by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 30, v. 2: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe el roshei hamatos livnei Yisroel leimore zeh hadovor asher tzivoh Hashem" - Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of bnei Yisroel saying, "This is the thing that Hashem commanded." "El roshei hamatos" may be translated as, "REGARDING the heads of the tribes." Moshe spoke to bnei Yisroel regarding the heads of the tribes, and he said, "Whatever the heads of the tribes say, should be regarded as if that is the thing which Hashem commanded." One must obey the decrees of our leaders no less than the decrees of Hashem. (Chasam Sofer)

Ch. 31, v. 4: "L'chol matos Yisroel" - Rashi quotes the Sifri 35, that this includes the tribe of Levi. We find in the next verse that 12,000 soldiers were conscripted. If we include Levi, it should have been a total of 13,000 soldiers.

Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrachi answers that Ephraim and Menashe are considered two tribes only regarding matters pertaining to inheritance of the land, e.g. with the spies. Here, however, regarding the revenge of Hashem in the war against Midyon, they are considered one tribe.

Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenuroh answers that in total there were 13,000 soldiers.

Rashi in v. 5 on the word "vayimosru," they were given over, explains that they were conscripted against their will, knowing that Moshe would die shortly after the war with Midyon. We know that the tribe of Levi would not take Moshe's imminent death into consideration, but rather would pursue the command of Hashem, as it says in Dvorim 33:9, regarding the sin of the golden calf, "And his brothers he did not recognize, and his sons he did not know."

Nothing stood in the way of their fulfilling Hashem's will. So we have a total of 13,000 soldiers, of whom only 12,000 were "vayimosru," conscripted against their will.

I have difficulty with this answer, as the Medrash Shir Hashirim chapter 4:3 says, "Rabbi Chananioh ben Yitzchok says that 12,000 people went to war against Midyon."

Ch. 31, v. 23: Kashering the vessels captured in war - The Daas Z'keinim asks why these laws were not taught earlier, in the wars against Sichon and Og.

He answers that those wars were waged on the battlefied, so they did not yield household utensils among the spoils. However, the war against Midyon was waged in their cities, so household utensils were part of the spoils. I have difficulty in understanding this explanation as in Dvorim 2:35 it says regarding the spoils of the war with Sichon, "U'shlal he'ORIM asher lochodnu."

The Ramban answers that the lands of Sichon and Og included areas that Hashem promised to the bnei Yisroel as an inheritance, "eretz shivas ho'amim." The war waged to capture these lands was a "milchemes mitzvoh." The gemara Chulin 17a says that during this type of war, even pig may be eaten to give strength to the soldiers. If so, the non-kosher flavours absorbed into the walls of cooking vessels were surely not a concern.

The Ohr Chodosh answers that Chazal tell us that the war against Sichon and Og took a full twenty-four hours and Hashem miraculously kept the sun in the sky for that whole period of time. Once twenty-four hours pass, the flavours absorbed into the walls of a vessel spoil, and the vessel may be used. (A Rabbinical injunction prohibits their use without kashering even after 24 hours.)

Ch. 32, v. 25: "VA'YOMER bnei Gad uvnei Reuvein" - Why the singular form VA'YOMER, rather than "Va'yomru?"

1) Rashi says "kulom k'ish echod," they all unanimously replied as one person. The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel also says, "b'askomuso chado," in united agreement.

2) The Baal Haturim says that the greatest person of the two tribes spoke to Moshe. In the same vein as the Baal Haturim, the N'tzi"v says that since these two tribes hoped to live on the Trans-Jordanian side, they created a division between themselves and the rest of the bnei Yisroel. They appointed their own leader and spokesman who spoke to Moshe, hence the term VA'YOMER, in the singular form.

3) The Meshech Chochmoh says that since they offered to go along with the bnei Yisroel to war in the Promised Land, they would be leaving their wives and children behind. They needed permission from their wives to be allowed to do this. Their wives granted them permission, and the unanimous agreement of women as well as men is expressed in the singular form.

Ch. 35, v. 25,27,31: "Ka'asher adoni M'TZA'VEH, Ka'asher adoni DOVEIR, asher di'beir Hashem" - The response of the tribes of Reuvein and Gad to Moshe was that they would accept his recommendations. However, we find that they expressed themselves in different manners, twice mentioning "adoni," our master Moshe, and once mentioning Hashem. As well, there is a change from M'TZA'VEH to DOVEIR to DI'BEIR.

The Binyan Shlomo answers the difference between M'TZA'VEH and DOVEIR by explaining the mistake the two tribes made in giving priority to attending the needs of their livestock over their families. Moshe explained that the needs of their families should take priority. This is clearly indicated in the difference of the sequence as expressed by the two tribes and as expressed by Moshe. Moshe's ruling not only applied in this particular situation, but was also a lesson for future generations. Their acceptance is therefore expressed as M'TZA'VEH, meaning of a permanent nature.

A second point Moshe made was that their plan would only be acceptable if they were to go along with the rest of the bnei Yisroel and help in the wars to take control of Eretz Yisroel. This was a point that was only relevant for that time and not for generations. Their acceptance of this second ruling is therefore expressed as DOVEIR.

Proof that DIBUR refers to a matter of only immediate relevance and TZIVUI to a matter pertaining to all generations can be brought from the circumcisions Avrohom performed on Yishmoel and Yitzchok. The command to circumcise Yishmoel was only pertinent to that one circumstance and is expressed as, "Va'yomol ...... kaasher DIBEIR ito Elokim" (Breishis 17:23). The command to circumcise Yitzchok and future generations is expressed as, "Va'yomol Avrohom es Yitzchok b'no ...... kaasher TZIVO oso Elokim" (Breishis 21:4). Another very clear proof is from the gemara Kidushin 29a which says that we know that Avrohom was commanded to circumcise, but how do we know that later generations have this command as well. The gemara answers that since it says "kaasher TZIVO oso" we know that it applies to later generations as well.

We are still left with the variations found in verse 31, "asher dibeir HASHEM. The Meshech Chochmoh answers this with the opinion of the Shiltos d'Rebbi Achai Gaon on our parsha. We derive numerous technical rules regarding binding stipulations (such as tnai koful) from the conversation between Moshe and the two tribes. Rabbi Achai Gaon, based on a Sifri, posits that these rules are waived when an agent presents a conditional proposition.

Until this point the two tribes thought that Moshe was negotiating with them as an agent of Hashem, and therefore expressed themselves with ADONI, our master Moshe, indicating that he was involved as an agent. Once they heard him articulate the conditions with all the technical rules required, they realized that his words were to be considered as if Hashem Himself was talking to them without a go-between. At this point they said "kaasher dibeir HASHEM."


Ch. 33, v. 1: "Eileh massei" - The Tur Y.D. #275 (hilchos Sefer Torah) says that there should be no less than 48 and no more than 60 lines of writing on each column of a Sefer Torah. The source for this is a ma'seches Sofrim 2:6.

He then brings the opinion of Rabbi Yehudoh of Barcelona who says that there should be 42 lines per column. A mnemonic for this amount is the word BOM (Beis and Mem equal 42) as per the verse "Hashem BOM Sinai bakodesh" (T'hilim 68:18).

The above ma'seches Sofrim actually mentions more options. It says that a sofer should write a 48 line per column format, which would be derived from the 48 separate travels from station to station in the wilderness. The connection between bnei Yisroel's travels and writing a Sefer Torah is indicated in our parsha in 33:2 where it says "VA'YICHTOV Moshe es MOTZO'EIHEM." Another choice given is a 60 line per column format. This is derived from the number of myriads of the bnei Yisroel in the wilderness, 60 x 10,000 = 600,000. The connection between the number of bnei Yisroel and the writing of a Sefer Torah is indicated in Shmos 34:27 where it says "KSOV l'choh es hadvorim ho'eileh ...... v'es YISROEL." The next alternative is a 72 line per column format, indicated by Bmidbar 11:16, 26 where it says "Esfoh li SHIVIM ish, Va'yisho'aru SHNEI ANOSHIM ...... v'heimoh BAKSUVIM."

The final option is to write a 98 line per column format. This is derived from the 98 admonitions listed in Dvorim in parshas Ki Sovo and the verse which shows the connection to the writing of a Sefer Torah is Dvorim 28:58 where it says "Im lo sishmore laasose ...... HAKSUVIM ba'sefer ha'zeh." The first choice mentioned above, to use a 48 line format is according to the text of the Hagohos Maimoni and the Maharam. However, there is a text that says 42 lines. Either text still continues with the proof from the travels of the bnei Yisroel in the wilderness.

The Prishoh, a commentator on the Tur, says that the 42 lines mentioned by Rabbi Yehudoh of Barcelona is not sourced from the verse in T'hilim, as he brought it only as a mnemonic, but rather from the number of travels mentioned in parshas Massei as is also pointed out by Rashi.

Since there were only 42 travels, how does the ma'seches Sofrim say that there were 48 travels as per the text of the Hagohos Maimoni and the Mahara"m? We must say that they counted the total number of trips including the extra ones when the bnei Yisroel backtracked after the death of Aharon.

There were seven stops at places where they had previously camped. This would bring us a total of 49, and not 48. However, upon actually counting the number of trips mentioned in our parsha, we find only 41, not 42. These 41 stations plus the seven stations revisited total 48. Rashi who says there were 42, must mean locations from which they traveled rather than the number of trips, in spite of the word "maso'os," which literally means trips. Rashi on Shmos 40:38 clearly says that the word "maso'os" can mean locations from which they have traveled.

We can now say that the Hagohos Maimoni and the Mahara"m counted the number of trips including the backtracking after the death of Aharon, and Rabbi Yehudoh of Barcelona counted the number of locations without the backtracking. The common custom of scribes in recent years has been to write the 42 line per column format.

Ch. 33, v. 4: "U'Mitzrayim m'kabrim eis asher hikoh Hashem bo'hem kol b'chor u'veiloheihem ossoh Hashem sh'fotim" - What is the connection between these two happenings? Rabbi Shlomo Karliner answers that the Sifri says that during the smiting of the first born any idols still left intact in Egypt crumbled. Our verse tells us that the Egyptians buried both their first-born who were smitten during the night and also buried the broken remains of their idols which were shattered to pieces that same night.

Ch. 34, 19: "L'mattei Yehudoh Koleiv ben Y'funeh" - In this listing of tribal leaders the word "nossi" is mentioned by all tribes except Yehudoh, Shimone, and Binyomin. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh says in the name of Rabbi Nissim Gaon that Koleiv did not need the title "nossi," as he was already well known as a "nossi" in parshas Shlach. Shimone's tribal head did not deserve the title of "nossi" because of the sin of their previous "nossi" Shlumiel-Zimri. The tribal head for Binyomin was Elidod a.k.a. Eldod who was a prophet (Bmidbar 11:26). Giving him the title "nossi" would be a lowering of rank for one who was a prophet.

Ch. 33, v. 29: "Va'yachanu b'Chashmonoh" - This is the twenty-fifth station in the bnei Yisroel's wandering in the desert. Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld says that the name Chashmonoh being the 25th stop alludes to the miracle of the 25th of Kislev, the miracle of Chanukah, which took place through the Chashmono'im.

Ch. 35, v. 11: "V'nos shomoh ROTZEI'ACH" - The word ROTZEI'ACH appears 17 times in the chapter dealing with the cities of refuge. Rabbi Chaim Kanievski shlit"a says that this corresponds to the 17 murderers mentioned in Tanach. This count does not include someone who killed a person because of a war or as an act of a court or a king halachically meting out punishment. How many of these 17 people can you name and whom did they kill? Answer next week.

Answer to last week's question:

Ch. 27, v. 15: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe el Hashem LEIMORE" - This is one of 4 places where the Torah uses the word "leimore" when Moshe spoke to Hashem. Rashi on Bmidbar 12:13 brings in the name of Rabbi Elozor ben Azarioh that in these four places Moshe asked Hashem for a response.

1) Shmos 6:12 - Moshe asked Hashem if He will personally redeem the bnei Yisroel from Egypt.

2) Bmidbar 12:13 - Moshe asked Hashem if He will cure Miriam.

3) Our verse 27:15 - Moshe asked Hashem if He would appoint a new leader after Moshe's demise.

4) Dvorim 3:23 - Moshe asked Hashem if He would permit Moshe to enter Eretz Yisroel.

In Shmos 17:4 it says, "Va'yitzak Moshe el Hashem LEIMORE, 'Ma e'esseh lo'om ha'zeh.'"

Why wasn't this fifth place mentioned?

The Eimek HaN'tzi"v answers that Rabbi Elozor ben Azarioh only lists the places where LEIMORE covertly indicates that Moshe asked for a response. His direct statement was not a question, but by virtue of his saying LEIMORE, "to say," there is an indication that Moshe requested a response. From the context of the subject matter we derive what his question was. The verse in Shmos 17:4 is an overt question to Hashem. Therefore, Rabbi Elozor ben Azarioh does not include it in his list.


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