concepts that were specific to his own tribe. As an example of this theme, Rashi (Bamidbar 18-23) cites the Midrashic interpretation of the offering that was brought by the Nasi of Yisachar.
Yisachar was outstanding in his dedication towards the study of the Torah (Rashi Bereishit 49:14,15). The Nasi of Yisachar (like all the other Nesi'im) brought "a single *spoon* (Kaf) weighing *ten* gold weights, filled with *Ketoret* (incense)" (v. 20). In Yisachar's case, this was meant to represent the Torah, which we received from the "*palm* (Kaf) of Hashem" (and which is compared to *gold*, Tehillim 19:11), in which were inscribed the *Ten* Commandments that represented the entire *613* Mitzvot in which we were commanded. 613, Rashi explains, is the Gematria of the word 'Ketoret.' (Gematria is a method of giving a word a numerical value by substituted numbers for letters based on their place in the alphabet.)
Rashi is quick to point out that this Gematria does not appear to add up; Ketoret is much more than 613 -- it equals 709! Citing the Midrash, Rashi explains that in order to come up with the desired result, the letter 'Kuf' in the word Ketoret must be replaced with the letter that lies exactly "on the other side of the alphabet," the letter 'Dalet.'
This interpretation seems extremely forced. It is true that the tool of Gematria is often wielded by Midrashic literature to reveal hidden messages in the meaning of a word. It is also true that Gematria of a word may be determined using the "At-Bash" method, in which each letter of the word is first replaced by its counterpart on the opposite side of the Alef- Beit before the values of the letters are added up. However, there probably is no other instance in the entire Midrash in which a normal Gematria and the At-Bash method are combined in such a strange manner. What gives us the right to substitute just one letter of the word with its At-Bash equivalent in order to produce the proper sum!
Although we once discussed this issue (Parasha-Page, Pinchas 5757), this time I would like to share with you the fascinating approach of my Rebbi, Hagaon Rav Moshe Shapiro (of Yerushalayim). (One who carefully analyzes both approaches will realize that far from being exclusive, they actually complement each other.)
Rashi (Shemot 30:34) explains that the Ketoret was comprised of 'eleven' ingredients. Often, we find that the number 'ten' is used to represent a spiritual 'full set.' Why was the number eleven selected for the production of the Ketoret? In order to answer this question, let us consider some other appearances of the number eleven in the Torah:
In Bereishit 36:40-43, the Torah enumerates the eleven Alufim (chieftains) that were born to Esav. In Bereishit 33:11, Rashi points out a very basic difference between Yakov and Esav's outlook on life. When Yakov described his material status, he exclaimed, "I have all that I need!" Esav, on the other hand, arrogantly stated, "I have much, much more than I need!" Esav sees no goals in life. He is not striving to fulfill a particular purpose, he just grabs limitlessly as much as he can. Yakov lives for a purpose. He strives to fulfill a particular mission, and if he is able to accomplish that mission, he has "all that I need."
The number 'ten' represents a completeness; a full integer count. The number ten represents Yakov's purposeful existence. The ideology of Esav, of seeing no limits or goals and amassing "much, much more" than one needs, is represented by the number eleven. It is indeed appropriate that his nation originated with 'eleven' chieftains.
Yet for all his amassment of wealth, one who follows such an ideology will actually end up with less, not more. As our Sages put it, "Kol ha'Mosif Gore'a" -- "one who adds, takes away" (Sanhedrin 29a). Similarly, in the area of kashrut we are told that "Kol Yeter k'Natul Dami" -- "an animal with an extra limb is likened to an animal missing that limb" (Chulin 58b). If an animal missing a leg is considered to be a Tereifah (unfit to live) and not kosher, one that has an extra leg is also a Tereifah and not kosher.
In Megilah 29a the Gemara states, "One who is arrogant is considered to be blemished." This follows the same principle. The arrogant person considers himself bigger, or more fit, than others, while in truth, his "extra" fitness is no more than a lack of fitness. He is blemished, or flawed.
In Sanhedrin (ibid.), the Gemara derives the rule that "one who adds, takes away" from a verse in Shemot 26:7. The verse states that the goat's hair covering on the Mishkan consisted of eleven curtains of goat's hair, sewn together into one very long curtain which was draped over the Mishkan. The word the Torah uses for "eleven" is "*Ashtei* Esreh." Had the Torah left out the letter "Ayin" from "Ashtei," the Gemara explains, it would have meant "12." Now that the Ayin is *added* to the word, it *takes away* from its meaning, such that it only means "eleven."
Note that this rule is learned from the number *eleven*. Esav's attitude of "much, much more than I need" is summed up by the number eleven. All of his additional wealth just takes him farther from attaining the true goals in life. (Interestingly, a letter *Ayin* which is *raised* above the rest of the word in which it appears is used to represent Esav's wickedness, in Tehillim 80:14 -- see Rashi there.)
How can Esav, and the arrogant who follow his lesson, join the ranks of those who faithfully serve Hashem? By learning this lesson. Only when he realizes that "one who adds, takes away" -- that "arrogance is a blemish" -- can an Esav swallow his arrogance and become a servant of Hashem.
Rashi (Shemos 33:34) explains that only ten of the components of Ketoret are actually sweet-smelling incenses. The eleventh, Chelbena, gives off a putrid smell. Only when combined with the other components, does the Chelbena produce a sweet smell. This is to show, explains Rashi, that when we repent and pray to Hashem, we should not refuse sinners the right to join us in prayer. To the contrary, only when their prayers are combined with our own will our prayers give off a "sweet scent" before Hashem (Keritut 6b).
Chelbena, the *eleventh* component of the Ketoret, represents those who follow the ideology of Esav; "one who adds, takes away." Ketoret shows that when such people realize that they are only an "incomplete eleven," and that their arrogance causes them to be lacking, they can be combined with the righteous to produce a sweet scent.
Ketoret only adds up to 613 when its 'Kuf' is replaced with a 'Dalet.' In Kabbalistic literature, the Hebrew letters 'Kuf' and 'Dalet' are both viewed as flawed letter 'Heh's.
The letter Heh is comprised of two lines at right angles that meet at its upper right corner, plus an additional incomplete leg on its left side. The Kuf and Dalet also have the right angle at their upper right corner. The difference between them and the Heh lies in their left leg. In the letter Kuf, the left leg is exaggerated, extending well below the leg of the Heh. Instead of "improving" on the Heh, though, it has become a caricature of a Heh. The Kuf represents to us that by *adding* to the Heh, we only *take away* from its form as a letter Heh. Dalet is the opposite. The difference between it and the Heh is that the Dalet lacks a left leg entirely.
The Dalet is a poor, or lacking, letter -- "Dal," in Hebrew (see Shabbat 104a). 'Kuf,' or 'Kof' means monkey. The letter Kuf as compared to the letter Heh is like a Kof (monkey) to a man; no more than a caricature.
Ketoret takes the 'Kuf' and makes it into a 'Dalet.' It teaches the arrogant sinner that his "addition" -- his unlimited amassment of wealth -- makes him lacking. When he learns that lesson, he too can join the rest of the nation to work towards Tikun Olam. How appropriate it is that "Ketoret" equals 613, the total number of Mitzvot in the Torah, only after converting its Kuf into a Dalet!