by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MATOS-MASSEI 5772 BS"D
Ch. 30, v. 2: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe el roshei hamatos" - And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes - The next verse tells us that he taught them that when a person make a vow, all that has left his mouth shall he fulfill. It is most puzzling that our verse tells us that Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes, as every mitzvoh was related to them. There was a system where Moshe taught and repeated, totaling four times, each time including more people, including the tribal leaders. Why does the Torah specifically stress them?
When a person seeks a position of authority he often makes all sorts of grandiose promises in an attempt to be chosen. This is why Moshe stressed to the tribal heads that they must keep their word. (Chasam Sofer)
Ch. 30, v. 3: "Lo yacheil d'voro k'chol ha'yotzei mipiv yaa'seh" - He shall not desecrate his word according to all that emitted from his mouth shall he do - These two statements are not redundant. They simply mean that if he uttered a promise to refrain from doing something, then he may not desecrate his words by doing the act he prohibited himself to do, and if he promised to do something, he must do it.
Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel achar tei'o'seif el a'mecho" - Take revenge for the bnei Yisroel afterwards you will be put to rest to your nation - The simple reading of these words seems to indicate that Moshe would take revenge on the Midyonites even after his passing. In a previous edition an explanation was offered in the name of Rabbi Yoseif Zvi Dushinsky.
Our verse indicates that Moshe would take revenge from the Midyonites specifically after his death. Indeed, during his lifetime he himself did not engage in the war. Rather, he sent Pinchos to head the fight. Why didn't Moshe himself fight against Midyon, as we see that he fought others, Sichon, Og? This is because he benefitted from Midyon when he was seeking refuge, on the run from Paroh. He did not want to fight against the country that helped him in his time of need (M.R. 22:4). There was a later occasion when the bnei Yisroel fought Midyon, as recorded in Shoftim 7. Moshe was reincarnated into Gidon, and he then fought against Midyon and vanquished them. There is an allusion to Moshe's becoming Gidon in the gemara R.H. 25b, where it equates Y'rubaal (Gidon) to Moshe. (Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropolia)
Ch. 32, v. 11: "Umikneh rav hoyoh livnei Reuvein v'livnei Gad" - And there was a vast amount of cattle belonging to the sons of Reuvein and the sons of Gad - The Baal Haturim notes that in this incident bnei Gad and bnei Reuvein are mentioned eight times. This alludes to the fact that when the bnei Yisroel later went into exile the bnei Gad and bnei Reuvein were expelled eight years earlier than the rest. Baal Haturim goes on to say that in Mishlei 20:21 the verse says, "Nachaloh m'vo(c)helles borishonoh vaacharisoh lo s'voroch." The word "m'vochelles" is written with a Ches, but is read with a Hei. With a Ches the meaning is, "An inheritance that is originally seized and its outcome will not be blessed." With a Hei it means, "An inheritance that is originally gotten impetuously and with haste and its outcome will not be blessed." It is written with a Ches, to again allude to the eight times they are mentioned in the Torah in this incident. The reading with a Hei means impetuously and with haste, and this is what happened to them, they were exiled earlier.
When Moshe negotiated with them he asked for them to cross into Canaan and join in the war against the 31 kings and to not return until the land was vanquished. They counter-offered even better, that they would even stay on until the land was apportioned to each tribe. This extended their mission by seven years and Yehoshua praised them for keeping to all the terms of the agreement (Yehoshua 22:2,3). If so, why were they criticized in Mishlei and sent into exile eight years earlier? As mentioned in an earlier edition in detail, based on the Sforno, there was much give and take regarding when they would take actual ownership of their Trans-Jordanian lands, with them wanting to do so immediately, and Moshe insisting that it not take place until after Eretz Yisroel was vanquished. They did not let up and Moshe, to avoid ongoing arguments, gave in. Their insisting that they take immediate position was a slight to the sanctity and importance of having heritage land in Eretz Yisroel, and for this they were sent out earlier. (n.l.)
Ch. 33, v. 1: "Eileh massei bnei Yisroel" - These are the travels of the bnei Yisroel - There was a total of 42 locations in the desert where they encamped, ending with Yardein Y'reicho. These are "Massei Bnei," the first letters of these two words have the numeric value of 42. (n.l.)
Having camped in 42 locations, we similarly find later in our parsha (35:6) 42 cities of refuge for an unintentional killer. This might explain why the setting aside of "o'rei miklot" is mentioned in our parsha.
Ch. 33, v. 3,5: "Va'yisu meiRamseis bachodesh horishon bachamishoh ossor yom lachodesh horishon, Vayisu vnei Yisroel meiRamseis va'yachanu b'Sukos" - And they traveled from Ramseis in the first month on the fifteenth day of the first month, And the bnei Yisroel traveled from Ramseis and they encamped in Sukos - Why is their traveling from ramseis mentioned twice, and why in the earlier verse is the encampment location not mentioned? Targum Onkelos on Shmos 19:4, "Vo'esa es'chem al kanfei n'shorim" writes that Hashem took the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt on the night of Pesach and brought them to the future location of the Beis Hamikdosh, where they consumed their Paschal sacrifices. He then returned them to Egypt and the next morning they left Egypt from Ramseis. Verse 3 tells us that they traveled from Ramseis, but mentions no destination, as they were brought right back to Ramseis. Verse 5 tells us that they traveled from Ramseis to Sukos, beginning their exodus. (Chazon Ovadioh)
Ch. 35, v. 28: "V'acharei mose haKohein haGodol yoshuv horotzei'ach el eretz achuzoso" - And after the death of the Kohein Godol the murderer may return to the land of his heritage - The mishnoh Makos 2:6 says that since it is likely that those who are restrained in the cities of refuge might pray for the death of the Kohen Godol so that they would be released, the mothers of Kohanim G'dolim would provide food and clothing for the unintentional killers, with the hope that they would be so appreciative that they would not pray for the death of a child of such a kind and caring person from whom they have benefitted.
Why was this done by their mothers rather than by the Kohanim g'dolim themselves? A simple answer is that we see from this that a parent cares more for the well being of his/her child than the child him/herself. (n.l.)
I read somewhere that had it been the Kohein Godol themselves who supplied the goods, a poor or lazy person would enter the city of refuge and claim he killed unintentionally and would sit back and reap these benefits. Now that it is the mother who supplies the goods, she could die many years before the Kohein Godol does and there would be no freebies forthcoming. I believe that there is a weak point in this answer as the gemara Malkos chapter 2 says that each person who enters the city of refuge has his case studied by a court to see if there was intentional or unintentional death brought about by the person. It seems logical that they would weed out a totally false claim, where in actuality this person did not kill anyone.
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