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וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות

Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes. (30:2)

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It is good to digress once in a while to gain insight into the eminence of those individuals who have ascended the ladders of Torah erudition sufficiently to be called Roshei ha’mattos, heads of the tribes. Someone asked Horav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, how many times the word “Moshe” is mentioned in the Torah. He replied, “614 times.” The questioner countered that he had checked with a computer, and the total was 616. Rav Chaim disputed this, claiming that the computer had erred. “Moshe” appears in the Torah exactly 614 times. The man was shocked. How could the computer be wrong? Rav Chaim explained that while the name Moshe is written 614 times, the spelling – mem, shin, hay – comes up two times, V’im yimaat ha’bayis miheyos miseh (spelled mem, shin hay). (Shemos 12:4) and Shamot kol masheh yado (spelled mem, shin, hay) (Devarim 15:2). Horav Shlomo Levinstein, Shlita, quotes Midrash Tanchuma (Beshalach 16) that talmidei chachamim, Torah scholars, are called sofrim, since they are sofer, count, every word in the Torah (because it is so precious to them).

The Rosh Yeshivah of Mir, Horav Nochum Partzovitz, walked into the bais hamedrash and noticed two bachurim talking in anything but learning. When they saw him approaching, they suddenly changed their discourse and quickly transitioned to a debate concerning a passage in the Talmud (Nedarim). One of them pretended to be reading: “Tanu Rabbanan; “The Rabbi taught.” Rav Nachum walked by and, in his inimitable muted tone, said, “The phrase Tanu Rabbanan is not found anywhere in Meseches Nedarim.”

When this vignette was related to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, he closed his eyes momentarily (as if he were quickly reviewing the entire folio of Talmud), and then he remarked, “It is true that Tanu Rabbanan is not to be found, but d’tanu Rabbanan is found” (27a).

This incident was shared with Horav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zl. He commented, “Why are you so impressed? This is his makolet, grocery store. Every grocer knows exactly where every item in his store is situated, its price and how many of each item is available. He lives his makolet. It is his very life. To Rav Chaim, the Gemorah and its commentators are his very life. They are his makolet.”

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