Tuesday, June 02, 2015

the lowest common denominator doesn't benefit everyone

I noticed that sunscreen has a product protection warning that says, “Keep it out of direct sunlight.” I turned to my wife and said, “You know what I’m going to ask, right?" She just nodded her head. 

In an earlier post
I quoted the Ralbag’s explanation of the connection between the parshiyos of the degalim, sotah, and nazir as narrowing the focus from community (the setup of the camp) to family (sotah) to the individual (the nazir). Abarbanel says it’s all about the community. The community benefits from the parsha of sotah because it reduces the possibility of creating mamzeirim. The community benefits from the parsha of nazir because a community needs within it outstanding individuals who are different than the norm. The modern liberal attitude of dumbing everything and everyone down to the lowest common denominator of stupid (e.g. don’t read bedtime stories to your kids because that will give them an unfair advantage) is a bad, bad idea. 

Last week
I wrote about Moshe’s initial ambivalence toward accepting the gift of wagons for the families of Gershon and Kehas. I suggested that Moshe did not like the idea of easing the burden of avodas Hashem. “Adam l’ama yulad” – life does not have to be easy; it’s okay to sweat a little when you serve G-d. My wife suggested that since Kehas did the carrying on their shoulders, if the other families were given wagons, Moshe was concerned that the message they would get is that their work and the burdens were less important. You can interpret Hashem’s response as saying to Moshe that his worries were unfounded, that Gershon and Merari would not feel slighted, or you can interpret the response as saying that people will suffer a little pgam to their kavod in exchange for easing their burdens.

The title “nasi” is given to the leader of every tribe except Nachshon ben Aminadav. Why is he left out? The Netziv answers that Nachshon’s sister Elisheva was married to Aharon. The day Nachshon brought his gift for the chanukas hamishkan was a day of tragedy for her, as on that day her children, Nachshon’s nephews, Nachshon and Aminadav were killed. Nachshon’s simcha in celebrating the chanukas hamishkan was therefore muted. The Netziv derives a chiddush in hil aveilus from here: even though aveilus is doche Yom Tov (
as discussed two weeks ago), the aveil should temper his celebration. He should do what is necessary to fulfill the mitzvah of simcha, but he should not go all out in enjoying the Yom Tov as he otherwise would.

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