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18 Sivan 5759, June 2 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Boruch Chacham HoRazim -- The Knower of Secrets
By HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman

Given at a his'orerus gathering at the Bobov Center in Boro Park during the visit of HaRav Steinman and the Gerrer Rebbe in America, just over a year ago.

Although "the whole world is full of His glory" we find various levels of hashro'as Hashechinah. First we find in the Torah (at the end of parshas Yisro, Shemos 20:21), "In all places where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and I will bless you." When even one single person sits engaged in Torah study, the Shechina is with him. But the gemora (Brochos 6a) teaches us that when there are two engaged in studying Torah, the level of hashro'as Hashechinah is greater; when there are three the level is still greater, and with ten people studying Torah there is a tremendous degree of hashro'as Hashechinah. There are many things that cannot be said without ten Jews present -- a dovor shebikedushah needs ten. And when there are ten Jews the Shechina comes beforehand to them (ibid.).

There is an even more elevated level. The gemora (Bovo Kama) expounds from, "And when [the aron hakodesh] rested he would say, `Return, Hashem, to the myriad thousands of Yisroel'" (Bamidbar 10:36) that the Shechina does not rest on Yisroel when they are less than twenty-two thousand people. Tosafos (ibid., s.v. shnei) remarks that although Chazal write that in every assembly of ten the Shechina rests, this posuk is referring to the hashro'as Hashechinah that rested upon the nevi'im and the mishkan, which is a much loftier level of Shechina. Ten people is not enough for that; twenty-two thousand is.

Even higher than that level is what we find in the gemora (Kesuvos 17a): a person who has studied and taught Torah needs 600,000 people to attend his funeral. The reason is that just as when the Torah was given there were that many people, similarly when it is taken away there should be that many. We see that there was a requirement at kabolas HaTorah of 600,000 Jews to be present. If you want to say that such a number was not essential for kabolas HaTorah but it just happened to be that way, how could the gemora possibly learn from kabolas HaTorah that when a chochom dies you must also have that number at his funeral? (This number was besides the children and women and the men under the age of twenty or over sixty). That was the minimum amount needed for kabolas HaTorah.

Let us analyze carefully the following Chazal (Brochos 58a): "Rav Huna said that when someone sees a crowd of six hundred thousand Jews (see Rashi) he should make a brocho, Boruch Chacham HoRazim (the knower of secrets). When he sees a crowd of non-Jews he [also] makes a brocho, saying `Your mother shall be greatly ashamed . . .' (Yirmiyohu 3:12).

When he sees Jews he praises such a large quantity of people while when seeing non-Jews he expresses the opposite. The gemora explains that the reason we make a brocho of Boruch Chacham HoRazim when we see a multitude of Yisroel is because each Jew thinks differently from the other, and they do not even look alike. Ben Zoma saw masses of people on the summit of Har HaBayis and said Boruch Chacham HoRazim.

The obligation to say this brocho, including uttering Hashem's name and malchus proclaiming His kingship over the world, is brought in the Rambam and Shulchan Oruch. Hashem is the Chacham HoRazim, He is the one who knows secrets, who knows what is inside the hearts of all these people, as Rashi explains.

What is the meaning of this brocho? The Maharsha says that according to the gemora's conclusion that the multitude referred to is not less than 600,000, it comes to teach us that there are not more than six hundred thousand views in the world. There are 600,000 different possible ways of understanding any matter, each according to the way the individual grasps it. But even if there are millions of people, there will not be more than 600,000 opinions. Any other opinion is not considered an opinion at all. At kabolas HaTorah there were 600,000 of bnei Yisroel because the Torah gave the opportunity to have the maximum number of views possible, since there are not more than that number of views.

The views of non-Jews are not included and we do not make a brocho of Boruch Chacham HoRazim on them. Only when there are six hundred thousand Jews is the wisdom of HaKodosh Boruch Hu apparent, since then the wisdom of HaKodosh Boruch Hu is evident, in that He knows their secrets and all the views that are possible in the world.

The Rambam rules that this brocho is said only when we see this amount of people in Eretz Yisroel, which fits with what the gemora says: "There is no uchlusiya (population of people) in Bovel" (Brochos 58a). The Tur and the Shulchan Oruch disagree and rule that even in Chutz La'aretz this brocho should be said. The gemora means to say, in their opinion, that it is not common for there to be six hundred thousand Jews in Bovel; but if there are, we should make a brocho.

A point to wonder about is why this brocho was initiated only when "we see" six hundred thousand Jews. Even if one does not see them before him he knows that there are six hundred thousand views in the world; so why should he not make a brocho on the basis of this knowledge alone, even without seeing them?

We can infer that when six hundred thousand people gather together for one aim, as Ben Zoma saw on the top of Har HaBayis, that is the right time to make such a brocho. The people there no doubt came together for some mitzvah: either to see the korbonos being sacrificed, to see the Beis Hamikdash, or to be oleh leregel. These were all tzaddikim who came to carry out the word of Hashem. On such a situation Ben Zoma made a brocho of Boruch Chacham HoRazim. HaKodosh Boruch Hu had placed in the hearts of six hundred thousand people to come together and serve Hashem. That deserves a special brocho.

The takono of this brocho was only when we see six hundred thousand tzaddikim. The dei'os of reshoim are not considered a dei'ah. When all these dei'os of tzaddikim agree, together, to do one mitzvah we make this brocho of Boruch Chacham HoRazim.

We can conclude from all this that the gathering together of 600,000 Jews for a mitzvah is so important that HaKodosh Boruch Hu rejoices immensely at it. We can then make the brocho saying that Hashem has created so many different views of people different from one another, with all the unlike opinions and understandings, and still they have all assembled together to serve Him.

At this meeting six hundred thousand Jews are not present and certainly the brocho, with Hashem's name and mentioning His malchus was not instituted in such a case. Nonetheless, in a certain aspect, when Jews living in Eretz Yisroel and in Chutz La'aretz gather together it is similar to six hundred thousand being present (naturally not in respect to making a brocho). When they all convene together so that there will be a kiddush sheim Shomayim this brings a great simcha to HaKodosh Boruch Hu and simcha for all of klal Yisroel. They have all come together to strengthen Torah- true Judaism, and this is a situation where it is proper to say Boruch Chacham HoRazim. This is what we have here.

We have assembled to serve Hashem together -- both Jews from Eretz Yisroel and from Chutz La'aretz -- although there are only Jews of Chutz La'aretz, from America, present here, this is a part of the whole Jewish world, and today the greatest amount of Jews are in America, whereas on the other hand in Eretz Yisroel there is a special kedusha -- kedushas Yerushalayim and kedushas Beis Hamikdash. Therefore, by the zechus of our assembling together like this, something comparable to an assembly of 600,000, similar to when we make the brocho of Boruch Chacham HoRazim, may it be HaKodosh Boruch Hu's will that this zechus helps us to strengthen ourselves in Torah and yiras shomayim, and may we be zoche to the complete redemption, speedily, in our time. Amen.

The following talk was given last year during a meeting in Monsey.

Everyone knows that when someone wants to find out about something he must first ask what it is called. If someone comes and asks about a country populated by several million people, with large cities, etc., as long as he does not mention what that place is called, no one will know for sure what he is talking about. If, however, he says that he wants to know about America, everyone immediately understands him fully. The same happens when you want to gain information about someone. If you describe a person as having such and such eyes and feet and so on, no one will know positively whom you are referring to. When, however, you tell us the exact person's name we then have definite knowledge of whom you are talking about.

In early generations, when a child was born he was given a name that would indicate something. For instance, Odom Horishon called his son Kayin because, "I have acquired (konisi) a man-child from Hashem" (Bereishis 4:1). Leah called her first son Reuven indicating, "Surely Hashem has looked (ro'oh) upon my affliction, and now my husband will therefore love me" (Bereishis 29:32). She called her second son Shimon "Because Hashem has heard (shoma) that I was hated He has therefore given me this son too" (v. 33); her third son she called Levi because, "Now this time will my husband be joined (yiloveh) to me" (v. 34), and she called her fourth son Yehuda since, "Now will I praise (odeh) Hashem" (v. 35). Similarly all the names of the shevotim expressed thanks to HaKodosh Boruch Hu or some other meaning. Each name in the Torah has a significance.

After Yosef Hatzaddik lived in Egypt and was appointed viceroy over the whole country he had two children. He called them Menashe and Ephraim. Yosef called his firstborn Menashe: "For Hashem has made me forget (nashani) all my toil and all my father's house" (Shemos 41:51). He called his second son Ephraim: "For Hashem has caused me to be fruitful (hifrani) in the land of my affliction" (v. 52). The Torah explains their names to us as with all the names of people that have an inner meaning.

Yosef wanted to show his gratitude to HaKodosh Boruch Hu Who made him fruitful in Egypt where he was afflicted and suffered so much. He was imprisoned for twelve years in jail in Egypt. It was at that time a worse experience to be imprisoned than it is today. A prison was no more than a moldy pit. It was extremely difficult for a person to endure this. Yosef, who was imprisoned in a pit for twelve years and later was privileged to be the viceroy of Egypt, praised Hashem and expressed his thankfulness because "Hashem has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction."

The Ba'alei HaTosefos on the Torah, based on Midroshim, cited another reason why Yosef called his second son Ephraim. According to their interpretation we will also understand why in Musaf of Rosh Hashanah in the pesukim of zichronos we mention the posuk, "Is Ephraim My favorite son, or darling child, that whenever I speak of him I earnestly remember him more and more? Therefore My inward parts yearn for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says Hashem" (Yirmiyohu 31:19). Who is this Ephraim whom we are mentioning in our tefillos? Is it the sheivet of Ephraim? No, this name, according to the Ba'alei HaTosefos, refer to all of klal Yisroel. It pertains to all of Avrohom and Yitzchok's descendants.

The Ba'alei HaTosefos explain that Yosef called his son Ephraim in memory of Avrohom, who said, "Who am I but dust and ashes (eifer)" (Bereishis 18:27), and in honor of Yitzchok whose ashes were piled on the mizbeiach, as Chazal teach us, that HaKodosh Boruch Hu considers it as if Yitzchok was sacrificed on the mizbeiach and his ashes are piled up before Him. The mesiras nefesh of Yitzchok was judged by Hashem as if he actually sacrificed himself and became ashes.

The name Ephraim (alluding to two sets of eifer -- two ashes) is to remember these two ashes. Yosef wanted to call his son according to the names of his fathers as we are accustomed today. He did not call them directly Avrohom and Yitzchok, but instead called them according to his fathers's qualities. Avrohom characterized, "Who am I but dust and ashes" -- humility; and Yitzchok symbolized mesiras nefesh. The Ba'alei HaTosefos concludes that therefore klal Yisroel was called Ephraim, as is written, "Is Ephraim My favorite son," named after those two ashes, showing those two characteristics.

This is simply amazing! Yosef Hatzaddik, who was at first twelve years in jail, whom his brothers wanted to kill, was saved by a miracle and eventually rose to high-royalty. As viceroy he set up an entire government and managed all of Egypt's economy. Although he had already survived difficult trials during his life, now he would be placed in the center of material affairs. Yosef was personally responsible for the economy of such a large country as Egypt, which was then an enormous kingdom. When dealing with material matters there are always trials, and especially in economic areas. This was a tremendous Divine trial.

Yosef needed to strengthen himself in some way, to do something that would continually encourage him to be saved from these trials. He therefore named his son Ephraim so that he would always remember that his forefathers were eifer -- ashes -- and that is what he should be too. We must forever keep in mind that we are dust and ashes.

We must feel servility to the Ruler of the World and not be arrogant, just as dust and ashes are lowly. On the other hand, we must be prepared to sacrifice ourself, to be like ashes. Yosef named his son Ephraim so that whenever he saw him as he grew up he would remember these two principles. Indeed there are other principles in life, but these are among the most cardinal ones.

Today we all know how, as the generations proceed, they decline in spiritual values, while the material world is constantly advancing in all sorts of improvements. This is terrible! This world is one great temptation and can easily drag a person down until he, chas vesholom, falls. We must set up ways to strengthen ourselves!

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