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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 11, v. 26: "Brochoh ukloloh" - Blessing and curse - The nations of the world have a middle-ground. They may live a life of not doing damage and not accomplishing much either. This is sufficient for them. However, the bnei Yisroel have no such option. They will either comply with Hashem's dictates and realize phenomenal reward or ch"v not follow, and as a result will experience very negative results. The main point is "lifneichem," the choice is in front of YOU. (Sforno)

Ch. 11, v. 30: "HalO heimoH b'eiveR haYardeiN" - Are they not on the Trans-Jordanian side - The final letters of these four words spell AHaRoN. This is an allusion to the loss of Aharon. As long as he was still alive the bnei Yisroel needed no specific directions, as the Clouds of Glory, which were present in the merit of Aharon, were their GPS. Now that he was gone the bnei Yisroel needed detailed directions. (Baal Haturim)

Ch. 11, v. 30: "Ha'yosheiv bo'arovoh" - Who resides in the plane - This is a salient detail because there are Canaanites who reside in the mountainous area, as per the verse, "V'haC'naani ha'yosheiv bohor" (Bmidbar 14:45). (Ibn Ezra)

Ch. 11, v. 31,32: "Ki attem ovrim es haYardein, Ushmartem laasose" - Because you are passing over the Jordan, And you shall safeguard to do - We might translate "Ki" as "kaasher," - when. At Yam Suf the bnei Yisroel almost drown along with the Egyptians because they brought along "pessel michoh," an idol. The accusing angels complained that just as the drowning Egyptians were idol worshippers, so too, were some of the bnei Yisroel. They were barely saved. Our verse and the next one are telling the bnei Yisroel that WHEN they are passing through the Jordan River and will experience the miracle of its waters parting, they should "Ushmartem laasose eis kol hachukim " so that they pass through safely.

Although the complaint of the accusing angels was also that the bnei Yisroel served idols in Egypt, there was also a complaint about their planning to continue to do so in the future, as shown by their taking along "pessel michoh." (Nirreh li)

Ch. 12, v. 7: "Usmachtem b'chole mishlach yedchem attem uvo'teichem asher bei'rach'cho Hashem Elokecho" - And you shall rejoice in all your hands' efforts you and your household that Hashem your G-d has blessed you - It seems that if "attem uvo'teichem" would have appeared immediately after "usmachtem" the verse would flow better. Rabbeinu Myuchos indeed says that this is a "mikra m'soros," meaning that we should switch around these words to understand it in a simple manner. Perhaps there is a profound attitudinal lesson in these words specifically in the order in which they appear. A person puts in effort into having a livelihood. He sometimes feels that he is unsuccessful, and even when he feels that he has succeeded, he feels that if he would have done this or that, things would have turned out even better. This is a lose lose situation. When he realizes that he is required to only put in some effort and Hashem will send him his livelihood, be it generous or even very limited, he has the calmness of mind to take everything in his stride. Read our verse as follows: And you will be happy with the efforts of your hands when you and your household REALIZE that it is totally "asher beirach'cho Hashem Elokecho." (Nirreh li)

Ch. 12, v. 31: "Ki gam es bneihem v'es bnoseihem yis'r'fu vo'aish leiloheihem" - Because ALSO their sons and their daughters they burn in the fire for their gods - Rashi explains that "gam" includes their fathers and mothers, whom they also sacrifice. He goes on to cite Rabbi Akiva who said that he was eye-witness to a pagan who tied up his father in front of his dog, and the dog proceeded to consume him.

The N'tzi"v explains that this might mean that the person had a god that was an idol in the form of a dog, as we find in M'lochim 2:17, "V'hoAvim ossu navchoz." Rashi there explains that this was a form of a dog. "He proceeded to consume him" would mean that he placed his tied up father into a pyre in front of the idol, and it consumed him.

Ch. 13, v. 2: "Ose o mofeis" - A sign or a wonder - What is the difference between these two terms?

1) The former takes place in or emanates from the heavens while the latter takes place on earth. (Rashi)

2) They are the same except that the former will take place at a later time and the latter will take place immediately. (Psikta Zut'r'sa, Sifri parshas Nosso #23)

3) The former is a sign of something that will take place in the future that will be of the same order as the sign, and the latter is an act that goes contrary to nature. (Ramban)

4) The former is a sign that takes place in or emanates from the heavens, while the latter is a change in nature. (GR"A)

Ch. 13, v. 3: "Uvo ho'ose v'hamofeis" - And the sign or the wonder comes - Why in the prvious verse is the word "o" used as OR, while here just a prefix Vov suffices?

Ch. 13, v. 3: "Uvo ho'ose v'hamofeis asher di'ber ei'lecho leimore neilchoh acharei elohim acheirim v'no'ovdeim" - And the sign or the wonder that he has spoken comes/will come saying let us go and follow other's gods and let us serve them - The word "leimore" placed right after the statement that the sign or wonder takes place seems to indicate that the sign tells us to ch"v serve false gods. But this is not so. It is the false prophet who is telling us what to do, not the sign. The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers that our verse tells us quite a chidush. A person might come along and not tell us outright to become worshippers of a false god. He will say that he received a prophecy from Hashem that a certain "ose o mofeis" might happen or might not happen. Included in his prophecy is that if it does happen then Hashem wants us to serve the false god, and if it doesn't happen we should not, possibly that we should even destroy it. Thus the self-proclaimed prophet has not outright told anyone to worship a false god. Rather, it is the "ose o mofeis" taking place that tells us to do so. One might believe that since this person did not outright tell us to serve the false god, that he is not held liable for his behaviour. Our verse tells us that even in such a case, where the false prophet structures his prophecy in such a way that the sign or wonder "tells" us to worship a false god, he is nevertheless held culpable.

Ch. 13, v. 3: "Asher lo y'da'tem" - That you have not known - Commentators explain that a person who attempts to persuade a ben Yisroel to serve a false god would not try to convince him of the veracity of a known deity, as he will fail. The ben Yisroel knows that it is false. He would only attempt to do so with a god unknown to the victim.

The story is told of a young man who fell into the trap of his evil inclination and followed the "enlightened" crowd, experimenting with many cults and all the decadent perversions and lusts of modern society. He eventually realized that he was mentally as well as physically running towards his early demise. He turned a leaf and eventually found his way to his heritage, Torah true living. He moved to Eretz Yisroel and grew spiritually. A close friend asked him if he thought that, given his previous life and that he dropped all its perceived benefits, if he would receive a greater reward in Olom Habo than, let us say, a child who was born and bred in the Meah Shearim community who never veered off the proper track. He answered, to the surprise of his friend, that surely the Meah Shearim Yid would receive a much, much greater reward. He explained, "I have no real test to do this or that contrary to the Holy Torah. I've been there, done that, and realize that it is all veneer with no inner meaning, no value. The Meah Shearim Yid, as a child, as he entered adulthood, etc., constantly fought his evil inclination, thinking that there might actually be something of value the outside world has to offer. He continually fights his evil inclination and wins. He therefore surely deserves a much greater reward." For this baal teshuvoh all the "elohims" were "asher y'da'tem," while for the always-frum person they were "asher lo y'da'tem."



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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