It’s interesting to note how the media in Israel handles things.
Usually I have my internet filter block out news sites, since they are usually a waste of my time and I don’t want to get hooked in. However, with the virus going around, my wife tweaked the filter so I can see them, which I check every day. I noticed that whenever they found somebody in a religious city with the virus, they would also tag on the line “the Ultra-Orthodox city of…” or “the Ultra-Orthodox school…”
Interestingly enough, over the past few days, the numbers are starting to climb and several schools have been forced to close. There was actually a list of cities that had to close down at least one school. Four cities named, and only one warranted a descriptive tag… Bnei Brak. Tel Aviv, which, I believe has the highest breakout right now, is not tagged, “The Secular City of Tel Aviv”, but whenever Bnei Brak was mentioned, it was “The Ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak”.
When American papers do the same thing with the word “Jewish”, it’s called “anti-semitism”. In Israel, it’s called “ok”.
Okay… on to more positive things!
This week's parsha is a programmer's worst nightmare.
Included in the parsha is a list of all the gifts that each of the twelve tribes brought to the Mishkan. And each tribe ended up giving the exact same thing in the exact same amount. And the Torah uses the exact same language (just switching out the names), twelve times.
For a programmer, that's simply a waste of space and bad coding. We simply would have made a loop, using the same language only once and saved the reader a lot of time. But thankfully, Hashem is not a programmer, or boy would the world be in a bad state.
One of the reasons given for such repetitiveness is to show us the importance of each tribe and each head of tribe for the gifts they gave. While in the end, each tribe gave the same amount, it was not planned out beforehand, and each tribe had their own calculation on why they gave what they gave. And for that reason alone, Hashem wanted to count each individual tribe to show how important each one was, none greater than the other.
I've heard this explanation beforehand, and it's a nice explanation. However, it never really stuck to me until a friend of mine told me a story that happened to him.
At the beginning of the year, his first-grade son had a special presentation at the school to receive his first Chumash. Of course, the school made a big deal out of it, and all the parents and many grandparents came. When it came time, the rav of the neighborhood was asked to hand out each siddur and give a small bracha to each child. This rav was...politically astute, and when the son of the principal was called, he gave the boy the siddur and a small bracha. Then the next boy was called up (my friend's son), and before the previous boy could leave, the rav took the time to tell over a five-minute story on how great this boy's family was. All this, while my friend's son was standing right there as well, waiting for his turn.
Needless to say, the father did not feel so special and some others also thought that the whole thing was uncalled for. Instead of each and everybody being treated equally for this ceremony, one was picked out, at the expense of another, to be praised, just because his father is the principal.
After hearing this story, I can understand this lesson well.
On one hand, we are not communists, where everybody is equal to each other automatically (and some are simply "more equal"). On the other hand, in situations where everybody IS equal, care should be given to make sure that one is not praised over (and at the expense of) another.
This is the lesson of this week's parsha.
I wish everybody a meaningful Shavuos and a wonderful Shabbos!