First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/chukat-beware-the-fool/
Baal Haturim Numbers: Chukat
Beware the Fool
Against stupidity; God Himself is helpless. -Yiddish Proverb
Judaism puts great value on intelligence and learning. One of the highest appellations one can be given is that of “Talmid Chacham” – a wise scholar. Conversely, Jewish tradition is disparaging of the ignoramus, called since Mishnaic times an “am haaretz” – literally “people of the land”, but meaning a boor.
As the study of Torah is the cornerstone of Jewish life and practice, those who decide to be ignorant, those who do not engage in the Torah, those who do not become familiar with its contents, put themselves in a sub-standard position in the hierarchy of Jewish achievement.
The Baal Haturim on Numbers 19:2 highlights this reality with a particular law. The people of Israel had an obligation to give a regular contribution of produce to their local Cohen called “Truma”. The Truma had a certain sanctity and the Cohen had to consume it in a state of ritual purity. However, we are warned that we should not give this contribution, we should not give Truma to a Cohen who is an “am haaretz”. If the Cohen is an ignoramus, if the Cohen could not be bothered to learn the laws of the Torah, then he is not deserving of these special contributions.
May we always improve our familiarity and connection to the Torah and merit a myriad of blessings.
To a Cohen Talmid Chacham, Dr. Shmuel Katz, on the opening of his sixth free dental clinic in Israel. May blessings come quickly his way and may he merit having some joyous weddings in the very near future.