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Sefiras Ha"Omer - Counting Towards Kindness

R' Pesach Siegel

Parshat Bamidbar

May 23, 2014

Counting Towards Kindness

The period of Sefiras Ha’Omer is one of tikkun hamiddos – character refinement.

It is the period that the Bnei Yisroel rose up from their animalistic existence as slaves in Mitzrayim to take their role as the Tzelem Elokim – those created in the image of G-d.

It is a period of mourning over the 24,000 talmidim of Rabi Akiva who lost their lives because they did not live up to the standards expected from such great ones. The one flaw found among them was the lack of kavod they displayed for one another.[1]

The lack of kavod for a ben Yisroel is a grave one with severe ramifications.

Rabi Yehoshua teaches us that when performing a mitzvah, one should do so with a full heart and with joy, for one never sees the total picture of one’s actions.[2]

He quotes three examples.

The sons of Yaakov convened a Beis Din and sentenced their brother to death. Reuven objected to killing Yosef directly by their hands. Instead, throw Yosef in a pit. He planned, later, to extricate Yosef from the pit. The Torah records the worthy thoughts of Reuven. Rabi Yehoshua notes, that had Reuven been aware that the Torah was to record his noble intentions he would have done even more. He would have carried Yosef back to his father on his shoulders.

When Moshe Rabeinu returned to Mitzrayim from his sojourn in Midian, he was concerned that his elder brother, Aharon would take offense. Aharon was the leader of the Jewish people in Mitzrayim. Moshe feared he would be considered a usurper. Moshe’s concerns were for naught. Aharon met Moshe along the way. He displayed great joy upon seeing Moshe. The Torah records the genuine joy Aharon beheld in his heart. Had Aharon been aware of this he would have done more. He would have greeted Moshe with drums and dancing.

The Moabite convert, Ruth, gleaned the field of Boaz. Upon being impressed with her righteousness, gave her a present of sweet roasted grain. Had Boaz known that the Torah would record his generosity he would have given her fattened calves.

What is the understanding behind the words of Rabi Yehoshua? Certainly he doesn’t mean to convey that had the doers of these worthy acts known that the acts would be publicized it would have caused them to be done with more fanfare so as to bring even more publicity to the acts.

My rebbe, Rav Chaim Schmelczer, z”l,[3] explained, it was not the publicity that would have motivated the doers to do more. It was the knowledge that their acts were not just isolated acts of kindness. The fact that their acts were included in the Torah as divrei Torah are evidence that there is more to their acts than what meets the eye. It is demonstrative that what they did went beyond the benefit of the recipient. It was much larger.

Their good middos changed the world.

Reuven could not bring himself to bring an end to Yosef’s life. His middos tovos would not allow it. He saved much more than Yosef. His intervention allowed Yosef to survive, ultimately rule the land of Mitzrayim and set into motion the process of the formation of the family of Yaakov Avenu into the chosen people.

The positive chizuk that Moshe Rabeinu received from the joy displayed by his brother Aharon enabled him to perform his shlichus. He was only able to face Pharaoh bolstered by the confidence of his brother. Aharon’s noble spirit was a catalyst to the redemption of the Jewish nation.

Boaz’s benevolence to the impoverished convert was more than an act of charity. It brought about the dynasty of Dovid HaMelech, followed by, may it come speedily in our days, the ultimate redemption through the hands of the Melech HaMashiach.

Had the performers of these acts been aware of the long reaching effect of their acts they would have invested even more. But they didn’t know, and so we must always be aware that there is much that we are not aware of, and that our actions have a far reach.

The mishna states in Pirkei Avos, Hillel omer hevay mitalmidav shel Aharon etc. ohayv es habriyos umekarvan latorah. – Hillel says, “Be of the students of Aharon love G-d’s creatures and bring them close to Torah.”[4]

The Vilna Gaon explains that “G-d’s creatures” refers to Bnei Yisroel. The world was created for the Bnei Yisroel. They are true to the form of their own creation. When one loves a Ben Yisroel, the love demonstrates an appreciation of the Creator. When one loves a creation of G-d he expresses the belief that G-d creations are perfect and could not be imagined in any other form.

The good character traits displayed by Aharon towards his fellow Jews are a product of his awareness of the uniqueness of a Ben Yisroel. The simcha of Aharon upon greeting Moshe was not mere filial emotion. It was a recognition of Moshe Rabeinu’s one of a kind contribution to bringing the world to a state of perfection.

The mishna continues that Aharon brought his brethren close to Torah. How did he do so? When he saw a fellow Jew commit a sin, instead of distancing himself from him, he would befriend him. He would spend time with him. He would greet him with sincere joy. The sinner would be filled with shame, and would say to himself, “If only Aharon would know my true nature, he would have nothing to do with me.”  The sinner would sin no more.

Aharon saw the hand of the Creator within his fellow Jew. He saw the potential for teshuva within him. And he loved him for it.

Rav Yishmael Kohen Gadol asked Rabi Shimon ben Gamliel, “What could we have done to deserve the execution of those who commit the worst of sins.” Rabi Shimon replied, “Perhaps it is due the time when were in the bathhouse. A widow came with her son begging for support. Our attendant boded her to wait. All the time she waited she must have been in great pain. We did not show her the proper respect.”[5]

Lo nahagu kavod zeh lazeh” – Just as the students of Rabi Akiva.

Rav Schmelczer, z”l, continued. At the time of their execution, they debated with one another, who would be the first to die. Rabi Yishmael, out of respect for Rabi Shimon wished to go first. Rabi Shimon deigned to accept this “honor” and insisted that Rabi Yishmael should remain alive the longer of the two.

This was atonement for the lack of respect for the poor widow and her son.

The catastrophe called golus hides the presence of the Creator, it hides His presence in the world and covers over the uniqueness of those who are the purpose of Creation.

The period of Sefiras Ha’Omer is a journey to rediscover who we truly are.

[1] Meseches Yevamos, daf 62b

[2] Yalkut Shimoni, VaYikra, perek 25, remez 665

[3] Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Chicago

[4] Pirkei Avos, perek 1, mishna 12

[5] Meseches Eivel Rabbasi, perek 8, see Ha’Emek Davar, Shmos, perek 22, posuk 23

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