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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MATOS-MASSEI 5763 BS"D

PARSHAS MATOS

Ch. 31, v. 6: "V'es Pinchos" - And Pinchos - Rashi explains that Pinchos was sent rather than Elozor because Pinchos began the mitzvoh by killing Kozbi who was a Midyanite. He who has begun a mitzvoh shall be the one to complete it. Sifsei Chachomim asks on Rashi that the killing of Kozbi was incidental to the mitzvoh of killing Zimri.

This can be answered with the words of the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh on parshas Bolok (25:8). He asks that although it was proper for Pinchos to kill Zimri, as per the rule of "habo'eil Aramis kano'im pogim bo" (gemara Sanhedrin 82a) - one who sins with a gentile woman is liable to be killed by a zealot - but by what right did Pinchos kill Kozbi? He surely didn't know if she was a married woman, and when in doubt he surely would not have killed her. He answers that she was killed as per the verse "v'es hab'heimoh taharogu" (Vayikroh 20:15), by the case of committing bestiality. (Actually, the Rambam in gilyon hilchos issu'rei bi'oh 12:6 says this, bringing a proof from Bmidbar 31:16, "hein heinoh hoyu livnei Yisroel ......"). Thus we have Pinchos fulfilling a separate mitzvoh, something that is not incidental to killing Zimri.

Ch. 31, v. 22: "Taaviru vo'aish .. taaviru vamoyim" - You shall pass through fire .. you shall immerse in water - The Torah requires the six types of metal vessels mentioned in the previous verse to be cleansed of their impurity by either being purged by fire or immersed in purifying waters. The gemara Yerushalmi K'subos chapter #8 states that Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach instituted schools for young children and that ancient impurity be reinstated for metal vessels. This means that by Torah law any vessel, even made of metal, that is impure, if destroyed, loses its impurity, as it is no longer a vessel. However, Rabbi Shimon instituted that if the vessel were to be recast or repaired in any other way, the previous impurity would re-awaken. Why is this stated together with his instituting a schooling system for young children? Is there any connection?

Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rosh Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, answers that the common thread is that we see from the law of a metal vessel retaining its impurity when reconstructed, that there is a most powerful nature of retention. Even if the vessel was totally destroyed, rendering it unfit for any function, nevertheless, upon being reconstructed its original defiled status remains. If so, it is of the utmost of importance to instill Torah values and knowledge into a child from his earliest years. Thus even if he goes through much travail throughout his life there is the great possibility that he will retain the values of his formative years. Although it is the responsibility of the father to instill both Torah knowledge and values into his children, this was not always done, either because the father was not knowledgeable of the Torah or because he did not apply himself properly to this responsibility, often throwing himself headlong into pursuit of a livelihood. Rabbi Shimon therefore instituted Torah schools.

Ch. 32, v. 1: "Umikneh rav hoyoh livnei Reuvein v'livnei Gad otzum m'ode" - And there belonged a large amount of cattle to the sons of Reuvein and to the sons of Gad exceedingly strong - Some explain that the description of the cattle applies to both the tribe of Reuvein and the tribe of Gad, as if the verse would say, "Umikneh rav otzum m'ode hoyoh livnei Reuvein v'livnei Gad." Others, who prefer to keep to the order of the words, explain that the bnei Reuvein had a large amount of cattle, while the tribe of Gad had an exceedingly large amount, "otzum m'ode" referring back to "rav."

The Kli Yokor both sticks to the exact order of the words of our verse and translates the word "otzum" in the literal sense, "strong," as we find in Targum Onkelos and Yonoson ben Uziel, "takif." He thus interprets the dialogue between the tribes and Moshe in a novel manner, putting these tribes in a better light. Reuvein had a large number of cattle, while Gad had very strong cattle. The tribe of Gad had fearless warriors who lead the bnei Yisroel's army (see Breishis 49:19, Dvorim 33:20). Likewise they had no fear that their cattle would be mauled by wolves, as the gemara Taanis 25a relates that goats would bring bears who attempted to kill them on their horns, as per the verse in Iyov 1:10. They were not afraid of the enemy as they were brave and were not afraid of wild animals attacking their livestock, as it was very powerful.

Although we commonly understand the ensuing dialogue as one of the bnei Gad giving priority to their cattle over their families, as indicated by their first mentioning that they would build corrals for their livestock before mentioning that they would build cities for their children (verse 16), and Moshe reprimanding them for this and first mentioning the building of cities for their children (verse 24), we can now say that they had a noble intention in mind. They offered, "gidros tzone nivneh l'mikneinu PO." We can say that they were offering to build corrals for their livestock HERE, at the border of Eretz Yisroel, and further back, away from the border, they would build a city for residence. Thus if the enemy would come to attack, they would first encounter the livestock, and the children would have the opportunity to escape.

Moshe criticized them, saying that if they set things up in this manner it would show that they had insufficient trust in Hashem, Who would surely save them in any case. He therefore told them to build cities for their children closer to the border and corrals for their livestock further back, thus demonstrating that they had full trust in Hashem, and in turn injecting trust in Hashem into their fellow bnei Yisroel.

Ch. 32, v. 33: "Va'yi'tein lo'hem Moshe livnei Gad v'livnei Reuvein v'lachatzi sheivet Menasheh" - And Moshe gave to them to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuvein and to half the tribe of Menasheh - These 2 tribes received their land parcels outside Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Menachem Azarioh of Panu in Asoroh Maamoros explains that this is the result of Reuvein's being conceived with Yaakov's believing that he was with Rochel, while in truth he was with Leah (Breishis 29:25). This type of union is improper (gemara N'dorim 20b) and the child who comes from this union is negatively affected. Therefore Reuvein's tribe did not merit a portion of land in Eretz Yisreol.

Gad, likewise, was born of such a union. When Leah gave her maidservant Zilpoh to Yaakov for him to sire a child, Yaakov was not aware that it was Zilpoh. He thought it was his wife Leah.

Menasheh was the son of Osnas, who was the wife of Yoseif. She was the daughter of Sh'chem and Dinoh. As such, he had half his soul tainted, coming from a father such as Sh'chem. Therefore his tribe was not able to receive a portion in Eretz Yisroel. If you will ask, "According to this, why did Efrayim's whole tribe receive land in Eretz Yisroel, as he too had the same ancestry," the answer is that Menasheh absorbed the complete impurity of this union. The verse says, "Si'keil es yodov KI Menasheh habchor" (Breishis 48:14). There are numerous interpretations of the key word KI in this verse. The difficulty is, if you translate KI as "because," it goes against logic. Since Menasheh was the first-born he should have received his blessing through Yaakov's right hand, the more prominent hand. Rashi explains that because Yaakov was fully aware of Menasheh's being to his right, with forethought he consciously moved his right hand to the left to place it on Efrayim. The Tur and others translate KI as "because" and say that because Menasheh was the first-born Yaakov moved his right hand to the left, rather than asking Menasheh to switch positions with Efrayim, thus relegating him to being positioned on the left, a great affront to a first-born. Because he was the first-born he was allowed to remain on the right and "because" of this Yaakov crossed his hands. Others simply say that KI means "af ki," - even though - and the verse is easily understood.

Asoroh Maamoros says that KI means "because." The first-born was a most prominent member of each family at that time. This continued throughout the years in Egypt. We see that Egypt's first-born were smitten. This is because they were the leaders and mentors of their family. Similarly by the bnei Yisroel a first-born had the status of a Kohein. Yaakov and Eisov vied for primogeniture rights. Thus this verse is saying that because Menasheh was the first-born he absorbed all the impurities imparted to Osnas from Sh'chem and therefore Yaakov favoured Efrayim to receive the dominant blessing.

Needless to say, this is quite an innovative approach to the parsha of these 2 tribes. I found the explanation of Zilpoh's identity not being known to Yaakov when she conceived Gad as a major "chidush." Upon looking carefully into the verses that relate this, perhaps we can ferret out the Asoroh Maamoros's insight. In Breishis 30:4 the verse says that Rochel gave her maidservant Bilhoh to Yaakov and he united with her. The next verse relates that Bilhoh became pregnant and gave birth.

When carefully comparing this with verses 9 and 10, which relate Leah's giving her maidservant Zilpoh to Yaakov we find numerous differences.

1) By Bilhoh the verse says that Rochel gave her to Yaakov but does not say that she both took her and gave her, while by Zilpoh we find "vatikach" and "va'ti'tein" (verse 9).

2) By Bilhoh it says "va'yovo ei'lehoh Yaakov," while by Zilpoh these words are not mentioned at all.

3) By Bilhoh it says both "vatahar" and "va'tei'led," while by Zilpoh it only says "va'tei'led" (see Rashi).

4) By Bilhoh it does not mention "shifchas Rochel" in verse 5, dealing with the conception and the birth, while in verse 10 it says "va'tei'led Zilpoh shifchas Leah."

According to the Asoroh Maamoros it seems that all these differences can be explained. "Vatikach" and "va'ti'tein" by Leah indicate that not only was Zilpoh given but that Leah did all the action, "taking" her meaning that she convinced her to go along with the ruse, as we almost always find that "taking" someone means convincing him/her. That is why it doesn't say "vatikach" by Bilhoh because Yaakov was fully aware of the situation.

Verse 9 does not want to mention that Yaakov united with Zilpoh because it had a negative aspect of his not knowing who his partner was. Verse 10 does not want to mention Zilpoh's conception, again for the same reason, although the birth must be mentioned. Verse 5 does not mention Bilhoh's being Rochel's maidservant because Yaakov agreed to unite with her and he therefore had her become a full-fledged bas Yisroel (as per a medrash brought in Yalkut Reuveini in parshas Vayichi). Not knowing that he was with Zilpoh, she was not converted prior to the act, hence "shifchas Leah" is mentioned in verse 10. If you will ask, "We find that Bilhoh is called 'shifchas Rochel' in verse 7," the Yalkut Reuveini asks this and says that this is to accentuate the elevated status of the children of Rochel and Leah over those of Bilhoh and Zilpoh. We can thus say that by the first conception of Bilhoh and Zilpoh the verse differentiates by mentioning "shifchas" by Zilpoh and not by Bilhoh, as there was the difference of being cognizant by one and not by the other. Yaakov was aware that it was Zilpoh by her second conception, so the verse mentions "shifchas" at both occasions (verses 7 and 12).

PARSHAS MASSEI

Ch. 33, v. 11: "Va'yachanu bmidbar Sin" - And they encamped in the Sin desert - Rabbeinu Bachyei proves that midbar Sin is not the same as midbar Sinai from verse 15, which states that they traveled from R'fidim and they encamped in midbar Sinai. He adds that Sin is located between Eilim and Sinai, as per Shmos 16:1, "el midbar Sin asher bein Eilim u'vein Sinoi."

However, the Baal Haturim and the Chizkuni disagree and say that they are one and the same. Although originally called Sin, its name was changed to Sinai, an addition of the letter Yud, to allude to the Ten Commandments that were given there. I am at a loss to explain the words of Shmos 16:1, unless we differentiate between midbar Sinai and Sinai.

Ch. 33, v. 22: "Va'yachanu biK'heilosoh" - And they encamped in K'heilosoh - The Baal Haturim says that this name alludes to Korach's congregating people to stand up against Moshe, as per the verse in Bmidbar 16:19, "Va'yakheil a'leihem Korach es kol ho'eidoh." On the words in verse 25, "va'yachanu b'Makheilos" he says that this alludes to the incident where the verse says "va'yikohalu al Moshe v'al Aharon." Shaarei Aharon asks that this cannot be, as these words are in Bmidbar 20:2 where we find the incident of "mei m'rivoh." This only took place after they entered midbar Tzin, much later. He adds that we cannot be referring to the other verse discussing Korach, 16:3, because this is already alluded to in the word "biKheilosoh."

Perhaps we can answer the Baal Haturim's intention is 16:3, and there were 2 assemblies, one in verse 3, where Korach assembled only the leaders, "nsi'ei eidoh," and Makheilos alludes to the assembly of all the common folk whom he persuaded, "es kol ho'eidoh" (verse 19).

Ch. 33, v. 26: "Va'yachanu b'Sochas" - And they encamped in Tachas - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that this is not the name of a place, but rather, it means "lower Makheilos."

Ch. 34, v. 13,14: "Zose ho'oretz asher tisnachalu osoh b'gorol, Ki lokchu ma'tei vnei hoRuveini" - This is the land that you will bring yourselves to inherit through a lottery, Because the tribe of the sons of Reuvein" - These words seem to indicate that had the tribes of Reuvein and Gad not requested their land apportionment on the east side of the Jordan the borders of Eretz Yisroel would have been different. Indeed, this would have been the case, says the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh. Shaarei Aharon offers that had these tribes also received land in Eretz Yisroel, it would have stretched and accommodated all the bnei Yisroel's needs.

It seems that had Hashem designated more land for the bnei Yisroel, it would not have included the area that Reuvein and Gad received, because if so, there would be no need for them to request special permission to remain there. However, this can be refuted. Perhaps these areas would also have become Eretz Yisroel as part of Hashem's original plan. The bnei Reuvein and bnei Gad would not have been guaranteed that these areas would fall to them, so they made a special request.

Once they did receive these areas, did they receive the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel? This seems to be a dispute between the N'tzi"v and the Gri"z Brisker (see Haa'meik Dovor and Shai laTorah).

Ch. 34, v. 15: "Shnei hamatos vachatzi hama'teh lokchu nachalosom" - Two tribes and a half of the tribe took their inheritance- These six words seem to be superfluous, as the last words of the previous verse flow right into "mei'eiver l'Yardein etc." with no information lost. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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


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