Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Massai) Potent and Effective!
As we usher in the Shabbat in our prayers Friday night, we recite six Psalms. Each Psalm represents a day of the week.
Following the recitation of these Psalms we recite the prayer ‘Anah Bekoach’ which consists of seven sentences containing six words each for a total of forty-two words.
The initials of each of the words formulate the secret forty-two letter name of G-d.
This holy prayer represents the awesome holiness that the Shabbos has in store for us.
Incidentally, this week’s Torah portion lists and names all the areas the Jews encamped while traveling from Egypt to Israel. The number of encampments is forty-two. Each stop represented another letter of G-d’s holy name and gave them the spiritual energy to enter the holy land of Israel.
This pattern of a prayer of six followed by forty-two words is apparent in our declaration of G-d’s Sovereignty - ‘Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokainu Hashem Echad.’ This verse has six words, and it is followed by the paragraph of V’ahavta, which contains forty-two words.
In this week’s portion the Torah details and sets the boundaries of the Land of Israel. The Torah instructs us to set aside six cities of refuge to serve as a safe haven for an unintentional killer. These six cities were allotted for the Levites to dwell in.
The Torah then tells us about forty-two additional cities designated for the Levites to dwell in and these cities also served as cities of refuge.
The difference between the six cities of refuge and the forty-two is that the six cities would protect the unintentional killer whether or not he was aware that it was a city of refuge, while the other forty-two cities would serve as protection only when the killer was aware that he was in a city of refuge.
Another difference between the two sets of cities is, if one found refuge in one of the six cities, he need not pay rent for his occupancy. However, if he fled to one of the forty-two cites, he may be charged for his lodging.
The Torah tells us that an unintentional killer must remain within the city of refuge until the Kohain Gadol – High Priest dies.
A reason offered is because the Kohain Gadol is the person who is the top representative of the Jewish people in spiritual service and connectivity to G-d, it is his responsibly to pray for all of Israel. He should have prayed that an unintentional murder should not happen.
Since such a mishap occurred during his tenure, a certain responsibility rests upon him. Therefore, when the Kohain Gadol dies, those who are confined to the cities of refuge go free.
Now, don’t you think a person who is condemned to the city of refuge is praying for the death of the Kohain Gadol? The answer is: Yes, he certainly wishes so.
To offset this, the Talmud tells us, the mother of the Kohain Gadol would feed and sustain the unintentional killers in the cities of refuge so that they would not pray for her son’s death.
A question is asked; is the nutrition, care and concern that the Kohain Gadol’s mother provides going to stop them from hoping for her son to die?
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. answers, “There is a big difference between when a person prays when he is hungry and when he prays when he is well fed. When one is hungry and needy, he is desperate and he more devoutly and sincerely calls out to the Almighty for assistance.
However, that is not usually the case when a person is well fed, or knows where his sustenance is coming from. Of course he prays, but not necessarily with the same intent and sincerity.
This is what the mother of the Kohain Gadol seeks to accomplish.”
We as Jews are always praying for the safety of Israel. However, now during a time of war, bloodshed, terror and uncertainty, we are desperate, and when we are desperate and serious, our prayers are that much more