Parashas Bamidbar 5780 – Silence, Mother of all Virtues

This Parasha introduces us to the Nation of Israel new order of life. They had to encamp in an extremely specific manner; each division was composed of three tribes and had each a different position and flag. “The Israelites shall encamp, each person with his division and each by his flag.” [Bamidbar 1:52]. Each division was led by one tribe and more specifically by the Prince of that tribe.
The Eastern division was led by the tribe of Yehuda which flag displayed a lion. The southern division was led by the tribe of Reuven which flag displayed a human face. The western division was led by the tribe of Ephraim which flag displayed a bull, and the northern division by the tribe of Dan which flag displayed an eagle. [Interestingly, these four emblematic flags are found in the Divine Chariot]. Thus, it is noteworthy to point a peculiar incident that became the cornerstone of the Nation we became. The Prince of the Tribe of Gad is referred to as Elyasaf son of Reuel and sometimes as Elyasaf son of Deuel. The Chidah in Chomas Anoch explains in the name of the Imrei Noam: Gad could have rightly claimed to Moshe: I am the firstborn of Zilpah and Dan is the firstborn of Bilhah. Dan became the leader of a division while my tribe was not provided any leadership role. Though, he did not protest and was therefore awarded two privileges: the name of his Chieftain was changed from Elyasaf son of Deuel to Elyasaf son of Reuel, which means Elyasaf the friend of Hashem. They also merited that Moshe Rabbeinu was buried on Har Nevo, in their portion of Eretz Yisrael (Transjordan). The reason Gad’s complaint would have been justified is that Yaakov had four wives: Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. The children of three of them have received a leadership role, but not the children of Zilpah.

Obviously, any complaint would have anyway been futile as the encamping design was ordered by Hashem, as clearly stated in the Verses. So, since the tribe of Gad had in truth not given up anything, what was the reason for such a pompous reward? The Chidah replies it is because they remained silent before what seemed unfair. Indeed, the Mishna in Avos [1:17] states: “Shimon, his son, used to say: all my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence. Study is not the most important thing, but actions; whoever indulges in too many words brings about sin.”
The Maharal in Derech Chaim retorts on the Mishna: Silence should not be so important as it is only a mean to learn through listening. Besides, why did Rabbi Shimon found it necessary to introduce his declaration by stating that “he grew up among the sages”? The Maharal answers with a Gemara [Shabbos 88b] that says: “the Sages taught: About those who are insulted and do not insult, who hear their shame and do not respond, who act out of love and are joyful in suffering, the verse says: “And they that love Him are as the sun going forth in its might” (Judges 5:31). The Maharal says, that the power to remain silent even in moments of polemics and unfairness is a Jewish trait of character. Anyone who remain silent in those moment proves his Jewish lineage.
The Akeidas Yistzchak adds that overusing the power of speech amounts to denying the superiority of man over beast and calls into question the worthiness of this person’s existence. It is like a king who presented his servant with a fancy garment, only to have the servant drape it over his donkey. The sages of Israel are complimented when the Talmud Sukkah 28a states that they never indulged in idle talk. The following story illustrates the power of silence. The Sdei Chemed is an encyclopedia of Halacha that would normally require computers and a large team of experts to write it. But before the computer age, one-man Rav Chaim Medini wrote it in the 19th century. His work is well beyond human and he recounts himself the story how he deserved such a gift.
While a young man in Yeshiva, he had no special ability but was admire by his peers for his diligent toiling in learning and no one ever preceded to the Beth Hamidrash. A brilliant

young man started to jealous him, and even came up with an evil plan how to get rid of Rav Chizkiyah. He decided to bribe the Arab maid so she would inform the dean of the Yeshiva, that the Sdei Chemed engaged in inappropriate behavior with her. She accepted the bribe and made the claim. It became the gossip of the town especially as his father was a tremendous scholar and pious man. The Sdei Chemed suffered tremendous shame and abuse and had to leave the Yeshiva. The dean never really believed the maid and fired her.
A short time later, the bribe money ran out, and the maid approached the Sdei Chemed, very remorsefully and asking for forgiveness. She begged him for mercy as she has children home that she cannot feed. She is ready to admit publicly the scheme that took place and to restore his good reputation. I only ask that you go back to the Rosh Yeshiva and get me my job back, because I literally have nothing to eat. The Sdei Chemed said he was tempted to take her up on this offer and reclaim his reputation. However, he realized that if the maid confesses it will only result in creating an additional Chillul Hashem. The fact that a Yeshiva man was low enough to promote such a dirty scheme, would negatively affect the Yeshiva. He decided to help the maid regain her job but at the express condition she never reveals the true story.
Rav Chizkiyah indeed managed to help the Arab maid to regain her job. But he writes in the introduction of his encyclopedia, that after this incident, he became a different person. From that day forward, he merited super intellectual prowess.

By Rabbi Shimon Friedman – Din Torah Of NMB, FL 305.399.0393 / rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com990 NE 171 Street  |  North Miami Beach, Florida 33162  |  (305) 918-1502  | * *

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