by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS CHUKAS 5772 BS"D
Ch. 19, v. 14: "Zose haTorah odom ki yomus b'ohel" - This is the law when a person dies in a tent - This verse teaches us that not only when one comes into physical contact with a corpse, but also when he is in a covered, enclosed area with a corpse, he also becomes defiled. The gemara Nidoh 70b asks if Lote's wife, whose bodied turned into a pillar of salt, also defiles "b'ohel." Based on the gemara Y'vomos 61a, which says that where the word "odom" is used it means exclusively a ben Yisroel, Tosfos in the above-mentioned gemara asks why there is even a question regarding Lote's wife, as she was not a bas Yisroel. Tosfos answers that word "odom" means exclusively a ben Yisroel only after the Torah was given, and Lote's wife died earlier. Thus the gemara raises a question about her only because she became a pillar of salt.
This concept of Tosfos might well be alluded to in these words of our verse. "Zose haTorah ODOM," now that we have the Torah, and not before, is why the laws of "o'hel" apply only to ODOM, a ben Yisroel. (Toldos Yaakov)
Ch. 20, v. 5: "Lo m'kome zera us'einoh v'gefen v'rimon umayim ayin lishtose" - Not a place of seed and fig and grapes and pomegranate and no water to drink - It is obvious that in the desert no fruit grows. They were now lacking basic drinking water as the well of Miriam ceased to function. Why didn't they complain about the lack of fruit earlier? Why did they mention water last? It is the most basic need and its lack far supersedes the lack of fruit.
Sh.O. O.Ch 299:10 mentions the custom of some people to fetch water from a wellspring on Motzei Shabbos because the wellspring of Miriam travels throughout the world and distributes a bit of its waters. These waters have the power to heal. Surely the waters of the wellspring undiluted have this power. The gemara Sanhedrin 17b cites the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, that a Torah scholar may not live in a community where no variety of fruits is available, as fruit brings back to good function of one's faltering eyesight.
This was their complaint. Until now, when they had the wellspring's waters there was no need for fruits, but now that it stopped functioning there was now a need for fruit as well. (Pnei Aryeh Zuta)
Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'dibartem el ha'sela" - And you shall speak to the rock - In Shmos 17:6, when the bnei Yisroel were in R'fidim, Hashem tells Moshe to strike the rock and it would then give forth its waters. Here the command is to speak to the rock. Yalkut Shimoni explains that since the incident in Shmos took place close to forty years earlier we can equate it to a young child. To get the child to cooperate we often have to hit him. When he matures, talking is sufficient. (Obviously, this is all a symbolic gesture that corresponds to the people in the desert.)
Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'dibartem el ha'sela" - And you (plural) shall speak to the rock - In Dvorim 32:51 we find Hashem telling Moshe that he would not enter Eretz Yisroel, but rather, that he would die on the trans-Jordanian side as did Aharon. This is because "M'altem bi, lo kidashtem osi." Many commentators question Aharon's wrongdoing. What was it? A medrash says that it has not been clarified even to Aharon, and he accepted it without equanimity, to show us his phenomenal character. Another medrash says that it was the result of his not stopping Moshe before the second blow to the rock. Perhaps another insight can be offered based on the word "v'dibartem" of our verse. It is in the plural form. If this means literally that BOTH of them should speak to the rock, independent of Moshe's striking the rock, Aharon did not speak to it. Although many a command was expressed in the plural to Moshe and Aharon, and the intention is that Moshe should advise Aharon, here given the difficulty raised above we might say that the command was for Aharon to act as well. (n.l.)
Ch. 21, v. 2,3: "V'hecheramti es o'reihem, Va'yacha'reim es'hem v'es o'reihem" - And I will lay to waste their cities, And he laid them and their cities to waste - Originally they only vowed to destroy their cities, so why did they destroy them as well? Why not just take them prisoner?
They originally thought that their opponents were Canaanites. There was no need to destroy them. When they entered into combat they realized that these people were actually Amoleikim, whom it is a mitzvoh to eradicate (Dvorim 25:19). (Chasam Sofer)
Ch. 21, v. 8,9: "A'sei l'cho sorof, Va'yaas Moshe n'chash hanchoshes" - Make for yourself a fiery serpent, And Moshe made a copper snake - It seems that Moshe did not follow through on Hashem's command with all its details, as Hashem commanded him to craft a fiery serpent and we find that Moshe created a copper snake (see Rashi and Ramban). The people complained about the manna and also about Moshe's taking them out of Egypt. They thus spoke negatively against both Hashem and Moshe. Hashem wanted Moshe to craft a fiery serpent, only concerning Himself with the slight against Moshe. This is why Hashem said "a'sei L'CHO," for your honour. A fiery serpent is appropriate, based on the mishnoh Pirkei Ovos 2:11, "Warm yourself near the fire of the sages, but be careful to not get burnt, as their hiss is the hiss of a fiery serpent.
Moshe, on the other hand, was not concerned with his own honour. He was only concerned with their slighting Hashem by complaining about the manna. As explained by Rashi, the snake slandered Hashem to Chavoh (Breishis 3), so it is appropriate to create a snake as a physical symbol of their wrongdoing so that they ask Hashem for forgiveness. (Alshich Hakodosh)
Ch. 21, v. 9: "V'hoyoh im noshach hanochosh es ish v'hibit el n'chash hanchoshes vochoy" - And it would be if a snake bit a man and he would stare at the copper snake and he would live - These words begin with "v'hoyoh," which connotes happiness (see gemara Megiloh 2 and M.R. Breishis 42:3). What great joy is there in being bitten by a venomous snake? In the previous verse it says, "V'hoyoh kol hanoshuch v'ro'oh oso vochoy." We derive from "KOL hanoshuch" that even if a person was not bitten by a snake in this incidence, but rather, was suffering from an animal bite, a donkey or the like, and was also ill, if he were to look (no need to stare, "v'ro'oh" and not "v'hibit") at the copper snake, he would also be healed. For him the snake attack was advantageous as he now had a medium through which he would be healed. (Meshech Chochmoh)
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