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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

Vote Nedivei Am for the Knesset

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Pirkei Avot (5:19) describes Bilam’s characteristics as the opposite of Avraham’s, which were: "A good eye; a low spirit (ruach nemucha); a humble spirit (nefesh shefala)." In contrast, Bilam had a nefesh rechava (a broad spirit). Avot D’Rabbi Natan substantiates the latter with Bilam’s statement: "If Balak will give me enough silver and gold to fill his house …" (Bamidbar 24:13). Thus, nefesh rechava means one with great desires.

Let us understand the opposite trait – nedivut, one who enjoys giving. In Parashat Chukat, the Song of the Well describes the well of Miriam, who led the people along with her brothers, Moshe and Aharon, as one that was "dug by officers and excavated by the nedivim of the nation with the lawmakers with their leaning staffs, and from the desert it was a present" (Bamidbar 21:17-18). Who are the nedivim?

When David beseeched Hashem for atonement after the sin with Batsheva and Uriya, he asked for a return of the joy of Hashem’s salvation and to be supported in connection to a "ruach nediva." Rashi explains that ruach nediva refers to leadership, as David hoped not to lose his status as the leader due to his sin. That also makes sense in regard to the pasuk about Miriam’s well, as nedivei am is parallel to officers (sarim). This also fits well with the pasuk in Hallel and Shmuel (I, 2:8) of being lifted from the ground to be placed among nedivim. It makes sense regarding the daughter of the nadiv who was attractive in her special shoes in Shir Hashirim (7:2).

On the other hand, we cannot overlook that the simple meaning of nedivut is to give altruistically, like those who were "nedivim of the heart" in choosing to donate to the construction of the Mishkan (Shemot 35:22). Based on this, the Radak explains the pasuk above about David, as wanting divine inspiration, which "‘donates’ words of song and praise to Hashem, as one who possesses good will." The Rambam (Teshuva 6:4) also explained that David was concerned about losing divine inspiration and the ability to write psalms, for which this was a necessity.

We can put the two ideas together as representing the proper synthesis in the ideal leader. We want someone who, on the one hand, has great power to execute strong acts of leadership, but even when this makes it challenging to being as generous and sensitive as he would otherwise be, he still succeeds. In fact, if done correctly, power and strength of character can allow one to give of himself and share with others.

So, if we strive to be like our forefather, Avraham Avinu, making us a nation of people with compassion, bashfulness, and kind-heartedness, we need leaders who have a heart of nedivut. They should be like Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, who were willing to donate from their energy and wherewithal for the nation, to share and give in when appropriate. Let our leaders be students of Avraham: having a good eye, a low spirit, and a humble spirit.
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