by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MATOS 5771 BS"D
Ch. 30, v. 2: "Va'y''beir Moshe el roshei hamatos livnei Yisroel leimore" - And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes to the children of Yisroel so saying - When he spoke to the leaders he spoke in a strict manner, "dibur." When he spoke "livnei Yisroel" he spoke softly, "leimore." (Toras Haparshah)
Ch. 30, v. 2,3: "Va'y''beir Moshe el roshei hamatos, Ish ki yidor nedder …… lo yacheil d'voro k'chol ha'yotzei mipiv yaa'seh" - And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes, A man who will make a vow …… he shall not desecrate his word as all that has emanated from his mouth shall he do - We know that the transmission of the mitzvos included a stage where the elders were told the mitzvos ahead of the general populace. If so, why here does the Torah spell out that the heads of the tribes were told these mitzvos? The Chasam Sofer answers that there was an extra message here targeting specifically the elders. Leaders often promise their constituents the sky, but when it comes to actual implementation they oftimes fall far short, or even worse, they do the exact opposite of what they promised. This elite group of people needs a special exhortation to fulfill its promises.
Ch. 30, v. 2: "Zeh hadovor" - This is the matter - What need is there for the preamble of "zeh hadovor?" Why not just begin with "Tzivoh Hashem ……?" Since we are discussing vows the verse is telling us that although there are two types of vows that are commitments to donate, "ha'rei olai" and "ha'rei zeh," Hashem wants us to express our commitment with "zeh." The reason is that "ha'rei olai" is a commitment to bring something of a certain value that rests upon the person, "olai." If for example he committed himself to bring an oz as an "oloh" offering, and he had in mind a certain ox in his flock, if it were to be stolen, killed, or went missing, he would be burdened with the responsibility to bring another one. The responsibility rests squarely on him. However, if he were to say "ha'rei zeh" this issue would be alleviated. He has only committed himself to bring THIS specific item. If it were to die, be killed, or went missing, he is not responsible to replace it. (Ben Ish Chai)
Ch. 30, v. 3: "K'chol ha'yotzei mipiv yaa'seh" - According to all that has emitted from his mouth shall he do - When a person takes the powerful step of taking on a vow it is obvious that he was very moved to do or not do something. If this is a commitment for something ongoing it is likely that after a while his enthusiasm has greatly waned. There is a fear that his resolve will then dry out and he might transgress his words. This is the intention of these words of our verse. "K'chol ha'yotzei mipiv," just as at the time when he expressed his vow he was all fired up and enthused, "yaa'seh," should he do later on. (Rabbi Zvi Hersh of Voidoslov)
Ch. 31, v. 8: "V'es Bilom ben B'or horgu becho'rev" - And Bilom the son of B'or they killed by the sword - The gemara Sotah says that when Paroh was looking for a solution for the bnei Yisroel's population explosion he called his three advisors, Bilom, Iyov, and Yisro. When he suggested his solution of ch"v destroying them Bilom hardly agreed, Iyov kept silent, and Yisro ran away. Iyov who remained silent was judged by Hashem to suffer great pain, the legendary "yisurei Iyov." Bilom, who agreed with the plan ended up being killed by the sword. Why was Bilom treated with "soft gloves" compared to Iyov given that Bilom's counsel was much worse than Iyov's? We see from this that just staying alive, even when suffering unimaginable pain and anguish is better than even a quick death. (Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz)
Ch. 30, v. 16: "V'im ho'feir yo'feir osom acha'rei shomo v'nosso es avonoh" - And if he shall annul them after he has heard he shall carry her sin - There is some level of sin when a person transgresses because of his lack of knowledge that a certain action is a sin. However, if a person negates a mitzvoh after he is aware that it is a sin, "V'im ho'feir yo'feir osom acha'rei shomo," then his burden is very great, "v'nosso es avonoh." (Nishmas Chaim)
Ch. 31, v. 14,15: "Va'yiktzof Moshe al p'kudei hecha'yil, Va'yomer a'lei'hem" - And Moshe became angered with the people conscripted into the army, And he said to them - Since he was angry why does the next verse express itself with "va'yomer," meaning that he spoke softly? "Va'y''beir" seems more in place. Although it is true that he became angry, before he spoke to them he calmed himself down. (Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin)
Ch. 31, v. 49: "V'lo nifkad mi'menu ish" - And not a man was missing - Juxtaposed to this is the episode of the bnei Reuvein and bnei Gad negotiating with Moshe for possession of the trans-Jordanian lands as their portions instead of in Eretz Yisroel. As explained by Rashi, "v'lo nifkad" means that not a man was missing. The Medrash Shir Hashirim 4:2 says that this refers to spiritual matters. The bnei Yisroel had suffered greatly at the hands of the Midyonites as a result of their sinning with their daughters. Here they captured some women, and again there was the fear of improper behaviour, or at least, improper thoughts. The people reported to Moshe that not a man was lacking spiritually, i.e. that no one sinned even in the realm of thought with the captured women and girls. It was only after this that the bnei Reuvein and Gad even contemplated leaving their wives behind for numerous years, feeling confident that they would not sin with the women of Canaan. (Shomati)
Ch. 32, v. 14: "V'hi'nei kamtem tachas avoseichem tarbus anoshim chato'im" - And behold you have stood in the place of your fathers a society of sinners - The medrash says that Moshe was correct in telling them off, but he shouldn't have mentioned that their fathers, who were already deceased, were also sinners. For this generational criticism he was punished in kind, and his grandson became an idol worshipper or attendant.
Ch. 32, v. 33: "V'lachatzi sheivet Menasheh ven Yoseif" - And to half the tribe of Menasheh the son of Yoseif - How does Menasheh shine into this episode? We have offered numerous opinions in previous issues of Sedrah Selections. Tzror Hamor explains that the tribe of Yoseif had the special ability to oversee and control the behaviour of the other tribes, a sort of kick-back to the days of Yoseif in Egypt, who attended to his siblings' needs for approximately seventy years. There were two tribes of Yoseif's descendants, Efrayim and Menasheh. Moshe set things up so that there would be an equal ratio of Yoseif's descendants living with all the other tribes. Half a tribe resided with the two trans-Jordanian tribes of Reuvein and Gad, a one to four ratio, and the remaining tribe and a half resided in Eretz Yisroel with the ten other tribes, again a one to four ratio.
Based on the words of the Tzror Hamor the wording of our verse seems to be very well understood. When mentioning Gad and Reuvein the word "sheivet" is not used. Menasheh's father Yoseif is mentioned, seemingly unnecessary. However, since the reason for half of Menasheh residing in the trans-Jordan was because they were descendents of Yoseif, both these points are very much in place to be mentioned here.
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