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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 19, v. 2: "V'yikchu ei'lecho foroh adumoh" - And they should bring you a red heifer - The reading of the ritual of the "poroh adumoh" in public from a valid Torah Scroll is a Torah mitzvoh according to Tosfos haRosh and the Rashb"o on the gemara Brochos 13a. The Mo'gein Avrohom O.Ch. #685 finds no source for this opinion. The Malbim in Artzos Hachaim suggests that the source is as follows: The Torah states, "Z'chore al tishkach eis asher hiktzafto es Hashem Elokecho bamidbor" (Dvorim 9:7). This refers to the sin of the golden calf. The Mo'gein Avrohom himself writes that we do not have a Torah required reading of the sin of the golden calf, even though the verse says "remember," just as it does by the eradication of Amo'leik, because the reading of the sin of the golden calf is a most embarrassing episode. Rashi says that the "poroh adumoh" atones for the sin of the golden calf in the vein of "let the mother cow come and clean up after the soiling of its calf." Thus we read the chapter of "poroh adumoh" as a covert reminder of the sin of the golden calf in place of the chapter of the golden calf itself.

Ch. 19, v. 2: "Adumoh t'mimoh" - Totally red - The red heifer must be completely red, to the point that if it even has only 2 hairs that are not red it is not ritually valid (mishnayis Poroh 2:5). We similarly find the word form "tam" in the verse "Tomim t'h'yeh im Hashem Elokecho" (Dvorim 18:13), - be complete with Hashem. However, there it is required to be complete with Hashem to the point that falling short even 1 hair's breadth is considered not complying with the verse's exhortation. (Chidushei hoRi"m)

Ch. 19, v. 19,21: "V'hizoh ha'tohor al hato'mei, .. L'chukas olom uma'zei mei hanidoh y'cha'beis b'godov" - And the ritually clean person shall sprinkle upon the defiled person, For an everlasting statute and the sprinkler of the water shall purify his clothing - Here, as well as earlier in verses 9 and 10 we find that the facilitators of the purifying procedure must be people who are ritually clean. However, upon going through the procedure and purifying the defiled person, they become defiled. This phenomenon is called, "m'ta'heir es hatmei'im u'm'ta'mei es hat'horim." This is indeed beyond our comprehension and is therefore considered the quintessential statute. The Noam Elimelech extracts from this an insight into our service of Hashem. When we fall back spiritually, i.e. we sin, then we repent and grow spiritually, ascending even higher than we previously were before sinning. However, at that point there is nothing pushing us forward to reach even higher levels. Hashem brings about that we again fall short in some manner, so that we again will repent and move onward and upward in His service. This is a never-ending cycle. Thus the purity of our act of ascending spiritually, "taharoh," causes us to fall back, "tumoh," "m'ta'mei es hat'horim," which in turn causes us to reach upwards again, "m'ta'heir es hatmei'im."

Ch. 20, v. 8: "V'dibartem el ha'sela l'ei'nei'hem" - And you shall speak towards the stone in front of their eyes - What should Moshe say? The M.R. 19:9 says that he was commanded to say an halachic dissertation. The N'tzi"v offers 2 explanations of this medrash. One is that with Moshe's telling over words of Torah to all of the bnei Yisroel he would re-enact the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai, as the words that would emanate from his throat would be on the level of Hashem Himself communicating, "sh'chinoh m'da'be'res mitoch grono shel Moshe." When the giving of the Torah took place there was a supernatural flow of water, as related in Shoftim 5:5, "af ovim notfu mayim." Here too, this activity would bring about an abundant flow of water. Alternatively, he offers that anytime there is a congregation of bnei Yisroel learning the Torah it creates a Celestial influence of happenings that are not restricted by nature, so water would abundantly flow even from a dry rock in the middle of the desert.

Rabbi Eliyohu Kanarek shlit"a, Rosh Yeshivas Ohr Ha'meir, offers that when the bnei Yisroel are in a position that there is no visible means of sustenance, lacking even the most minimal of items, drinking water, if one totally immerses himself into Torah study, Hashem will surely provide.

Ch. 20, v. 11: "Va'yach es ha'sela b'ma'teihu PAAMOYIM" - And he smote the rock with his staff PAAMOYIM - We are accustomed to translate PAAMOYIM as twice. Why would Moshe strike the rock twice? The M.R. says that when he struck the rock the first time only a trickle of water came out. Upon striking it a second time it emitted a powerful stream. However, the Mechilta of Rashb"i writes on the word PAAMOYIM, "chad d'ovid hashto v'chad d'ovid mikodem," - one that he did now, and one that he previously did. It seems that according to this interpretation, PAAMOYIM does not mean TWICE, but rather, a second time. Moshe had already struck the rock earlier, as recorded in Shmos 17:6. (Haksav V'hakaboloh)


Ch. 24, v. 5: "Mah tovu o'ho'lecho Yaakov" - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates this is as, "How goodly are your study halls in which your Patriarch Yaakov served."

In the preface to Otzar Yad Hachaim #7 it relates that when the Holy Admor Rabbi Sar Sholo-m of Belz traveled to the wedding of his son Rabbi Moshe, he passed through a community that had an eight-hundred year old synagogue. He was invited to enter it and pray there. He found it most difficult to muster up proper concentration during his prayers, to his great surprise. Upon inquiring if anyone in the community knew the history of the building of the synagogue, he was advised that it was built through the financial efforts of people who were heretics. He thus understood why even eight-hundred years later his prayers in the synagogue were detrimentally affected. The negative effects of those who founded the synagogue remained.

In this vein the Holy Admor of Kaliv explains the mishneh in Pirkei Ovos 3:2. "If two people are sitting together and no words of Torah pass between them, this place IS a site for mockers." He asks why the mishneh does not say, "this place BECOMES a site for mockers," as it receives that status only after the sans-Torah sitting has taken place. He answers that the intention of the mishneh is that if two people who are capable of discussing words of Torah sit together and do not discuss Torah, it is puzzling. Why indeed did they not talk "divrei Torah"? The answer is that the place ALREADY had a status of being a locale for mockers. No doubt people had been there before and made a mockery of the Torah. This in turn brought a deleterious effect upon the place, thus restraining people from talking in Torah in this place even later.

We now understand that the tents, the houses of prayer and study, are goodly because Yaakov our Patriarch imbued them with sanctity.

Ch. 22, v. 31: "Va'yikod va'yishtachu l'apov" - And he kneeled and he bowed down on/to his face - (Please note that the "on/to" translation is dependent upon two texts in Targum Onkelos.) The N'tzi"v writes that this is the custom of the prophets, to bow down to an angel, as we also find by Yehoshua (Yehoshua 5:14). The Rekanti on Shmos 20:3 raises the question of how was Yehoshua permitted to bow down to the angel since bowing down is one of 4 services that when not done for Hashem is punishable by death, even when it is not the normal manner of service, as is clearly stated in the gemara R.H. 24b. He similarly raises this question on Breishis 18:2, where we find that Avrohom bowed down to the 3 angels who came past his tent.

He answers that when an angel appears in the form of a human being then it is permitted, as the bowing is a manner of giving honour, but if the angel appears in a spiritual form only, then it is prohibited (see Ibn Ezra on Breishis 23:7).

The Ra"n in drush #4 explains that the angel that appeared to Yehoshua was the same angel whom Hashem told Moshe He would send to the bnei Yisroel, as is clearly stated in the Medrash Tanchuma parshas Mishpotim #18. Since this angel has an elevated status over all other angels, as the verse says "ki shmi b'kirbo" (Shmos 23:21), bowing to it is to be equated with bowing to Hashem. These words of the Ra"n seem to clearly be in disagreement with the N'tzi"v mentioned above.

Ch. 25, v. 4: "Kach es kol roshei ho'om v'hoka osom" - Take all the heads of the nation and hang them up high - Targum Onkelos and Targum Yonoson ben Uziel both interpret these words to mean, "Take the heads of the nation" - and appoint them as judges to rule who is guilty of idol worship, and those who are found guilty - "hang them up high."

This is also the opinion of Rabbi Nechemioh in the Medrash Tanchuma. However, we also find there the opinion of Rabbi Yudon that Hashem's command to Moshe was to take the heads of the nation and hang them because they did not stop those who served the idols. This teaches us the awesome responsibility of the leaders of the nation. The Holy Zohar in his commentary on Shmos 3:2 is in agreement with Rabbi Yudon, and even adds that they were punished first (see gemara Shabbos 55a).

Ch. 25, v. 4: "V'hoka osom laShem neged hasho'mesh" - And hang them up high to Hashem towards the sun - Rashi offers us 2 interpretations of "neged hasho'mesh," either that they be visible to all, or that the roof of the clouds of glory peeled away above the heads of the guilty parties, and the sun shined upon them, a Heavenly sign that they were guilty.

However, Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that it means that they be left hanging "from morning until night." This is contrary to the procedure done to all others who are hung after being subject to the death penalty of "skiloh." They are hung and immediately removed (gemara Sanhedrin 46b).

This can be explained by noting that the Torah does not even mention their being punished by "skiloh," and only mentioning their hanging. The choice of "v'hoka" over "u'slei" teaches us that they should be hung "high up" as in 'v'hokanum laShem" (Shmuel 2:21:6), by the sons of King Sho'ul. Thus the stress is on their being very visible. In keeping with this, Targum Yonoson posits that they were left hanging all day, giving the public ample time to see this.

The need for their being visible to all is explained by Rabbeinu M'yuchos. Since they desecrated Hashem's Holy Name in a very public manner, so too, their punishment had to be very public. The Tzror Hamor offers that since they sinned with the daughters of Midyon in a clandestine manner, their shame was made public, as per the dictum, "He who desecrates Hashem's name even in private, receives retribution in public." Sforno offers that since many people were guilty of seeing people sin and not stopping them, they had the opportunity to see the very public killing of the guilty parties, and by not interfering they received atonement.

Although I have translated the word "v'hoka" as "hang up high," as per the Shaa'rei Aharon, the Konkordanzia translates it as "kill."



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

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