Parashas Pinchas

In this week’s parashah, Moshe entreats Hashem (Bamidbar 27:15): “May Hashem, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly.” The Midrash remarks (Bamidbar Rabbah 21:2):
It is a halachah that if one sees a large assembly of people [i.e., 600,000 or more Jews together – see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 224:5], one says: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, Knower of secrets.” For just as their faces differ one from the other, so, too, their mindsets differ one from the other. Each one has his own mindset. Thus it is written (Iyov 28:25, homiletically): “Fashioning spirits according to [a designated] weight” – the spirits of each and every man. Know that this is so, for Moshe entreated Hashem at the time of his death: “Master of the Universe, revealed and known before You is each one’s mindset, for Your children’s mindsets differ from each other. As I depart from them, please appoint over them a leader who can bear them, each one according to his mindset.”
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. The masters of hidden Torah wisdom have passed down to us the teaching that the Torah, with all its general principles and specific details, requires that the world be furnished with at least 600,000 Jews. The reason is that in order for the Torah’s splendor to be fully displayed and the scope of its laws fully exhibited, the Jewish People, collectively, must encompass all forms of knowledge and wisdom, and at least 600,000 Jews are needed for this requirement to be fulfilled. Thus, in connection with Moshe’s declaration “Did He not make you and establish you?” (Devarim 32:6), R. Meir remarked that the Jewish People is like a city encompassing all types of people, including kohanim, prophets, kings, and officers (Chullin 56b). Hashem instills in each Jew the mental capability and desire to bring out his designated portion of wisdom, making his contribution to the all-embracing collective wisdom of the Jewish People as a whole.
The berachah that the Midrash quotes is a praise to Hashem for the great discernment He exercised in this process. The dissemination of different mental capabilities to different people did not take place by happenstance – rather, Hashem arranged it in a wondrously calculated manner. The Midrash portrays this reckoning through its interpretation of the verse from Iyov: “‘fashioning spirits according to [a designated] weight’ – the spirits of each and every man.” Elsewhere the Midrash elaborates (Vayikra Rabbah 15:2): “Some acquire Scripture, some acquire Mishnah, some acquire teachings of halachic reasoning (תלמוד), some acquire homiletical teachings (הגדה), and some acquire all of these.” Another Midrash expounds in a similar vein (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:3): “It is written (Melachim Alef 5:9), ‘And God gave Shlomo wisdom and a very great amount of understanding, and breadth of heart [as vast] as the sand upon the seashore.’ … He gave him wisdom commensurate with the entire Jewish People, of whom it is written (Hoshea 2:1), ‘The number of the Children of Yisrael will be like the sand of the sea.’”
And we have a clear sign of the meticulous calculation that Hashem carried out in granting each person his set portion of wisdom: the fact that each person has a unique face. Meseches Sofrim 16:3 teaches that there are four basic types of face: a face filled with awe for those who focus on Scripture, a moderate face for those who focus on Mishnah, a happy face for those who focus on תלמוד, and a cordial face for those who focus on הגדה. There are other facial variations, known to those learned in the wisdom of reading faces. Hashem fashioned each person’s face to fit the portion of wisdom he would receive, in accord with the nature of his soul.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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