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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5774

Ein Ayah: Connecting the Different Elements of Society

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Bikurim 34)

Mishna: All the craftsmen in Yerushalayim would stand before [those bringing the bikurim (first fruit)] and greet them with Shalom.


Ein Ayah: Human life in general can be broken up into natural living and industrial living. When a nation is in a lowly moral state and its members are interested only in financial profits, then the various social groupings grow very distant one from the other. The village-dwelling farmers, who are connected to the simple natural life, will be disrespected by the craftsmen, who learned to live according to the values of high culture and became separated from nature. Along with lack of respect comes a cooling off of affection and a lack of attention for the other group. This reaction comes only when there is a lack of holy, strong connection in the hearts of the individual to the higher goals of the nation, which actually require that there be different people and different groups involved in different activities.

Simple natural life is missing for one who already acquired great aspirations based on his talents, knowledge, and diligence. However, the goal of the crafts with their accompanying knowledge cannot remain in the corrupt form in which a craftsman is distant from nature which bore man and in which he can find a refreshing life of pleasure. Rather, he is to be elevated to the point at which his connection to nature will not be devoid of wisdom and feeling but built on a deep, integrated understanding. This is what the gemara (Yevamot 63a) meant when saying that craftsmen will in the future “stand on the ground.”

Let us now consider the meeting between the farmers, who toil to provide the necessary materials from the earth, including the bikurim they consecrate, along with others on the mountain and in the house of Hashem, and between other sectors of society and the leaders (see Ein Ayah, Bikurim 33). This is a meeting between the chomer (i.e., farmers who provide raw materials) and the tzura (the form; i.e., the leaders) of the nation. The two try to connect to each other with a heart full of emotions of sanctity. This connection is accomplished through the craftsmen who stand between them, those who combine intellect and physical work in their jobs and can thus relate to both extremes of the societal groupings. The craftsmen are involved in providing, with their work, the physical needs of the spiritual leadership and are able to help the simple people connected to nature absorb the sanctity provided by the national leadership.

The craftsmen must fulfill their role carefully. If they lack purity of thought, they may look down upon the farmers, who are beneath them on the cultural/societal ladder. However, when they are of pure heart, they will have great respect for the purity and straightness of a natural lifestyle and realize that the purpose of crafts and industry is not to become entrenched in the tumult of external life but to ensure the sufficient supply of provisions for the nation’s physical and spiritual life. This enables people to enjoy in comfort and, with a happy heart, complete natural lives in quiet and love.

That is why the craftsmen stand before the farmers in respect of their simple lives. They inquire about their welfare to show they want to enrich the farmers’ lives, not by removing them from their lifestyle but by improving the nation as a whole by having each sector see the value of the other, distant sector. The distance between the groups is then specifically supposed to increase the love and respect, as only these realizations enable the nation to serve Hashem “with one shoulder” (see Tzefania 3:9). It is appropriate that these lessons should be carried out by the craftsmen of Yerushalayim, the capital city with its beautiful halls, which represents the difference from the simple, tranquil life of the farmer. In many ways, it is difficult to live in a city and the people who do so should be blessed (see Ketubot 110b and Nechemia 11:2).

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