(Torah Portion Emor) A Glimpse of the Humble
According to our Kabalistic teachings, each Hebrew month of the year has a unique color/stone, a Hebrew letter, and is associated with a particular tribe. Iyar, the month we welcome today, is associated with the Hebrew letter Vuv. The letter Vuv means, “and” when it appears as a prefix to a word. Vuv thus represents a connection between two words or clauses. In fact, the translation of the word Vuv is a hook, and of course a hook connects two objects.
The month of Iyar is situated between two months where major transitional events occurred to the Jewish people. In Nisan, the month before Iyar, G-d redeemed the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and in Sivan, the month following Iyar, G-d’s Revelation took place on Mount Sinai.
The month of Iyar connects these two events, for during this month the Jews prepared themselves to receive the Torah as their guide for life which is the ultimate goal of redemption.
Iyar is when the wicked nation of Amalek attacked the Jewish nation. And Iyar is when the Jews began receiving the Manna from Heaven, a prerequisite to enabling the nation to withstand G-d’s Revelation at Sinai.
It was in Iyar that G-d pledged, “If you hearken diligently to the voice of Hashem, your G-d, and do what is just in His eyes, give ear to His commandments and observe all His decrees, then any of the diseases that I placed on Egypt, I will not bring upon you, for I am Hashem your Healer.” It is interesting that the first three letters of the words, “I am Hashem Your Healer,” spell out the word Iyar.
Iyar is traditionally known as a month of healing, since at that point in time the physical ailments and blemishes of the Jewish Nation were healed so that they could stand at Mount Sinai in physical and spiritual health.
The great commentator, Maharsha, notes that the untimely deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students were particularly shocking because they occurred between Pesach and Shavuos, which is a time of health and healing.
Our Sages understood and shared with us that the underlying reason why this terrible tragedy happened to Rebbi Akiva’s students is because they came up short of having the correct respect for each other in accordance to their high level of scholarship.
Our Sages therefore urge us to be particularly attentive to our interpersonal relations during this Sefira time of the year.
I recently came across a beautiful story concerning the great sage, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein o.b.m. which illustrates the type of kind, sensitive and humble person he was. A boy living in the Brooklyn, NY area found himself in a quandary regarding a Halachic matter. He did what to his 13 year old mind was the obvious thing to do. He opened the phone book and looked up the number of the great sage and leader, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.
The boy posed the question. Rabbi Feinstein listened and then asked, “Tell me, have you asked this question to your father?” The boy replied quietly, “I don’t have a father. He passed away when I was three.”
After a few moments of silence, Rabbi Feinstein answered the boy’s question. He then said, “After you finish what you are doing, I would like very much if you would come visit me, with your mother’s permission. Let me explain to you how to get to my house in the Lower East Side of Manhattan by using the subway…”
That afternoon, a shy 13 year old knocked on Reb Moshe’s door. Reb Moshe welcomed the boy warmly and invited him to sit down. He then asked forgiveness for any hurt he might have caused the boy when asking about his father. Reb Moshe looked at the boy lovingly and said, “From today on, I will be like a father to you. Call me whenever you want, and visit me as well. My door is always open to you.”
The attribute that impressed G-d most about our leader Moshe was that he was the most humble of people. The characteristic of humility propagates reverence of G-d, accord, and respect to mankind.
Something to reflect on: At the end of the Parsha we read this week, the Torah speaks of a man who cursed the Almighty. Rabbi Shimon Schwab o.b.m., asks: If the man didn’t believe in G-d, to whom was he cursing? And if he did believe in G-d, what in the world did this mortal think he was accomplishing by cursing the Almighty?
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks