By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha Hashem instructs Moshe regarding the construction of the vessels of the Mishkan, including the menorah. The Ba’al Haturim points out that in all the psukim detailing the menorah’s construction we find every letter of the Aleph-Bais sans the samech. Perhaps we can suggest a reason as to why this is so.
The gemara tells us (Bava Metzia 84b) that Rebbe Elazar ben Rebbe Shimon had such severe sores that each night sixty sheets were spread on his bed and by morning they were so saturated one was able to squeeze sixty buckets of pus and blood from them. Also, we are told that as a remedy his wife used to make sixty different fig dishes for him. The mefarshim take note of the number sixty that is constantly being used. The Maharsha explains that this number is not to be taken literally, rather it is used by Shas to describe a particularly large amount. He does not offer a reason as to why specifically sixty is the number chosen by Shas. The Toras Chaim, however, does. He says there is a concept in kashrus known as “batel be’shshim” where a food is considered non-existent when mixed with other foods sixty times its volume. Sixty, therefore, is a most appropriate number to use for anything of a large amount, as if to say that each one of the objects is insignificant in ratio to the total number, to the degree that it is as if it is batel beshishim and did not exist.
We believe man was placed on Planet Earth to live life as a Torah-true jew. Some, though, are of the opinion that in the bigger spiritual scheme of things they are wholly insignificant, for they have not excelled in their Avodas Hashem. After all, how many of us will have posthumous biographies written extolling our virtues? My experience tells me that many, especially teenagers, underestimate how much nachas they are giving Hashem just by struggling to be an observant Yid, and consequently undervalue their place in Am Yisrael. Many feel that their niche in Yiddishkeit is batel beshishim and has no real import. What a sad mistake! Every tefilla and every mitzva observance is immeasurable in the impact that it makes on the world. Chazal tell us (Yuma 53b) that the Kohen Gadol every Yom Kippur would daven to Hashem not to accept the tefillos of wayfarers who would daven that it should not rain. I once heard an important analysis of this. Who were these wayfarers? Gedolai Hador – the giants of the generation? No, they were the regular Joes travelling the countryside going from market-place to market-place. And yet Chazal demanded that none other than the Kohen Gadol – the holiest man of the nation, on Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year, has to daven to neutralize the tefillos of these “nobodies”! Because every nobody is in reality a somebody if he is connecting with his Creator through tefilla or mitzvos.
The menorah and its lights represents Torah and mitzvos . The Torah wants to hint to the common Jew that in the atmosphere of the menorah, he/she isn’t common at all. Therefore it leaves out the alphabetical poster-boy of insignificance – the samech, the sixty.
I am reminded of a poem that I composed in honor of my father-in-law’s sixtieth birthday. The last two lines read:
We all want to wish him
He shouldn’t be batel beshishim!
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.