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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 20, v. 14: "Atoh yodato es kol hatlo'oh asher m'tzo'osnu" - You are aware of all the travail that has come upon us - How did Moshe know that Edom knew? Edom and bnei Yisroel have a seesaw relationship. When one is up the other is down. Edom, by seeing its own situation of peace and calm readily realized that the bnei Yisroel had gone through many difficulties. (Imrei Shefer)

Ch. 20, v. 17: "Derech ha'melech neileich" - On the kings highway we will go - In the next verse Edom responds that he gives no permission to pass through. In the verse after that the bnei Yisroel give a counter-offer, to travel only on the path, "bamsiloh." What is the give and take? Edom responded that if the bnei Yisroel travel on a very broad thoroughfare there is a real fear that as a well assembled group they might wage war with Edom. Therefore the bnei Yisroel responded that they would travel only on a narrow path, which does not physically allow for a large group of people to be assembled in one area, but rather only in single file. This removes all concern. In spite of this Edom refused (verse 20). (Da'mesek Eliezer)

Alternatively, the gemara K'subos says that if a person signed as a witness on a writ of sale of a certain property he cannot later claim that the sale was not valid, even if he personally does not gain from the sale not being valid. Although Edom left Eretz Yisroel, he did not want to allow the bnei Yisroel direct passage to their land. This would be akin to agreement that it is their land. (Hadoroh Shel Torah)

This might be the intention of the words "pen ba'cherev eitzei likro'secho" (verse 18). These words seem most puzzling. If Edom was saying no, and was threatening to fight the bnei Yisroel if they entered their land, why not state straightforwardly "ba'cherev eitzei"? Why the word "pen"? They were saying that one day in the future they might want to reclaim the land, when the bnei Yisroel might ch"v not have sufficient merit. At this point in time Edom was afraid to lay claim to Eretz Yisroel. The bnei Yisroel responded that they would travel byways and not highways. When traveling by highway they would pass through quickly and not come in contact with people who sell water (before the days of HoJos). When traveling on narrow local roads they would move much, much slower, thus requiring drink on the way, and also being in contact with local people who live on the sides of the road. This would negate the claim that Edom acknowledged that the bnei Yisroel have a right to the land by accommodating them to travel directly there. Edom could claim that they did this to generate the high profit sale of water to throat parched travelers. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 20, v. 22: "Va'yovo'u vnei Yisroel kol ho'eidoh" - And the bnei Yisroel came all the congregation - What need is there to add "kol ho'eidoh"? Ibn Ezra answers that one might think that since Edom confronted the bnei Yisroel with arms (verse 20), there was a minimal skirmish and some casualties were sustained by the bnei Yisroel. Therefore our verse tells us that ALL the bnei Yisroel traveled to Hore Hohor.

Alternatively, the verse is praising the bnei Yisroel. The bnei Yisroel turned away and did not enter into a fray because Hashem commanded that they not fight Edom (Dvorim 2:4,5). One might think that some "baryonim" of the time would insist upon fighting and not turning cheek, and that they stayed on to fight. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 20, v. 25: "V'haal" - And bring up - The Baal Haturim notes that this word only appears in the Torah one other time, "v'haal es hatzfardim" (Shmos 8:1). He does not explain the "mesoroh" connection. Perhaps we can say that based on the Medrash Tanchuma chapter #14 brought by Rashi on Shmos 8:2, which states that only one frog emerged from the Nile and people smote it, causing it to spew forth many, many more frogs, we have an insight. Had the Egyptians not smitten the frog they could have saved themselves much woe. After all, how much damage can one solitary frog inflict? Similarly, upon the death of Aharon there would have been no difficulty experienced by the gentiles. However, Canaan, upon hearing of Aharon's passing fought the bnei Yisroel (21:1). They suffered a humiliating defeat (verse 3). They should have learned a lesson from the Egyptians' smiting the frog. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 20, v. 26: "V'hafsheit es Aharon es b'godov" - And remove Aharon's garments - The M.R. asks how Aharon was allowed to wear the Kohein Godol garments, which contained shaatnez outside the Mishkon campus, where he was obviously not doing any service. Hadei'oh V'hadibur answers that just as Aharon was permitted to wear his garments when away from the Mishkon to process the "poroh adumoh," so too, he was allowed to wear them when he went to his death, as this is equal to processing the "poroh adumoh." Just as the "poroh adumoh" brings atonement, so does the death of the righteous (gemara M.K. 28a).

Ch. 21, v. 8: "A'sei l'cho sorof v'sim oso al neis" - Make for yourself a serpent and place it upon a pole - The Baal Halochos G'dolos counts this command as one of the 613 mitzvos. The Rambam disagrees, saying that it is not to be counted because it is not a command for all generations. Seemingly, we can add another reason. This command was not to the nation, but specifically to Moshe.

Ch. 21, v. 20: "Umibomose hagai" - And from elevations the valley - In a homiletic manner the gemara N'dorin 55a says that these words teach us that if a person becomes conceited from his considerable Torah knowledge he will sink to the depths, like one who is on an elevation and ends up in the bottom of a valley. The gemara Yerushalmi Y'vomos says that a community outside Eretz Yisroel asked for a Torah scholar to be sent to lecture for them. Rabbi Sissi, an outstanding student, was sent. He was brought up steps to an elevated platform to deliver his lecture and not one word came out of his mouth. He had totally forgotten all his Torah knowledge. When he returned to Eretz Yisroel he immediately regained his knowledge, and related all this to his teachers. He admitted that upon walking up to the lectern he felt very proud of all his Torah knowledge, and immediately his mind became blank. What a poignant illustration of "umibomose hagai."

Ch. 21, v. 20: "V'nishkofoh al pnei ha'y'shimone" - And it was viewed (from) on the face of the desolate area - This is the translation according to Rashi's second explanation. Based on the Medrash Tanchuma Rashi says that if one were to stand on the Y'shimone and face the sea of T'verioh, the Ki'ne'res, he would see in the sea an area of water that looks like a sieve. This is the bubbling of the wellspring of Miriam, which ended up in the Ki'ne'res. Rashi (gemara M.K. 28a) on 20:1 d.h. "Vatomos shom Miriam" writes that Miriam died a most exalted death, by the "kiss of Hashem." Although by Aharon, who also died in this manner, the Torah clearly says this (33:38), the Torah did not want to write this by Miraim, as it is not respectful to overtly state that Hashem "kissed" her. The wellspring of Miriam being in the Ki'ne'res connotes that Miriam has passed away. Here lies an allusion to her dying by the "kiss of Hashem." The word "v'nishkofoh" with its letters shuffled around can be read as two words, "v'noshak peh." (Hadoroh Shel Torah)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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