by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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(Yeshayohu 40:29).


Ch. 19, v. 2: "Zose chukas haTorah" - Why is the Chapter of the red heifer considered the quintessential statute? The Rebbi Reb Heshel answers that Rashi brings in the name of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshon, that the ritual of the red heifer is an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. Some of the laws of the red heifer were given to the bnei Yisroel in Moroh, as mentioned in Rashi on Shmos 15:25 in the name of the gemara Sanhedrin 56b. The bnei Yisroel arrived in Moroh before the sin of the golden calf. If so, why were they taught the about the atonement for a sin which was not yet committed? It would seem that it was pre-destined for them to sin with the golden calf.

The co-existence of Hashem's knowledge of all that will happen in the future and man's free-will is the statute of the red heifer. This question is raised by the Rambam in hilchos teshuvoh 5:5. He answers that the comprehension of these seemingly contradictory concepts is beyond man's understanding. See the Raava"d on this Rambam.

Perhaps we can find an allusion to the Rebbi Reb Heshel's interpretation, in the words of Rashi on this verse. Rashi says that the nations of the world inflame the bnei Yisroel with their question of, "What is the logic behind this statute?" The response Hashem gives is, "This is a statute given by Me, 'MILFONAI.' You have no permission to ponder 'after it - ACHAR'EHOH.'" The words "MILFONAI" and "ACHAR'EHOH" are a bit enigmatic. If we explain these two terms as before and after the action takes place, this can be referring to the question raised by the Rambam of predestined action and free-will. It is a "g'zeiroh" that the happening is known to Me from before, "MILFONAI," and you have no permission to contemplate how there is free choice "ACHAR'EHOH," afterwards.

Rashi says that the nations of the world and the evil inclination inflame the bnei Yisroel with the question of "What logic is there in doing this mitzvoh which is a statute?" How is the answer, as quoted above from Rashi, a response to the evil inclination? The evil inclination very strongly attempts to dissuade a person from fulfilling the wishes of Hashem, namely doing His positive mitzvos and refraining from transgressing His negative mitzvos. When it comes to a statute, the yeitzer hora says that there is no logic in this mitzvoh, so don't do it. Hashem says to do it even without full understanding as He has ruled that we do it. Once a person has done the mitzvoh, don't think that the yeitzer hora has given up the battle. Not only has he not given up, but even regarding the just-completed mitzvoh he has a stategy of tainting the mitzvoh with the sin of haughtiness. He pursuades the person to feel arrogant because of having fought and overcome the evil inclination. This is the meaning of "v'ein l'choh rshus l'harheir achar'ehoh." You have no permission to think that you are great, after having completed the mitzvoh. (Ma'yonoh Shel Torah in the name of Rabbi Meir of Primishlan)

Rashi says that the nations of the world and the yeitzer hora are "MONIN" es Yisroel. Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenuroh says that the translation of "MONIN" is inflame and aggravate, as in the expression "onoas dvorim" (see Yeshayohu 49:26).

Ch. 19, v. 12: "Yit'hor" - At a Rabbinical assemblage which took place in Montreal, the Holy Admor of Satmar was seated with the venerable Gaon hoRav Pinchos Hirschprung zt"l who was telling his attentive listeners a Torah thought which he felt was most remarkable. He said that one would assume that a person who was never defiled is on a higher level of purity than one who was defiled and went through the purity ritual. However, from the words of the Rambam in his Pirush haMishnayos we see otherwise. The Rambam on Poroh 3:3 says that one who has a status of purity by default, by not being aware of having become defiled, although we consider him "tohor," pure, nonetheless this status is not clearly expressed by the Torah. However, one who has become defiled and has gone through the purification process has the advantage of the Torah clearly stating that he is pure, as our verse says, "yit'hor."

Upon hearing this, the Admor of Satmar responded that the venerable Rav did not relate the words of the Rambam accurately, as one crucial word was omitted. Rabbi Hirschprung asked what was ommited and the Satmar Rebbi answered that the Rambam says that one who is defiled through a "MEIS," a DEAD BODY, and went through the purifying process, etc.

Rabbi Hirschprung questioned the importance of this one word, feeling it was inconsequential to the thrust of the point made by the Rambam. The Satmar Rebbi responded that it was all-important. Only by a defilement caused by an outside matter would the Rambam say that the one who was purified was now on a higher level of purity than one who was never defiled, but one who was defiled through his own cause, such as by virtue of a bodily emission, surely one who never experienced this type of defilement was more pure than one who had and then was purified.

Although the words of the Rambam sufficiently indicate as the Satmar Rebbe pointed out, perhaps a strong proof can be brought for this from the gemara itself. The responsa Ben Poras asks a question on the above Rambam. The gemara Brochos 22b discusses the purification process of one who had experienced a bodily discharge. The gemara proves from a story that the procedure of immersing in a mikveh is preferable to the procedure of having 9 "kavim" of water poured upon himself as a means of becoming purified. The gemara says that a number of Rabbis had eaten together and one was to say the grace after meals, being "motzi," fulfilling the other's obligation. One Rabbi said, "Allow me to say the grace, as I have had 9 "kavim" of water poured over me and have a status of purity." The next Rabbi said, "Allow me to say the grace, as I have purified myself by immersion in a mikveh." The third Rabbi said, "Allow me to say the grace, as I have had neither process done, since I have not become defiled in the first place." The Ben Poras asks that we see from here that a person not becoming defiled is on a higher plane of purity than one who has become defiled and was purified, contrary to the above-mentioned Rambam.

Rashi clearly states, as is evident from the gemara, that the defilement they were discussing was created by virtue of a bodily emission. According to the difference pointed out by the Satmar Rebbi, this question is laid to rest, since the Rambam was only discussing defilement through a dead body and the gemara was discussing defilement through a bodily discharge.

Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'dibartem el ha'sela" - The gemara Taanis 9a says that the bnei Yisroel received the clouds of glory by virtue of Aharon, the wellspring by virtue of Miriam, and the manna by virtue of Moshe. When Miriam died the wellspring stopped, but was reinstated by virtue of Moshe and Aharon. When Aharon died the clouds of glory dissipated, but were reinstated by virtue of Moshe. The Lubavitcher Rebbi zt"l, whose yahrtzeit is on the third of Tamuz, explained that there are people who take care of the needs of the public in specific fields, i.e. a shocheit, a teacher. However, the leader of the people is responsible for all of the needs of the people. This is the sign of a true leader. Thus Moshe had to encompass the merit to reinstate for the bnei Yisroel the wellspring and the clouds of glory.

Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'nosan meimov" - What was the miracle of the wellspring rock?

Did it issue water miraculously from within itself, or was the miracle that wherever the rock was, a wellspring would emit water from the ground nearby?

Answer next week.

20:12 "Yaan lo he'emantem bi" - The sin of Moshe at "Mei M'rivoh" is analyzed by many commentators. I myself have found more than thirty different explanations. A most profound insight into the plethora of varying insights into the failing of Moshe was expressed by the Sfas Emes. It is first given in Yiddish for an accurate transmission of the Sfas Emes's words. "Vos far a ponim volt Moshe Rabbeinu gehat, volten mir farshtannen zein zind!" What stature would our teacher Moshe have if we could comprehend his failing!

20:21 "Va'yeit Yisroel mei'olov" - Why did Hashem have Moshe ask the nation of Edom permission to pass through its land, knowing that Edom would not grant permission, and that the bnei Yisroel would have to detour their land? The Abarbenel answers that this was all- important. The nations were terribly afraid of the bnei Yisroel, having noted their miraculous success against those who stood up against them. Hashem wanted Sichon and Og to stand up against the bnei Yisroel so that the bnei Yisroel would capture their land. Noting that the bnei Yisroel reacted with cowardice when threatened by Edom, they were willing to fight them.


Ch. 22, v. 2: "VA'YAR Bolok" - There are differing translations of the word "VA'YAR."

1) Chizkuni - He HEARD, as we find in Shmos 20:15, "V'chol ho'om RO'IM es hakolos."

2) Moshav Z'keinim - He SAW, as he was a minister of Sichon and actually saw the miraculous victory over Sichon.

3) Kli Yokor - He SAW written in the chronicles (divrei ha'yomim) of wars of the kings that the bnei Yisroel were miraculously victorious.

4) Rabbeinu Bachyei and Gur Aryei - He perceived as we find in Dvorim 6:4, "SHMA Yisroel."

Ch.22, v. 18: "M'lo veiso kesef v'zohov lo uchal laavore es pi Hashem" - Rashi says that from here we derive that Bilom had an unsatiable lust for money. How do we derive this from his words? Why not just say that he was strongly expressing his great dedication to follow the words of Hashem, even to the tune of foregoing tremendous financial rewards? We find a similar expression used by Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo in the Mishneh in Pirkei Ovos 6:10.

He met a person during his travels who offered him a position as the spiritual leader of his community. Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo responded that he would not accept the position, even if he were given all the silver, gold, and precious stones that exist. We find no commentator disparagingly remarking that Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo lusted riches, so what is the difference between the two?

Rabbi Chaim haKohein Rappaport answers

that we find in the gemara B.K. 38b that Ulloh was not willing to pay a shiva call, nichum a'veilim, to Rav Shmuel bar Yehudoh, saying that the bereaved was a Babylonian. They express themselves with blasphemous words upon the loss of a relative. They say "What can be done?" This indicates that if they were empowered to do so, they would have kept the deceased alive, contrary to the wishes of Hashem. This is mentioned in Y.D. #376:2 in the Ram"oh.

Bilom, by saying "LO UCHAL," I CANNOT transgress the word of Hashem, indicated that if he were able to, he would go against Hashem's will for the reward of great riches. Not so with Rabbi Yossi ben Kismo. He simply stated that if he were offered all the riches the world had to offer for living in a place that is destitute of Torah, he would only live in a "mokom Torah." Hence there is no indication of his having a desire for riches.

Ch. 22, v. 20: "Im likro loch" - Rashi says that this means that Hashem told him that he may only go along with the ministers of Bolok if they offer him payment. This is very puzzling. What bearing does the payment have? 1) Perhaps this can be answered as follows: It is known in human psychology that people go to all lengths to justify their actions. It has been shown through psychological testing that people who perform an almost meaningless task, subconsciously invest it with meaning which is not really there if they are not getting financial benefit. This justifies their feeling of guilt that they have wasted their time. If they are getting paid nicely, they have no need to justify the task with meaning that is not truly there as the remuneration is quite a sufficient reason for their investment of time and effort.

We know Hashem does not give someone a challenge beyond his capabilities. With Hashem's knowledge that Bilom was money hungry (see Rashi Ch. 22, v. 18), He knew that if Bilom went along with no expectation of getting well-paid, he would have to justify his great investment of effort and would be left with no alternative but to carry out the cursing, even against the express command of Hashem. However, if Bilom was expecting to be paid nicely, he would have more of a choice to obey Hashem and not curse the bnei Yisroel, which indeed happened.

2) In parshas Pinchos is related that Bilom was killed in the war with the Midyonim. What was he doing in Midyon? He was from Aram Naharayim as is recorded in Dvorim 23:5. Rashi answers that he went to Midyon for payment for his services. (The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says that he went to seek out Bolok who promised him payment and not the nation of Midyon which never contracted him.) Since Hashem wanted him to be killed by the bnei Yisroel, He only allowed Bilom to accept the task set out by Bolok for payment, so that he would have a reason to go to Midyon and would end up being killed by the bnei Yisroel.

3) In Dvorim 23:5 it says that a Moavi cannot join klal Yisroel and it says that this is because they have not greeted you with bread and water, "va'asher SOCHAR o'lechoh es Bilom ben B'ore l'kal'le'ko." The point of indictment was the HIRING FOR PAY of Bilom. If Moav was willing to part with large sums of money to curse the bnei Yisroel, they should have also extended themselves to feed the desert weary people. Therefore the Moavim are excluded from marrying a bas Yisroel. Hashem allowed them to show their true colours by spending money on Bilom and not on the bnei Yisroel, so He therefore told Bilom to only accept the task if he were to receive payment.

4) Generally, when one appoints an agent to transgress the Torah for him, only the agent is held responsible because of the rule "ein shliach lidvar a'veiroh" (gemara Kidushin 42b). However, if one HIRES an agent, then he is also held accountable (commentators on Ch.M. #182). Hashem wanted Bolok to also be punished, so he commanded Bilom to not agree to go along with the plan without being paid.

Ch. 22, v. 21, 22: "Va'yeilech im so'rei Moav, Va'yichar af Elokim ......" - There are six difficulties to be raised in the simple understanding of these two verses.

1) Why mention that Bilom was escorted by the ministers of Moav?

2) Why was Hashem angry that Bilom went? Had Hashem not granted him permission to go in verse 20?

3) The words "ki holeich HU" seem to indicate that he went alone. However, in verse 21 it says that he was accompanied by the ministers of Moav.

4) Why does the verse separate his going with the ministers of Moav from his going with his two youths? It should have read, "and he went with the ministers of Moav and with his two youths."

5) Why does it say "v'hu ROCHEIV," in the present tense, rather than "v'hu ROCHAV" in the past tense, as we find "va'yichar" and "va'yisyatzeiv."

6) Rashi says that we derive from the words "u'shnei n'orov imo" that a prestigious person should not travel without being escorted by two attendants to serve him. How is this derived? Possibly, Bilom did this not for the purpose mentioned in Rashi, but rather to impress the ministers of Moav with his entourage.

Rabbi Simcha haKohein Rappaport, Raava"d of Lublin, answers all the above questions with a new understanding of verse 22. The verse is actually telling us that he did NOT have two youths accompany him this time, although he was otherwise always escorted. The ministers of Moav came to him and would obviously escort him to their land of Moav. Bilom did not need his regular two escorts on the way to Moav. Knowing that Hashem would not agree to his cursing the bnei Yisroel, he should have projected that he would be sent back in shame and not have any accompaniment on his return trip, thus necessitating his bringing his two youths along for the trip back. His not bringing the two youths along indicated that he expected to have a royal escort go back with him because he was ready to curse the bnei Yisroel even against the wishes of Hashem.

All of the above questions are now answered. Numbers correspond to the questions raised above.

1) The accompaniment of the ministers of Moav is mentioned to indicate that he therefore left over his youths, assuming that they would escort him home as well.

2) Hashem was angry at Bilom even though permission was granted to go, but not to curse against Hashem's will.

3) "Ki holeich HU" means that he went, "without his two youths", but not that he went totally alone.

4) The verse could not have combined the escort of the ministers with the escort of his two youths, as the verse is actually saying that he went without his two youths, "ki holeich HU."

5) "V'hu ROCHEIV" in the present tense does not refer to the present incident, or else it would have expressed it as "v'hu ROCHAV." These words forewarn a concern which could be raised on the proof of his intending to curse and assuming that he would have a royal Moavi escort on the way back. Rashi says that we derive from here that a prestigious person should take two people along as escorts on his trips. Possibly, Bilom did not comply with this and the proof for his negative intentions is baseless. The verse therefore says that "he REGULARLY takes along his two youths" on all other trips, hence the present tense. It does not refer to this particular trip where he did NOT take them along.

6) We therefore know that Bilom took along escorts on a regular basis, and not to impress the ministers of Moav, as he did not take his youths along on this trip. Rashi is now conclusively able to derive the rule of "A prestigious person should take two people along as escorts on his trips."

(Peninei Kedem)

Answer to last week's question:

The word with the greatest numerical value in the Torah, surprisingly has only five letters. It is "SISTOREIR" (16:13), which has a value of 1,500.


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