To Each His Own

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Beha'alosecha
To Each His Own

It was during recess when the two captains of the sixth grade were choosing fellow classmates for their perspective teams for the basketball game they were about to play. You can imagine just how hurt and rejected Aharon felt when nobody chose him to be on their team. Our hearts go out for poor little Aharon. This is precisely how we should have felt for a different Aharon, Aharon Hakohen, when he was left out of the inauguration offerings that all the other leaders of the tribes brought to dedicate the newly built Mishkan and Mizbeach.

Last week's portion, Naso, concluded with listing the inauguration offerings from the princes of the tribes (7:1-88). Each leader of each tribe brought an offering to dedicate the newly built Mishkan. Aharon was never instructed by Hashem to participate in that ceremony. As such, Aharon, and his entire tribe of Levi, were left out of this service. Naturally, Aharon felt dejected.

This week's portion, Beha'aloscha, picks up from where we left off last week. By instructing Aharon to be in charge of lighting the Menorah, God basically told Aharon that he was not left out. On the contrary, it was because Hashem had bigger and better things in store for him. Hashem told Aharon that lighting the Menorah was an even greater Mitzva than the bringing of the offerings (Rashi, Parshas Beha'aloscha, 8:2, citing Tanchumah #5). This explains the juxtaposition between these two portions, Naso and Beha'aloscha. At the end of Parshas Naso, Aharon felt despondent. Therefore, at the beginning of Parshas Beha'aloscha, Hashem lifted Aharon's spirits.

A number of questions arise with regards to this whole ordeal. Firstly, why did Hashem orchestrate that neither Aharon nor his tribe be participants in the inauguration offerings? Let Aharon bring the offering AND light the Menorah. Why did it have to be either or?

Additionally, by stating that lighting the Menorah was greater than the bringing of the offerings, it implies that both types of service are identical. This is because when you are dealing with apples and oranges, one does not say that one is GREATER than the other, rather, one says that one is DIFFERENT than the other. However, only when one is dealing with apples and apples does one say that one is GREATER than the other. Since Hashem told Aharon that lighting the Menorah was GREATER than bringing the offerings, the implication was that they were both the same types of service. This is problematic because in what way were they the same type of service? They seem to be two completely different types of services. One service dealt with animals and the other service dealt with candles. They seem to have two totally different flavors. In what way were they the same?

Moreover, once we identify how these two types of services were the same, we must ask ourselves in what way was the service of lighting the Menorah greater than the service of bringing the offerings?

Speaking of the offerings that the leaders of each tribe brought, we must point out that although each Nasi (prince) brought identical offerings; nevertheless, the Torah repeats each Nasi's offering separately. This results in taking up a huge amount of space in the Torah. This begs us to ask, "Why did the Torah elaborate, long windedly, with the repetition of each offering from each prince?" Every single one of them brought the same exact animals, the same exact spoons, the same exact incense, and the same exact measurements. The verses could have just mentioned the offering of one prince in detail and then, in just one more verse, wrap it up by saying something like, "And every other prince offered the same offering on his day." Why the apparent unnecessary repetition of each prince's offering separately? Aren't we supposed to teach students in the shortest and most concise way possible? (Rav Huna in the name of Rav in the name of Rebbi Meir, Pesachim, chap. 1, "Ohr L'arba'a Asar", pg. 3b).

The Ramban (Parshas Naso, 7:12) and Reb Simcha Bunim of Pshischa (cited by the Chiddushei Harim) explain why the Torah spoke at such great length with regard to the princes' offerings. They say that each prince brought his offering with different intentions and with different thoughts that were fitting the specific tribe that he represented. Each Nasi invested different emotions into his Korban. Each Nasi approached God from a different perspective and from a different experience and from a different orientation.

Although externally their Korbanos appeared to be the same, internally they were worlds apart. Therefore, this is NOT a case of unnecessary repetition. Rather, each offering was completely new and totally different. The Torah mentions the details of each Nasi's offering separately to demonstrate that, in Hashem's eyes, each Korban was a completely new entity. (See Bamidbar Rabba, Parshas Naso, 13:14 which supports this view).

The Shvilei Pinchas says that each prince's offering, with its unique intentions, actually opened something up. This will become clearer with the following piece of information.

The Magen Avraham (Rabbi Avraham Gombiner, 1633-1683, Poland; Orach Chaim, the beginning of chap. 68, citing Reb Chaim Vital, Sha'ar Hakavanos, Inyan Aleinu Lishabeach, pg. 50, tur 4, in the name of the Arizal) says that the different Nuschaos (texts) of prayer that we have can be understood by the Kabbalistic teaching that there are twelve windows or twelve gates in Heaven which correspond to the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Each tribe prayed with a different text that was tailor made to fit the unique type of soul that that tribe possessed. Each tribe's prayers ascended to God through its specific gate or window in Heaven. This is the Kabbalistic meaning behind the twelve gates mentioned at the end of Sefer Yechezekel (chap. 48, verses 30-35). Although the simplistic understanding of the twelve gates at the end of Sefer Yechezkel refer to the twelve gates which led into the Old City of Yerushalayim, the Sod (secret) of those verses refer to the Twelve Gates of Heaven, which lead to the Throne of Glory. After all, there is a Yerushalayim Shel Matta, and a Yerushalayim Shel Ma'alah.

If I may just add that Sefer Yechezkel begins by talking about Ma'aseh Merkava, which is a discussion about the Kisei Hakavod. Isn't it interesting that Sefer Yechezkel concludes by talking about the Twelve Heavenly Gates which lead us there, to the Throne of Glory?

In any case, the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839, Pressburg; Parshas Shoftim, 16:18) adds that just like there are Twelve Gates of Prayer through which the tefillos of the Twelve Tribes ascended, so too, are there Twelve Gates of Torah through which each tribe received its portion of Torah. Each tribe had its own traditions, customs, and laws that it followed. In the vastness of Torah, there are many bonified opinions and ways of fulfilling the various Mitzvos. This explains why each and every tribe had to establish its own judicial system (Parshas Shoftim, 16:18). This arrangement was created so that the judges of each tribe would paskin for its own constituents. The Chasam Sofer says that if the judges of the Tribe of Naftali (for example) would paskin for the people from the Tribe of Asher (for example), the ruling would come out crooked.

The Shem Mishmuel (Rabbi Shmuel Bornstien, 1855-1926, Poland, second Sochotchover Rebbe; Parshas Beshalach 15:22 & 27) cites the Avnei Neizer (Rabbi Avraham Bornstien, 1838-1910, first Sochotchover Rebbe) who supports this notion that there are indeed Twelve Gates of Torah. This is based on the verse that says that when the Jewish people traveled away from the Sea of Reeds, "They went three days without water" (Parshas Beshalach, 15:22). The Gemara (Baba Kama, chap. 7, "Merubah", pg. 82a) says that when the Torah speaks about "water," it is also a reference to "Torah." Therefore, the verse really means to say that the Jews went three days without Torah and they became very agitated.

The verse goes on to say that they arrived in a place called Eilim where they found Twelve Springs of Water (Parshas Beshalach, 15:27). The Sochotchover Rebbe says that in order to keep these verses consistent, we must plug into this verse (about the Twelve Springs of Water) our new understanding of "water," which is "Torah." Therefore, when it says that they found Twelve Springs of "Water," it really means that they found Twelve Springs of "Torah." This serves as a source that there are indeed twelve gates or channels of Torah. This also shows that the Twelve Gates of Torah correspond to the Twelve Tribes of Israel because these Twelve Springs of Water were meant for the twelve Shvatim.

Actually, the Twelve Gates of Prayer and the Twelve Gates of Torah are essentially the same gates. When each prince brought his offering, he unlocked and opened his tribe's gate. Once that gate was open, God would send down that tribe's portion in Torah through that very gate (Chasam Sofer ibid).

The Sefer Tzioni (a 15th century Mekubal, Rebbi Menachem Tzioni, Parshas Naso, cited in the Yalkut Reuveini, Naso, #38) teaches that Aharon and his tribe Levi were given a special gate that was called "Sha'ar Hakollel" (an all-inclusive gate) which incorporated all the other gates. The gate of Levi's tribe was the source from where all the other tribes received their blessings. This is why neither Aharon nor his tribe were involved in the inauguration ceremony offerings. This was not meant to leave him out, but rather it was meant to set him aside for greatness. Each prince only had one individual gate, but Aharon would have the master gate.

According to this, there are not only twelve gates in Heaven, but rather, there are thirteen gates. The thirteenth gate is the Sha'ar Hakollel which belonged to Aharon and the tribe of Levi. This explains why specifically Kohanim were chosen to bless the people with their Birchas Kehuna (Parshas Naso, 6:22-27). It is because Kohanim come from the tribe of Levi, and the tribe of Levi is an all-inclusive tribe. As such, they have the ability of drawing bracha to each and every tribe.

We can even find this distinction between the tribe of Levi and all of the other tribes in the blessings that they received. When Ya'akov blessed his sons (the Shvatim) before he died, the pasuk says, "All these are the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and this is what their father (Ya'akov) spoke to them, he blessed EACH ONE ACCORDING TO HIS APPROPRIATE BLESSING" (Parshas Vayechi, 49:28). These words imply that each tribe received a blessing that was tailor made to fit that tribe's personality. Each Sheivet received a bracha that was fitting to that tribes' specific function and mission in this world.

However, when Moshe Rabbenu blessed the Shvatim before he died, we find a unique blessing reserved for the tribe of Levi. (By the way, the meforshim tell us that the brachos that Moshe gave to the Shvatim before he died parallel the brachos that Ya'akov gave to them before he died. As a matter of fact, Moshe Rabbenu's blessings to the Shvatim were considered to be "finishing touches" to the blessings that Ya'akov Avinu gave them in the beginning).

Moshe blessed the tribe of Levi with the words, "Your Tumim and Your Urim befit Your devout one" (Parshas V'Zos Habracha, 33:8). The "Urim V'Tumim" was a Name of Hashem written on a piece of parchment which was placed into the pouch of the Choshen Mishpat. It was the Urim V'Tumim that gave the twelve stones of the Choshen Mishpat the ability to illuminate. The names of the Shvatim were engraved on those twelve stones, and when there was a question posed to the Kohein Gadol who wore the Choshen Mishpat, he would ask Hashem to provide the answer. Hashem's answer would come through the stones which would begin to glow by certain letters. The Kohen Gadol's job was to decipher what the answer was by putting the lit up letters together in order to form the words which would carry the answer to the question.

The Urim V'Tumim was like a battery which activated all of the twelve stones. This is why Moshe blessed the tribe of Levi by comparing them to the Urim V'Tumim. Just as the Urim V'Tumim activated all twelve stones, so did the tribe of Levi activate all Twelve Tribes of Israel. Each tribe of Israel was given a key (so to speak) that could activate its specific heavenly gate. Levi, however, was given a master key which could activate all the gates simultaneously.

This explains why Hashem orchestrated that the tribe of Levi did not participate in the inaugural offerings together with the rest of the tribes. This was meant to demonstrate that Levi maintained a higher and separate status, apart from the rest of the tribes.

The Koheles Ya'akov (Eirech 12) adds that the Twelve Heavenly Gates corresponded to the twelve gates that served as entrances into the Beis Hamikdash. Just as each Sheivet's offering traveled through its heavenly gate up to God, Who sits (so to speak) on the Kisei Hakavod, so did each tribe enter the Beis Hamikdash through its own gate. There was a Sha'ar Reuven, a Sha'ar Shimon, a Sha'ar Yehuda etc.

However, we must not forget about Levi's gate, the Sha'ar Hakollel. This means that there were actually thirteen gates in all. Not only were there thirteen gates in Heaven, but there were also thirteen entrances into the Beis Hamikdash (See Aba Yosi ben Chanan, Mishnah Midos, chap. 2, "Har Habayis", Mishnah 6). Although each tribe would enter the Beis Hamikdash through its own gate, if a person did not know which tribe he came from, or if he did not have a tribe (for example, a convert to Judaism), then he would enter through the thirteenth entrance, the Sha'ar Hakollel.

This could be why his name was Levi. It comes from the word "Milaveh" (escort; see Parshas Vayeitzei, 29:34). Meaning, the tribe of Levi could escort and accompany any tribe into the Beis Hamikdash. It is also interesting to point out that since Levi's gate was the thirteenth, the number thirteen has the numerical value of the Hebrew word "Echad" (one). This teaches us that Levi's thirteenth gate represented the "unity" that people were capable of enjoying under Levi.

The Koheles Ya'akov goes on to say that each tribe had his own text of prayer. Although we have a lot of Nuschaos today, including Eidut Mizrach, Ashkenaz, Nusach Sefard, etc., it does not compare to what they used to have back in the day. Once upon a time there was a Nusach for each tribe. There was Nusach Reuven, Nusach Shimon, Nusach Yehuda, Nusach Dan, etc. Each Sheivet's unique Nusach of Tefillah would travel to the Kisei Hakavod through that tribe's specific heavenly gate. But, if somebody did not know which Nusach to Daven from because he did not know which tribe he came from, or if he did not have a tribe, then he would pray from the thirteenth text which was Levi's text. Nusach Levi was an all-encompassing Nusach that was capable at unlocking the hearts and souls of any person, no matter what tribe he came from.

That thirteenth text is known today as Nusach Arizal (See Likutei Amarim from the Maggid of Mezheritch). Since most of us today do not know for certain which tribe we come from, the Arizal skillfully collected all twelve texts and formed a thirteenth, which has the power to unlock any person's heart, no matter what tribe he comes from. After the Arizal passed on, there was some confusion about what this new Nusach actually was. As a result, there wound up being some sixty versions of Nusach Ari. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi 1745-1813, Belarus - Russian Empire) combed through all those texts and put together what he understood to be the authentic Nusach Arizal. It is not surprising that today Lubavitcher Chasidim daven Nusach Ari.

At this point, there is a thought that I would like to share. The most successful movement in out-reach has been, and still is, Chabad. Somehow, they speak to all types of Jews from all over the world who come from different cultures and who speak a plethora of different languages. What is their key to success? I am certain that there are a variety of factors which cause their activities to flourish. However, I would just like to suggest one more aspect to consider. Chabad Chassidim daven Nusach Ari, the Nusach Hakollel (an all-inclusive text). Maybe by davening Nusach Ari they are tapping into the energy of the master key which has the capability of unlocking anybody's mind, heart, and soul. Perhaps this is a spiritual reason which has aided in their kiruv efforts which seem to work like magic with all types of people.

Although this is a good argument for davning Nusach Ari, one should always follow their Minhag and ask a competent Halachik authority before changing to a different Nusach.

In Likkutei Amarim it says that the Thirteen Heavenly Gates of prayer correspond to the Thirteen Attributes of Hashem's Mercy (Parshas Ki Sisa, 34:6-7). The thirteenth middah of rachamim is "Vinakeh" (and Who cleansed; Parshas Ki Sisa, 34:7). The message behind this is that every single person from any tribe can receive spiritual "cleansing" through the thirteenth gate.

Now that we have established that there are actually Thirteen Heavenly Gates of Prayer, we must also mention that there is also a thirteenth gate of Torah. In other words, not only can each tribe receive its portion of Torah through its own specific gate, but each tribe can also receive its portion of Torah through Levi's gate. This can be seen from the bracha that Levi received which says, "They (Levi) will teach Your ordinances to Ya'akov, and Your Torah to Israel" (Parshas V'Zos Habracha, 33:10). This means that Levi taught Torah to all of the Jewish people (See Rambam, Hilchos Shmittah V'yovel, chap. 13, laws 10-13).

The Shvilei Pinchas adds that this can also be seen from the verses that say, "If a matter of judgement is hidden from you (from any Beis Din of any Sheivet), then you must rise up and go to the place that Hashem your God has chosen, and you will come to the Kohanim, the Levites, and to the judge that will be in those days, and you will seek, and they will tell you about the matter of the law" (Parshas Shoftim, 17:8-10). This means that the judges from the tribe of Levi will paskin for any of the other tribes, if necessary. This might paskins for people from a different tribe, the ruling will come out crooked. Yet, this instance is different because we are talking about the tribe of Levi who represent the Sha'ar Hakollel. As such, the judges from Sheivet Levi can relate to any tribe.

Although Twelve of the Heavenly Gates of Tefillah and Torah were opened by the twelve inauguration offerings brought by the twelve princes, the Thirteenth Heavenly Gate of Torah was opened by Aharon's lighting of the Menorah. The Gemara (Baba Basra, chap. 2, "Lo Yachpor", pg. 25b; Rebbi Yitzchak) says that if a person wants to become wise in Torah, he should pray towards the south, because the Menorah was situated on the southern side of the Beis Hamikdash. The Menorah was connected to Chochmas HaTorah as it says, "Ki Ner Mitzvah ViTorah Ohr" (a commandment is a lamp, and the Torah is light; Mishlei, 6:23). The Ner refers to the candles of the Menorah. Since the verse concludes with the words, "ViTorah Ohr," it shows that the candles of the Menorah were connected to the light of Torah. This means that we ALL received Torah wisdom filtered through the Menorah itself. Imagine, all Jews from all tribes received their Torah knowledge from the Menorah. The Menorah was given to Aharon and his descendants who came from the tribe of Levi. We see from this that Levi possessed the Sha'ar Hakollel of Torah as well.

Now we can get back to the Rashi that we opened with. When Aharon saw the inauguration of the Nesiim, he felt bad because he was left out of that ceremony. The Shvilei Pinchas explains what Aharon felt bad about. Aharon understood what was happening with these inaugurate offerings. Aharon knew that those offerings unlocked each tribe's heavenly gate of Tefillah and Torah. Since Aharon was left out, he thought that neither he nor his tribe had a gate. Or, Aharon may have thought that even if he did have a gate, he had no way of unlocking it.

This explains what Hashem said to Aharon. Hashem said that He was going to give Aharon something even greater than the offerings. Hashem promised to give Aharon the lighting of the Menorah. By giving Aharon authority over the Menorah, Hashem was telling Aharon that he was being given the Sha'ar Hakollel, because all people from all tribes receive their Torah knowledge that was filtered through the Menorah.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this answers the question regarding the connection between the offerings of the Nesiim and the lighting of the Menorah. Hashem had told Aharon that his service of the Menorah was GREATER than the service of the Nesiim's Korbanos. This statement implies that they are the same type of service, it's just that one is greater than the other. The difficulty was that these two types of service seem to be different from each other, like apples and oranges. In what way were they the same? The answer is that both the service of the offerings and the Menorah share the commonality of opening the gates. With respect to opening the gates, we are talking about apples and apples.

However, Aharon's opening of his gate was GREATER than the opening of the other gates because the other leaders only opened a specific gate with their offerings, whereas Aharon opened the master gate with his lighting of the Menorah. What Aharon did was something which could work for anybody.

So far, we have five lists of thirteen:

1) 13 gates of prayer.

2) 13 gates of Torah.

3) 13 gates to the Beis Hamikdash.

4) 13 Middos of Rachamim.

5) 13 Shvatim

Perhaps we could add two more sets of 13 for a practical application of this teaching:

6) 13 months of the year in a leap year.

7) 13 combinations of the Shem Havaya (meaning that the 13th combination is comprised of all the other 12 combinations together).

Our first exercise is a monthly one to be done on every Rosh Chodesh. During the Silent Prayer of Mussaf, there is a bracha which says, "Baruch Ata Hashem Mikadesh Yisrael V'Roshei Chodashim." The Arizal (Pri Eitz Chaim, Sha'ar 19, chap. 3) suggests that when we say the Shem Hashem of this bracha, we focus on the unique combination of the Shem Havaya that pertains to the new month that we are celebrating. Some siddurim have a chart of these different combinations right underneath this bracha. Each combination of the Shem Havaya is coded into various pesukim, whether in roshei teivos or in sofei teivos. As such, each combination of the Shem Havaya represents a different aspect of Avodas Hashem.

Additionally, every month falls under the authority of a different tribe. (By the way, the B'nei Yissaschar goes into each month and its unique Shem Havaya and its unique Sheivet). The Sheivet connected to each month also represents a different approach in Avodas Hashem. Therefore, when reciting this bracha, let us stop for a moment during the recitation of the Shem Havaya of this bracha, and look at the unique combination of the Shem Havaya which is connected to that month. Let us also think about the tribe which reigns over that month. Let us try to think about what we can learn from this Shem Havaya and from this Sheivet. Let us ask Hashem to guide us in learning the lessons that every Sheivet has to teach us.

There is a second exercise that we could implement every single day. Let us pick one Mitzvah this week that we enjoy doing. Obviously, we should concentrate on the official intentions of that Mitzvah that are mapped out to us in the Talmud, Code of Jewish Law, and commentaries. However, let us try to add our own creative intentions. We could ask ourselves, "How does this Mitzvah speak to me? How is this Mitzvah relevant to my life?". In this way we can individualize the Mitzvos, making them special, unique, and different from everybody else's performance of this Mitzvah. In this way, the Mitzva becomes personalized. When we find out which tribe we are actually from, our Mitzvos will travel to God through our specific gates in heaven. Until then, they still have a way of reaching Hashem through the all-inclusive gate of Levi.

So, may we, the tribes of Israel, all be blessed to put our own intentions into the Mitzvos that we do, and merit to open our gates even wider, and receive all the blessings possible.