Sunday, February 28, 2016

uniting for the greater good

1) After the cheit ha’eigel the Torah tells us that, “Va’aya’asfu eilav kol bnei levi,” that all the members of the tribe of levi who remained true to Hashem gathered around Moshe to carry out his instructions. Chasam Sofer writes that the Torah emphasizes “all” the bnei levi to include Korach and his supporters, no fans of Moshe Rabeinu (I don’t know why C.S. assumes Korach had it in for Moshe already at this point in time, but that’s what he says.) Even they rallied around Moshe. When it comes to sticking up for kvod Shamayim and rectifying the damage of the cheit ha'eigel, all other disagreements need to be put aside. Love Moshe Rabeinu or hate him, this was not the time for that.

We live surrounded by not one eigel, but by 100 eigels, yet it seems it’s more important for some to argue about internal issues rather than unite in common cause.

2) Commenting on “V’ish al ya’aleh imach,” (34:3) Rashi writes that since the first luchos were given with such public fanfare, it attracted ayin ha’ra and things turned out badly. This second time around Hashem commanded Moshe to come alone, in private, as there is no virtue greater than tzeniyus.

If tzeniyus and privacy is such a great thing, then why didn’t Hashem do things that way the first time around? Why l’chatchila make a big show of things, opening the door to ayin ha’ra, and only then, once the price has been paid, change course? 

Sefas Emes explains that things had to be done b’davka in this order. You can be a poor kollel couple and eat noodles every night for dinner, but nobody serves noodles at the chasunah. You have to start out of the gate with a bang, with excitement, with fireworks. A rocket ship needs an enormous boost to get it off the ground. Later on, once it's in orbit, a little thrust is all it needs to keep going or to adjust course. Whatever the risks -– ayin ha’ra or anything else -- the first luchos had to be given in way that would shake the world, with fireworks and pomp. An impression had to be created. Once that stage was passed, and only once that stage was passed, could the value of tzeniyus be invoked to temper things the second time around.

3) Rashi (30:36) writes that the Torah mentions the chelbina, which had a foul odor, in the middle of the other ketores spices to teach that “al yakeil b’einecha,” one should not be troubled by the fact that sinners are included in the tzibur on a ta’anis, i.e. their prayers are of value as well. The implication is that of course it would be better if the whole tzibur were tzadikim and the sinners weren’t there, but don’t let it bother you if things aren’t like that. Maharal in Gur Aryeh points out that Chazal put it a little differently and stress the affirmative: “kol ta’anis she’ain bah poshei yisrael aina ta’anis.” (Kerisus 6) It’s not that we merely tolerate sinners, as Rashi implies -- Chazal are telling us that we need and want the sinners there. Why? Maharal explains that ta’anis demands contrition. The further someone is away from Hashem, the more contrite they will be when they return.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

a shogeg that's worse than meizid; "ain kaparah l'meisim;" Shamai winning is as bad as cheit ha'eigel!?

1) Chazal interpret the three different terms, “avon v’pesha v’chata’ah,” at the end of the 13 midos ha’rachamim mentioned in our parsha, as referring to three different types of sin. The gemara in Yoma (36) explains that “avon” (according to the view of the Chachamim) refers to meizid, deliberate sins; “pesha” is an act of rebellion; “chata’ah” is an unwitting shogeg sin. Given those definitions, asks the gemara, shouldn’t the order in the pasuk be reversed? Wouldn’t it make sense to first ask G-d to forgive shogeg, which is less severe, and only then ask for forgiveness for meizid and pesha, rebellion? Why do we put “chata’ah,” the shogeg sin, at the end?

The gemara answers by darshening the pasuk to mean that Moshe was asking for the sins of “avon v’pesha” to be considered, through teshuvah, “v’chata’ah,” as if they were inadvertent shogeg sins. “Chata’ah” is thus not a separate request for forgiveness, but is rather part of what we are asking for with respect to the sins of “avon” and “pesha.”

But what’s the pshat in the pasuk? The Netziv offers a tremendous answer. Sometimes a sin of shogeg can be worse than meizid. We’re all human and we have a yetzer ha’ra for kinah, ta’avah, and kavod. A person can be a perfectly respectable, upstanding frum Jew who knows right from wrong but have a lapse, fall prey to temptation, and intentionally do something b’meizid that they know is bad. The moment of temptation passes, and baruch Hashem the person snaps back to normal, continuing to be observant and frum, albeit in need of teshuvah. Contrast that, says the Netziv, with a person who, due to their misunderstanding of Torah, has a completely warped ideology, a person who confuses right and wrong. What they think is a mitzvah is in fact a sin, and what they think is an aveira may sometimes be the right thing to do.  Their misdeeds will be shogeg, since they are motivated by misunderstanding, not intent to sin, but this type of shogeg is far worse than a meizid.   It's not a moment of weakness or a lapse of judgment that leads them astray -- it's a fundamental error in the way they understand the world.   That’s the “chata’ah,” the shogeg that is most severe, that comes at the end of our pasuk.
Apply to the world around you as you see fit.

2) I seldom revisit what I wrote in the past, but in this case I’m going to make a little exception since I was talking to my son about the din of chatas shebe’aleha meisah last week and by coincidence, it ties to
something I wrote about on this parsha a few years ago. I always had assumed that the reason chatas she’meisah be’aleha is pasul is because the halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai tells us that a chatas needs an owner, and without one the korban cannot be brought. Tosfos in Temunah (15b), however, says a different hesber.  A korban chatas by definition is brought to be mechapeir.   According to Tosfos, a chatas who owner died is pasul because a dead person cannot get a kaparah -– ain kaparah l’meisim. 

I once posted the Ya’avetz in Megillah (25) who writes that when the parsha of the eigel is read, it causes embarrassment to those who participated in the worship of the golden calf, and through suffering that embarrassment they get a kaparah. This Tosfos in Temurah was not on my mind then to ask the question, but better late than never: what does the Ya’avetz do with this sevara of “ain kaprah l’meisim?”
I thought I had an original question, but after thinking about it during the day I figured you could answer by being mechaleik between kaparah in the metaphysical sense and the din kaparah as is relates to the chiyuv korban.  Then I came home from my day job, looked up the Ya'avetz again, and see that after he says the reading of the eigel is a kaparah, he adds "af al gav d'ain kaparah b'korban."  Now I feel like a dummy -- I discovered a Tosfos that I should have known about the first time around, thought of a question the Ya'avetz asks on himself, and came up with the same answer I must have read 2 years ago without realizing the import of the words.  Again, I guess better late than never.  Just to make myself feel better, I'll end off with a point I still am stuck on: Horiyos 6 uses the sevara of  "ain kaparah l'meisim" in discussing the pasuk, "kapeir l'amcha Yisrael asher padisa," which has nothing to do with the din kaparah of a korban.  The gemara seems to comflate both types of kaparah together.  Maybe in  another 2 years I'll have worked this part out too ; )
3) The gemara (Shabbos 17) writes that the day that Shamai gained the upper hand over Hillel in the yeshiva was as tragic a day as the day on which the eigel was made.

I don’t know how you interpret such an expression except to say that it’s a guzma, an exaggeration, as dibru chachamim lashon havai. That being said, here’s a suggestion I had:

The famous machlokes of tanur shel achani pitted R’ Eliezer the Shamuti, the talmid of Shamai, who refused to accept that lo ba’shamayim hi, against the rest of the chachamim (see R’ Yosef Engel in Beis haOtzar). We see that the school of Shamai allowed less room for interpretative license.

The whole error that led to the cheit ha’eigel is because Moshe added an extra day of his own volition to the 40 days he was supposed to be at Sinai, and was therefore not back yet when Klal Yisrael expected him. It was Moshe’s understanding through torah she’ba’al peh of how to count the 40 days that threw people off.

Derech derush, maybe that’s the idea behind this expression in Chazal. When the literalists, the school of Shamai have the upper hand, when interpretive license in minimized and lo ba'shamayim downplayed, it is a return to the thinking that precipitated cheit ha’eigel in not taking the koach haderush Moshe employed into account.

Monday, February 22, 2016

this and that

1. While I wasn't feeling well I reread an old Nero Wolfe, The Second Confession, that involves a certain character being ruined by being exposed as a communist. Ahh, the good ol’ days when being a member of the communist party was considered a bad thing. These days you can be a communist and still have a pretty good chance of being nominated for president and winning a good percentage of the vote. (I know -- communist and socialist are different. Save that for a poli sci class.)
2. The Rishonim in Nedarim (28) distinguish between dina d’malchusa, fair laws that are necessary for good governance, and dina d’malka, arbitrary laws decreed by whim of the ruler. Halacha demands that we respect the former, but shows no recognition of the latter. A theoretical question: when the President withholds necessary anti-terror funds from a city, endangering the entire population, as an act of retribution against a Senator from his own party who dared cross him, are we dealing with dina d'malka or dina d'malchusa?  Or when the Attorney General threatens to prosecute those who engage in "anti-Muslim speech" but  makes no move to bring charges against a Secretary of State who kept top secret data on an unsecure mail server in a bathroom, are the laws of the land being enforced dina d’malka or dina d’malchusa? I can give plenty more examples, but you get the idea.  Just wondering at what point we've crossed the line.
3. I guess I should maybe salvage this post with a real point.  Moshe is told to instruct the “chachmei lev” to make the bigdei kehunah, “v’heim yikchu es ha’zahav… (28:5),” they will gather the raw materials and do the job. Of course the chachmei lev would have to gather materials -– why mention it?  Seforno: just like they will have kavanah when doing the work, so too, they should have kavanah when taking the goods. The earliest steps of preparation, even acquiring the raw materials, need to be done with the right motivation and intention. (This is reminiscent of the gemara (B”M 85) that R’ Chiya planted flax from which he made nets that he used to catch deer whose hides he turned into parchment that he then used to teach children Torah. R’ Chiya devoted himself not just to teaching the Torah, but he also took care of every step of preparation as well so ensure it was all done, beginning to end, with the right motivation.)


Thursday, February 18, 2016

clothes don't make the man

This is going to be brief since I am unfortunately not feeling well, but still wanted to write something.

The parsha's opening is strange -- why preface the details of how to make bigdei kehunah and the induction of the kohanim into their role with the command to make oil and light the menorah?  What sense does it make to speak of "ya'aroch oso Aharon u'banav" at this point?

Rashi in last week's parsha asks why the command to place the luchos in the aron is given twice: once in 25:16 and again in 25:21. 

ואל הארן תתן את העדות: לא ידעתי למה נכפל, שהרי כבר נאמר (פסוק טז) ונתת אל הארון את העדות. ויש לומר שבא
ללמד, שבעודו ארון לבדו בלא כפרת, יתן תחלה העדות לתוכו, ואחר כך יתן את הכפרת עליו

Rashi answers that the latter pasuk teaches that luchus should be put into the aron before placing the kapores on top (see Ramban there).

R' Shaul Yisraeli asks: what would be the hava amina otherwise?  Once the kapores is on top, then how would you get the luchos in?

He answers that one might have thought that once you made a gold aron and a have a beautiful gold kapores to go on top, then what difference does it make if there are really luchos inside or not?  So long as the externals are beautiful, who is going to know the difference?

Therefore, comes the Torah, as Rashi explains, and tells us that ruchniyus doesn't work that way.  The superficial stuff, even if its all gold and looks beautiful, has no value unless there really are luchos inside.

Before our parsha gets into the beautiful garments that the kohanim wear, "l'kavod u'ltiferes," the parsha tells us that those beautiful clothes are no more than an adornment, but the real definition of kehunah is about what's on the inside, not what clothes are worn.  The primary job of a kohen is to bring light to each and every Jew, as symbolized by the lighting of the menorah.  That lesson has to come first, and only then can the Torah speak about the externals, the clothing.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

textual variants and the Ohr haChaim

1) The Abarbanel at the end of Terumah addresses the question that probably bothers you or should bother you when reading the parshiyos of Terumah, Tetzaveh, VaYakhel, Pekudei: so many pesukim about a Mishkan that we will never see again?  The Abarbanel asks it more broadly.  We've been in galus for hundreds of years and yet we read these parshiyos about mishkan, about korbanos, about the service of kohanim -- what meaning can it have for us?  When I mentioned this question at the Shabbos table, daughter #1 suggested that it's preparation for when we will once again have a Mikdash, have korbanos, etc.  Abrabanel offers a more philosophical answer.  The goal of doing the mitzvah, he explains, is perfection of the mind, perfection of character.  The physical act is just a means of mental arousal.  If one cannot offer a korban or build a mishkan, one can still by studying these parshiyos attain the same chochma and same mental perfection as doing would engender.  "K'mo she'yo'il ha'ma'aseh... la'ha'amid neged ra'ayonecha yiras Elokim v'romemuso, kacha y'chonu machshivosecha l'askil gedulaso v'chochmaso u'l'hidabek bo b'haskil ha'inyan."  When Chazal say that when studies the laws of korbanos it is as if one has brought a korban, it is because the whole purpose of bringing the korban is to put one in a mental state of dveikus and connection to chochmah.  Studying the parsha achieves the same goal.

2) Rashi (BaMidbar 7:1) explains that the Torah writes the word "kalos" in the pasuk "B'yom kalos Moshe l'hakim es hamishhan..." chaseir, missing the vav, i.e. KLS, because Klal Yisrael was like a kallah going to chuppah.  The Ohr haChaim (BaMidbar 7:1) there gets very worked up about this comment:

רז''ל אמרו (במד''ר פי''ב) כַּלַּת כתיב, ורואני כי בספר תורה כתובה בוא''ו, ואני אומר כי דברי תורה כאלו וכיוצא באלו אינם נמסרים לכל מרים יד בתופשי התורה, כי יסובב הדבר הכפירה והזלזול בכבוד מורים, ויש לך לדעת כי סדר תורתינו הקדושה, ותיבותיה ואותיותיה ספורות מזוקקות, חצובות ממחצב קדוש ונורא, נפלאים המה למכיר בהם ויותר פליאות נעלמים מעין כל, ואעירך גרגיר אחד והוא, הלא תמצא כי יש אותיות נרגשות במבטא התיבות ואינם בכתב, כגון יהושע כי במבטא ישנו להרגש של אות הוי''ו בין שי''ן לעי''ן ואינה במכתב, וישנה במקום שאינה נרגשת שהיא בין ה''א לשי''ן, והערה זאת תרונן דעת משכיל, להכיר כי אותיותיה ספורות מזוקקות, ואי אפשר להוסיף אפילו אות אחת. הגם כי תצטרך למבטא הקריאה ותהיה נקראת, הגם שאינה כתובה, ותהיה קרי ולא כתיב, וקבעה התורה הוא''ו שלא במקומה להעיר בנסתרות.

Our sefer Torah has a vav in the word.  How could Rashi/Chazal comment on a missing vav that is not missing?  And so he comes up with an explanation.

I thought of this Ohr haChaim when I noticed the Ohr haChaim NOT commenting on a pasuk in this week's parsha.  Here's the pasuk:

וְנוֹעַדְתִּי לְךָ שָׁם וְדִבַּרְתִּי אִתְּךָ מֵעַל הַכַּפֹּרֶת מִבֵּין שְׁנֵי הַכְּרֻבִים אֲשֶׁר עַל-אֲרוֹן הָעֵדֻת אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּה אוֹתְךָ אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:
And here's the Rashi:

הרי וי"ו זו יתירה וטפלה, וכמוהו הרבה במקרא, וכה תפתר ואת אשר אדבר עמך שם, את כל אשר אצוה אותך אל בני ישראל הוא:
And just for good measure, the Ibn Ezra:

וטעם וי"ו ואת כל אשר אצוה. ככה הוא.
Both meforshim right on the page, as the Minchas Shai notes, are trying to explain away an extra vav that does not appear in our text!

Where's the Ohr haChaim here?  Why wait until Parshas Naso to comment on Rashi having a different text? 

Two answers occur to me: 1) the more obvious one: the Ohr haChaim here had the same text as Rashi and Ibn Ezra and so it didn't bother him; 2) maybe he was only bothered in Naso where Rashi is quoting a Chazal (I am not convinced this is right.)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

kelim without a Mishkan

The gemara (Brachos 55) writes that when Moshe instructed Betzalel to build a Mishkan, he first told him what kelim to make. Betzalel thought to himself that it’s no good to have kelim if you have no place to put them, so he first built the Mishkan. When Moshe saw what Betzalel had done, he remarked that Betzalel’s name is most appropriate, as he must have been “b’tzel K-l,” hidden in the shadows when G-d spoke, as he had intuited exactly what Hashem had commanded, i.e. to first make a Mishkan, and only then to make the kelim.

The obvious question: what was the hava amina? Did Moshe not convey the instructions correctly, or, even more inconceivably, did he misunderstand them, and therefore did not mention the need for a Mishkan before the kelim? Didn’t Moshe realize,as Betzalel had, that there would be no place to put the kelim he was telling Betzalel to make?

A few years
I quoted a yesod from R’ Goldvicht zt”l based on a Seforno, who comments on the pesukim in parshas BeChukosai, “V’nasati mishkani b’sochichem, v’lo tigal nafshi eschem v’halachti b’sochichem v’hiyisem lachem l’Elokim” (VaYikra 27) that these are two separate ideas.   Mishkan is necessary only to avoid “lo tigal nafshi eschem,” G-d being repulsed by our sins, but when things are going well, then “v’hishalachti b’sochichem,” Hashem’s presence is everywhere, not located in a single building or at a single address. The Mishkan is a b’dieved, not an ideal. According to Ramban, the command to build a Mishkan came only after cheit ha’eigel, as a response to sin, not beforehand.

Based on this yesod, we can explain our gemara as follows (see Chasam Sofer): in an ideal world, the klei haMiskan can stand on their own – there is no need for walls to house them in. When there is a state of “v’halachti b’sochichem,” you don’t need a specific place to store your holy kelim – every place and everyone is holy. Moshe presented Betzalel with that ideal. However, when it came time to actually build the Mishkan, Betzalel realized that Klal Yisrael was not on that ideal level. There had to be a building, one place that was holy above and beyond the lower level of the rest of the camp, for without that the kelim would be out of place amidst the mundane.

The gemara (Baba Basra 99) points out a contradiction in the description of the keruvim. One pasuk tells us that they faced each other, but another pasuk tells us that they faced the wall of the bayis. Chazal explain that when Klal Yisrael was doing what Hashem wants, they faced each other, otherwise not. 

The two keruvim represent the Yisachar – Zevulun relationship (Ksav Sofer) or perhaps, according to other meforshim, the relationship between talmidei chachamim. When Bnei Yisrael are not acting correctly, the keruvim turn to face the walls -- when there are walls between people, walls between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem, then there needs to be walls of a Mishkan. However, when Klal Yisrael show concern for each other and do what's right, those keruvim face each other as well, ignoring the walls that are no longer necessary, as Hashem dwells everywhere among us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ta’aroch lifanay shulchan neged tzorerai - talmud torah

It's been a busy week, but I finally found a moment to get in a few follow up notes on some things I wrote last week.  I mentioned Rashi’s analogy that the teaching of mishpatim must be like a “shulchan aruch,” like a banquet that people will enjoy eating. My wife suggested that David haMelech was perhaps alluding to this when he said, “Ta’aroch lifanay shulchan neged tzorerai.” (The 23) David was asking that Torah should be for him like this “shulchan aruch” that he will enjoy delving into, and in this way, “neged tzorerai,” he will be able to overcome his yetzer ha’ra, and maybe through the power of Torah defeat his external enemies as well. “Dishanta ba’shemen roshi” – oil is a symbol of chochma, which is found in the head, so this too is perhaps an allusion to the study of Torah.   

Last week I also mentioned the the pasuk, “Lo te’hiye m’shakeila v’akarah b’artzecha.” The Lubavitcher Rebbe has a beautiful interpretation of this pasuk. The word “eretz” shares ther same root as “ratzon,” e.g. the Midrash (Braishis 5:8) says that Hashem called the land “eretz” because “she’ratzta la’ason retzon konah,” it desired to fulfill G-d’s will. The bracha in our pasuk can be read to mean that your desires (artzecha – your ratzon) should not be barren and given to fruitless endeavors. 

Finally, on to this week: if I were making an appeal for building funds, I would first paint a picture of the wonderful edifice that would be built, and then ask people to pony up the cash. Parshas Terumah presents things exactly the reverse way.  The parsha first opens with the command, “V’Yikchu li terumah,” asking people to pony up their money, and only then gets into the details of what exactly would built. Maybe this just proves I would make a lousy fundraiser, or maybe why the parsha is put in that order is worth thinking about.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

mishpitei Hashem emes tzadku yachdav

The Alshich writes at the beginning of our parsha that every civil society has a legal system, and when you look at an individual law here or there, it appears that their system is as just as ours.  However, if you look at the system as a whole, things start to break down.  It’s great to have a law that says you can have freedom of speech.  It’s great to have laws that prohibit discrimination.  But what happens when my free speech makes you feel discriminated against?  Which right wins?   “…Mishpitei Hashem emes tzadku yachdav.” (Tehillim19:10).  The mishpatim of the Torah are just not only when taken individually, but also when you take them as a whole.  A sugya in Bava Kamma has to fit with a sugya in Gittin.  A value in one area has to be consistent with and not contradict a value in another area.  It’s not a hodge-podge of different rules and rights that get thrown together, but it’s a coherent, unified whole. 

There is another difference between our mishpatim and those of the rest of the world.  Rashi writes that Moshe was supposed to present these halachos of mishpatim so that they would be like a “set table, ready to be eat.”  Rashi is not given to using unnecessary flowery language.  Why does he add this extra analogy here?  Ask any lawyer and he/she will tell you that no one (except for the lawyers involved) gains from a lawsuit.  It’s like a bump in the road that has to be smoothed over and dealt with, but no good comes from it.  When Reuvain and  Shimon have a din torah, says the Radomsker, everybody gains.  When the world becomes a more just place, Hashem has nachas ruach, and as a result,  more chessed comes into the world.  Chazal tell us that someone who wants to be a “chassid,” from the same root as chessed, should fulfill the halachos of nezikin.  When you run into mishpatim, din, conflict, damaging and painful circumstances, it of course feels like a bitter pill to swallow, but the challenge to Moshe was to teach us that it’s not a bitter pill, but a sumptuous banquet, a trigger for tremendous chessed.

This Shabbos Mevorchim Chodesh Adar will be my father’s first yahrzeit.  Everybody knows the gemara’s line (Ta’anis 29) “mi’shenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha,”  but the Ein Ya’akov quotes it with a slight variation: “Mi’shenichnas Adar **m’ma’atin b’aveil** u’marbim b’simcha.”  It's hard to believe a year passed and it's already time to be "m'ma'atin b'aveil" as the 12 months come to a close. 
(Shouldn’t the expression be something like “mi’she’higiya Adar,” or “b’zman Adar?”  Sefas Emes (in the likkutim) explains that Chazal were deliberate in their choice of language.  “Mi’shenichnas” = when Adar come in.  The quality of the month has to seep into you, it has to penetrate your bones.  It’s not about a calendar date.)

I was going to write something more personal about the yahrzeit, but in the end I decided not to, so I’ll just share one idea in the parsha. “Lo ti’hiye m’shakeila v’karah b’artzecha, es mispar yamecha amalei.” (23:26). What does the second half of the pasuk, the promise of long life, have to do with the first half of the pasuk, the promise of children?  They are two very nice things, but why put them together in one pasuk? 

Here’s the Seforno’s take (see also Chasam Sofer):

אֶת מִסְפַּר יָמֶיךָ אֲמַלֵּא. שֶׁתִּחְיוּ כְּמִדַּת הַשֶּׁמֶן אֲשֶׁר בְּנֵר אֱלהִים, וְהוּא הַלַּחוּת הַשָּׁרְשִׁי בַּתּולָדָה. וְהֵפֶךְ זֶה יִקְרֶה עַל הָרב שֶׁיָּמוּת הָאָדָם קדֶם שֶׁיִּכְלֶה הַלַּחוּת הַשָּׁרְשִׁי בֶּחֳלָאִים, יִקְרוּ מֵרעַ בְּחִירָה או מִצַּד הַמַּעֲרֶכֶת וְהַיְסודות. וְהִנֵּה בִּמְלאת לָאָדָם מִסְפַּר יָמָיו יִרְאֶה עַל הָרב בָּנִים לְבָנָיו וְיוּכַל לְלַמְּדָם, כְּאָמְרו "וְהודַעְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְלִבְנֵי בָנֶיךָ" (דברים ד, ט), וִיתֻקַּן בְּחַיֵּי הַזְּקֵנִים עִנְיְנֵי הַדּורות, כְּמו שֶׁסִּפֵּר שֶׁקָּרָה בְּעִנְיַן לֵוִי קְהָת וְעַמְרָם.

Seforno tells us something important: long life itself is not a bracha.  The promise of added years is couched in the context of having children, and, when you have those added years, grandchildren as well, because it’s living long enough to see those future generations and have an influence on them which is the bracha.   
I am a difficult child : ) , but I think my father appreciated having that bracha of “es mispar yamecha amalei,” of seeing “banim [u’banos] l’banav.. v’yetukan b’chayei ha’zekeinim inyanei hadoros.” 

Isn't it strange that after a whole parsha of torts, damages, dinim, mishpatim, we have this concluding section with such beautiful brachos?  The Radomsker in that same piece writes that that's exactly the point: din is just a means to an end, a step along the road to bring out greater bracha.  Chodesh Adar should be the nahapoch hu so we see  all the dinim and mishpatim we suffer transformed finally into bracha v'yeshu'a.