SALT - Sunday, 18 Tammuz 5779 - July 21, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of my grandfather
Rav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l, whose yahrzeit is
Thursday 22 Tamuz, July 25
Yesterday, we noted several different approaches that were taken to explain a pair of verses in Parashat Matot (31:49-50) which tell of the generals’ report to Moshe after the successful battle they led against the nation of Midyan.  The generals first informed Moshe that they counted all their men and discovered that not a single soldier fell in battle.  Then, they expressed their wish to donate the gold jewelry which they had seized from the Midyanites.  It is unclear from the text whether these are two separate, unrelated statements made by the generals, or if they are somehow connected.
An especially creative explanation of these verses is offered by Rav Shlomo Kluger, in his Imrei Shefer.  He suggests that the generals expressed to Moshe how they invested great effort to look after the troops under their charge, to ensure that the battle was conducted properly and without casualties.  The generals’ constant, careful attention paid to the soldiers resulted in a degree of neglect of their own characters, their own growth and their own conduct.  And so they felt it appropriate to make a donation to the Mishkan, to “atone” for the period of time during which they may have failed to pay as close attention to their characters and their souls as they should have, due to their preoccupation with their obligations towards their men.
Rav Shlomo Kluger’s insight was likely intended less as an actual interpretation of the verses than as an observation into the challenge entailed in caring for our own spiritual wellbeing while intensively caring for the needs and concerns of others.  This message was perhaps directed towards rabbis and other leaders who devotedly tend to their flocks, working to assist, guide and uplift their communities, over the course of which they are prone to overlook their own process of growth.  But more generally, this applies as well to those tending to children or working for important causes.  When we focus a great deal of attention and devote a great deal of time looking after the needs of others, we can easily lose sight of our own, personal religious responsibilities. Rav Kluger alerts us to the need to try, as much as possible, not to neglect our own spiritual needs even while we care for the needs of others, to remember that we must always strive to advance ourselves even as we work to help other people advance.