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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 25, v. 11: "B'kano es kinosi b'SOCHOM" - With his avenging my vengeance within them - The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh asks what the word "b'sochom" tells us. Perhaps this can be answered with the insight of Rabbi Yoseif Chaim Sonnenfeld brought in Chochmas Chaim. At the end of parshas Bolok we find that Zimri brought the Midyanite woman with whom he sinned in front of his brethren in the full view of Moshe and all the congregation, "va'yakreiv el echov es haMidyonis l'einei Moshe ul'einei kol adas bnei Yisroel." Why does the verse point out that he brought her in front of the whole congregation? Since he came to ask a general question, if a Midyanite woman is permissible, (taunting Moshe with, "If this woman is prohibited, who permitted you to take your wife" (gemara Sanhedrin 82a) why bring her along?

The gemara Sotoh 22b tells us that Yannai told his wife to only fear those false people who perform acts like that of Zimri and request the reward of Pinchos. Who in his right mind would perpetrate an awful act like Zimri's and expect a reward like Pinchos's? In reality, Hashem's greater concern was that of the idol worship that came about through their falling prey to adultery with the daughters of Midyon and Moav (gemara Sanhedrin 106a). Zimri posited that it was worthwhile to make a compromise, to permit adultery in a manner of bringing the women into the bnei Yisroel's camp, and in this environment at least there will be no idol worship, rather than to have the bnei Yisroel leave the camp and enter the environment of the Moabites and Midyanites, where they would also fall prey to idol worship, a sort of damage control. This is why he brought the Midyanite woman into the camp in full view of the entire congregation. This is seemingly also an act of zealousness, an extreme act to be enacted at a time of very trying circumstances, to safeguard against the sin of idol worship. Zimri felt justified in requesting a reward for his zealousness, just as would later be given to Pinchos. He felt he was saving the nation with his strategy.

Pinchos took a spear and killed both Zimri and Kozbi in the midst of their sinning. The gemara Sanhedrin 82a relates that people criticized Pinchos with the taunt, "Have you seen what this grandson of one who fattened calves to be offered to idols has done? He has killed a prince in Yisroel!" This is not to be understood as just a barb, finding a skeleton in the closet. This was a head-on attack. These people sided with Zimri and felt that his strategy would minimize the damage and at least idol worship could be avoided. They said that the reason Pinchos killed Zimri was that Pinchos was not sensitive to the sin of idol worship since he was a descendant of an idol worshipper.

What indeed was wrong with Zimri's idea? What was so blatantly wrong, to the point that Pinchos killed him? It was simply that we cannot tolerate defiling the one location of purity, the encampment of the bnei Yisroel. It must remain pure and unsullied. No calculation can allow us to abrogate its holiness. (This was indeed the decades long battle at which Rabbi Sonnenfeld stood at the helm in Yerusholayim, combating foreign winds that threatened to compromise and water down Torah true Yiddishkeit.)

We possibly now have an understanding of why the Torah stressed that Pinchos avenged Hashem's anger through an act of zealousness that was done "B'SOCHOM," among them. Pinchos felt that even bringing the women into our camp and thus thwarting the sin of idol worship, was not justified.

Ch. 26, v. 2: "S'u es rosh kol adas bnei Yisroel" - Count all the people of the bnei Yisroel congregation - Why was there a need to count them again so shortly after the previous census?

1) Since a large number of people had just died in a plague there was the need to count them again, just as a caring shepherd would recount his sheep if wolves killed many of his flock. (Rashi)

2) When the bnei Yisroel were put into Moshe's care they were given to him with a population count. As he was now close to the end of his life he is to count them before he gives them over to the next leader. (Rashi, Medrash Tanchuma #4)

3) In verse 53 Hashem tells Moshe that these people will receive the land allotments in Eretz Yisroel. There was therefore a need to count them in relation to their land inheritances. (Ibn Ezra)

This requires some clarification. Once the conquest of Sichon was complete why wasn't the census done immediately? Had it taken place immediately after the war with Sichon, the plague that brought about the death of 24,000 men might have been attributed to counting in a manner that was against halacha, as we later find a plague after Dovid's taking a census improperly. Hashem therefore waited until after the plague, so that the bnei Yisroel not delude themselves, and realize that the plague was the result of immoral behaviour. (Ponim Yofos)

4) Since some men sinned with Midyonite women, there was the fear that people would likewise believe that the Egyptian men sired many of those who were considered bnei Yisroel. There was therefore a need to count them again and add Hashem's testimony to their family purity now. (Holy Alshich) (See Ponim Yofos on verse 5.)

5) Hashem's Holy Spirit rests upon even a group of ten bnei Yisroel. However, there are greater levels of sanctity when there is a group of 100, 1,000, 22,000, and 600,000. When the bnei Yisroel heard that there were over 600,000 men they were extremely happy to know that a very high level of Hashem's Holy Spirit was upon them. Now that 24,000 men died in a plague they were crestfallen, thinking that they fell below the 600,000 plateau. The census was done to apprise them of their still having 600,000 men. (Holy Alshich)

Ch. 26, v. 3: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe vElozor haKohein osom" - And Moshe and Elozor the Kohein spoke to them - As Rashi in verse 4 explains, Moshe and Elozor told the bnei Yisroel that Hashem commanded that a census be taken. Why do we not find Moshe and Aharon telling the bnei Yisroel in parshas Bmidbar that there was a command that they be counted?

In parshas Bmidbar each tribe was advised by its tribal head that there was a census coming up. This is self-understood, as most tribal communal matters were attended to by their heads. In our parsha, after the tribal head of Shimon had so grievously sinned and brought about the death of 24,000 people, the stature of all tribal leaders was lowered precipitously. Moshe and Elozor had to go to all the tribes and advise them of the nation-wide census, and at the same time this was a consolation to them, indicating that they still were under the supervision of spiritually stalwart leaders. (Meshech Chochmoh)

Ch. 26, v. 5: "Chanoch mishpachas haChanochi" - Chanoch the Chanochite family - Rashi explains the prefix and suffix for the names of the families, which are a letter Hei and Yud. The gentile nations mocked the bnei Yisroel, saying, "Of what value is their counting their families to their ancestral tribes? Since the Egyptians totally mastered over the men they surely did as they wished with the women, and the descendants are not those of the bnei Yisroel."

Therefore Hashem gave His seal of purity on the families by adding a Letter Hei before and a letter Yud afterwards. These two letters are one of His Holy Names. The question is raised: The bnei Yisroel had a count earlier in parshas Bmidbar. The verses there only give us the tribal heads and the census by tribes. Why wasn't this approbation given earlier?

The bnei Yisroel had a reputation of being moral and such a claim against them would fall on deaf ears. It was only after some of the men sinned with the women of Midyon that the claim would gain credence. The gemara Sotoh 10 says that if a man is not faithful to his wife, she will also be unfaithful to him. It was only at this point that there was a need to give the bnei Yisroel a seal of kashrus. (Ponim Yofos)



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

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