והזה הטהור על הטמא ביום השלישי וביום השביעי (יט:יט)
The tahor person shall sprinkle on the tamei person on the third day and on the seventh day (19:19)
Commenting on this possuk, the Yerushalmi in Demai (3:4) states,”אמר רבי יהושע בן קבסיי כל ימי הייתי קורא הפסוק הזה והזה הטהור על הטמא טהור אחד מזה על טמא אחד עד שלמדתיה מעוצרה של יבנה וחכמים אומרים... שטהור אחד מזה על כמה טמאין “– Rav Yehoshua Ben Kovsai said, “I always read this possuk to say that one tahor person sprinkles on one tamei person, until I learned a different understanding from the “Treasures of Yavne”. The Chachamim taught that one tahor person can sprinkle on many tamei people. This Midrash begs for an explanation as to what we are learning from here, and what does the treasure house of Yavne even refer to?
Rav Meir Shapira zt”l explains that every yid davens and makes requests from HaShem on a daily basis. One of the requests that Chazal taught us to ask is: ותן בלבנו בינה להבין ולהשכיל לשמוע ללמוד וללמד- May You place it in our hearts an understanding, so that we may comprehend and perceive, listen, learn and teach. This request needs to be understood: We can understand if our request is to learn Torah all day, but for the most part, most people do not aspire to actually teach Torah. Of course, a boy or girl in yeshiva or the Beis Yaakov may ask HaShem about this possibility in the future, and certainly the rebbe or morah that has made it their career, or the baal habuss that says a shiur, but this general request is not on the radar for most. In fact, most people are not cut out for it and should not be teaching.
The truth is that every yid is in fact a teacher, and not just for one student but for multitudes. Every step that we take and every word that we utter is seen by others and is a teaching moment. When a yid answers “yehei shmai rabbah” with a geshmak, or is seen running to catch a shiur, he inspires the next person to do the same. At that moment, he has just taught the greatest chiddush of Rav Chaim Brisker! When a woman cooks supper for a family in need, or forgoes a social get-together with friends, because she wants her children to know that they are more important to her, she is teaching by example. We may as well call her Rebbetzin Sara Schenirer! Therefore, we ask HaShem that we make the proper choices, not chas veshalom losing out on those precious teaching moments.
We can now understand the Yerushalmi and why it mentions Yavneh. During the churban, Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai met with אספסיאנוס קיסר (Titus Flavius Vespasianus) requesting that the Yeshiva of Yavneh and its wise people be saved. That crucial meeting helped ensure that the Torah would continue to be learned and transmitted. The actions of those individuals enabled the entire world to benefit from the Torah, and of course, as the cliché goes, “the rest is history.” The treasure of Yavneh was the idea that an individual can have such an incredible impact on so many that would last an eternity. Coming back to our possuk, Rav Yehoshua Ben Kovsai now understood that it is true that it may only be one kohen sprinkling, but his actions can still effect many more than just one.
If we look at the great yeshivas and organizations in Klal Yisroel, it was predominantly the actions of one or two selfless people that changed the landscape of the world. They understood that each and every opportunity to do something can change the world.
Another lesson to take from here is just how powerful and far-reaching the smallest action may be. A small shpritz of water on a tamei person had the ability to change his life. We should never feel like, “what will my small contribution make a difference in the greater picture.” Sometimes all that is needed is just a drop more. מידה טובה מרובה ממידת פורענות- HaShem values a good deed much more than a bad one. If we believe that a straw can break a camel’s back, shouldn’t we also trust that the smallest mitzvah can be all the difference in building a positive world?
Good Shabbos, מרדכי אפפעל