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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 30, v. 12: "Ki siso es rosh bnei Yisroel" - The Medrash Tanchumoh 9 says that Hashem told Moshe that if he would calculate the FIRST letter, "ki siso es ROSH," of each of the tribes, "bnei Yisroel," he could arrive at their total population. When all the letters are added we arrive at 597(000). The count of the bnei Yisroel between the ages of 20 and 60 years totaled 600,000. Since 3,000 died as a punishment for serving the golden calf (32:28), there were 597,000 people left.

Ch. 30, v. 23: "Mor drore" - The gemara Chulin 139b asks, "Where is Mordechai alluded to in the Torah?" The gemara answers, "In the words 'mor drore,' which the Targum Onkeles translates as 'mira dachia,'" which is phonetically very close to the name Mordechai.

In his preface to the Hagodoh of Pesach the Rei'ach Dudo'im explains this with the Rambam hilchos klei hamikdosh 1:3 who says that the incense "mor drore" is derived from the sweat ("musk") of a non-kosher animal. The Raavad sharply disagrees with the Rambam, stating that an item used in the Mikdosh for the incense burning surely does not come from a non-kosher source. He posits that it is a plant extract. The Kesef Mishneh justifies the Rambam, stating that this sweat is dried and is ground down to a fine powder. It is considered a totally different object in this form, similar to sand, and is therefore totally kosher. See the Mogein Avrohom O.Ch. #216, s.k. 3.

The word "drore" is translated as FREE, as per commentators on Vayikroh 25:10. FREE, "mutar," also means permitted, while TIED, "ossur," means prohibited. Although the "mor" comes from a non-kosher source, nevertheless it is "drore," permitted, "dachia," pure, as explained by the Kesef Mishneh. The M.R. Bmidbar 19:1 comments on the words of the verse in Iyov 14:4, "Mi yi'tein tohore mito'mei, - Who can extract a pure object from a defiled one?" that this refers to Mordechai who was pure and holy, although he was the grandson (Megilas Esther 2:5) of the defiled Shimi (Shmuel 2:16:5, M'lochim 1:2:8.)

The allusion to Mordechai, a holy person who came from an unholy source is appropriately taken from "mor drore," an object used for the holy incense, also taken from an unholy source.

Ch. 30, v. 34: "KaCH l'CHo samiM" - The Baal Haturim points out that the last letters of these three words spell the word ChoChoM. This is an allusion to the gemara Horios 13b, which says that wine and fragrance give a person wisdom. It is obvious why the allusion for fragrance is appropriately mentioned, but why does the Baal Haturim mention wine which is not discussed in this verse?

The Nachalas Yaakov Yehoshua answers this with a statement of the Chidushei HoRI"M. He said that people mistakenly assume that a person who speaks a lot is a fool and one who speaks very little is a wise man. This is not the case. When the need arises for one to speak, be it divrei Torah, correcting a wrong, etc., one should speak out. It is wrong to remain silent. When there is no such need one should refrain from speaking. It totally depends upon the situation. A wise person is one who knows when to speak and when to be quiet. (See Koheles 3:7.)

The gemara Z'vochim 87a says that when the wine for the Mikdosh libations was poured from barrels into smaller vessels, those pouring would not talk as this was deleterious for the wine. On the other hand, the gemara Krisus 6b says that when the incense spices were ground, the grinders said "Ho'deik heiteiv heiteiv hod'eik," since talking is beneficial for ground spices. This, says the Nachalas Yaakov Yehoshua, is the reason the Baal Haturim mentions both wine and fragrances as an allusion to wisdom. A wise person is both quiet and talkative, similar to the nature of wine and fragrances.

Ch. 31, v. 6: "U'v'leiv kol CHACHAM leiv nosati CHOCHMOH" - It seems that the recipient of Hashem's wisdom already has wisdom in his heart. From where did he get his first level of wisdom? The Holy Admor Rabbi Aharon of Belz answers that this comes from "Reishis CHOCHMOH yiras Hashem" (T'hilim 111:10).

Ch. 31, v. 13: "Ach es Shabso'sei tishmoru ...... lodaas ki Ani Hashem m'kadish'chem" - Even though the building of the Mishkan (Beis Hamikdosh) is a very important task, nevertheless its building does not take precedence over guarding the sanctity of Shabbos and refraining from work. Rashi says that this is derived from our verse, while the Ramban says that the Toras Kohanim derives this from the words "Es Shabso'sei tishmoru umikdoshi tiro'u" (Vayikro 19:30).

Although the sanctity of Shabbos is greater than the building of the Mikdosh, the importance of the life of a ben Yisroel is greater than the sanctity of Shabbos, since one must desecrate Shabbos to save the life of his fellow Jew. The first word in our verse is ACH, a word indicating limitation (gemara Sanhedrin 49a, Rashi B.B. 14a and Sanhedrin 59b). The sanctity of Shabbos, although greater than that of the Mikdosh, is nonetheless pushed aside for saving a ben Yisroel's life. This is the conclusion of our verse, "Lodaas ki Ani Hashem m'kadish'chem." Since saving a ben Yisroel's life is paramount, you know that I Hashem have put a tremendous measure of sanctity into you. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh and Chasam Sofer)

Along the same lines, an adaptation of the words of Rabbi Shmuel of Kaminka - In the prayer of Shabbos Musof of Rosh Chodesh we say, "Ato yotzarto olomcho mi'kedem - You have created Your world from days yore." This can refer to the building of the Mishkon which was a microcosm of this world as explained in the Rosh and Daas Z'keinim in the end of parshas Pikudei. "Tziviso m'lach't'cho ba'yom hashvii - In spite of the importance of the Mishkon, You have commanded to refrain from doing work on the seventh day of the week, Shabbos overriding the building of the Mishkon. "Ohavto osonu - You have loved us." Greater is Your love for us than both the sanctity of Shabbos and the Mikdosh, as You have even commanded us to desecrate the Shabbos to save a Jewish life.

Ch. 31, v. 16: "V'SHOMRU vnei Yisroel es haShabbos" - The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh translates V'SHOMRU, not as "And they shall guard," but rather as "And they shall ANTICIPATE," similar to "V'oviv SHOMAR es hadovor" (Breishis 37:11), where Yaakov anxiously awaited the fulfillment of Yoseif's dreams. WE should not enter the Holy Shabbos complacently, but rather await it with great eagerness, as one would await the arrival of a most revered guest. (See gemara Shabbos 119a and B.K. 32b)

The following was said about Rabbi Nota of Ovritz, a student of the Holy Baal Shem Tov, while others said it about Rabbi Yehoshua of Apt, the Oheiv Yisroel: From the time he was mature he never slept on Shabbos, saying that since the Torah requires one to GUARD the Shabbos, "V'SHOMRU vnei Yisroel es haShabbos," a guard may not fall asleep on the job. (Siach Ovos and Shaa'rei Aryeh)

Please note that the Yalkut Re'uvaini in parshas Vo'es'chanan says that the letters of the word Shabbos, Shin-Beis-Tof, allude to Shinoh B'Shabbos Taanug, sleep on Shabbos is a delight.

Ch. 31, v. 16: "LA'ASOSE es haShabbos" - How does one MAKE the Shabbos? The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers that this is done through adding onto the Shabbos, creating Tosfos Shabbos.

By the way, the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh also derives from the words "LA'ASOSE es haShabbos" that the rule of desecrating the Shabbos to save one's life only applies to someone who could possibly live to keep a future Shabbos. If it is exceedingly obvious that the person to be saved will not survive until the following Shabbos, Shabbos may not be desecrated. This has raised the concern of many a commentator, because on a simple level this is contrary to the clearly stated halacha that one desecrates the Shabbos to even extend one's life for a moment.

Ch. 32, v. 11: "Lomoh yechereh apcho b'a'mecho asher hotzeiso mei'eretz Mitzrayim" - The Alshich Hakodosh interprets: "Why should You be angry at Your nation (for worshipping the golden calf) which You have just recently taken out of the land of Egypt, (the hotbed of idol worship)?"

Ch. 32, 12: "Shuv meicharone a'pecho v'hino'cheim al horo'oh l'a'mecho" - Why do we add "Hashem Elokei Yisroel" to the beginning of these words in our Monday and Thursday "tachanun" prayers? The Paa'nei'ach Rozo answers that "Hashem Elokei Yisroel" has the numeric value of 613, the total of the Torah's mitzvos. When asking Hashem to invoke His characteristic of forgiveness, we mention that we have accepted upon ourselves the yoke of fulfilling His 613 mitzvos.

Ch. 32, v. 14: "Va'yino'cheim Hashem al horo'oh asher di'beir laasose l'amo" - The Holy Kotzker Rebbi asks, "Why did Hashem forgive the nation the sin of worshipping the golden calf even though we do not find that they repented for their sin, and not forgive the sin of the spies (Bmidbar 14:29) even though they regretted their sin?" He answers that even though the sin of the golden calf was devastating, nevertheless the bnei Yisroel were in pursuit of spirituality, "Kum assei lonu elohim." This was not the case with the sin of the spies where they sinned in pursuit of imagined physical gains only. (Emes Mei'eretz Titzmach page 48)

Ch. 34, v. 6: "Hashem Hashem" - The gemara R.H. 17b tells us that when the 13 attributes of mercy are invoked Hashem always responds positively. There is a disagreement among the commentaries on how the 13 attributes are apportioned among the words of this and the next verse. The gemara says that the double word Hashem refers to mercy for the sinner, once before he sins and once after he sins. The Riv"o asks, "Why is it necessary to have mercy before one has sinned?" He answers that since Hashem knows what the future will bring, even before the sin there is a need for mercy. This surely deserves an explanation. How does Hashem's knowledge beforehand create a need for mercy for a person who is free of all sin?

Perhaps this can be answered with the words of the Ramban on Dvorim 29:18. On the words "Pen yeish bochem shoresh poreh rosh v'laanoh" the Ramban writes that although a person has not sinned he sometimes does actions which will lead him or his descendants on the path of sin. This is called a "shoresh," a root of sin, which will later develop into a full-blown sin. He says that sometimes this takes place in the realm of thought only, but that is enough to get one started down the road to sin. This explains why sometimes a righteous person has a child who ch"v does not follow the path of the Torah. Perhaps this is the level of "before sinning" to which the Riv"o refers in his explanation of the gemara, when a person has laid the ground for sinning in the future.

The Holy Kotzker Rebbe says that forgiveness is required for one who feels that he is perfect and has not sinned.


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