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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 32, v. 25: "VA'YOMER bnei Gad uvnei Reuvein" - Why the singular form VA'YOMER, rather than "Va'yomru?"

1) Rashi says "kulom k'ish echod," they all unanimously replied as one person. The Targum Yonoson ben Uziel also says, "b'askomuso chado," in united agreement.

2) The Baal Haturim says that the greatest person of the two tribes spoke to Moshe. In the same vein as the Baal Haturim, the N'tzi"v says that since these two tribes hoped to live on the Trans-Jordanian side, they created a division between themselves and the rest of the bnei Yisroel. They appointed their own leader and spokesman who spoke to Moshe, hence the term VA'YOMER, in the singular form.

3) The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that since they offered to go along with the bnei Yisroel to war in the Promised Land, they would be leaving their wives and children behind. They needed permission from their wives to be allowed to do this. Their wives granted them permission, and the unanimous agreement of women as well as men is expressed in the singular form.

Ch. 32, v. 25,27,31: "Ka'asher adoni M'TZA'VEH, Ka'asher adoni DO'VEIR, asher di'beir Hashem" - The response of the tribes of Reuvein and Gad to Moshe was that they would accept his recommendations. However, we find that they expressed themselves in different manners, twice mentioning "adoni," our master Moshe, and once mentioning Hashem. As well, there is a change from M'TZA'VEH to DOVEIR to DI'BEIR.

The Binyan Shlomo answers the difference between M'TZA'VEH and DOVEIR by explaining the mistake the two tribes made in giving priority to attending the needs of their livestock over their families. Moshe explained that the needs of their families should take priority. This is clearly indicated in the difference of the sequence as expressed by the two tribes and as expressed by Moshe. Moshe's ruling not only applied in this particular situation, but was also a lesson for future generations. Their acceptance is therefore expressed as M'TZA'VEH, meaning of a permanent nature.

A second point Moshe made was that their plan would only be acceptable if they were to go along with the rest of the bnei Yisroel and help in the wars to take control of Eretz Yisroel. This was a point that was only relevant for that time and not for generations. Their acceptance of this second ruling is therefore expressed as DOVEIR.

Proof that DIBUR refers to a matter of only immediate relevance and TZIVUI to a matter pertaining to all generations can be brought from the circumcisions Avrohom performed on Yishmoel and Yitzchok. The command to circumcise Yishmoel was only pertinent to that one circumstance and is expressed as, "Va'yomol ...... kaasher DI'BEIR ito Elokim" (Breishis 17:23). The command to circumcise Yitzchok and future generations is expressed as, "Va'yomol Avrohom es Yitzchok b'no ...... kaasher TZIVO oso Elokim" (Breishis 21:4). Another very clear proof is from the gemara Kidushin 29a which says that we know that Avrohom was commanded to circumcise, but how do we know that later generations have this command as well. The gemara answers that since it says "kaasher TZIVO oso" we know that it applies to later generations as well. We are still left with the variations found in verse 31, "asher di'beir HASHEM. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers this with the opinion of the Shiltos d'Rebbi Achai Gaon on our parsha. We derive numerous technical rules regarding binding stipulations (such as "tnai koful") from the conversation between Moshe and the two tribes. Rabbi Achai Gaon, based on a Sifri, posits that these rules are waived when an agent presents a conditional proposition. Until this point the two tribes thought that Moshe was negotiating with them as an agent of Hashem, and therefore expressed themselves with ADONI, our master Moshe, indicating that he was involved as an agent. Once they heard him articulate the conditions with all the technical rules required, they realized that his words were to be considered as if Hashem Himself was talking to them without a go-between. At this point they said "kaasher di'beir HASHEM."


Ch. 31, v. 21: "Habo'im LAmilchomoh" - The literal translation of these words is "Who are coming TO war." Earlier, in verse 14 we find that they had already come back from waging war, "Habo'im mi'tzvo hamilchomoh." If so, shouldn't our verse also have similarly said "habo'im MImilchomoh?" Indeed, Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates, "D'OSU misidrei krovo," - who HAVE COME from waging war.

1) The use of words indicating a future battle alludes to the words of the Chovos Halvovos, shaar yichud hamaa'seh chapter 5. He says that a general returned home from the battlefront having very successfully waged war. A wise man said to him that although he had won the small war against his fellow man, he still had an ongoing major war to fight, the battle with his evil inclination. Elozor hinted to the warriors that they still had this future war, as does all of mankind. (Gan Ro'veh)

If you wonder why this wasn't pointed out earlier during the wars against Sichon and Og, the Holy Admor of Kotzk answers that since Elozor was about to tell the warriors the laws of "gi'ul keilim," the requirement to purge vessels of their non-kosher absorbed flavours, this taught them the lesson that even if no improper matter is seen externally, we must still cleanse ourselves internally, i.e. thoughts. Therefore this was a most appropriate time to allude to the war against the evil inclination, who is especially proficient in pushing people to have improper thoughts.

The Yeitev Leiv answers this by saying that the major battle against the evil inclination is in matters of haughtiness. This trait is the source of many sins. The battles against Sichon and Og involved a large army. When the enemy was vanquished there was not much room for haughtiness. This is not the case with the war against Midyon. The bnei Yisroel were limited to 12,000 (according to other opinions, up to a maximum of 36,000) people. Upon winning so decisively with such a small army against the large nation of Midyon there was much room for haughtiness, hence the allusion to the words of the Chovos Halvovos.

2) This choice of words indicates that Elozor will have authority in the future. Moshe told him to express himself this way while Moshe was still alive, so that the nation will follow the commands of Elozor haKohein Hagodol. (MESHECH CHOCHMOH based on the Sifri #45)

3) This war itself was not yet completed since some of the people who were captured had to be put to death (verse 17). (Rabbi M. Schwab in Ma'yon Beis Hasho'eivoh)


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