- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
- Hits: 190
(1:1)“Ayleh Ha’Devorim-These are the words.” This is the only Sefer that begins with “Kol Yisroel” and ends with “Kol Yisroel” We begin the fifth Sefer of the Torah in the fifth month of the year. This corresponds to the fifth level of the Neshama. There are five levels of the soul. Nefesh Ruach, Neshama, Chaye & Yichidah. Yichidah, the final level, is oneness with Hashem. It is the most hidden of all the five levels and is the level that will be revealed in the future. After each of the four exiles another level was revealed. We are now in the final exile, that of Yishmael, and what will be revealed, will be revealed to Kol Yisrael-To all of Israel. Every member of Israel will experience his own redemption. The long exile of Edom that we have endured, was only endured in the merit of Torah. However the final exile will require Tefillah-Prayer to combat the strength of Yishmael’s prayers. Perhaps this is why the Sefer is called Devarim-words. Because in the final days it is the words of our Tefillos that will be most desired by Hashem.
With this we might explain Moshe Rabeinu’s sin, that of the missed opportunity to sanctify Hashem’s name by speaking to the rock to draw water. Before entering the land of Israel, Hashem wanted a display of the power of words. Thirty-Eight years earlier it was negative words that prevented them from entering the land. Now Hashem gave Moshe the opportunity to correct the sin of the spies with words. “Shehakol Nihiye B’devoroh-All exists through His word.” would have new meaning upon entering the Holy Land. But that revelation was never made.
Sefer Devarim is usually read in the fifth month of Av the Shabbos before Tisha B’av called Shabbos Chazon-The Shabbos of Vision. The entire Sefer is one of Moshe’s vision. Concealed in his words, the future is veiled. Scattered throughout, the secrets of the final redemption await us.
(1:1)“Ayleh Ha’Devorim-These are the words.” The first words of the Sefer Devarim infer that “these” words are different from those that came before. What the Torah wished to stress was that only these words were said by Moshe without having to be commanded by Hashem. Whereas the first four books were said by Hashem himself including every single letter and detail.(Ohr Hachaim)
The question is how can the Ohr Hachaim say this? The Gemarrah in Sanhedin says that if a person believes that the entire Torah is from heaven except one Posuk he is considered to have dishonored the word of Hashem. How can he say that Moshe said the entire Sefer of Devarim? The Kli Chemdah say's that Hashem gave the first four books to Moshe just as Hashem said them. But in the Sefer Devarim Moshe expanded on the explanations of some of the Mitzvos himself. Afterwards Hashem commanded him to write the entire Torah down including Moshe's direct words.
Now if Moshe said these words why are they not in chronological order? The reason is because all of the sins that Moshe recounts are all alluded to and not mentioned directly. The order was another attempt to spare the honor of Benei Yisroel.
This Sefer was said on the last days of Moshe’s life. He began to speak to Klal Yisroel on the first day of Shevat and we know that he died on the seventh day of Adar. This means that this was the last thirty-six days of Moshe’s life. The Ohr Hachaim writes that this is alluded to in the word “Ayleh” which has the numerical value of thirty-six.
The question arises as to why the Sefer Devarim is Moshe’s own words? What lesson are we meant to extract from this? We know that these were the last days of Moshe’s life. As such he had elevated himself to become the most complete human being that ever lived. Moshe Rabeinu was the model of what a human being can achieve. He went from a Kevad Peh-a heavy mouth, an inability to speak, to an orator whose words became part of the Torah. These words, according to the Abarbanel, are actually the oldest source of the Oral Torah extant. Moshe was on his last days, doing the Mitzvah of expounding on the written Torah.
Sefer Devarim is called Mishneh Torah-The repetition of the Torah. Mainly because most of the laws contained in it have already been said or hinted at in the first four books. But according to what we have just said perhaps we can see a deeper understanding. When a person is Nifter the relatives left behind learn Mishnayos for the sake of that departed soul. The reason for this is that the letters of the words Mishnah are the same as that of the word Neshama. This highest form of Gematria is when the letters of two words are actually the same but just rearranged It would then come out that calling Sefer Devarim - Mishneh Torah, means that this Sefer is the Neshama of the Torah, the soul of the Torah. How do we understand this?
The soul is what gives life, what animates the physical body. The first four books are the body of the Torah. Sefer Devarim is the soul. It is the repetition of the written Torah expounded by man. The Torah unread and unlearned has no life of its own. However what Moshe accomplished in his final days was to set the example for us to follow. This is our mission, to give Torah, life. By taking the written Torah and expounding upon it, by bringing out the depth buried in each and every letter, the Torah comes alive.
We always read this Parsha on the Shabbos before Tisha B'av. The Gemarrah in Brachos says that since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh the Shechina is only found in the Daled Amos Shel Halacah-The four cubits of law. May we be worthy and able, through Torah study, to restore Hashem’s presence to the Mokom Hamikdosh speedily in our time.
(1:5) “B’Ever H’Yardain B’Eretz Moav Hoyel Moshe B’aer es H’Torah-Across the Jordan in the land of Moav Moshe began to expound the Torah.” Why did Moshe wait until now to clarify the Torah? The Torah was received 38 years prior? The Chasam Sofer explains that Moshe knew that he was standing upon land that was elevated in Kiddusha equal to that of the Holy Land. The air of the Holy Land makes one wiser, he therefore felt it was an opportune time.
(1:5) “B’aer es H’Torah-Moshe began to expound the Torah“ Rashi explains it means in 70 languages. Why would they need to hear the Torah in a language they don’t understand? The word Loshon can mean 70 facets of Torah. ( Oznayim L’Torah)
(1:11) “Yosef Aleichem Kochem Eleph Pamim-May Hashem add to you one thousand times.” Why did Moshe need to add to Hashem’s blessings? One answer is that Moshe’s blessings were unconditional whereas Hashem’s was dependent on merit. Another answer is that Hashem’s blessings were for the future while Moshe’s were for this world.
(1:14) “Vatomru Tov Hadovor Asher Debartah Lasos-You said it was good that which you proposed.” When Moshe recounts the advise he received from his father in law Yisro regarding the appointment of judges, he said; “You decided the matter for your benefit.” Rashi says they should have said “ Our teacher Moshe! From whom is it better to learn, from you or from your student?” Moshe was aware of their thoughts. They knew Moshe was beyond reproach. If they would get an unfavorable judgement they could not bribe Moshe. So they were pleased with the plan suggested by Yisro. But it wasn’t just a matter of respect for Moshe Rabeinu, The teaching they would have received from Moshe was on a level that no other could come near. His light came from the Ohr Haganuz He was the spiritual conduit to connect the Torah to this world. This is why, in Parshas Mattos, Moshe did not teach the laws of purifying vessels to the returning Jews after the war with Midyan. After seeing the soldiers bringing back Midianite women, who had been the source of the problem in the first place, Moshe became very angry. This anger cost him his prophecy and resulted in the laws being taught by Elozar Hakohein instead. We know that the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua was compared to the difference between the sun and the moon.
By not learning the laws of Kashrus from Moshe, we lost vital information about the exile and how to survive it. Just as heat causes the taste to become absorbed in the walls of a vessel, requiring heat to remove it, likewise the heat of anger and the heat of passion cause a Jew to become more absorbed in exile, necessitating heat, or difficulties to extract him from exile. The greater the heat, the greater the absorption and the more severe the process of Kashering.
Taught by anyone else all that would get through would be the basic laws of Kashrus, not the message of the exile and how to avoid it. Hence for more than 3,000 years we have been absorbed into exile, into our host societies, and in need of Kashering. With Tisha B’av coming we need to recall all of the Kashering we have undergone in exile until this point and contemplate the importance of Moshe Rabeinu even now. After all it will be his Neshama that will be reincarnated into the Moshiach to guide us towards the end of days.
(1:15) “V’Ekach es Roshai Shivtaichem-So I took the heads of your tribes.”When Yisro gave his advise he gave Moshe seven qualifications. Here Moshe only mentions three? To teach us that a person does not need all of the qualifications to be accepted as judge.
(1:22) “Vayachperu- Lanu es-Ha’aretz-Let them spy out the land.” The term “Vayachperu” is an unusual term. To spy out the land is usually said using the word “L’sur” However the word “Vayachperu” has the connotation of seeing negatively. The spies went to seek out the negativity of the land. This is the lesson Moshe was teaching as he admonished the nation.
The Benei Yisroel was commanded not to do battle with the descendants of Essau because of the tremendous Kibud Av that Essau had for his father. Hashem was paying Essau his due in this world in order not to have to pay him in Olam Haboh. The question is if Essau really paid his father such respect why was he being paid only in this world? The Tiferes Tzion answers that the reward for a mitzvah depends on the motives of the person fulfilling it. If he is only doing it to satisfy his moral feeling of what is right instead of for the mitzvah, Hashem rewards such an act in this world. Since Essav honored his father only for this reason and not for the mitzvah, his descendants were only rewarded in this world.
(1:22) “Es H’derech Asher Naalehu Bah-The road on which we should ascend.” Why did they need to determine which route to take if they had the clouds leading them? They heard Moshe say “Go up” excluding himself! Plus after the prophecy of Eldad and Medad saying Moshe would not be bringing them into the land, they lost faith.
(1:36) “Zulasi Kalev Ben Yefuneh Hu Yirenah-Save for Calev Ben Yefuneh he shall see the land.” We find that once again Yehoshua is not mentioned together with Calev as being the only one’s permitted to enter Ertez Yisroel. Rather two Posukim later the Torah writes (1:38) “Yehoshua bin Nun H’Omaid Lifanecha Hu Yavo Shama-Yehoshu bin Nun who stands before you, he shall come there.” In Parshas Shelach, as well, we find Yehoshua not mentioned the first time that Hashem reveals who will escape punishment from the incident of the spies. (Bamidbar 14:24) Only the second time the Torah mentions the exclusion from punishment does it say “except for Calev ... and Yehoshua.” (Bamidbar 14:30)
Yehoshua was treated Midah Keneged Midah (measure for measure) because at first when the Meraglim spoke against Eretz Yisroel he did not speak up. He let Calev refute what the spies were saying. He assumed they would not listen to him because he was Moshe’s disciple. Only later did they both rent their clothing and say “The land is very good.” This is why he is mentioned separately. Another reason could be because he was the one who was destined to replace Moshe in leading the nation into the land. Therefore he thought they would assume he was biased when it came to speaking about Eretz Yisroel. Actually it was his appointment as leader that facilitated his being forgiven for his sin of not joining Calev at first in “following Hashem wholeheartedly.” The Talmud Yerushalmi explains “three are forgiven for their sins, one who becomes a bridegroom, one who converts and one who is appointed to a position of leadership. (Bikurim 3:3) R.Zalman Sorotzkin
(1:44) “Vayetze Ho’mori-And the Amorim came down.” After the Meraglim return with their negative report about the land of Israel many Jews decided to attempt to go up into the land to conquer it even though they were told that Hashem would not be with them. Moshe is saying here, that the Amorim came down and battled them. The question is that if we look in Parshas Shelach (14:44) we find that it was Amalek and Canaan that battled them not Amorim? The Sharei Aahron answers this question by saying the following. Amalek and Canaan were at the bottom of the mountain the Amorim were above. When the Posuk says they went out it means that they informed the Amalekim of the fact that Klal Yisroel’s approach was imminent. Amalek therefore went to do battle with them. The reason why Amalek was mentioned in Parshas Shelach was because they were the ones who actually fought. What Moshe is telling us here is the real reason behind that. It was the Amorim who instigated the battle.
(1:45) “Vatoshuvu Vativku Lifnei Hashem-You returned and wept before Hashem.”Generally the gates of repentance are not closed to the tears a person cries to Hashem. Nevertheless here the tears were not shed for repentance but out of self-pity.
(2:3) “Penu Lochem Tzfonah-Turn your faces north” The Kol Torah explains this to mean advise for surviving Golus. Keep yourselves hidden. The word Tzafune can also mean Kabbalah. The advise being to survive the long exile we must keep the Torah fresh therefore turn to that which has richness and depth. Kabbalah.
(2:6) “Ochel Tishbru M’itom B’Kesef V’Ochaltem V’Gam Mayim Tichru M’item B’Kesef U’Shsisem- You shall purchase food from them for money and eat it, also water shall you buy from them for money and drink it.” It would seem somewhat redundant to say that the food and water purchased should be consumed? Why else would it be purchased if not for consumption? The Sefer Ka’aras Kesef writes that Yisroel did not need to buy food or water from them. But Hashem commanded this in order for them to realize that they lacked nothing. All of the years that they were in the Midbar being sustained by the well of Miriam and the Munn from heaven, nothing was lacking. They tasted the water that they purchased and the food they bought, and found that what Hashem provided was superior to it. Hashem wanted them to appreciate what they had.
(2:25) “Hayom Hazeh Achel Tais Pachdecha V'yirasecha al-Penei Ho'amim Tachas Kol-hashmayim-This day I will begin to put the dread and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the heaven.” What is the meaning of “This Day” and “under the heaven” Hashem had been performing miracles for Yisroel all along? What makes this day exceptional? Rashi says that Hashem caused the sun to stand still at noon for 36 hours. This was because they had just encountered Moav and Edom and left them unscathed. They had requested permission to cross their lands but were denied. It could have appeared as if they were incapable of conquering them. If they were now to face the seven nations of the land of Canaan that had 31 kings surely they would not succeed? Hashem therefore made this miracle now. The stopping of the sun signaled that the sun, their deity, was under Hashem's rule and that Hashem was willing and able to battle on Klal Yisroel's behalf.
(3:21) “Ves-Yehoshua Tzivisi B’ase Ha’he- I commanded Yehoshua at that time.”Out of the 31 times the name Yehoshua appears in the Torah, this is the only time it is spelled with an extra letter. The letter "Vav". R. Dovid Feinstein explains the extra letter to refer to prayer. Yehoshua had exceptional powers of prayer. Had he harnessed that power at the time he led the nation into the land he would have been able to do what the members of the great assembly did hundreds of years later, eradicate idolatry. For this reason he authored the second half of "Aleinu" which speaks of exactly that. A supplication for the abolishment of idolatry from the world.
Sefer Devorim is the only book since Bereishis that does not begin with the letter “Vav”. This is the only place in the Torah where the name of Yehoshua is spelled with an extra “Vav””perhaps the “Vav” that was missing from the beginning of the Sefer. Moshe is telling Yehoshua “Your eyes have seen everything Hashem has done to these two kings, so will Hashem do to all of the kings where you cross over. Do not fear them for Hashem, your G-d will wage war for you.” Hashem, will wage war for you, but you must remain connected to Hashem. That is the Vav H’chibor - the letter of attachment. If you remain connected to Hashem He will do battle for you. Perhaps we can suggest that at this point Moshe was commanding Yehoshua to become his replacement and just as he had added a letter of Hashem's name, the "Yud", to his name when he sent out the spies, changing Hoshea to Yehoshua, so too here he is adding another letter of Hashem's name to strengthen him for his new role. As the Parsha ends "Ki Hashem Elokeichem Hu H'Nilcham Lochem-Hashem your G-d He shall wage war for you.
The Gematria of the name Yehoshua equals 391 in its normal spelling. The same as the phrase Gadol V’Atzum Mimenu-Great and stronger than us. This follows the world of Tevah, the laws of nature. By the laws of nature the 31 kings were bigger and stronger than us. But the name Yehoshua spelled with the extra “Vav” equals 397 in Gematria. The same as the phrase “Ki Hashem Elokeychem Hu H’Nilcham Lochem-Hashem your G-d will wage war for you.”
Moshe is giving Mussar to Yisrael. Eleven day travel to Kodesh Barnea. Look what you caused. The shortest way to Eretz Yisroel would be 11 days but it took you 3 days. From there they sent out the spies. The Gemarrah in Taanis 29a states that this decree was on the 9th of Av. The spies were away for 40 days they left on the 29th of Sivan and when they returned they caused the nation to cry all night. But it seems to be only 39 days that they were away? They answer that the month of Tamuz was 30 days instead of 29 making it 40 days. They learn it out from the fact that they called out a day of Mo’ade. Rosh Chodesh what does it have to do with Tisha B’av?
What is our Aveilus on Tisha B’av? The Beis Hamikdosh was the place of rest for the Shechina. It was the home of Kiddusha. Without a place for Kiddusha in the world there is no world!
- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
- Hits: 337
(33:1) “Ayleh MasseyBenei Yisroel-These are the journeys of the children of Israel.” Why is the name of this weeks Parsha called Massey, which refers to the traveling, when what the Torah really describes here is the camps that were set up? Also in the very second Posuk (33:2) it says “Vayichtov Moshe es-Moitzaeyhem Le’Maseyhem Al-Pi Hashem V’Ayleh Maseyhem L’Motzaeyhem- And Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem and these were the journeys according to the goings fourth.” Why is the order of their travels reversed from the way it appears in the beginning? The Ohr Hachaim writes that the going fourth was for a purpose. It was meant for Yisroel to seek out sparks of Kiddusha that are trapped in a shell of Tumeh that make their home in the Midbar. It is the mission of Klal Yisroel to release them from this source by traveling through such places and acting as a magnet of Kiddusah to bring them back to their rightful place. According to the Zohar these sparks could be captured only while actively journeying not while they were encamped. Therefore it was the travels that the Torah mentions not the stops.
According to this we can understand why the Torah wrote “their goings forth according to their journeys” They were going away from the physicality of their experience in Mitzrayim and towards the spirituality of their journeys which was gathering in Kiddusha. Each journey distanced them further from Mitzrayim; each stopover represented the completion of another stage of growth en route to the ultimate goal of an elevated life in Eretz Yisroel. This is why the verse refers to their travels as, “Their journeys according to their goings forth.” They were not mere stopovers, each stopover was a part of their going forth from Mitzrayim. The verse states “V’Ayleh”and “These” a word whose numerical value is 42. There were exactly 42 stops, no more no less. (R.Dovid Feinstein)
R.Bachya sees the reverse repetition of this phrase as an allusion to the future redemption. What this means is that in the future it will be our “Journeys according to the goings fourth”. The journeys ie. the long Golus, will be what will bring us to the eventual redemption. This is why according to the Megaleh Amukos the Roshe Tevei of the first words of the Parsha represents the four exiles we have endured. Ayleh Massey Beni Yisroel. Alef- Edom, Mem –Modai, Beis – Bavel, Yud – Yovan.
(33:2) “Vatichtov Moshe...Al Pi Hashem-Moshe wrote ...At the bidding of Hashem.”What precisely did the Torah want to teach us here? Why do we need to be told that Moshe recorded these departures, Moshe wrote the entire Torah? According to the Ohr Hachaim it appears that the Torah wanted to inform us that Moshe did not record all these journeys on a single day, but that he recorded them as they occurred. He began recording when he was instructed to make Yisroel leave Egypt. He took notes of each departure and every encampment. Here Hashem told Moshe to include these private notes he had made in the Torah in the order he had previously recorded them. What the Torah describes here is a copy of all the notations made by Moshe throughout all these years.
What was the purpose of recording all of these journeys? Perhaps it was to make Jews aware of how temporary any dwelling outside of Israel really is. To be a Jew is to be on a journey. That is how the Jewish story began when Avraham first heard the words “Lech Lecha”to leave where he was and to travel “to the land I will show you”. Every journey was to grow, to change. We are all on a journey. Without the journey, we do not grow. And life is growth. There is no way to avoid challenge and change. Life is a journey, not a destination. We should constantly set ourselves new challenges that take us closer to our goal.
(33:4) “U’Mitzrayim M’Kabrim-The Egyptians were burying” Why does the Torah need to mention this fact? This day designated the start of a new era, the era of the Weiss nation. Likewise the Egyptians had reached the end of their era. Thus burying their dead.
The Parsha lists forty two journeys that Klal Yisroel traveled in the Midbar. On the surface the number 42 doesn’t seem to have any special significance. But as it says in Devarim “Lo Davar Rake Mikem –The Torah is not an empty pursuit from you.” Meaning if there is something we cannot understand it is from you, our deficiency not the Torah’s. The number forty two corresponds to the forty two letter name of Hashem. We also say a special Tefilah “Anah Bekoach” which is said before going up in Kiddusha. This Tefilah has seven lines each containing six words. Forty two is “Mem Beis” which stands for Masseh Bereishis which the forty two letter name of Hashem is derived from. Also this Parsha is considered the end of the Torah since Devarim is really referred to as Mishneh Torah (repeating of the Torah). It therefore comes out that the Torah begins with the letter Beis and the last Parsha begins with a Mem together equaling 42.
The Sefas Emes writes that in reality there were fifty journeys if you include the eight journeys backward that Klal Yisroel made when Aharon died. He then explains that the purpose of all these travels was to raise the nation from the fifty levels of Tumeh they were sunk into back in Mitzrayim Each journey elevating them another level. We can say the same with regard to Shabbos. In the lunar calendar there are fifty Shabbosim. Each Shabbos raises the spiritual level of the nation.
The two tribes, Reuven and Gad wanted to take their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River. But we also see that half of the Shevet Menashe was also given this area as a Yerusha? Why were they given this area? They had not been the ones who requested it in last weeks Parsha? Also why half of the tribe? It would seem that the Shevet Menashe were Talmidei Chachomim and that their presence was required for the sake of the other two tribes who needed to be close to a source of Kiddusha. The reason why only half of the tribe was sent there was because of an old debt that had to be repaid. When Yosef's son Menashe pursued the Tribes to demand back the goblet his father had planted there, he became the direct cause of the brothers' rending their clothes. Middah-Kineged-Middah (measure for measure) his portion was torn in half. Half of his inheritance was in Eretz Yisroel and the other half on the eastern side of the Jordan. In the future all the tribes will be in possession of a portion in Eretz Yisroel proper for Trans Jordan will be Eretz Yisroel proper.
Why these two tribes chose to settle in a land less holy than Eretz Yisroel can perhaps be traced back to their spiritual roots. When Reuvein was conceived his father Yakov thought he was joining with Rachel and his thoughts were to father his firstborn Yosef. But he was tricked by Lavan. This slight blemish became the spiritual seeds of his son Reuvein. Gad, as well was conceived with a slight spiritual blemish. When his mother Leah thought she had stopped giving birth, she gave her handmaid Zilpah to Yakov. This was premature for later on we find that she did again conceive and gave birth to another tribe-Gad. Had Gad been conceived by Leah there would have been enough spiritual might to have conquered Essav/Amalek. Where do we see that Leah had this power to overcome Essav? When she was younger people said that The elder daughter of Lavan was destined to marry the elder son of Yitzchok. She prayed fervently not to fall into Essav’s hands and her prayers were powerful enough to overcome Essav. Therefore both Reuvein and Gad had an intrinsic defect in their spiritual genetics which was manifested in their choice of settling in Trans Jordana rather than Eretz Yisroel proper.
At the end of this weeks Parsha we have. the Mitzvah of Aray Miklot, cities of refuge that were created for Benei Yisroel. Of the six cities half of them were to be placed in the territories of the two and a half tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan. It would seem that their separation from the Kiddusha of the rest of Yisroel caused them to have a greater incidence of murder in their midst. But there is a deeper understanding to this. When Benei Reuvein and Benei Gad agreed to fight along side the rest of Klal Yisroel they volunteered to remain even until the lands were divided to the nine and a half tribes, a period of an extra seven years that Moshe never requested. This means that for fourteen years the children of these two tribes grew up without a father. This created many children at risk and was the cause of much bloodshed on the other side of the Jordan and the subsequent need for the additional Aray Miklot.
The last Mitzvah in Sefer Bamidbar is the Mitzvah of driving out the residing gentile nations of the land. The Torah warns that if you do not remove them they will constantly be a thorn in your eyes. This was a lesson never learned, as we see today, much of the non-Jewish element in the land of Israel is far more than a mere thorn in our eyes.
Chazak, Chazak V'nischazek
- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
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(30:3) Ish Ki Yidor Nedar L’Hashem-When a man pledges a vow.” The Parsha begins with the Mitzvos of Nedarim. Since the last Parsha dealt with Korbonos of Yom Tov the connection between the two is that when a person vows to bring his Korbon he is obligated to fulfill his promise on the coming Yom Tov, when he visits the Beis Hamikdosh.
The Sefas Emes writes through a vow Yisroel were given the power to endow an object with Holiness by mere words. This is one of the most elevated powers that man is capable of and is why it was placed near the end of the Torah.
Regarding the Chet of the Eigel, Hashem swore to destroy whoever worships powers other than Hashem. Moshe in defense of Klal Yisroel reminded Hashem of the laws of annulling vows that he had taught him on Har Sinai. Moshe was described as “Ish Ha'elokim” he was privileged to be able to annul vows made by Hashem like an “Ish”/husband.
(31:2) “Nikom Nikmas Benei Yisroel…Acher Teyasef El Amov-Avenge the revenge of Benei Yisroel..then be gathered to your people.” Moshe is told by Hashem to avenge Benei Yisroel against the Midyanim and then you will be gathered to your people. Moshe knew he could have prolonged his life by delaying to do this Mitzvah, but still he did not hesitate but immediately prepared the army for battle. In contrast when Yehoshua was told he would not die until the entire land of Israel was parceled out, he reasoned it would be to their advantage if he delayed defeating the thirty one kings in the land of Canaan. He knew that after he dies Benei Yisroel would have a downfall morally. As long as he was alive he could guide them. By delaying Benei Yisroel's settling in Eretz Yisroel, the land that has ten types of Keddusha, Hashem, Midda-Keneged-Midah made short by ten years the life of Yehoshua.
The question is what connection is there between the avenging of Midian and Moshe’s death? Both are bound by the same Posuk. The Gemarrah in Sotah writes that when Klal Yisroel sinned with the daughters of Moav they worshiped the idol Baal Peor. Moshe destroyed this idol and sunk it into the ground. Moshe Rabeinu was buried opposite this idol. Each year on the anniversary of that sin the idol rises from the ground to accuse Klal Yisroel anew. When it sees Moshe’s burial place it is returned back to the ground. This is the meaning of the Posuk when it says “Nikom Nikmas Benei Yisroel…Acher Teyasef El Amov-Avenge the revenge of Benei Yisroel..after being gathered to your people.” The word Acher literally means after. Moshe was to take revenge on Midian even after leaving this world.
Billem was killed in this battle against Midian. What was Billem doing in Midian? When he discovered that his advice to seduce the Jews had caused the death of twenty four thousand Jews, he traveled to Midian to collect his fee. This would cost him his life. When the Jews, who were outnumbered, miraculously overpowered the enemy, Billem knew that he must flee. He used his powers of magic to attempt to save himself by enabling both he and the kings of Midian to fly. He flew up until he reached the Kisay Hakovod. Pinchas followed him there and raised the Tzitz upon which were the words “Kodesh l'Hashem”. Billem and the kings fell to the earth and Pinchas killed them with his sword. Benei Yisroel killed the men if Midian but left the women alive. This angered Moshe because it was the women that caused them to sin. They marched all the women of Midian past the Tzit, whereupon the face of those guilty turned green and were killed.
(32:1) “U’Mikneh Rav Haya L’benei Reuvein U’Libenei Gad –The children of Reuvein and the children of Gad had abundant livestock.” Thus begins the chapter of the request for land on the other side of the Jordan. The Benei Gad and Benei Reuvain asked for their portion of the land to be outside of Eretz Yisroel. How could they do this? They would be giving up almost half the Mitzvos of the Torah? Secondly why was half of Shevet Menashe included in this deal? They never requested to be split in half? Thirdly the daughters of Tzelafchad had previously shown such intense desire for the land that the laws of inheritance were redefined in their honor. And yet we find that they wind up not receiving the land after all? They were from the tribe of Menashe that were split in half. Rashi in Bereishis (49:22) brings a Midrash that claims the daughters of Tzelafchad received land on the other side of the Jordan. They were asked to only marry within their tribe and wound up settling across the river outside the land. How can we understand this after all the struggles they went through and the love they had for the land?
The answer lies in what seems to be a question of faith. The truth is that the questions being posed at the end of the 40 years in the desert were not any more agreeable to Hashem than the concerns raised by the nation 40 years earlier at the time of the Spies. In both instances the questions seemed to reflect on a lack of faith and trust in Hashem. Whether issues of strategy and warfare, or land divisions and pasture land, the assumption should have been that Hashem would provide the nation, the tribes, and each individual with exactly what they needed. If the tribes of Reuven and Gad happen to have large herds requiring pasture land one of two things should have happened. Either they would discover that their allotted portion in the Promised Land was sufficient for their needs; or, they would have to adjust their holdings to accommodate their apportioned section. The notion of asking to annex the trans-Jordan area to better accommodate their cattle holdings suggested a lack of trust and faith in G- d. That is why Moshe’s immediate response to their request was to accuse them of doing the same thing that the Spies had done! (31:10-16) However, the daughter’s of Tzlaphchad were the perfect contrast to the request of Reuven and Gad. They willingly placed their personal destinies in the hands of Hashem’s law. Whatever Moshe would rule in their case they would accept. Had Moshe ruled that they would not inherit their father’s portion of land they would have accepted Hashem’s decree. To their benefit Hashem informed Moshe that they could and would inherit their father’s portion. However, at the end of Bamidbar they were informed that it was conditional on their not marrying outside of the tribe of Menashe. This too they accepted unquestioningly as the law of Hashem. For the Daughters of Tzlaphchad, Hashem’s law defined what was in their best interest. If it wasn’t Hashem’s wish it could not be to their benefit. If it was Hashem’s wish it had to be for their benefit. Beyond Hashem’s law there were no other expectations or needs.
Menashe was the older of Yoseph’s two sons. We are told that he was the “translator” at the time of Yoseph’s encounter with his brothers in Egypt. We are further told that Menashe was the one who spent more time with his father in issues of government and administration. Ephraim, on the other hand, appears to have been more involved in scholarly pursuits. I believe that we can conclude that Menashe was better trained to withstand the influences of the non-Jewish world than his brother Ephraim. Moshe attached Menashe to the tribes of Reuven and Gad because Menashe had the qualities of his father in surviving alone among the nations. It was Yoseph who remained so connected to the teachings of Yakov that he not only maintained his own level of righteousness, he was even able to raise his sons to such devotion that Yakov said, (Ber.48:5) “Ephraim and Menashe are to me like Reuven and Shimon!” To make sure that Reuven and Gad would maintain their levels of commitment and devotion in spite of being away from the rest of the nation Moshe sent ½ the tribe of Menashe to support them and protect them. Furthermore, as we saw from the Daughters of Tzlaphchad, the tribe of Menashe was endowed with a special love for Eretz Yisroel (Rashi 27:1). The love of Menashe for Eretz Yisroel would balance out the self-imposed distance of Gad and Reuven.
The lesson of the end of Bamidbar is very obvious. Eretz Yisroel is ours because Hashem gave it to us to use in His service. We must trust that He provided us with all the necessary tools to accomplish our individual and collective missions. Adjusting Hashem’s plan to fit our concept of what we need or what should be stems from a lack of faith in Hashem and the acceptance that whatever we have is exactly what we need. It wasn’t by coincidence that the daughter’s of Tzlaphchad were born into the tribe of Menashe and that Menashe was the tribe Moshe trusted to balance out his concerns for the tribes of Reuven and Gad. It wasn’t by coincidence that the last words of the Torah (Sefer Devarim is basically a repetition of the first four books) teach us this lesson of faith in Hashem and the acceptance that whatever we have is exactly what we need.
(32:1) “U’Mikneh Rav Haya L’benei Reuvein U’Libenei Gad –The children of Reuvein and the children of Gad had abundant livestock.” There is perhaps another approach to understanding the motives of these two tribes. The Benei Gad and Benei Reuvain asked for their portion of the land to be outside of Eretz Yisroel. How could they do this? They have waited over 200 years for this moment. They stood at the border of Eretz Yisroel and rejected it sight unseen? They would be giving up almost half the Mitzvos of the Torah? Secondly why was half of Shevet Menashe included in this deal? They never requested to be split in half; they never requested a portion of that land.
If we look at Moshe’s response perhaps we can gain a new insight to this story. (32:20) “Im Tasun es Hadovar im Teichaltzu Lifnei Hashem-If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before Hashem.” Moshe replies that if they arm themselves before Hashem, and cross the Jordan before Hashem, and conquer the land before Hashem…Five times the words “before Hashem” appear in this passage. What is Moshe trying to convey? We find the words “Lifnei Hashem- before Hashem” in Tehillim (96:13) ““Lifnei Hashem Ki Voh, Ki Voh Haretz Lishpot Teivel B’tzedek Vamim Bemunaso- Before Hashem he will have arrived, he will have arrived to judge the Earth, He will judge the world with righteousness, and peoples with His faithfulness.” The Posuk speaks of the time in the future when Moshiach will come and the entire world will see Hashem. The veil upon which Hashem is hidden in this world will be removed. Hashem will be visible in every tree and rock. Then He will judge the faithful. How does this connect to the request of these two tribes?
The Parsha begins with the laws of vows. Then it goes on to the war against Midian after which Moshe is told he is to die. What Reuvein and Gad saw was that it is possible to annul a vow. Perhaps Hashem can change his vow of refusing Moshe entry into the land? After all he was standing on what was to be Eretz Yisroel in the future. What Reuvein and Gad wanted was to bring the Moshiach now! Avraham was promised the lands of ten nations. Klal Yisroel was given only seven at this time. The other three nations were destined to become part of Eretz Yisroel when Moshiach comes. That is, the lands on the other side of the Jordan. So they said we will take our place with our brothers and battle the enemies of Hashem and when we come back this will be our inheritance. They sensed that they had a connection to the land they were upon. The fact that Hashem permitted them to settle there proves that perhaps they were right, this was their destiny. The opening statement made by them “U’Mikneh Rav Haya L’benei Reuvein U’Libenei Gad –The children of Reuvein and the children of Gad had abundant livestock.”can be read alternatively as they acquired a bond with their “RAV” with Moshe Rabeinu. They could not break that bond.
Moshe responded “If you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before Hashem.” Moshe replies that if they arm themselves before Hashem, and cross the Jordan before Hashem, and conquer the land before Hashem. He wants to know if this is really their intention. He then gives them half the tribe of Menashe. (32:33) “Vayiten Lohem Moshe L’vinei Gad U’Livnei Ruvein U’lichatzi Shevet Menashe ben Yosef-So Moshe gave to them - to the children of Gad and to the children of Ruvein and to half the tribe of Menashe the son of Yosef.” Why does the Torah mention that Menashe is the son of Yosef? They never requested to be split in half; they never requested a portion of that land. But the reason is because in order for the Moshiach ben Dovid to come, the Moshiach ben Yosef must come first. Manshe is connected to Moshiach ben Yosef. That’s why he was placed together with Reuvein and Gad. Everything was now in place. But did they really believe? Moshe responds with the words “before Hashem” five times. The Gematria of the words “Lifnei Hashem” equals 196 five times equals 980 the same as the words “Ani Mamin B’vias Hamoshiach-I believe in the coming of the Moshiach.”
If this is correct, what went wrong? Why did they not bring Moshiach? In verse (32:24) Moshe tells them"V'Hayotze Mipichem Ta'asu-What comes from your mouths you shall do." They said they would be the vanguards, they would all arm themselves and lead the battle to conquer the land, they would all remain away from their families until the land was distributed and settled. However in verse 32:32 they say the following; "Nachnu Navore-We shall crossover" The abbreviated form of the word Anachnu is uncommon, and always has the connotation that something is missing. There are three places in the Torah where this deficient word is used.
(Bereishis 42:11) when Yakov's sons appeared before Yosef and said"All of us, sons of one man are we." (Nachnu) Because they meant to say there were two more brothers who were not with them. The "we" was incomplete.
(Shemos 16:7,8) Moshe and Aharon used this word to say V'Nachnu Moh "What are we?" Because there too, there is a connotation of something incomplete, "We are nothing".
Here they originally intended to send the entire army across the Jordan to fight alongside their brethren. Moshe warned them to keep their word. They said (32:27) "V'avodov Yavru KOL-Chalutz Tzava L'fnei Hashem-And your servants shall cross over every armed person of the Leigon before Hashem." But when it came to actually going their response was (32:32)"Nachnu Navore Chalutzim-We shall cross over armed." Leaving out the word KOL.
Why did these two tribes, in particular, have vast herds of cattle? We know that Shevet Gad had a special closeness to the Munn. They ate the Munn exclusively not partaking in any other foods. Therefore their flocks remained untouched growing larger and larger over the 40 year period. Shevet Reuvein was the first born. He thus received a double portion of his fathers inheritance thereby giving him abundant cattle as well.
(32:16) “Vayomru Gidros Tzone Nivneh L’Mikneinu Poh V’Arim L’tapeinu-They said we will build protection here for the cattle and cities for the children.” We find in Moshe’s response that he reverses the order saying that first they should look after the children and then take care of the cattle. Implying that they had their priorities wrong. However the Kli Yakar explains that this was a strategic move. If they would be attacked, the cattle would be the first point of contact giving them time to secure the children. Moshe, on the other hand reversed it saying by placing the children first you will be displaying your faith and lack of fear.
According to the Or Hachaim the request was asked in a strange way. They said “Haretz Asher Hekah Hashem-the land that Hashem smote”? The reason that they made their request in such a way was so that their claim would not raise any objections from the other tribes. If the people as a whole had conquered the land in question by what right would they have to claim it for themselves? Secondly how could they have imagined that these two tribes would be allowed to live securely in a land that had already been conquered while the other tribes would have to face a war in order to secure their heritage? Therefore these two tribes were careful to make their request in such a way as to neutralize these objections. They said “Haretz asher hekah Hashem- The land that Hashem smote.” The tribes could not have any objection that the people as a whole had conquered it because that was not the case. Hashem did battle for them as a result these lands were Hashem's to allocate. As far as the second claim of their living securely, they said that such an argument would only be sound if Benei Yisroel had to conquer the Canaanites by their own effort. Seeing that Hashem was to do battle for them, the conquest of Canaan would proceed the same way as the lands of Sichon and Og. Therefore the other tribes were in no greater danger than before. As far as them requesting land outside of Eretz Yisroel the Rambam writes that the land of Israel comprises of every place conquered by a Jewish king or prophet provided that such a conquest had met with the approval of most of the nation. However if an individual or even a whole tribe had waged war on their neighbors and conquered even part of their land it would not be considered part of the Holy land even if the territory in question had been part of the lands promised to Avraham by Hashem. “In this case it is clear that since it was Hashem himself who had conquered the lands for them that it should be considered equal in terms of Kiddusha.
The Arizal writes that Reuvein and Gad were never meant to receive a portion in Eretz Yisroel. they had a spiritual defect from birth and the land of Israel would only accept spiritually pure souls. When Yakov married Rochel, he was tricked into consummating his marriage with Leah instead. Therefore when Yakov was with Leah, his thoughts, after 84 years of abstaining from relations, was on Rochel. This caused a slight blemish in Reuvein’s spiritual genes. When Leah saw that she was no longer having children she gave her handmaid Zilpa to Yakov without telling him. The result was the birth of Gad. She was wrong for had she waited she would have given birth to Gad and once again there was a slight blemish in the spiritual genes.
This leaves us with half the tribe of Menashe. Why only half? Yosef married Osnas, the child of Dinah and Shechem. Dinah had been rapped by Shechem and gave up the child produced from that union. Osnas wound up at the home of Potifar and became Yosef’s wife. Therefore when Yosef had two sons his spiritual genes went into Ephraim and Menashe, but part of Menashe received a slight defect from his mother which resulted in that tribe being split.
(32:18) "Lo Noshuv El Botainu Ad Hisnachel Benei Yisroel es Nichaloso-We shall not return to our homes until the children of Israel will have inherited every man his inheritance." In doing so they were adding an additional seven years before they could return to their homes. What was the purpose of adding more then Moshe commanded them to do? The Ohr Hachaim writes it was to show that they will not contest giving up their portion of land in Israel proper. The Emek Dovor says it would seem improper to have them settled in their land,, across Jordan while the rest of Israel were waiting to be settled.
- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
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(25:11) “Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Kohen.” The Parsha begins by tracing the genealogy of Pinchas back to Aaron. Why was it necessary to mention his grandfather? The reason is because people doubted the sincerity of Pinchas’ actions. Perhaps since he descended from Yisro his deeds were not Leshaim Shomayim? Hashem therefore wished to publicize that he was a Tzaddik the son of a Tzaddik. Also Hashem wanted to heal some of the residual bad feelings that might have existed against Aaron who at the time he made the Eigel had inadvertently become the cause of many Jewish deaths. Now a grandson of Aharon had come and saved many more lives than Aaron had ever even indirectly caused to be lost.
Rashi explains that this was needed because Pinchas was harshly condemned for slaying a prominent member of the nation. Hashem affirmed that Pinchas acted correctly under these circumstances and would be receiving reward. Several explanations have been given for why people initially condemned Pinchas for what he did. One approach by Tatgum Yonatan Ben Uziel writes that Kozbi, the woman killed by Pinchas, was the daughter of Balak, king of Moav, who instigated this scheme. Although Balak was a bitter enemy of Benei Yisroel, they were not to wage war against him because of his progeny- his great granddaughter was non other than Rus, the righteous convert who after joining Yisroel became the great grandmother of King David and the ancestor of Moshiach. It was therefore no simple matter to kill Kozbi, a daughter of Balak. What if she was the daughter from whom Rus would descend? Killing her might prevent Rus from being born and thus prevent Dovid and Moshiach from being born!
Benei Yisroel condemned Pinchas, accusing him of “killing Moshiach”. They charged that he acted recklessly, thereby destroying the nation’s future. Hashem therefore affirmed Pinchas’s actions, because the Moshiach was not destined to come from Kozbi. Moreover Hashem announced that Pinchas would receive the “Bris Sholaim” the covenant of Peace (25:12) Targum Yonatan explains that it was here that Hashem declared Pinchas - who became Eliyahu - would live forever. As we know, Eliyahu was taken to heaven alive, and will return to us to herald the imminent arrival of Moshiach. In response to the people’s accusations, Hashem declared that Pinchas will in the future be the one to announce that Moshiach would be coming to redeem the nation. Whereas the people charged that Pinchas killed the future Moshiach, Hashem proclaimed that to the contrary, Pinchas himself will arrive to inform the Jewish Nation that the time has come for Moshiach to arrive and bring us from exile.
(25:11) “Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Cohen-Pinchas the son of Elozer the son of Aharon the Cohen.” Pinchas was virtually an unknown public figure. This perhaps is why his name is spelled with a small Yud to indicate that he was a simple man. After all Moshe and Aharon stood up for Klal Yisroel several times and yet they were not awarded a Bris Sholeim? But it was expected of them as leaders to stand up for their people. Pinchas on the other hand was a common Jew. His acts therefore stand out all the more.
But there is a deeper message here. Pinchas through this act of zealotry merited to be one of only nine people to enter the next world without dying. The understanding of this is that when a person so negates his very essence for the sake of heaven, death is no longer an issue, its not needed for the Tikun of that Neshama. The Posuk says that Pinchas took a Ramach a spear in his hands with which to kill Zimri and Cozbi. The word Ramach has the numerical value of 248 equal to the number of organs in a person’s body. The verse therefore hints that Pinchas took far more than just a spear, he dedicated his entire being, every one of his organs, to the service of Hashem. Pinchas, took his life into his own hands and risked everything by killing Zimri and Cozby. Perhaps we can say that this dedication is why he was given the priesthood.
This is akin to the type of sacrifices performed by the Kohanim in the Beis Hamikdosh. We find the expression “Raiach Nechoach L’Hashem-A satisfying aroma to Hashem." frequently used there. If we look at the first mention of this concept in the Torah we can glean a better understanding of its root. At the end of Parshas Noach we find the first mention of a “satisfying aroma.” After the flood, when Noach emerged from the ark, he brought a sacrifice which was totally consumed. Perhaps we could suggest that this phrase is used only in a case where there is no gain for the one performing the sacrifice. Every subsequent mention of a “satisfying aroma” is either by a Korban Olah or Mincha each of which is totally consumed. The owner has no share in the sacrifice. Giving of themselves totally with nothing in return is the ultimate expression of sacrifice.
Of the 33 times, “Raiach Nechoach L’Hashem-A satisfying aroma to Hashem” appears in the Torah it is only spelled with the letter “Hey” as the definite article in front of the word Nichoach once (Reach Ha'Nichoach). This is the first mention of this “satisfying aroma” in the Torah, This is the essence of who Pinchas was, ready to be totally consumed for the sake of heaven. The numerical value of the name Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Kohen equals 956. The same as the verse (Bereishis 8:21) “Vayorech Hashem es Raiach Hanichoach-Hashem smelled the pleasing aroma.” What pleasing aroma was it that pleased Hashem? That of the total negation of Pinchas to Hashem and thus connecting totally with Hashem with no barriers of physicality in the way.
Pinchas attains the pedigree of a Kohen after performing this act even though the Halacha is that a Kohen that has killed someone is no longer eligible to serve as a Kohen. The idea behind this is that when someone takes another person’s life he is erasing the likeness of Hashem from the world. The job of the Kohen is to increase the awareness of Hashem in this world. Therefore he becomes excluded from the priestly service. However in the case of Pinchas, his act insured that the Tzelem Elokim would continue. (Tzror Hamoror)
(25:12) “Lechain Emore Hininy Nosain lo es Bris Sholaim”. Hashem say’s that He is giving to Pinchas this Bris Sholaim! What does this mean for Pinchas and why is the letter “Vav” of the word Shalaim broken in half in the Sefer Torah? There is a Machlokes about this letter “Vav”. One holds it's a short “Vav” one holds it's a split “Vav”. The word Shalaim equals 376 the same as the words “Zehu Moshiach.” The Zohar say’s that Pinchas is Eliyahu, who will announce the coming of Moshiach, and that he never died. How could this be? We know that there is a Gizairah (a decree) for all mankind to eventually experience death. How could Pinchas be exempt from it? At the time of this incident where he killed the Nassi of Shevet Shimon and the princess of Midian, he became so terrified that his Neshama left him. Earlier when Nadav and Avihu died it say's that their Neshamas remained hovering around Klal Yisroel. When they saw the Neshama of Pinchas leaving him they entered into his body. This is how he was able to get around the Gezairah of death. He fulfilled the Gezairah of death through this act. How was it possible for two Neshamas to enter into one body? We know that a person who is not married is considered incomplete. Nadav and Avihu never married, so each was only half a Zivug. Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Cohen-Pinchas now became like a son of Aharon through the Neshamas of Nadav and Avihu.
What is the connection between Pinchas and Nadav and Avihu? There are various interpretations as to the exact nature of the sin which caused their death. But there is one common theme. Nadav and Avihu had an intense desire to draw close to Hashem. We know that Nadav and Avihu were also zealots. They went beyond the limitations of their status. They were impatient with the ways of Aharon and Moshe to the point that they overstepped their bounds. They would issue Halachic opinions in Moshe’s presence. They advocated a bolder approach to coming close to Hashem. This is why the Posuk tells us (16:1) “B’kirvosom Lifnei Hashem V’yomusu” they died when they attempted to come close to Hashem. Pinchas also had this zealous desire to draw close to Hashem, and he too, acted without authorization from Moshe. The law, which he carried out, was by its very nature one which transcends legal authority. It is the type of law that is accepted but not taught. (Shabbos 12b) It had to be an act of spontaneous zeal, and not of calculated vengeance. The Neshamas of Nadav and Avihu were looking for a body to enter that would rectify their own sins. They found a kindred spirit in Pinchas. He displayed the same zeal to come close to Hashem but was able to channel it in a manner favorable to Hashem.
Throughout the generations Eliyahu has frequently visited Klal Yisroel. At the end of time he will come to announce the coming of Moshiach and bring the ultimate Shalom to the world. This is what Pinchas did. By standing up for Hashem he brought peace. Now we can explain the one who say's that the letter “Vav” is short holds that there is only peace at the end of time when Moshiach will come. The “Vav” in the word Shalaim is short. This could also be looked at as the letter “Yud” thus spelling the word Shelim which equals 380 in Gematria. The understanding is that since the Gemarrah says that there were 80 Kohanim Gedolim in the first Beis Hamikdosh and 300 in the second and all were descendants of Pinchas, this is alluded to in the word Shelim. The one who say's the “Vav” is split believes that as long as the Shalaim is incomplete there can be no total peace in the world.
Why the is letter “Vav” used? The letter “Vav” is the letter that joins together. But on a deeper level the Midrash explains that there are five times in the Torah where the name of Yakov is spelled with an extra letter “Vav” and there are five times when the name of Eliyahu is spelled without the letter “Vav.” This signifies that Yakov took five “Vav’s” away from Eliyahu as a bond to ensure that Eliyahu would someday redeem Yakov’s sons. Therefore the meaning of the broken “Vav” is that for the time being any peace we may see is incomplete. In order to enjoy true everlasting peace we must wait for the arrival of Eliyahu to redeem us and reclaim the “Vav’s” that were taken as a pledge. (Baal Haturim)
(25:11) “Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Cohen-Pinchas the son of Elozer the son of Aharon the Cohen.” Why was it that Pinchas received the priesthood for his role in stopping a national sin? We find a similar situation when the tribe of Levi acted zealously by the Chet H'Eigel. Yet they were not similarly rewarded? Why did he merit becoming Eliyahu Hanavi? To answer this we must look back to the origins of Jewish history. In Bereishis, when Avraham was still named Avram, His father brought him to Nimrod for destroying his idols. This was the first of Avraham’s ten trials. He was offered to serve the idol or be thrown into the fiery furnace. As we know he chose the latter and survived but his brother Horon did not. Horon figured that if Avraham survived he would be willing to give up his life but if he did not survive he would worship the idol. This was not a totally pure expression of devotion. But as we know in the spiritual world no righteous act is lost. His self-sacrifice was given a second chance to fulfill its destiny in the form of Aharon. Aharon, whose name contains the letters of Horon, was a reincarnation of Horon in order to rectify and fulfill that area in which his Neshama fell short. That opportunity took form when Moshe failed to return from the mountain on time. Klal Yisroel was given a vision of Moshe being carried off on his deathbed and they wanted to create a replacement for him. Chur, Aharon’s nephew, attempted to prevent the national sin but was stoned to death. When Aharon saw this he thought it would be better to stall the nation, rather than risk the possibility of receiving the same fate as his nephew. The sin of killing the Kohen Gadol would be a sin too great for the nation to overcome. But he was wrong. He did not count on the strength of the Meserus Nefesh he would have performed, to protect him. Had he stood up to the crowds he would have prevailed. He would have corrected the soul of Horon and fulfilled his life’s mission. But this did not come about until 39 years later through his grandson Pinchas. At this point in time Pinchas faced a test that would save Klal Yisroel then and in the future. By putting his life on the line he not only survived the test but was granted eternal life in the form of Eliyahu Hanavi, to form the link for the final Gulah.
(24:14) “Veshaim Ish Yisroel-The name of the Israelite was.” Why the mentioning of the name of the sinner? And why is he called “Ish Yisroel?” This is a hint that even after such a tremendously sinful act as was done by Zimri, he was still considered Ish Yisroel. He had not been totally uprooted from his holy origin. The word Hamokah refers to what Pinchas had done to him. By adding the words Es Hamidyanis the Torah indicates that it was this relationship that was lost. Normally the effects of such a sin would cling to a person’s Neshama and would not be easily removed. This act of clinging to his soul is described by the term Hakoh, a fatal blow. This teaches that by becoming Pinchas' victim Zimri's soul was released from the negative spiritual force his soul had absorbed from Kosbi. His death acted as atonement and as soon as she departed from him physically, Zimri's soul no longer bore the imprint of that association. This is why he can now be called Ish Yisroel.
Pinchas was the grandson of Aharon who was by nature an Ohaiv Shalom V'rodaif Shalom- a lover of peace and a pursuer of peace. Pinchas' nature was the same as Aharon’s. He was not a hot headed individual but a man of peace. Because of this he was considered a true Kanoi (Zealot).
How was it that Pinchas was able to stop the plague by his actions? And why were all of the deaths from one Shevet? We know that Billem is the one who advised Balak to entice Benei Yisroel into sinning with the princesses of Midyan. The Zohar writes that Billem was the antithesis of Moshe. He used his powers of speech to cast a spell on Klal Yisroel. It was Shevet Shimon that was particularly susceptible to this form of pollution because of their spiritual nature. The name Shimon, in Hebrew, comes from the word Shemah which means to listen or hear. The tribe of Shimon served Hashem through the power of hearing. Therefore, they were more susceptible than the other tribes to absorbing the pollution of Billem’s speech.
In last weeks Parsha it says (25:7) “Vayar Pinchas-And Pinchas saw” What he saw was the letter “Mem” floating above the tent. This letter was emitted by Billem and was about to join two other letters “Vav” and “Tav” which would spell the word “Maves-Death.” Pinchas saw this and acted quickly to avert any further disaster. He connected the letter “Mem” to his own name, which equals 208 and increased its value to 248. The same as the word “Ramach” (spear). He now not only had a physical spear but a spiritual one too! This enabled him to break Billem’s spell.
The Gemarrah in Nazir (23b) compares the actions of Zimri to those of Tamar (the daughter-in-law of Yehudah) and just as her actions were L’Shaim Shomayim so too were Zimri’s. But while hers produced the forerunner of the Moshiach, his caused the death of thousands of Jews.
The Ohr Hachaim comments regarding the laws of Yefas Tohar ( A beautiful woman permitted to an Israeli soldier in times of war) that sometimes a Neshama that has it’s source in a very high place becomes trapped in the shell of Tumeh and that an association with a righteous person can free that Neshama and cause it to return to Kiddusha, to convert. The fact that the Torah writes the laws of Yefas Tohar is otherwise very difficult to understand. The only people who were permitted to go to war were those of the highest spiritual levels. Anyone with the slightest degree of sin was told to remain home. How could such a person be attracted to the sight of a beautiful woman? The Ohr Hachaim explains that this righteous person possessed the sensitivity to be able to pick up on a person with this type of Neshama. The type that had become trapped in the shell of Tumeh and through association with a righteous person could become freed. This perhaps is what Zimri thought when he was attracted to Kozby. The reason he was attracted to her was for the purpose of freeing a trapped soul. That perhaps he was destined to produce offspring that were great people. We find this by Yehoshua, who married a prostitute, and yet great people were produced from that union.
(25:17) “Tzoror es Hamidyanim- Treat them as enemies.” Of the two nations that Israel encountered, the first Amalek, endangered them physically, while the second, Midian, put their souls in danger. (Kol Torah)
Hashem instructs Moshe “Tzoror es Hamidyanim- Treat them as enemies.” the Loshon used is in the singular. Then it says “Vehekisem Osom” they should smite them which is a plural form? The reason is because originally Midian sent their kings daughter to try to snare Moshe himself. They thought that the best way to cause Israel to have a downfall would be if they could get to their leader. So it was a personal thing that Hashem told Moshe to avenge. Therefore the use of the singular. But when that didn't work they tried to entice Klal Yisroel, and thus the use of the plural, they should collectively smite Midian.
(26:5) “Reuvein Bochor Yisrael Benei Reuvain Chanoch Mishpachas H’chanoci” The Parsha lists the genealogy of Benei Yisroel and attests to its purity by adding the letters of Hashem's name to the beginning and end of each Shevet. The letter "Hey" is found in the word for woman “Isha”. And the letter “Yud” is found in the word for man “Ish”. The question is why does the “Hey” appear first placing woman ahead of man in this praise? The answer is just that. In Mitzraim it was the women that were the most responsible for maintaining the purity of Benei Yisroel. It is for this reason that they are mentioned first.
Throughout the sojourn in the Midbar the women always rose to the challenge. By the sin of the Golden Calf they refused to donate their gold. By the building of the Mishkon they were the first to donate their gold. They remained steadfast when the Meraglim slandered Eretz Yisroel. Why were the women able to withstand every challenge while the men seem to have failed so many tests?
At the creation of man and woman in Bereishis we find when man was naming all of the animals, he found no match for himself. Hashem then created woman for him. He named her Isha for she came from Ish. The name Ish comes from the word Aish. Man is likened to fire for he is at times able to accomplish tremendous things, but like fire he can also be very destructive if left unchecked. This is the job of the woman. To keep the fire of man focused and in line. The Gematria of the word Isha is the same as the word Mussar. This could explain the measure for measure of the deaths of Aharon's two sons Nadav and Avihu. They were killed by fire, they refused to marry! Without the Isha to contain the fire they were consumed by it. The same letters of Isha are used by the first sacrifice brought in the Mishkon. " Reiach Nichoach Ishei L'Hashem " Fire being used for the first time for its ultimate purpose.
We learned with regard to the Macos in Mitzraim that every Plague that they experienced had the exact opposite effect on Benei Yisroel. If they experienced darkness the Jews experienced light. It even say's that by the Makeh of the first born, Benei Yisroel also experienced a momentary death and were immediately reincarnated. This is why Hashem himself had to perform that particular Makeh. Because resurrection of the dead is one of the three keys that are held exclusively by Hashem. But there was one aspect of the Macos Bechoros whose opposite effect we don't readily see. When the Bechorim were dying Rashi say's there was not one house that did not experience death. Because the Mitzriim were very promiscuous they had many first born from different husbands. So in many homes they would find several children dead. This was an additional pain that the Mitzriim had to experience. We find the opposite reaction in this week’s Parsha. Hashem here is testifying to the purity of Klal Yisroel by adding the letters of his name to the names of each Shevet. Why was this brought down here at the end of the wanderings in the Midbar? After the incident with Kosbi the nations of the world had an opening to point a finger at the purity of Klal Yisroel. Therefore Hashem at this point testified by placing his name at the beginning and end of each family name.
(26:11) U’Benei Korach lo Masu- And the children of Korach did not die.” The Posuk says that the children of Korach did not die. Rashi comments that they did Teshuva and were given a higher place in Gehinom. If they did Teshuva why were they not forgiven in full? The answer is that a person can do Teshuva on his own Avairos but the negative influence he affects to others can’t be so easily erased.
(26:33) “U’Telaphchad ben Chaifer Lo-Hayu Bonim- Tzelaphchad the son of Chaifer had no sons.” When the daughters of Tzelaphchad came to Moshe they had a good claim. If their mother doesn't have to perform Yivum because she had daughters then why can't daughters be good enough for Yerusha? The Halocha was hidden from Moshe. Why was it necessary for the Halacha to be hidden? Hashem didn't want Moshe to feel that he was on a very high Madrege because he had separated himself from his wife all the years of the Midbar. These daughters of Tzelaphchad were around forty years old and were not yet married. If they had been married they would not have been entitled to a Yerusha. They chose not be married because they didn't want to lower their standards. Not because they couldn't find husbands. They were on a very high Madrege. When Moshe saw this in them he realized that his separation from his wife was not as great a feat as their voluntary abstention was, since his was commanded by Hashem while they chose not to be married. In the end they did finally marry and Hashem granted them many children even though they were past the normal age for child bearing.
This incident of the daughters of Tzelaphchad is the fifth and final case where a Halacha was brought about through an event. There was the one who cursed Hashem, Pesach Shenei, the Mekoshesh, and the Eigel. Each one of these cases is reflected in the letters of Menatzpach. The letters of the Aleph Beis that are doubled, they appear one way in the middle of a word and another way at the end of a word. Mem-the wood gatherer, Nun- the one who cursed Hashem, Tzadik- the daughters of Tzelaphchad, Phey-Pesach Sheni and Chuf-was the Eigel. According to Pirkei D’ Rebeliezer each of these letters were used for a different Geulah. The end letters relate to the end of an era. What is the connection? We know that Pinchas was a zealot, he was pro-active. So too were the daughters of Tzelaphchad. They did not wait for the Halacha to come to them but rather initiated the question themselves. This is the lesson we must learn here. We too must we be pro-active when it comes to bringing the Moshiach. We must take the initiative in order for the final Geulah to come.
We also learn the Halochos of Yerusha from here. What is the purpose of the laws of inheritance? We know that everyone is sent to this world with a mission to accomplish. Along with that mission we are given certain tools to work with. We don't all complete our mission but even if we do, we still want our legacy to continue on. The one best suited to do that is our offspring, they carry within them our spiritual genetics. So when a person passes on, the Torah mandates that those tools, be it physical or spiritual, get passed on to the descendants most eligible to continue that person's Tafkid.
Moshe Rabeinu was told that he would not be taking the nation into the promised land. His first response was to not think of himself but rather to ask Hashem to appoint a leader who could complete his work. He thought that one of his children would be selected for this task. But Hashem told him to appoint Yehoshua, for he never wavered from Moshe"s side. From this we see that Yichus is not necessarily enough. What greater Yichus could there be than the son of Moshe Rabeinu? But we learn that its not enough to be born to greatness, its what you do with it that counts the most.
(26:46) "Serach Bas Asher" Why was she singled out here? Serach was the only person alive who had seen Yakov Avinu. She was the one who notified Yakov that his son was still alive. She was able to testify in Mitzrayim about the authenticity of Moshe. Whenever a challenge arose against Moshe, she was there as a witness. Now as Klal Yisroel were poised to finally enter the promised land the nation knew what she had been saying was true.
(26:59) “V’Sheim Eishes Amrom Yocheved Bas Levi-The name of the wife of Amrom was Yocheved daughter of Levi.” Yocheved is mentioned here perhaps due to her extreme longevity. Born between the walls amongst the 70 souls entering Mitzrayim, she merited entry into Eretz Yisrael some 250 years later. (210 years of servitude plus 40 years in the desert.) Seder Olam
(27:5) “Vayakrev Moshe es Mishpatan-Moshe brought their claim before Hashem.” Why is there a “Nun” at the end of the word Mishpat? Just as the fiftieth, “Nun” level of Daas was hidden from Moshe, so too was this law.
(27:15) " Vayidabaer Moshe el Hahsem Leimore-Moshe spoke to Hashem Saying" Who was Hashem supposed to tell? The Yalkut Reuveini explains that nothing is established here that is not decreed above. Moshe was so concerned with the welfare of Klal Yisroel that he asked that in Shomayim Hashem announce who would be his replacement.
The Midrash writes that after incident with Korach who accused Moshe of nepotism, Moshe requested his sons not replace him.
(27:20) “V’nosatoh M’hodchah Alov-And you shall place some of your splendor upon him.” When Moshe was told that he would not lead Klal Yisroel into the land, but would die there in the Midbar, his first reaction was for Hashem to appoint a successor to him. Rashi brings down the Gemarrah (Bava Basra 85a) that says “the elders of the generation said the face of Moshe was like the sun while the face of Yehoshua was like the moon.” Why is it that the “Elders” said? Some people thought that Yehoshua was as great as Moshe but was of a lesser stature only because of his youth. But when he would reach Moshe’s age he too could be as great. This is the perspective of youth. The Elders on the other hand, had seen Moshe when he was younger and were able to compare him to Yehoshua. They said even at Yehoshua”s age Moshe was on a much higher level, and that the difference between them was like the difference between the sun and the moon. On a deeper level we can say that Moshe was like the sun in that even after the sun has set it still cares for the inhabitants of the earth by giving its light indirectly through the moon. Moshe, even after his passing gives his light indirectly through the Torah that he left behind.
The name given a Parsha usually expresses the essence of what the Parsha contains. This week’s Parsha is named Pinchas but the events that brought him to the front stage of Jewish history took place at the end of last week’s Parsha? Secondly we find that after Pinchas receives the priesthood the Parsha goes on to count Benei Yisroel and validate their lineage followed by the division of the land and the story of the daughters of Tzelafchad. What connection is there between all of these various events?
From the very beginning of the Parsha we see a hint to what the essence of the Parsha is. (25:11) “Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Cohen-Pinchas the son of Elozer the son of Aharon the Cohen.” Not only is Pinchas’ lineage mentioned but that of his grandfather as well. What we learn here is the power of spiritual genetics. Pinchas, as we know had two grandfathers. He could have followed a different path for his life, yet he chose to follow Hashem. It says in the Shulchan Orech that every person has a unique portion of Torah that he must reveal in the world. And that until that Neshama completes what it needs to reveal, it comes back to this world again and again.
The daughters of Tzelafchad best exemplify this concept for on the surface they appear to be only interested in obtaining material wealth. But there is much more to the concept of inheritance than just mere land. Rabbi Dessler explains that everyone is sent to this world with something to accomplish. Parents and children are linked spiritually as well as physically they inherit their spiritual potential from their parents and in general the tasks that were assigned to the fathers fit the sons. The assignment of property by Divine Providence is related to a person's spiritual mission in the world. If I am assigned a task, I must be given the means to accomplish it and one of these means is property. Inasmuch as fathers and sons are assigned similar tasks, and as the property of the father is a function of his task, sons inherit their father's property. This rule applies to inheritance in general; it applies particularly to the division of the Land of Israel among the tribes. The people of Israel were divided into twelve distinct tribes because the overall spiritual mission of the Jewish nation is broken down into component parts. Each tribe does its part and between them all, the Kingdom of G-d is established.
The Divine hand was in evidence during every stage of the division of the land. The twelve portions were drawn up with the help of the Urim Vetumim. They were put into a box and the names of the twelve tribes were placed in a second box. The heads of the tribes each drew two lots, one from the box of names and a second one from the box containing the shares. Miraculously, each of the tribal chieftains managed to pick the name of his own particular tribe out of the box of names. To reinforce the miracle, as the tribal heads drew the lot from the box containing the shares, the lots themselves declared in a loud voice, "I am the share with the following borders and I was intended for such and such a tribe" (Baba Batra, 122a). Thus the term “Al Pi Hagorel-Through the mouth of the lottery” the lottery literally spoke. In spiritual terms the miracle has the following interpretation. Each tribe was assigned the portion of land it required to fulfill its unique mission in the overall context of the Jewish people in the most productive fashion. This interpretation is reinforced by a consideration of the manner in which the internal division process within the tribes was arranged. But what purpose did this miracle serve? It showed that we can not escape our destiny. We may think that events that shape our lives occur at random but that is not the case. Hashem is guiding us through these events for a purpose. We may take an active role to have His will fulfilled or we may let it come through an unlikely source not expected. The daughters of Tzelafchad merited having these laws revealed through them.
The spiritual legacy is what this Parsha is all about. This could be why the Gematria of the name “Pinchas ben Elozer ben Aharon H’Cohen-Pinchas the son of Elozer the son of Aharon the Cohen.” Is equal to the words “Tikun Ha’neshama-Correction of the soul”
(26:9)- "Ubinei Eliav Nimuel V'Doson V"Aviram- The sons of Eliav Nimuel and Dosan and Aviram" Why would the Torah mention Doson and Aviram if they are not included in the counting? The Oznayim L"Torah writes that the Torah is confirming the purity of Israel. That although the women of Israel managed to retain their virtue in the face of Egyptian persecution there was one exception where a woman was unfaithful to her husband and consorted with an Egyptian man. This woman was Shelomis bas Divri the mother of the blasphemer. The Midrash explains that she was the wife of Doson and the blasphemer was the product of her relations with her Egyptian partner. Since they could not be included in the testimony that Hashem gave to vouch for the virtue of all the women of Israel, they had to be mentioned separately.
(26:19)- “Benei Yehudah Ayre V’Onan Vayomus-The sons of Yehuda were Ayre and Onan and they died.” The Ohr Hachaim writes that the death of Yehudah’s two sons mentioned here is a reference to the destruction of both temples. Departure of the Shchina from the Temple is described as death. Just as death of a body is the departure of the soul, so the departure of the Holy Presence of Hashem is the death of the Temple. The causes, of course, were the sins of the Jewish people. Instead of being filled with Hashem’s presence, the respective Temples were filled with the negative spiritual forces created through those sins. The original sins of Ayre and Onan became the cause of the destruction of both Temples. The Talmud in Shabbos (62) states that the Jews were causing their beds to become evil-smelling with semen, committing the same sin as Ayre, who was wasting his semen. (Bereishis 37:7) Onan’s sin, which is held responsible for the destruction of the second Temple, (senseless hatred) was that he despised his brother and did not want to perpetuate his name by performing Yivum.
(27:10)- "Olas Shabbos B'Sbabbto-The Burnt offering of Shabbos." This is referring to the Musaf offering added on Shabbos. Each of the daily sacrifices are brought in the merit of one of the patriarchs. The Zohar makes a connection between the name Yoseph and the Musaf offering, both of which are based on the same root, meaning to add. Just as Musaf means to add, the name Yoseph means add. When Joseph was born his mother immediately took advantage of that blessing to ask for another child, so she named him Joseph, meaning he will add. This is based on the principle that the occasion of a blessing bodes well for additional blessings. The additional prayers on the Sabbath and festivals is a kind of spiritual bonus for which the people have the right to wish during the holy and blessed days. On the Sabbath day the soul itself has an additional bonus the Neshama Yeseirah- Additional Soul that we receive on Shabbos. This extra soul enables him to feel all the benefits of the Sabbath more deeply. This exultation is evoked when the congregation sings the Mussaf Kiddusha prayer and it lasts throughout the Sabbath day.
(29:1) “U’Bachodesh Ha’Shivi” The Parsha ends with a listing of all the Jewish holidays of the year. Including in order Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Shmini Atzeret. All together there are 21 festive days. The Apter Rav notes that there are 21 days between Shiva Aser B’Tamuz and Tisha B’av which correspond to 21 holidays mentioned in the Parsha. These 21 days that we mourn the absence of the Beis Hamikdosh will one day be celebrated with the festive sacrifices mentioned in our Parsha. However if we include Tisha B’av there are 22 days during Bein HaMesarim? Perhaps we can say that in the future Tisha B’av will become a festive day. We will celebrate the birth of Moshiach and the 22nd festive day of the year.
- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
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(23:10) "Mi Mona Ofar Yakov Umispar es Rova Yisroel- Who can count the dust of Yakov or number the stock of Israel." The verse uses two terms for counting, plus both names for Benei Yisroel, Yakov and Yisroel. Billem saw that Israel would in the future survive the annihilation of the world where the nations would be destroyed. Yakov represents those who would physically survive the destruction and Yisroel represents the spiritual, those who will be resurrected from the dust and be rejoined with the other survivors.
(24:5) “Ma Tovu Ohelecha Yakov Mishkinosecha Yisroel-How good are your tents, Yakov Your dewlling places Israel". The Posuk uses the names of Yakov/Yisroel as well as the words Tents for temporary encampments and Dwelling connected to the eternity of Israel. This prophecy was the culmination of three attempts to curse, each turning into blessings. But the final message is a transformed blessing. The tents are temporary hinting at this temporary world. Thus the use of the name Yakov. The use of the word Mishkan connotes the eternal, the next world and thus the use of the name Yisroel.
(22:2) “Vayar Balak ben Tzipur-Balak son of Tzipur saw.” How could Balak see anything through the protection of the Anani Hakovod? The Ohr Hachaim writes that the key lies in his name. Balak Ben Tzippur.. He used the Tzipur/Bird to penetrate the clouds. Balak wanted to negate the future of Klal Yisroel, but in the end he wound up insuring it. By offering 42 sacrifices even though for the wrong reason, the act was not left unrewarded. His descendant was Rus forerunner of the Davidic dynasty and Moshiach.
(22:2) “Vayar Balak ben Tzipur-Balak son of Tzipur saw.” Why is this Parsha named after Balak? It would seem that the main thrust of this Torah portion deals with Billem and his attempt to harm Klal Yisroel. In addition why does the Torah begin speaking of Balak and only later in verse 4 are we told who he was? (22:4) “U’Balak ben Tzipur Melech L’Moav B’ase Hahee- And Balak was the king of Moav at that time.”
Vayar Balak means Balak had vision. He traveled to Moav to explain the gravity of how they were affected. But Balak did not come to merely frighten them. He had a plan. He had an acquaintance, the well known sorcerer Billem, who would certainly agree to come help him out. Not with bows and arrows, which had already failed in Sichon’s battle with Israel, but rather using speech as a weapon. Moav was so impressed with Balak’s perception and foresight that they immediately made him their ruler, at least temporarily, despite the hostility between their two nations. Therefore when Balak first saw these events he was not yet King of Moav. It was only in verse 4, after inciting fear and disgust among them by informing them of his thoughts on the matter, was he then temporarily appointed king. The fact that Balak was the main protagonist behind all of these events is perhaps the reason the Parsha is named after him.
Billem was one of the three advisors to Pharoh in Egypt when Pharoh was trying to decide how to deal with the Jewish problem. He was the one who counseled Pharoh to drown the male
babies. After Egypt’s downfall he left. Billem was like a mercenary. He went wherever the money was. The name Billem comes from a contraction of two words Bli-Am without a nation. He was a man without any ties. He was only out for himself. How is it that someone like Billem was able to communicate with Hashem? The Midrash says in order that the nations of the world should not be able to complain that had they had a prophet they too would have obeyed Hashem, Billem was granted prophecy. Although he was able to communicate with Hashem, the fact that he was without a nation showed that all of his efforts were self-motivated.
The question still remains however. How could Hashem have given prophecy to such a lowly person? The answer is that we only know Billem after he received prophecy. Originally he was considered a great man. Hashem selected him on the basis of his potential greatness. It was through this power of prophecy that he became corrupt and turned evil. But if he was a man with all of this potential and also given this gift what went wrong? Prophecy is not based on the individual alone. But rather it is the culmination of all the spiritual aspirations of the people he represented. In this case, the nations of the world and since they were corrupt this manifested itself in him as well.
Actually Billem was supposed to inspire the nations of the world. All of the events in this week’s portion were his tests to see if he would faithfully carry out the will of Hashem to the nations of the world. They were to recognize Klal Yisroel’s role as the chosen people. This is why his eventual blessings are really tidings for the future, for the days of the Moshiach. Three times he attempted to curse Israel and each became a powerful blessing for the future. Had he carried out Hashem’s will, he would have lifted the rest of mankind to perfection.
The question is why this message is being told through Billem? The common thought is that man needs a savior. G-d has to save man because man cannot accomplish this on his own. Therefore Moshiach is a necessary part of existence and since we can’t get anywhere by ourselves, G-d has to uplift man and rescue him from himself. The Jewish thought is that we were created to work for our Olam Habo. We have Bechira (free choice) and life is a Nisoyin (a Test) and that is the purpose of life in this world, to provide a platform for those tests. What then is Yemos Hamoshiach (the days of Moshiach)? The Rambam says that the days of Moshiach are a period of time tacked on to human history where things are the way they were meant to be. Had Billem succeeded in carrying out his message correctly the world would have recognized Hashem. All of humanity would be studying the word of Hashem and there would be the proper flow of blessing from heaven.
If that is the case what is the purpose of having the days of Moshiach? If we are sent here to earn our just reward in this world through making the right choices, what is the point in having the days of Moshiach? This is the message in the prophecy of Billem. He is the Navi/Prophet of the nations of the world. At the time of Moshiach the nations of the world will be inspired to be what they should have been. They will be in the proper alignment with us and us with them. They will accept our mission of being a Kingdom of priests and thus the proper flow from heaven will insure world peace. This is why, according to the Baal Haturim, Billem built seven altars as a tribute to the seven Noachide laws fulfilled by the nations of the world.
This could have been accomplished much sooner had Billem succeeded in his mission of prophecy. The role of the Messiah is not for Israel’s benefit but rather for the benefit and perfection of the gentile world. This is why the incident with the mouth of Billem's donkey being opened is one of the ten things that were created during the first six days of creation right before Shabbos at dusk. Well before there ever was a Klal Yisroel on the scene. Each of these ten things has a special purpose. They are all created between day and night between the six days of creation and the Holiness of Shabbos. In other words between this mundane world and the spiritual Kiddusha of the next world. Everything that was created during the first six days was done as an ongoing act. As the Posuk says “Ashere Borah Elokim Lasos” Which Hashem created to recreate. They were all placed in this world with the notion that they would perpetuate themselves. They were set up to carry out Hashem's will according to the laws of nature, which Hashem put forth. These ten things, created on the sixth day at dusk, had their purpose suspended for use at some time in the future when called upon by Hashem even if that purpose was above the laws of nature. The words "Pi H'Asone-The mouth of the donkey" is numerically equal to "L'Asid Lovo-The future days to come"
The Sefas Emes writes that the Ten Mamorous was uttered at the beginning of creation; the ten things created Erev Shabbos completed the creation. The physical world was brought into being at the start but there had to be a spiritual connection to the source. Shabbos was the goal of creation. Therefore at the onset of the first Shabbos, of creation, the connections to the spiritual world had to be set in order to ultimately bring the world back to it’s source, to it’s purpose.
Only Moshe was able to see his prophecy clearly. All other prophets have a tainted view of their message. They each define the words of Hashem with some of their own slant. It was for this reason that Hashem caused the donkey of Billem to speak. This would insure that there would be no diversion of Hashem’s words.
(22:3) “Vayogar Moav Mifnei Ho’am Ki Rav Hu...Vayokotz Mifnei Benei Yisroel - And Moav became very frightened of the people because they were many. Digusted in the face of Benei Yisroel” The Kli Yakar writes that the word Ho’am refers to the Eruv Rav as in the words “ Ki Rav Hu” Benei Yisroel are mentioned as well for their power. Both factors contributed to the terror facing Moav.
(22:22) “Vayichar Af Elokim Ki Holech Hu- Hashem became angry” Why did Hashem become angry if he told Billem to go and why the use of the extra word "Hu"? Hashem wanted Billem to give over the prophecy he was destined to give. It was his duty as a prophet not to withhold the word of Hashem. But when He saw that was still not Billem’s intent, He became angry. The words "Ki Holech Hu" implies that he was going for his own agenda.(Ohr Hachaim)
(22:28) “Vayiftach Hashem es Pi H’Osone- Hashem opened the mouth of the donkey." Why did Hashem have to open the mouth of the donkey and what great wisdom did the donkey have to convey? All he said was why did you hit me these three times? Hashem wanted to show Billem that only He has the power of speech, that he is the one who controls everything. Billem thought that he had the power to say anything he wished even if it was against the will of Hashem. So by opening the mouth of the donkey Hashem was showing him that it is He who gives speech even to a donkey if He so chooses. What the donkey had to say was an allusion to the fact that Benei Yisroel will in the future come to Yerushalaim three times a year to bring Korbonos. It was through the merit of the Akeidah that Yisroel were saved. The Jews who travel three times a year to the place of the Akeidah.
This reference to the Shalosh Regalim is perhaps the key to what message the donkey was to convey. “These three times”-Rashi says that this was a hint that he wanted to uproot the Jewish nation. The Arizal adapts this idea to suggest that Billem’s intention was to eliminate the observance of the three festivals. Why this mitzvah more than any other? There is a Mishnah in Avos (5:22) that says that whoever has these three characteristics is a Talmud of Billem. They are an evil eye, an arrogant spirit and an insatiable soul. Each one of these corresponds to the three cardinal sins, idolatry, murder and sexual immorality. An arrogant spirit is akin to Idolatry. It’s a form of self-worship. Murder stems from the evil eye. If a person desires his enemy’s possessions with enough fervor, then he may be prepared to get them in any way. Lust obviously underlies all sexual immorality. Each of these three things is the antithesis of the three things, which are the foundation of the world. Torah, Avodah and Gimilus Chesed. The three festivals were granted to Klal Yisroel as a means of fighting these cardinal sins.
Pesach was the time when Klal Yisroel were first drawn away from the Idol worship of Egypt. The mitzvah of eating matzoth, the food of the poor, hints at the humble spirit that was the prerequisite to quell the haughtiness within us.
Shevuos, the time of the giving of the Torah, represents the rejection of sexual immorality. The Rambam explains that inappropriate sexual thoughts fill the heads of those empty of wisdom. It is therefore that in preparation for the receipt of the Torah, the Jews were required to separate themselves from their wives.
Succos corresponds to the rejection of jealousy and the evil eye. It is the time when we set aside all differences with our contemporaries, which have their root in jealousy. We therefore bind together the four species, which symbolize our ability to live with all types of Jews. Only when there is that Achdus can the Klal function at its best. Only when each person can perform his different but crucial role, without jealousy of each other, with a “good eye”, can we then come to the Messianic age, which is what Succos portends.
It is precisely these three festivals that represent the complete opposite of the personality of Billem. He tried to eliminate the observance of these festivals, more than any of the other Mitzvos. This could perhaps explain the importance of “The mouth of the donkey.” Billem stood opposed to the three foundations of the world.
There were three other occasions where a reference is made to a Chamor-donkey. The first is by the Akeidah where is says Avraham rose up early and saddled his donkey. The second is by Moshe when he returned to Mitzraim to liberate the Jews. The last is the reference to the Moshiach who will arrive riding a white donkey. In the case of Billem it does not use the word Chamor for a donkey it uses the word Asone. In fact the only place in the entire Torah where the word Asone is found is here in the Parsha of Billem and it’s used ten times! What is the difference between these two usages? The Maharal explains that the word Chamor-donkey is related to the word Chomer-physicality. This means that riding on Chamor is like riding on the physical world. Each of these three giants of Jewish history was above the physical laws of nature. That cannot be said of Billem. He was so steeped in his physicality that he was even intimate with his animal.
After Balak saw what Benei Yisroel did to the Amorim he knew that they could not fight against Benei Yisroel in a physical way. They decided to combat them with the power of speech. So they commissioned Billem who was known to be the negative counterpart of Moshe Rabeinu. His power was that of speech. Hashem created the mouth of this donkey from the dawn of creation and suspended its use until precisely this moment in history. What message was to be learned by this miraculous speaking animal? Billem was the spiritual leader of the gentile world. If he could be shown that the power of speech all originates from Hashem, it would be a tremendous Tikun for the nations of the world. Three times Billem attempted to curse Klal Yisroel and each time the Klalah was turned to Bracha. The curse was transformed to a blessing. This was the message Billem was sent. The word “H’asone” is equal in Gematria to the words M’klalah L’bracha.-From curse to blessing.
If Billem was able to curse and bless people why did he not bless the people of Midian and Moav? They were afraid of Benei Yisroel and because of that fear wanted Billem to curse them. They could have protected themselves with a blessing instead, since Hashem was not letting Billem curse Yisroel? Really Billem could not do these things on his own. He had no power to curse or bless. His strength was in his ability as a prophet to know Hashem intimately. He was able to tell when Hashem was angered and about to take action. At that precise moment he would curse someone or something making it look as if his curse was taking effect. Otherwise what need was there for him to seek payment from Balak. He could have blessed himself to have riches.
(22:12) Hashem said to Billem, “Don’t go with them.” Later on in Posuk 20 Hashem say's to Billem "rise up and go with them". And then in Posuk 22 it says that Hashem was angry with Billem because he went? To reconcile these conflicting statements the Viilna Goan writes that in Posuk 12 it states "Lo Selech Imohem" do not go with them. But in Posuk 20 it reads "Kum Lech Etem" rise up, go with them. There is a basic difference between Etem and Imohem. Im denotes "with" in the sense of the same intent. Etem on the other hand would signify along with but without a common intent. Initially Hashem told Billem Lo Selech Imohem "don't go with them" with the same intent of cursing Yisrael. When Billem insisted on going, Hashem told him Lech Etem, Etem, but not Imohem, meaning go but not with the same intentions. Billem, however, went Im Sharay Moav, for the purpose of cursing Yisrael. As a result Hashem was angry that he went. Ultimately, the angel told Billem "Lech Im Ha'anashim, go with the men" (Posuk 35) using the word Im. Rashi explains," The way a person desires to go, is the way he is led." This means that since he insisted on going he would receive the same punishment that was in store for them.
(22:41) ,Vayar M'Shom Kitzei Ho'am-He saw from there the edge of the nation." How could Billem see the nation if they were under the protection of the clouds? The Ohr Hachaim writes that Billem used the Tzipour to penetrate the cloud coverage. Others say that it refers to the tribe of Dan who were forced outside of the clouds because of the idol that was brought along.
(23:8) "Mah Eikev Lo Kova Aeil- How can I curse a nation that Hashem has not cursed." Writes the Kli Yakar How can I curse a nation that does not curse Hashem? When misfortune befalls Israel, they do not blame Hashem.
( 23:10) Mi Manna Ofar Yakov- Who can count the dust of Yakov?” R.Bechaye writes that this is referring to those who will rise from the dust at the end of days. This is what Billem desired when he said “ Usihe Acharis Kimohu- May my end be like his.”
(23:13) Efes Kotzeihu Sireh- Part of them will be visible.” Billem thought that the Clouds of Glory were protecting them. However one tribe was out of that protection. That was Shevt Dan. Perhaps he could have his curse befall them.
(24:4) "N'ume Billem Beno V'or U'nume H'gever Shesum Ho'Ayin-The words of Billem son of Beor,,the words of the man with the open eye."There are two interpretations of the "Open Eye" One that Billem could detect the brief moment of each day when Hashem got angry. The other is that Billem was blind in one eye. How do we reconcile these two? Most normal people have two eyes which function to give us depth of field. But on a spiritual level, one eye is to see the positive, the other to see the negative. Billem only had the latter. He could find the negative in every situation.
(24:5) “Ma Tovu Ohelecha Yakov-How good are your tents, Yakov". The Gemara in Bava Basra (60a) states that this was an expression of admiration for the tents of Benei Yisroel because he saw that their doors did not face each other. However the Gemara in Sanhedrin (105b) says that from this blessing we learn that Billem secretly wished that the Jewish people would have no synagogues. How do we reconcile the two?
Chazal state that Billem really intended to curse Yisrael. In this Posuk he meant to say that since the Jewish people lived such exemplary lives they didn't need any synagogues, Yeshivos or institutions because of the upbringing they received at home. But this was really a curse because in reality a child cannot rely exclusively on the teachings at home. A student needs a Rebbe and the association with other students. Therefore Hashem turned Billem's curse into a blessing, so that Yeshivos and their Rebbeim will never cease from Klal Yisroel. (R.Moishe Feinstein)
The Kol Torah explains that from seeing the tents set up modestly, Billem got the idea to cause Yisrael to sin through debauchery.
(24:9) “Mivorechecha Boruch-Those who bless will be blessed” These words are reversed from that which Yitzchok blessed. (Bereishis 27:29) Rashi there explains that the righteous begin with the bad and end with the good. They suffer in this world to insure their portion in the world to come. Whereas the Rishoim prefer having this world now. The Ramban comments that we should not ask from Avraham where it begins with the blessings, because there after saying those who curse you will be cursed, it returns to a blessing by saying through you the people will be blessed. (V’Nivarchu B’cha)
- Written by Boruch Fischlewitz
- Category: Torah
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(19:2) “Zos Chukas H’Torah-These are the statutes of the Torah.” This week’s Parsha deals with death. The ashes of the Para Adumah purify someone who came into contact with death. The death of Miriam and Aharon and the decree of Moshe’s death are all major themes here. With this Parsha the Sefer Bamidbar seems to change direction. Until now we have been dealing with the generation that emerged from Egypt. But from here on, the remainder of the Chumash recounts the history of the next generation. All of the events described from here on take place in the 40th year of the Midbar wanderings. The point of this transition is the Mitzvah of the Para Haduma. It is called a “Chok” because the meaning behind it has eluded even the greatest of minds. Rashi says that no reason is given for these “Chukim”. Yet he does say that if the nations of the world would mock the Torah saying, look at these Mitzvos that make no sense, we precede this by saying that although they are a Chok beyond our comprehension, Klal Yisroel were still willing to comply. This could be the connection to last week’s Parsha. In Parshas Korach we learned that Korach challenged Moshe by using his own logic. He would tear down anything he could not understand. If a room is full of Torah scrolls how can it need a Mezuzah? This is why our Parsha begins with “Chukim” these are laws beyond human comprehension.
(19:2) “Zos Chukas H’Torah-Vayikchu Aylecha Para Adumah-These are the statutes of the Torah-Take for yourselves a red cow.” Why is this particular “Chok” used here? Why Para Adumah? The answer is that when a person comes into contact with death, it can have very traumatic effects on him. A person begins to feel his own mortality. We find in the very next Parsha that (20:1) “Vayavou Benei-Yisroel Kol-Ho’aidah-And all of Benei Yisroel came the whole congregation.” What does the words “Kol-H’Aidah mean? It would seem to be extra. Rash explains that it means that all those who were destined to die in the Midbar had passed away. This was the end of the forty years of wandering. Now after seeing the passing of an entire generation Hashem wanted to show them there can still be life. The Parah Haduma was red like blood, which is the life force. It had to be a matured animal yet never worked. It represented the most pure form of physicality. It had to be burned outside of the Beis Hamikdosh, the place of the utmost spirituality. And when it was finally broken down to its lowest level, that of ashes, it became mixed with Mayim Chaim, life-giving waters. This was meant to teach Klal Yisroel that there can be life even after death.
Hashem placed the well of Miriam (the rock) into the Yam Kineret. The Midrash says it is in the midst of the sea there is a rock riddled with holes similar to a sieve that used to be the well of Miriam. The old Beis Hamedrash near Teverye was built so that its main entrance would face the direction of the well of Miriam and that a person entering the Bais Hamedrash would remember how Hashem provided the Jews with water in the Midbar and fortify himself with trust in Hashem.
The Midrash says that the Malach Hamoves had no power over six Tzadikim who passed away by a divine kiss; Avraham, Yitzchok, Yakov, Moshe, Aaron, and Miriam. The question is why did Miriam have to die in the Midbar? The reason for Moshe and Aharon’s death is given. But Miriam’s death occurred before the incident of hitting the rock? Up until this point none of the women died in the Midbar. They had no part in the sin of the Eigel or the Meraglim. In addition what lesson do we learn from the fact that the well dried up immediately after her death? Plus sadly, we do not find that Klal Yisroel mourned for her.
The Gemarrah in Taanis (9a) says that the “Dor Deyeh” received three gifts in the merits of its three great leaders: Miriam - the well, Aharon - the Ananei Hakovod, Moshe - the Munn. Why are these three leaders associated with these particular gifts?
They personified the three pillars, which uphold the world Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim. Moshe was the giver of the Torah, its teacher. Therefore in his merit they received the Munn whose daily gift alleviated the necessity of earning a living and whose ingestion aided them in Torah study. Aaron personified Avodah his devotion to the Korbonos brought the Shechina to Klal Yisroel. The Ananei Hakoved was provided in his Zechus for it represented the Shechina which dwelt with the Jewish people. Miriam excelled in Gemilus Chasadim. Even as a small girl she assisted her mother as a midwife and she gave food to the poor. Because of her Chesed Hashem provided the Jews with water, the most vital necessity. But even more than necessity, water represents the spirituality Hashem is constantly giving. The Gemarrah says all three were taken away. Why? We can understand this according to the Gemarrah in Sotah (10a), which lists five gifts that were given to great people but taken away due to a lack of appreciation for them. Perhaps this is the lesson we must learn here.
Klal Yisroel did not even know that the gifts were in the merit of their great leaders until after they were taken away. We find right after the incident of Mey Meriva that Moshe sent word to Edom requesting permission to cross their land. He pleaded that as brothers they know all the travail that had befallen Klal Yisroel. He said we will travel on the “Kings Highway - Derech Hamelech.” But the king of Edom sent back word not to pass through. The very next Posuk we find Benei Yisroel saying “We will go up by the highway Bimisilah but please let us pass through On Foot” (20:19). What was it that they were adding? Moshe had already said we would travel on the Kings Highway? What is the meaning of going by foot? The Sefas Emes writes that the Edomites feared the Clouds of Glory, the Ananei Hakovod. These clouds would transform their terrain. It would flatten mountains and level valleys as it passed. Their land would be unrecognizable to them after Israel passed through! To alleviate there objection Klal Yisroel was willing to forgo their formation, which was 12 mil by 12 mil and traverse a narrow pathway through the mountains without their cloud protection. There were seven clouds. One went ahead of the camp and the other six surrounded them on all sides, including beneath them. When they said "On our feet" they meant on the ground, not walking on a cloud as they had until now.They took for granted the gift of the Ananei Hakovod. The very next verse describes the death of Aharon and the subsequent removal of the Ananei Hakovod. The Gematria of Derech Hamelech equals 319. The Gematria of B’misila equals 137. The difference between what Moshe said and what Klal Yisroel said is 182, which equals the word B'Ananni with the clouds. They didn’t appreciate their gift so it was taken away.
Later on in the Parsha, Klal Yisroel once again complains, this time about the Munn, which came in the merit of Moshe. (21:5) “V'nafsheinu Kotzoh B'lechem Haklokel-And our soul loathes this light bread.” The result of this was the decree of Moshe’s death and the removal of the final gift. The Munn.
This leaves us with Miriam and the gift of the well. But why is Miriam’s gift unique? Why was her special merit removed first and without any explanation?
We know that when Hashem created the world it was originally covered with water. Scientists in their search for life beyond our planet begin with the search for water without which there can be no life. Chazal tell us that Aine Mayim Ellah Torah-Water can only represent Torah. The physical world cannot exist without Torah/Water. But we know the world also exists because of Chessed. As it says Olam Chessed Yiboneh-The world is built on Chessed. This was Miriam’s gift. Everything we have in this world is a Chesed of Hashem. Miriam and the well represented this life giving force in the Midbar. The Midbar was a desolate place. Eretz Lo Zaruah -a place where nothing grew. It was the place that contained the most concentration of negativity. And yet the Midrash says that there was such an abundance of water that wherever the well went new vegetation began to sprout. That is why according to the Ohr Hachaim it was necessary for Klal Yisroel to wander through the Midbar. This is what the well of Miriam represented, new life, fruit. This is why the Gematria of Miriam is Peri-fruit. Her’s was the most basic Chessed it was the gift of life. The first command given to the physical world was to produce fruit. Yet nothing broke through the earth until Man was created to appreciate it. This gift went unappreciated and therefore it was taken away. (20:1-2) “Vatomos Shom Miriam Vatikover Shom-V’lo Hayah Mayim-Miriam died there and was buried there- And there was no water.” There was no water meaning there were no tears for her. (Oznayim L’torah)
Klal Yisroel stood poised at the brink of entering the land promised to their forefathers. They were about to transcend into a new level of existence, one that would no longer rely on the open miracles of the Midbar. Now was when the lesson of appreciation needed to be taught. But the lesson was lost. No one mourned. All three gifts were thus removed from the nation. All three leaders had to end their leadership and in the end Klal Yisroel would know what it had lost. The lesson we must learn is to appreciate all of the gifts we are given. Everything in life, large or small is a gift from Hashem, which must be appreciated.
(20:1) “Vatomos Shom Miriam Vatikover Shom-Miriam died there and was buried there” Why was Miriam not permitted to be buried in the land? All of the women of that generation survived the Midbar? We know that the remnants of the original son’s of Yakov were brought to Eretz Yisroel to be buried in their own portion. The portion where Miriam was buried was on the other side of the Jordan. The place where the future cities of refuge would be established. Since Miriam was a Bas Levi this was her portion!
Rashi writes that the reason the death of Miriam follows the laws of Parah Adumah is to teach us that just as a sacrifice atones, so to the death of the righteous atone. The question is why bring this lesson here by Miriam? The laws of the Parah Adumah were given when they first left Egypt, while now 38 years later, the death of Miriam is recorded. The answer is that Miriam exemplified not only atonement but purification as well. Miriam was forever involved in uniting husband and wife. First with her father, when she was merely six years old, by advising him to remarry her mother which directly resulted in the birth of Moshe. Again when she learned that Moshe separated from his wife. Her whole intent in speaking against Moshe was for the sake of her sister-in-law. Even the well which came in her merit was more than just to satisfy the drinking needs of the nation. It served to unite husband and wife by being used as a Mikveh.
All three gifts were restored in the merit of Moshe. If so, why did we need to connect them with Aaron and Miriam? Why couldn’t Moshe have brought these miracles to Klal Yisroel himself? The answer is that Aaron and Miriam were needed to bring these miracles down to this world. Once that was done through each one of their special Midos, then Moshe was able to bring them back. But they, Aaron and Miriam, were needed to bring them into the world in the first place.
Immediately following Miriam’s death we learn that the Be’ar (the well) dried up and became hidden from Klal Yisroel. The Midrash relates that while Moshe and Aharon were in mourning, groups of Benei Yisroel approached them complaining that while they mourn their sister they would soon be mourning a nation due their lack of water. This brought on the incident of Mey Meriva which was the cause of Moshe’s subsequent sin and decree of death before entering Eretz Yisroel.
How would speaking to the rock be more of a lesson than hitting the rock? R.Zaidel Epstein offers a unique perspective. Speaking to the rock and thus causing water to emerge would be considered a Razton, a willing act. Hitting the rock would be considered Hechrech, compulsion or force. Both acts teach the importance of listening to Hashem, but if we only learn to listen to Hashem when we are under duress it is not as compelling as if listening to Hashem willingly.
We have to examine this well of Miriam. It was one of the ten things created Erev Shabbos before sunset. There was some sort of lesson that had to be learned from speaking to the rock as opposed to hitting the rock as was done on previous occasions. What was this great transgression that Moshe did? How is his punishment Midah Keneged Midah? The Sefas Emes writes that as the Ten Mamorous were uttered at the beginning of creation; the ten things created Erev Shabbos was the completion of the creation. The physical world was brought into being at the start but there had to be a spiritual connection to the source. Shabbos was the goal of creation. Therefore at the onset of the first Shabbos of creation the connections to the spiritual world had to be set in order to ultimately bring the world back to its source, to its purpose. This is perhaps the understanding of the Be’ar. The concept of a stone, one of the most physical of things bringing forth water, one of the most spiritual things, is perhaps one of the most important ideas we need to understand. This can capsulate our existence. We are physical beings endowed with a Neshama that we must use to elevate our existence. We are placed here to take the physical world and elevate it to the highest levels attainable to draw the spiritual out of the physical. This defines man and differentiates him from the animal world. Klal Yisroel in their infancy was originally shown this in the form of striking the rock. They had recently been delivered from servitude and were on the lowest of spiritual levels. In this week’s Parsha Klal Yisroel were at the brink of fulfilling their goal of entering Eretz Yisroel of transcending into a new level of existence. They had completed forty years of Torah study and Hashem wanted to teach them that it is the power of their Torah that transforms their physical world. Moshe was to teach them a lesson in Torah and then speak to the rock thereby demonstrating this new level of Kiddusha their Torah had elevated them to.
What went wrong? It’s not clear exactly what was said when Moshe and Aharon were approached. But there was a confrontation. That is why the incident is called the waters of strife. According to some the Erev Rav wanted Moshe to perform a miracle on any rock, not necessarily the rock. To which he replied (20:10) “Hamin Haselah Hazeh Notze Lochem Mayim-From this rock you wish to extract water?” The Sefas Emes makes an analogy of the words “Hamin Haselah” and the words “Hamin Ha’etz” (Bereishis 3:11) which refers to the original sin of Adom. Both have the same Gematria (260). Moshe wanted the lesson to come from the Eitz Ha’chaim, which is the Torah, rather than from the Eitz Ha’das Tov V’rah. Moshe was the connection of this source of spirituality. Through him all of the Torah was transmitted. His essence was in his name (Shemos 2:10) “Ki Min Hamayim M’shesihu-Because from the water he was drawn” This failure was at the core of who Moshe was. The mission to transcend the nation into the next stage and bring them into Eretz Yisroel could not now be realized. This perhaps is the Midah Keneged Midah. Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon (Bamidbar 20:12) “Yaan Lo-H’emantem Bi L’Hakdishainy L’aynei Bnei Yisroel Lochain Lo Soviu es-Hakohol Hazeh el-Ha’aretz Asher -Nosati Lohem” Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” Through the Be’ar, the mouth of which was one of the ten things created at the beginning of time, which was the transcendence from the physical back to the spiritual, Moshe was punished. At this juncture, Klal Yisroel stood at the threshold of a new existence. Until now they had experienced a totally spiritual form of life. Through this they were able to grow and prepare for this next step. That of putting into action the Torah they had been learning and using it to elevate the physical world that was the land they were about to enter. At this moment they had to learn the lesson of the Be’ar. Moshe Rabeinu was not permitted to enter the land. On Moshe Rabeinu’s level this was a just punishment. Perhaps it was more the shortcomings of this new generation of Klal Yisroel. But as their spiritual leader the responsibility rested with him.
It is said that in the future Moshe will ultimately lead the generation that died in the Midbar to the Promised Land. This could be the reason why Moshe, Aharon and Miriam were all put to rest in the Midbar rather than being brought into Eretz Yisroel as were the twelve Shevotim. All three of them were of a different generation and perhaps that was their destiny. (Bamidbar 20:24) “Yai’osef Aharon el-Amov-To be gathered unto the nation”. In the future they will be gathered unto the nation together with all of the returning exiles.
The Oznayim L'Torah writes that Moshe was to teach them a Mishnah of Torah. The lesson for them was that through learning Torah water would be provided. Hashem wanted there to be a new type of miracle and not a continuation of the previous situation. Speech as a means to affect the physical world rather than action, hitting the rock. By not doing this, a tremendous opportunity was lost to make a Kiddush Hashem. It thus became a Chilul Hashem instead.
(20:8) “Kach es Hamateh V'hakael es Ho'Aidah-V’debartem el-Haselah-Take the Staff and gather the congregation..and speak to the rock.” What purpose was the staff to serve and what was Moshe to say to the rock? Aharon and Moshe each had his own staff. When Hashem wanted Moshe or Aharon to take his own staff, He would say "Matecha - your staff" (see Shemot 7:9). Since in this Pasuk it says "Hamateh - the staff," obviously it was a special one with unique qualities. Here the word Aidah is used with reference to Benei Yisroel. But it in verse 10 We find Moshe gathers "Hakahal" The difference between the two is that the word "Aidah" implies a disorganized group. From this Moshe knew that they would not be receptive to the spiritual message he was charged to impart upon them. (Oznayim L'Torah)
In Parashat Korach, Moshe told the leaders of each tribe to bring a staff to be put in the Tabernacle. On each would be written the name of the tribal leader, with Aharon's name written on the staff of the tribe of Levi. The staff belonging to the one who was Divinely chosen would blossom. The staff of Aharon blossomed and produced almonds and eventually was put next to the Aron for posterity. It was this staff that Moshe was to take. This corresponds to the verse, "Moshe took the staff from before G-d" (20:9). The purpose of taking the staff was to show it to the rock as if to say, "Learn this lesson; just as this dry piece of wood suddenly became moist and alive in order to sanctify Hashem's name, so should you sanctify Hashem's name by giving water, even though it is not your nature." (Vedibarta Bam)
(20:8) "V'Hishkisa es H'Aidah V'es B'iram-And give drink to the assembly and their animals."
There is a difference between speaking to the rock and hitting the rock. Speaking is spiritual and produces unspecified amounts of water. Hitting the rock is physical and produced an abundance of water. Hashem wanted the former which would have had a spiritual affect on the nation. When Hashem told Moshe to take his staff, speak to the rock and bring forth water for them, He separated the people from the animals using the word V’es between the people and the animals. Later (20:11) the verse reads "V'Hishkisa H'Aidah U'B'iram-And give drink to the assembly and their animals." Without the word "Es" separating between man and animal. Because the request was improper, they behaved like animals, they were treated the same as animals.
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