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Friday, August 1

The Weekly Shtikle - Ma'ei

Ok, I will admit up front that this week's shtikle is a rerun from three years ago. But I thought it would be especially poignant since it will not be applicable in its entirety for another 44 years!
    When Matos and Mas'ei are read together, the aliyah which joins the two parshios does not end at sheini of Mas'ei but rather, it continues until shelishi. There seems to be good reason for this. Magen Avraham (428:8) cites Tzeror HaMor, stating that one must not make a break in the middle of the masa'os, the pesukim dealing with the list of B'nei Yisroel's resting points in the midbar. The reason for this is that there are 42 venues, corresponding to one of the Divine names.
    For 20 years, this was not an issue, until three years ago when Matos and Mas'ei were once again split. So where do we end the first aliyah? Most chumashim have sheini planted smack in the middle of the masa'os, in apparent contradiction with the Magen Avraham. With regards to minchah on Shabbos and Monday and Thursday, apparently even the Magen Avraham will agree that if we are not ultimately reading all 42 of the masa'os, there is no need to ensure they are contiguous. (Although, it seems minhag Sefarad and minhag AR"I adjust the reading to read the masa'os together.) However, the proper procedure on Shabbos is still up for discussion. It is not clear whether the conventionial stopping point found in most chumashim should be ignored on account of the Tzeror HaMor.
    If one is to adhere to the Tzeror HaMor, there seem to be two options. The first is to have the Kohein read only the first three pesukim, just as we do during the week. Then have the Levi read all of the masa'os like minhagei Sefarad and Ar"i suggest even during the week. However, another option is to have the Kohein read all the way through until (what is marked as) shelishi and then have the Levi read only a few pesukim further.
    R' Dovid Heber, rav of Khal Ahavas Yisroel Tzemach Tzedek here in Baltimore, points out an incredibly unique scenario that is achieved if the second approach is followed. In the middle of the masa'os we recount the passing of Aharon HaKohein. This is the first time we are told the actual date of his passing, the first day of the fifth month - Rosh Chodesh Av! Indeed, this Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Av. This, asserts R' Heber, is the only time it is ever possible to read about an event in the weekly Torah portion on the exact day that it happened.
    This is not unique to this year only. Any year in which Pesach falls out on a Sunday (which isn't all too common), Mas'ei (and usually Matos as well) is read on Rosh Chodesh Av. However, this year's unique circumstances present a most interesting opportunity. If the Kohein indeed reads all the way to shelishi, then it is the Kohein whose aliyah contains the death of Aharon. Not only are we reading about Aharon's passing on the exact day it occurred, it is Aharon's direct descendant who is getting the aliyah on the day of his Zeidi Aharon's yahrtzeit. With this aliyah, the Kohen is following the tradition of the generations, as if to say, unlike the other nations mentioned in the aliyah (Moav, etc.) who have come and gone, the Kohanim (together with all of Klal Yisroel) continue to follow in the footsteps of their illustrious grandfather Aharon HaKohein.
    (It will be 13 years before Rosh Chodesh Av falls out on Shabbos again and only 3 years until Mas'ei is on it own again. But by my calculations those two events will not coincide until 5812. But you can probably expect the first half of the above to reappear in three years.)

Chazak, chazak, venischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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