by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS BOLOK 5767 BS"D
Y'ran'nu el Keil CHoi libi uvsori, b'has'cholas machazor ho'asiri - With great thanks and appreciation to Hashem, Who has enabled me to begin the tenth series of Sedrah Selections.
IN HONOUR OF THE FIFTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY OF R' ELIYOHU AND SOROH GOLDWASSER Ch. 22, v. 2: "Va'yar Bolok" - And Bolok saw - Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi, in his lengthy commentary on Rashi on the first verse of the Torah, in the final paragraph, beginning with the words "Shebatchiloh oloh v'mach'shovoh" says that Rashi's explanation of the word "boro" is similar to "Va'yilochem b'Yisroel" of Bolok. This seems extremely puzzling. Although we find the words "va'yilochem b'Yisroel" in Bmidbar 21:23, it has nothing to do with Bolok. It is discussing the war with Sichon. Secondly, where do we find Bolok actually waging war with the bnei Yisroel?
The Malbim answers that we indeed find verses in Nach stating that Bolok waged war with the bnei Yisroel. One is in Shoftim 11:25, "Hatov atoh miBolok ben Tzipor melech Moav harov rav im Yisroel im nilchom nilcham bom." The other is the one cited by the Mizrochi, "Va'yilochem b'Yisroel" in Yehoshua 24:9. In actuality, he did not wage a war. He only wanted to. A non-ben Yisroel is judged for his negative intentions even if he did not carry them out (see Tosfos on the gemara kidushin 39b). And this is the intention of the Mizrochi. Rashi explains "Breishis boro" as "in the beginning of Hashem's thought to create. This is the same as "va'yilochem b'Yisroel" of Bolok. Although he did not actually wage war, he intended to do so.
Ch. 22, v. 3: "Va'yogor Moav mipnei ho'om m'ode ki rav hu" - And Moav feared in the face of the nation greatly because it was numerous - Why was Moav so frightened? The bnei Yisroel were restricted from attacking Moav.
History repeats itself. When Moav's patriarch, Lote was seeking refuge after his home town S'dom was destroyed, he begged the angels to not take him to where Avrohom lived, as he feared that he would die there because his merits were insufficient. As long as he lived among the evil people of S'dom, in comparison to them he was righteous. If he were to take up residence near his uncle Avrohom, his behaviour would be lacking in comparison with Avrohom's and he might be punished. Moav felt secure as long as the bnei Yisroel were not nearby. Once they came into Moav's proximity, the Moabites feared "mipnei ho'om," from being in front of their faces, nearby, as di their patriarch Lote. This is the concern of "es kol s'vivo'seinu" of the next verse. They will destroy the safety zone around us, simply by their being there. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 23, v. 19: "Lo ish Keil vichazeiv u'ven odom V'YISNECHOM" - Hashem is not a man to disappoint nor a human to retract - A positive prophecy transmitted to a prophet to tell another person or the masses, once the prophecy is verbalized it cannot be retracted, as per the Rambam in his preface to his commentary on the mishnoh and hilchos Y'sodei haTorah 10:4. The Rashbam on these words of our verse writes that Bilom stated that Hashem is not like a person who might rescind his promise after a short period of time. Bilom reasoned, "Since Hashem earlier today said that the bnei Yisroel are blessed (22:12) and they have not sinned in the short time since He told me this, He will not change His mind." We see from the Rashbam that if the bnei Yisroel were to sin Hashem might rescind and allow them to be cursed. This seems to be in conflict with the Rambam.
We have dealt with this in the 5764 Pinchos issue, quoting Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor in his preface to his responsa Ein Yitzchok volume 2:7.
Another approach to aligning the Rashbam with the Rambam, told to me by Rabbi E.B. shlit"a: The Rambam in his preface to mishnayos says that the reason Hashem does not retract a positive prophecy is to allow for us to test the veracity of a person who claims that he is a prophet. If any so-called prophecy he claims to foresee does not come to fruition and can be explained away by saying that Hashem changed his mind from the bad to the good because the person or persons repented or prayed for an annulment of the negative prophecy, or rescinding the good because of bad behaviour afterwards, then we have no way of having a true acid test. Hashem has to allow some type of prophecy to remain steadfast. (In His kindness He chose to not annul a positive prophecy rather than instituting non-rescindable negative prophecies. This seems to be alluded to in the words "Eichoh neida es hadovor asher lo dibro HASHEM.Asher y'da'beir hanovi b'shem Hashem v'lo yi'h'yeh hadovor v'lo yovo hu hadovor asher lo dibro HASHEM" (Dvorim 18:21,22). Note the exclusive use of HASHEM here while earlier, when discussing a self-proclaimed prophet publicizing a prophecy in the name of a false deity, "ELOHIM acheirim" is used. Hashem connotes mercy and the positive. It is only when a "prophet" says a positive prophecy and it is not fulfilled, that we know he is false. When proclaiming having received a prophecy from a false deity, even ELOHIM, a negative prophecy, we know it is false in any case by virtue of being attributed to a false deity.)
Since this is the whole purpose for not rescinding no matter what, then when we are dealing with a non-ben Yisroel prophet, where we have no need to verify his authenticity, Hashem might rescind even a positive message. This is the case with Bilom. One might question the whole basis of this answer by positing that if a non-ben Yisroel were to proclaim himself as a prophet we would likewise be required to test his veracity, and if he were to pass muster we are to trust his prophecies. However, I believe this cannot be so. We derive from the words "Mi'kerev achecho tosim o'lecho melech" (Dvorim 17:15) that a king over Yisroel must be born to both a Jewish father and mother, and even if one's father was a convert to Judaism, he cannot be a candidate for the position of king. It seems that we should apply this ruling to the chapter of prophecy as well. Two verses regarding a prophet seem to say the same, "Novi mikir'b'cho mei'achecho" (Dvorim 18:15) and "Novi okim lo'hem mi'kerev acheihem" (verse 18). Someone who is not even a ben Yisroel should surely not have the halachic status of a prophet. However, Ovadioh was a prophet who was a convert even though he lacked "mi'kerev acheihem." This line of thought requires further study.
Ch. 24, v. 23: "Oy mi yichyeh misumo Keil" - Woe who will survive from His placing Keil - When translated literally, these words are difficult to comprehend. Rashi offers that "eil" is a shortened form of "ei'leh," these, the actions of Sancherev and the Aramians.
Among the names Hashem has predetermined and communicated to people either through a direct prophecy or through an angel, there are only 2 names that incorporate His name Keil within them. They are YishmoEL (Breishis 16:11) and YisroEL (Breishis 32:29). Based on this, the Holy Zohar offers a novel and unnerving explanation of these words in our verse: Who will survive the conflict between those "Whom Hashem has placed the name Keil into them," i.e. YisroEL and l'havdil Yishmo'EL?
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