Drash Cards for BaMidbar (5777)
by Marc Mangel
- Here’s a list of names; no hints about who they are Elizur ben Shedeur; Shelumiel ben Zurishaddai; Nahshon ben Amminadab; Nethanel ben Zuar; Eliab ben Helon; Elishama ben Ammihud; Gamaliel ben Pedahzur; Abidan ben Giedeoni; Ahiezer ben Ammishaddai; Pagiel ben Ochran; Elasaasph ben Deuel; Ahira ben Enan
- Another list of names; one hint about who they are: David Lee Goldfein, Norton Allan Schwarz, Aluf David Daniel Marcus, Sidney T. Weinstein, H Steven Blum, Jack Weinstein, Issur Danielovitch, Julius Ochs Alder, William P Levine, Jeremy Michael Boorda, Uriah Phillips, Levy, Chaim Godalia Rickover, Ben Moreel, Maurice Herbert Rindskopf, Sumner Shapiro, Edward David Taussig
- First list – “the Princes” who helped Moshe with the census. I decided to learn about them for this drash. But the fact is that we know very little. They are part of a Wikipedia page on ‘Minor Biblical Figures’. They also were the leaders of their tribes during the encampments in the wilderness and brought the donations from their tribes when the Mishkan was completed. They were summoned to meet with Moshe by the sounding of a single silver trumpet; all of Israel summoned by two silver trumpets
- Jacob Milgram, in his JPS commentary on BaMidbar notes i) 16 of the 24 names in the listing of the princes never occur again in the bible; ii) none of them involves the divine element YH (as in YHVH), iii) 10 of the 24 are noun sentences (e.g. Elizur = God is a Rock) and 4 are verb sentences (e.g. Amminadab = the kinsman is generous’). He concludes “The list of twenty-four names betrays evidence of great antiquity”.
- So, the Princes were very, very important but don’t get much recognition.
- Second list is because I started to wonder about Jewish American Generals or Admirals (Marcus was only a Colonel in the US military, but Israel’s first general). There are about 80 Jewish American Generals or Admirals; most do not have a wikipedia page other than their name present – much as the princes most of them don’t get much recognition We might call them ‘minor Jewish American Generals or Admirals”.
- Others do. For example
David Lee Goldfein is the Air Force Chief of Staff.
Aluf David Daniel “Mickey” Marcus was a United States Army colonel who assisted Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and who became Israel’s first modern general (Hebrew: Aluf). Issur Danielovitch = Kirk Douglas who played Marcus in the movie Cast A Giant Shadow
Sidney T. Weinstein is considered by many to be the father of the modern military intelligence corps.
William P. Levine (July 1, 1915 – March 29, 2013) was was among the first Allied Forces to enter Dachau
Jeremy Michael Boorda was the Chief of Naval Operations.
Uriah Phillips was an Admiral who purchased and began the restoration of Monticello in the 1830s; he also commissioned and donated a statue of Jefferson that is now located in the Capitol Rotunda; it is the only privately commissioned artwork in the Capitol.
Maurice Herbert Rindskopf was the youngest officer to ascend to command of a Fleet Submarine in World War II. He culminated his career Director of Naval Intelligence.
- This is Memorial Day weekend and close to the Jubilee of the 6 Day War, so I add this
“This is a tale you will tale your grandchildren, and mighty bored they’ll be”— Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks [not Jewish] , to the commanding officers of the British XXX Corps about operation MARKET GARDEN Sept 1944 (largest airborne assault in the war to that point).
- Why do I choose this theme — forgotten military leaders/forgotten people — for today’s drash? Pinchas Peli, in his book of Torah commentary, Torah Today, calls this Parsha ‘True People’s Army’; the Rebbe in his book Daily Wisdom calls it ‘The Jewish Army’; and Sue Fishkoff titles her book about Chabad The Rebbe’s Army.
- Peli writes that “The army to be formed was…[A] true people’s army. This represents quite a revolutionary idea for the ancient idea. Israel is usually credited with heralding the ideas of liberty, equality, and the like. The fact that Israel is also the originator of a new revolutionary military concept is hardly known. Yet this is history’s first record of an army composed…of an entire people. Everyone is to be conscripted”.
- He concludes “A soldier-fighter in time of need, a son and family man, all the same”.
- Those of us who know Israeli or American soldiers who gave their lives or were seriously injured remember this very well.
- In her book A Portion of Kindness devotes her entire discussion of BaMidbar about how we respond when parents lose children. She is thinking about Israelis and war, but the issue is of course more general. She writes “Many people, when confronted with parents who have tragically lost children often feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say…[But] when people die, they live on in our memories, in our hearts and in our consciousness – if we let them. It is very important that we do their memory honor by talking abou them, about the importance of their lives and [in the case of soldiers, with the importance of their sacrifice] with their parents. It is a great chesed to show parents that though their children may be gone, they are not forgotten”
• And how about those of us not in the army who don’t know parents of soliders who have died. The Rebbe empahsizes that “God had the families counted, in order to stress the centrality of the family in Judaism…The threefold love of fellow Jew, of God, and of the Torah ripples outward from the family setting and affects the entire world for the better”.
- And one more teaching, from Richard Feynman [explain who he was].
- When Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics in the mid 1960s, a Japanese scientist who had been at CalTech during the years in which Feynman did the prize winning work sent a congratulatory telegram to Feynman. He also told Feynman that he was nothing, a nameless man.
- Feynman responded: “You met me at the peak of my career when I seemed to you to be concerned with problems close to the gods. But at the same time, I had another Ph.D. student (Albert Hibbs) whose thesis was on how it is that the winds build up waves blowing over water in the sea. I accepted him as a student because he came to me with the problem he wanted to solve. …No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it. You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself — it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher’s ideals are.”