subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:SHOLOM613@AOL.COM



Ch. 30, v. 2: "Va'y'da'beir Moshe el roshei hamatos" - And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes - Why is this parsha placed here after the parshios of sacrifices at the end of parshas Pinchos?

1) In the parsha of sacrifices the vowing to give sacrifices is mentioned (29:39). Our parsha continues with the laws of vows pertaining to secular matters. (Ramban)

2) The previous parsha deals with sacrifices that take place on Yomim Tovim. During Yom Tov, when people aren't occupied with their regular work, there is the opportunity to become light headed and to sin, in particular after imbibing in intoxication beverage. One of the strongest safeguards against sinning in this matter is to take an oath against doing this sort of act. (Tzror Hamor)

3) Mentioning that our parsha was told to the heads of the tribes alludes to the Rabbinic institution of placing officers on Yom Tov in places of public gatherings where there is the fear of light-headedness, especially where there is mingling of men and women. (Tzror Hamor) This does not touch on the vow aspect of our parsha.

4) This alludes to the ruling that one who has made a vow to offer a sacrifice and has been tardy in bringing it, officers come to him to remind him, and if this doesn't help, they force him to fulfill his promise (see gemara R.H. 6a). (Baal Haturim)

5 )This alludes to the ruling that one who promises to bring a sacrifice, must do so before three festivals pass. (Paa'nei'ach Rozo)

6) This alludes to the fact that the heads of the tribes, i.e. the Rabbinical court, decides when the Yomim Tovim will take place. (Paa'nei'ach Rozo)

7) This parsha takes place chronologically after the war against Midyon and the conquest of its land was completed. The ensuing conversation among Moshe, the tribe of Gad, and the tribe of Reuvein also took place ahead of this parsha. Since Moshe told the bnei Gad and the bnei Reuvein that they must keep their promise, our parsha of oaths is mentioned adjacent to it, albeit ahead of it. (Ibn Ezra)

Ch. 31, v. 6: "Va'yishlach osom Moshe" - And Moshe sent them - Hashem commanded Moshe to take revenge upon Midyon (verse 2). If so, why didn't Moshe himself also join the ranks of soldiers? Moshe understood that it was inappropriate to actually take part, as he was protected in Midyon when he was a fugitive from Paroh. This is akin to the folk-saying, "Don't throw a stone into the well from which you have drunk." Others say that although the nation that brought the bnei Yisroel to sin was called Midyon, it was not the same people called Midyon in parshas Shmos, as the Midyonites of our parsha lived along side Moav. Rather, he allowed Pinchos to lead the army that would defeat Midyon since Pinchos began the fight against Midyon when he killed Kozbi bas Tzur. This is in keeping with the maxim of the gemara Yerushalmi P'sochim 10:5, "Hamas'chil b'mitzvoh omrim lo g'more/m'roke." (M.R. 22:4)

Ch. 31, v. 28: "Echod nefesh meicha'meish mei'ose" - One soul of five-hundred - This was the ratio of the spoils given by those who were actually involved in the war who received half the spoils. Those who stayed home, who in total also received half the spoils gave one of fifty, "Umimachatzis bnei Yisroel tikach echod ochuz min hachamishim" (verse 30).

Commentators explain that just as 12,000 people were conscripted to go to war, a 1/50th of the population, so too the tax on the "stay-at-homers" was also 1/50th. The Malbim explains that the 1/500th tax on those who went out to war was a tithing similar to the "trumas maa'seir" given by the Levites to a Kohein. The tithing of the "stay-at-homers" was given to the Levites and they should have given a tenth of that, a 1/500th of the original amount of spoils that the "stay-at-homers" received, to the Kohein. Those who went to war were so thankful to the Levites who were actively praying for their success and welfare, "shomrei mishmeres Mishkan Hashem" (verse 30), that they gave the Levites tithing, hence a tithing of 1/500th. Although this is quite novel, nevertheless, if the Levites tithing was a sort of "trumas maa'ser" it would have to come from within the tithing they received. Also, why did it go specifically to Elozor, the Kohein GODOL and not to any Kohein?

Although not an explanation for the exact ratios of 1/50th and 1/500th, perhaps an insight into the substantial tithing of the "stay-at-homers" as compared to those who waged war, ten times as much, can be offered. We have the mentality that people readily appreciate the physical efforts people put into pursuit of a goal, giving these efforts real credit, and the spiritual side of the pursuits, i.e., prayer to Hashem, the merit of kind deeds, etc., are relegated to a secondary recognition. However, the generation of the desert was keenly aware of the power of the spiritual, as we see even by the waging of wars, where the bnei Gad and the bnei Reuvein said, "ho'oretz asher hikoh Hashem lifnei adas Yisroel" (Bmidbar 32:4). Although they themselves were actively involved in battle, they totally credited Hashem with the victory.

Perhaps we can say, based upon the prevailing spiritual attitude of the times, that there was only a limited need to do an act of tithing to show appreciation for those who prayed. Everyone readily realized this and a measly 1/500th tithing was sufficient to show appreciation of those who prayed for success at war. Limited credit was given to those who actually waged war and took sword in hand. Therefore, for the "stay-at-homers" to show appreciation for those who waged war a much greater tithing was required. (Nirreh li)


Ch. 33, v. 1: "Eileh massei vnei Yisroel" - These are the travels of the bnei Yisroel - Why mention where they went in the desert?

1) To show Hashem's kindness, that they didn't wander from place to place after only a short respite (Rashi)

2) To show the greatness of the bnei Yisroel who wandered from place to place at the beck and call of Hashem and that this was a sufficient merit for them to enter Eretz Yisroel (Sforno)

3) To know exactly the path they took until they entered Eretz Yisroel so that we know how to avoid the prohibition of returning to Egypt, which is limited to returning on the exact path that they took after leaving Egypt (commentators on Dvorim 17:16)

4) To show us that the bnei Yisroel made many stops and we will realize that at each place in the desolate desert they neutralized the negative powers that are inherent to an uninhabitable place. (Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh based on the Holy Zohar Shmos page 157a)

5) To show us that they came to many new places, which were no doubt replete with poisonous snakes and scorpions, and yet the bnei Yisroel were protected (Pirush Yonoson)

6) To let the world know that the bnei Yisroel were sustained in food and drink in a truly miraculous manner - Had the verses not let us know that they traveled to areas deep in the desert, one might have thought that they skirted inhabited areas and always had food and drink close at hand. (Rambam Moreh N'vuchim 3:50 brought in Ramban)

7) The names teach us that Hashem's guiding them to each place was in response to their spiritual level. If they were on their way upward, He sent them to more a comfortable location, as indicated by positive names, i.e. "Miskoh" (sweet) and "Har Shefer" (mountain of beauty). If they fell spiritually, Hashem sent them to a very inhospitable place, i.e. "Charodoh" (trembling), "Dofkoh" (banging), and "Moroh" (bitter). (Rabbeinu Bachyei)

8) To teach us what we can expect before the final redemption - It will resemble the exodus from Egypt and many bnei Yisroel will travel in the same desert, as indicated in Yechezkeil 20. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)

9) To teach us that although we will go through extreme trials and tribulations before the final redemption, it will surely come, just as the bnei Yisroel traveled to many inhospitable places before they entered Eretz Yisroel (Tzror Hamor)

10) To teach us that as much as we believe that we grasp the meaning of the Torah, it is still beyond our comprehension, just as we don't know the necessity of including the many locations in the desert that the bnei Yisroel traversed (Tzror Hamor)

11) The 42 stations in the desert allude to Hashem's Holy Name of 42 letters. We therefore do not break up the reading of the mention of these 42 places (see Mogein Avrohom O.Ch. 428:21). (Tzror Hamor)

12) So that if a person comes to any of these locations he should make the blessing "Boruch .. she'ossoh laavoseinu nes bamokome ha'zeh" (Minchoh V'luloh)



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

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel