by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHIOS CHUKAS-BOLOK 5769 BS"D
Ch. 19, v. 1,2: "Va'y'dabeir Hashem el Moshe v'el Aharon, Dabeir el bnei Yisroel" - And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, Speak to the bnei Yisroel - Even though the verse says that Hashem spoke to both Moshe and Aharon, the single form "dabeir" of 2 is in place, as the medrash (parshas Shmos) says that there are eleven places in the Torah where it says that Hashem spoke to both Moshe and Aharon, but the intention is that Hashem spoke to Moshe to tell Aharon. This is obvious to most of us. What is interesting is that the Ramban makes an issue of it. On "dabeir" he comments that it should have been plural, and the reason it is in the single person form is that Moshe was the main speaker. This seems quite puzzling, but is better understood in light of the Ramban's commenting in the next verse that "el Moshe v'el Aharon" means that Hashem told Moshe that Aharon should accompany him in publicizing this mitzvoh. Why he says this here, and in all likelihood does not posit that it is the same by the other ten times deserves clarification.
Ch. 19, v. 2: "V'yikchu ei'lecho poroh" - And they shall take to you a cow - The Rambam hilchos poroh 1:1 writes that the animal should be three years old (over two years) or older. It should not be purchased when it is still a calf, as the verse says that you shall take (purchase) a COW, not a calf. He adds that they should not wait to process it after it goes into its fourth year, as it is likely that it will develop black hairs and become disqualified. If in the search for a totally red heifer they come across one that is still a calf, they should not purchase it. Rather, a fixed price should be agreed upon and it should remain the property of the farmer until it matures and then the transaction should be completed.
Ch. 19, v. 3: "V'shochat osoh l'fonov" - And he shall slaughter it in front of him - Who should slaughter it? Rashi says that a non-Kohein slaughters and Elozor watches, i.e. anyone may slaughter the red heifer. This is sourced from the gemara Yoma 42a. This is the opinion of Shmuel. Rav disagrees and says that only Elozor may slaughter the cow. Rashi explains the verse according to Shmuel rather than Rav, even though Rav interprets "l'fonov" not to mean that Elozor was the observer of someone else slaughtering the cow, but that the cow always be in his sight to safeguard it from any disqualifying occurrence. Even though Rav offers a very good explanation of the verse, nevertheless, Rashi chose to explain it according to Shmuel because the verse is more simply understood that way. (Maskil l'Dovid)
B'eir Basodeh says that Shmuel's interpretation is preffered because his opinion is the halachically accepted one. Even though we usually follow Rav over Shmuel when the issue is one of "issur v'hetter," permitted and not permitted, this case is an exception because Shmuel is not alone. Rabbi Yochono sides with his as well. The Rambam hilchospsulei hamukdoshim 1:2 writes that the red heifer may be slaughtered by a non-Kohein, just as all sacrifices may be slaughtered by a non-Kohein.
Targum Yonoson ben Uziel writes that indeed Elozor should not slaughter it, but it requires another Kohein for this ritual. Although it requires a Kohein, for some reason Elozor is excluded.
Ch. 19, v. 4: "V'lokach Elozor haKohein" - And Elozor the Kohein shall take - It is well known that Elozor is a Kohein. This is well understood according to Shmuel, that the slaughtering can be done by a non-Kohein. The verse therefore stresses that we need a Kohein from this point forward. However, the Sifri says that we derive from the word "hsKohein" that the one who does this service be a Kohein who is wearing his Kohanic vestments, even though the service is done outside the Mikdosh compound.
Ch. 19, v. 5: "V'soraf es haporoh l'einov es oroh" - And he shall burn the cow in front of his eyes its hide - Why does the verse interject "l'fonov" in the middle of detailing what parts of the cow are to be burned? The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh explains that it is preferable to burn it whole, "v'soraf es haporoh," but if it was dismembered before burning it is also acceptable, "es oroh" etc. (Poroh 4:2). We would not know this if it was one continuum. We would assume that the mention of its parts teaches us that it is preferable to first dismember it.
Ch. 23, v. 3: "Va'yeilech shefi" - And he went alone - This is Rashi's translation. In an earlier edition numerous translations were offered. The Baal Haturim says that the letter Fei of this word is doubled. This means that instead of the reversed letter Vov hanging from the left end of the top stroke of the letter, it is a second letter Fei inside the larger Fei. )This appears four times in a pair of tefillin according to the Kabalists.) The doubling teaches us that we have a PiSHPuSH, an extreme effort at finding an auspicious time to invoke a curse.
Rabbeinu Yoel says that the Fei is oversized. This indicates that he attempted to enlarge the scope of the power of the mouth, an attribute of the bnei Yisroel. He unsuccessfully attempted to use their profession. In our Torah scroll we have neither the doubled Fei nor the enlarged Fei.
Ch. 23, v. 4: "Va'yikor Elokim" - And Elokim happened - Compare this with verse 16, where it says, "Va'yikor Hashem." Here the strict judgment Name of Hashem is used because Hashem communicated with Bilom in an angry manner, since Bilom attempted to invoke a curse upon the bnei Yisroel. In verse 16 he had already done Hashem's wishes, so the characteristic of mercy name Hashem appears.
Similarly, Rabbeinu Bachyei says that here Bilom still harboured a hope to invoke a curse upon them, but in verse 16 he already realized that he could not do so.
Ch. 23, v. 9: "Hen om l'vodod yishkon" - Behold a nation that will rest alone - Bolok continuously searched out manners through which invoking a curse against the bnei Yisroel would be effective. Time and again Bilom responded that it would not work. Here too, Bolok requested of Bilom to curse the bnei Yisroel through the medium of joining them in his curse with other nations that deserve a curse. To this Bilom responded that it cannot be done, as the bnei Yisroel are a unique individual nation that rests alone. They cannot be joined with others. (Medrash Hagodol)
Ch. 23, v. 10: "Mi monoh afar Yaakov" - Who can count the sand of Yaakov - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel explains that this refers to the merit of circumcision, where the "orloh" is placed into sand. The Baal Haturim notes that "afar" has the same numerical value as "orloh b'chol."
Ch. 23, v. 10: "Umispor es rova Yisroel" - And the number of rova Yisroel - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel explains that Bilom is saying that he cannot count the merits of even one quarter of the bnei Yisroel, i.e. one group encampment. It seems that he says this because the count of all of them is possible, as it was indeed done.
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