by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHIOS MATOS-MASSEI 5769 BS"D
Ch. 30, v. 2: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe el roshei hamatos" - And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes - The Rashbam writes that when he was in Yanyov (Geneva?) in the district of Lushron (Lucerne?) why this parsha begins in a very unusual manner. We usually find that Hashem spoke to Moshe thus and thus and he transmitted the information to the bnei Yisroel. Here we find Moshe immediately teaching the rules of vows and promises (albeit the verse spells out that it was first to the heads of the tribes and then to the bnei Yisroel, as Rashi clarifies). He answers that the Torah does say that Hashem told Moshe. In the end of the previous parsha (29:39) the verse says, "eileh taasu laShem b'mo'a'deichem l'vad minidreichem ……" The verse says that these sacrifices should be brought on the Yomim Tovim, besides your personal vows of bringing sacrifices and offerings, meaning that they should also be brought when you have made your pilgrimage. Although they can be brought later, up to two Yomim Tovim after Pesach beyond the time of the vow, they should preferably be brought right away so that one does not transgress "bal t'acheir," the prohibition against delaying fulfillment of their vow (gemara R.H. 4b). This, plus all the previous laws of offering daily, Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh, and Yomim Tovim sacrifices were all predicated with the standard "Va'y'da'beir Hashem el Moshe leimore" of 28:1. Moshe is just continuing by telling the heads of the tribes, who are invested with the responsibility to see that the bnei Yisroel fulfill their responsibilities, "Ish ki yidor neder laShem," meaning that when a person has taken on a vow of "for Hashem," i.e. an object was consecrated to be brought as an offering for Hashem, "o hishova shvuoh," or has taken on an oath of any matter, even a mundane matter, "lo yacheil d'voro."
The Abarbanel seems to alleviate the original question by saying that Moshe received all the information related in this parsha at Har Sinai and put it into actual practice. People constantly made vows and when they regretted doing so they would go to Moshe, who would apply the laws, i.e. if there was room for a "pesach," an "opening" into the mind-set of the petitioner that "had he known that there would be this or that difficulty ……" he would annul the vow, and if not, not. He had recently heard from Hashem that his end was near. He felt that it was NOW necessary to relate all these details to the elders, as upon his passing the responsibility to do this job would shortly pass on to them. This is not as Rashi explains the verse that Moshe, first now gave this information to the heads of the tribes and then to the bnei Yisroel, but rather to the heads of the tribes OF the bnei Yisroel (see Rabbi Yaakov Knizal on Rashi).
Based on this approach it seems to be well understood why the verse did not begin with Hashem relating to Moshe to relate to the bnei Yisroel, as this information and its practical application to the spiritual head, Moshe, had begun almost 40 years earlier.
I am a bit hard pressed in understanding why "lo yacheil d'voro" was not conveyed to the bnei Yisroel directly earlier. If we were to say that this is not any different from many parshios that were told at different times over the span of forty years, we are back to square one, the original assumption that this parsha was not earmarked for the elders.
Ch. 31, v. 3: "V'yi'h'yu AL Midyon" - And they will be ON Midyon - This phrase deserves clarification. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that a self-understood phrase is to be inserted here. "And they should 'organize an attack' upon Midyon."
Rabbi Saadioh Gaon similarly inserts "And they should suddenly fall (attack) UPON Midyon."
Rabbenu Myuchos says that AL means they should be prepared.
The Sha"ch says that it means that they all on their own, without heavy weaponry, should be upon Midyon. Just their appearance in front of Midyon will throw fear into their hearts. This is strongly indicated by Targum Onkelos, who translates, "Va'yitz'bu al Midyon" of verse 7, as "V'is'chailu," they should form regiments. This war-like grouping will be sufficient to overpower Midyon.
The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh, based on the words of the M.R. Breishis 12, that says that sanctity is the basis of ascent and sin is the basis of descent, i.e. the sin drags one downward. Moshe's message was that although the Midyonites caused some of the bnei Yisroel to sin and drag them down, those who are entering the arena of war should make sure that they mentally cleanse themselves of any trace of the type of sin that Midyon seduced them to follow, and that way they will be in an aura os ASCENT against Midyon.
Ch. 33, v. 37,38: "Va'yachanu b'Hor Hohor biktzei eretz Edom, Va'yaal Aharon haKohein el hor Hohor al pi Hashem va'yomos shom" - And they encamped at Hor Hohor at the edge of the land of Edom, And Aharon the Kohein ascended Hor Hohor as per Hashem's word and he died there - The juxtaposition of being located at the edge of the land of Edom with the death of Aharon is an allusion to the fact that when the Edomites, direct descendants of Eisov, are in power, it weakens and even negates the power of K'hunoh G'doloh. (Yalkut Med'r'shei Teimon)
Indeed, we find that the Edomites destroyed the second Beis Hamikdosh, leading us into our longest stint in the Diaspora, which negated the service in the Beis Hamikdosh, which was administered by the Kohanim.
Ch. 35, v. 3: "V'hoyu he'orim lohem losho'ves umig'r'sheihem yi'h'yu livhemtom v'lirchushom ulchole cha'yosom" - And the cities shall be for them to reside and their suburbs shall be for their livestock and for all their life needs - The words "their cities shall be for them to reside" teaches us that it is prohibited for the L'viim to set up their areas differently, to use city centre for pasture, and to live in suburbia. "Livhemtom" means that the outlying areas should be set aside for pasture for their livestock. (Rabbeinu Myuchos) "R'chushom" includes all a person's possessions, his livestock, cattle, silver, gold, and all other chattel. (Rada"k) "Rashi says that "Ulchole cha'yosom" refers to all their needs. The word form "chiyus" indicates that they need to sustain themselves. We cannot say that it means their "chayos," undomesticated animals, as they are included in "livhemtom." (Minchas Yehudoh)
The gemara N'dorim 81a says that this word means their doing their laundry, because when one cannot launder his clothes and is forced to wear them sweated and dirtied, it impacts greatly on his well-being. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch says that the laundering that the gemara mentions is not limited to just laundering, but actually means all matters that pertain to maintaining good health.
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