July 18, 2024
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Sensitivity in Typical Activity

In our parsha (ch. 10), Moshe is told by Hashem to make two silver trumpets. In order to assemble people to Moshe, two trumpets were sounded to summon the entire nation, and one trumpet was sounded to summon just the leaders.

Why were trumpets used to summon people, instead of having an emissary personally inform and summon the people to assemble? The Ralbag explains that trumpets were used instead of sending an emissary in order to prevent envy amongst people, for if an emissary was sent, this could cause people to feel envious of those who were informed of the matter before them. Therefore, trumpets were used to inform all the people in one shot.

It seems, perhaps, from the Ralbag that although it would have theoretically been more ideal to have an emissary inform the people, using that method of assemblage could cause people to feel slighted, as they might feel that they are not so important since there were other people who were informed before them, which could lead to envy amongst the people; thus, trumpets were used instead so that everyone would be informed simultaneously, thereby sparing the honor and the feelings of people.

We can suggest that this shows the importance of recognizing and respecting other people’s esteem and dignity and taking into account people’s feelings when we take a certain course of action within our interpersonal dealings. Moreover, the theoretical emissary would have seemingly just been “doing his job” so to speak—he would go about what would seem to be the typical way of personally informing people about an event. It’s only natural that some would be informed earlier and some later until he reaches every person. Yet, an emissary wasn’t sent. This can perhaps teach us that even when we are seemingly going about the objectively standard way of doing things, to still be mindful of and consider whether the actions we take within interpersonal dealings may cause others emotional pain, and if so, to strive to consider alternative ways of carrying out our activities.

We may see a similar, maybe even greater application, of this concept. The Gemara (Megillah 28) relates that the students of R’ Zeira asked him on account of which meritorious practice had he attained longevity, and one of the practices R’ Zeira mentioned was that he never rejoiced in the downfalls of his fellow. Rav Chaim Zaitchik (seen in “Otzrot Peninei HaTorah,” Beha’alotcha 8:6-7) asks that this is very difficult to understand. Just because R’ Zeira didn’t go out to the marketplace and the streets to rejoice and be happy about people’s tragedies and misfortunes warrants this great reward of long life? Why, doing such a thing would be outright terrible! Refraining from doing such a debased act merits a reward of such magnitude?

R’ Zaitchik says that it can be explained that what R’ Zeira meant was that if he himself was experiencing a simcha, but at that time his fellow was in the midst of suffering a tragedy, R’ Zeira would lessen his simcha to not cause his fellow pain and difficult feelings, so that he not increase his fellow’s already current state of distress.

Based on Rav Zaitchik’s insight, we can suggest that even though R’ Zeira would have theoretically been going about the regular, natural way of conducting and experiencing a simcha, he nevertheless concerned himself with the feelings of others, and reduced his joy to not cause others in distress more pain. We perhaps see from here the great extent of maintaining sensitivity for others and being mindful of people’s feelings even when we are involved in seemingly objectively normal and typical ways of carrying out and experiencing the activities and events in our lives.


Binyamin is a graduate of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

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