This dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of Mr. Nathaniel Hoffman a”h, Avraham Nesanel Ben Yerachmiel, one of the first participants in CITE programming. Yehi zichro baruch!
This week we begin the 4th book of the Torah, Sefer Bamidbar. The parsha starts off saying, “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting etc.” The Medrish Tanchuma (3) points out that before the Mishkan was erected Hashem spoke to Moshe by the burning bush, in Midian, Egypt, and at Sinai. After the Mishkan was assembled Hashem said “better is modesty,” as it says in Micha (6:8) “You shall walk with Hashem your G-D with modesty.” Hashem then started talking to Moshe from then on inside of the Tent of Meeting. A similar pasuk is quoted from King Dovid’s Tehillim (45:14), “All the honor of the daughter of a king is found inside, more than the studded gold she is wearing.”
The medrish goes on to address the pristine quality of modesty and how this pasuk refers to the relationship Moshe and Aharon had with Hashem after the Mishkan was built. Hashem was saying that ‘My honor is enhanced when Moshe talks with Me in private.’ The medrish then goes on to discuss a statement Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi made, which needs clarification, of what the connection was to what we have been saying. Why is it brought at this juncture?
“Rebbe Yehoshua ben Levi said, if the nations of the world would have known the value the Beis Hamikdash had for them, they would have built fortresses around it in order to protect it. For it was more valuable to them then it was for the Jews. For this is what Shlomo [the king and architect of the first Beis Hamikdash] declared in his prayers, ‘And also a gentile who is not of your people Israel, but will come from a distant land for Your namesake… they will come and pray toward this Temple, may You hear from Heaven, the foundation of Your abode, and act according to all that the gentile has called unto You’ (Melachim Alef 8:41-43.) But when he came to the Jews, what does it write? ‘And recompense every man according to his ways as You know his heart’ (Divrei Hayamim Beis 6:30). Shlomo said, Master Of The World, if he deserves it give it to him, and if he doesn’t then don’t give it to him.”
The Etz Yosef explains the difference between the gentiles and the Jews: “Since a Jew recognize Hashem and knows He has the ability, and if his prayers aren’t answered he blames it on himself and his sins. But a gentile will complain of injustice and say, ‘I traveled very hard on many roads to pray inside this world-renowned Temple and I didn’t find anything special about it just like idolatry is nothing special.’ Therefore [Shlomo asked Hashem] and You shall do all that the gentile asks from You.”
The medrish concludes that one shouldn’t say that only the Beis Hamikdash was better for the gentiles, but also if not for the Jews rain would not fall in the world, and the sun would not rise. For in their merit the rain falls, and Hashem causes the sun to shine in this world. In the future the nations will see how Hashem clings to the Jews, and they will come to cling to them, as it says in Zachariah (9:23): “We will walk with you for we heard G-D is with you.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
It appears that these gentiles are clearly drawn towards Hashem and inspired to beseech Him. They are willing to make long, treacherous journeys just to behold and make supplication at the Holy Temple, the center of the world. They seem to have a very high level and belief in the true and only G-D because why else take the risks and spend all that money and time on something so esoteric? But if that is indeed the case, why should they be treated any differently than us Jews who also have a strong belief in Hashem but at times might question why does it feel our prayers are never answered?
However, if you analyze the medrish carefully, the lesson that we learn, which is the connection between the first half and second half of the medrish, is that what’s most important in the existence of the world is for the sake of Hashem’s honor. The more honor given to Him the greater Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of Hashem’s Holy name there is. So, just as when done modestly and privately, Moshe speaking with Hashem inside the Mishkan was a great honor to Him, so too, in order to enhance Hashem’s honor, it was worth it for Hashem to answer all of the gentiles’ prayers that come to pray to Him at the Beis Hamikdash. This was done so that they will realize that Hashem is the only true G-D who is all-powerful and can do anything, even if they don’t deserve it. Yet it would seem in regard to the Jews it would be a greater honor to Hashem for Him to answer their prayers only when each individual has earned the right and deserves it. This is because there are more expectations on Hashem’s children who are His servants and were given a handbook, the Torah. They are expected to live by it, so by listening to Hashem and earning the right for their prayers to be answered they are creating a greater Kiddush Hashem, kavod Shamayim, which is the ultimate purpose of creation.
The Jewish people are on such a lofty level that living up to those expectations are in and of themselves a greater honor to Hashem. And because we understand that we have a responsibility to live up to these standards and responsibilities it makes sense that our prayers will not be answered every time and it’s upon us to improve and better ourselves for the sake of the Honor of Heaven.
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder