Friday, May 14, 2010

Going before a Rebbe

The Yidden are counted for their third time as a Jewish people, in Parshas Bamidbar. Our sages tell us that throughout the entire Jewish history, we were counted nine times, and the tenth and final time will be when Moshiach comes.
There is an incredible commentary from the Ramban that gives us the source for the concept of going to a Rebbe! It is only a few lines amid a long explanation, and if you are not looking for it, you could miss it.
The Ramban, like many others, asks what the point of counting all the Jews was. More importantly, the Ramban asks about the manner in which they were counted. The Torah relates that every single Jew was counted. Why couldn't community leaders just come forward with numbers? And why did everyone counted need to pass by Moses and Aaron? (We see how our country conducts a census; there are census takers and data collectors. The government does not demand every citizen to walk by the White House, where the President counts as they walk by.)
The Ramban offers a fabulous answer. Every single Jew needed to pass before Moses and Aaron, in order for their two leaders to create a personal relationship with each citizen. Furthermore, when the Nassi looks onto them with a 'good eye', the Nassi then can pray and request brachos on their behalf before G-d.
Now, how did Moses and Aaron keep track of the escalating numbers of Jews from every tribe? The Ramban is of the opinion that every Jew handed in a half-shekel. (There are also Halachic problems with counting Jews directly, as the Ramban goes on to explain why King David was punished for counting Jews, whereas in our Parsha it is a directive from G-d to do so.) The Ramban says that when the citizen would hand in his or her coin to Moses, this was an atonement for his soul, in connection with the leader davening on his behalf.

So we see a very clear and true source for the idea of going to a Rebbe, having a Rebbe daven for you, and handing in 'maamed', or 'dmei hapan', which is money given to a Rebbe as tzedaka accompanying the chossid's requests in his pan, or letter.

The Rebbe says in the Hosafos of chelek Yud Gimmel of Likkutei Sichos that this Ramban is actually more of a source for the concept of handing in a pan, than for giving ma'amed. How so?

For this, I found help from a Young Israel Rabbi, who explains that we can combine the explanations of the Ramban with another classical commentator. Although the Ramban was of the opinion that the numbers were counted through the half-shekel, others disagree, pointing to the obvious lack of any mention of this half-shekel in the account in our Parsha. Rather, the Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzi Yehuda Berlin, son in law of the Volozhiner Rebbe) has a tradition from the Arizal that says that every person wrote on a piece of paper: his name, and his tribe's name. This is what we do in a Pan. We write a note with our name and our father's name, and hand it into the Rebbe to daven on our behalf and for the requests we include in the letter.

May we be zoche to the coming of Moshiach, when we will be counted for the tenth and final time as a Jewish nation, and we can pass before our Rebbe, our Moshe Rabeinu, with our Pan in hand!

Have a good Shabbos!