Oroh V'Simchoh

Meshech Chochmoh
on the Weekly Parsha

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@ROGERS.COM


Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel mei'eis haMidyonim achar ei'o'seif el a'mecho" - Why was it necessary for Moshe to be involved with the war and revenge against the Midyonim? What would be wrong if the bnei Yisroel would wage war with them after Moshe passed on? The MESHECH CHOCHMOH answers that had Moshe not waged war with them some people might have accused him of not acting because he was reluctant to fight the people of the country that harboured him for many years and had at its head his father-in-law Yisro who served there as a priest.

The N'tzi"v answers that we find by the war of the bnei Yisroel at Ay, Hashem told Yehoshua that the bnei Yisroel would be victorious. Nevertheless, Hashem gave Yehoshua strategic advice to overpower the people of Ay by setting a trap of a regimen of warriors behind the city. Why was this necessary? Hashem could have just as easily given over the people of Ay into the hands of the bnei Yisroel with no specific military tactic. We must say that since the bnei Yisroel sinned at Ay their merits were not sufficient to win the battle. It therefore required extra effort, in this case a special strategy. Similarly here, since the bnei Yisroel sinned with the daughters of Moav, special merits were required. Therefore the prayers of Moshe were needed.

Ch. 31, v. 16: "Hein heinoh hoyu livnei Yisroel bidvar Bilom" - Hashem requires of us to fully adhere to His commands. The gemara B.K. 50a says that one who says that Hashem overlooks one's sins, his life will be forfeited. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH points out that we find that Bilom expressed exactly this sentiment when he said "Lo hibit oven b'Yaakov v'lo ro'oh omol b'Yisroel" (Bmidbar 23:21). He added a proof to this by saying "Keil motziom miMitzrayim" (next verse), that Hashem redeemed the bnei Yisroel from Egypt even though they sinned, having lowered themselves to the 49th level of impurity through idol worship. In spite of this He took them out of Egypt, indicating that he overlooked their sins.

As a result of this the bnei Yisroel dared to sin with the daughters of Midyon, harbouring the false belief that Hashem would overlook their sins. This is the intention of our verse. This was the stumbling block for the bnei Yisroel, "BIDVAR Bilom, by virtue of Bilom's words, "Lo hibit oven b'Yaakov."

The MESHECH CHOCHMOH adds that this concept is to be found in the M.R. Dvorim 1:2. On the verse in Mishlei 28:23, "Mochiach odom acharai chein yimtzo mimachlik loshon." The medrash says that "Mochiach odom acharai chein yimtzo," refers to Moshe. Even though he reprimanded the bnei Yisroel in harsh terms, nevertheless, afterwards he found favour in the eyes of those who took his words to heart. "Mimachlik loshon" refers to Bilom who used sweet words to entice the bnei Yisroel to sin, saying that they may pursue their lusts and no retribution would follow.

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)

Ch. 31, v. 49: "Avo'decho nossu es rosh anshei hamilchomoh ASHER B"YO'DEINU v'lo nifkad mi'menu ish" - The words "asher b'yo'deinu" seem superfluous. The gemara Y'vomos 61a interprets "v'lo nifkad mi'menu ish," - and no man was lacking, to mean that no person sinned during the battle, even though it involved combating women. Moshe asked that if no one sinned why was there a need for atonement. The warriors responded that even though no one actually sinned in action, nevertheless, they were tainted by thoughts of sin. The MESHECH CHOCHMOH says that this is the intention of the words "asher b'yo'deinu." The Medrash Tanchuma says that one cannot readily control the senses of his eyes ears and nose from absorbing sin. Thus our verse says that they reported that there was no person who was lacking in his spiritual level by sinning regarding "asher b'yo'deinu," the organs that are under their control. However, they did sin in thought.

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 TZIVOH 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 TZIVOH 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. 35, v. 25: "V'yoshav boh ad mose haKohein haGodol asher YIMSHACH oso" - The gemara Makos 11b says that the fugitive accidental murderer who escapes to a city of refuge must remain there until the death of the Kohein Godol who had that position at the time of the verdict of the accidental murderer. If so, should the verse not have said "asher NIMSHACH b'yomov?" "Asher YIMSHACH" seems to connote that the accidental murderer anointed and elevated the Kohein to his position. The Meshech Chochmoh points out that we see from this wording an insight into the workings of Hashem that is contrary to the thinking of the common man. One thinks that the Kohein Godol was appointed because he in particular was worthy of the position. However, the reason can be a totally different one. Hashem decrees the length of each person's life. As well, He also calculates how long the accidental murderer should have to remain in a city of refuge. It is quite possible that Hashem has decreed that a specific person become Kohein Godol because the number of years left to his life match with the number of years Hashem wants the accidental murderer to remain in the city of refuge. Thus his remaining in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohein Godol, "v'yoshav boh ad mose haKohein haGodol, is the cause for this Kohein having been anointed as Kohein Godol in the first place, hence "asher yimshach oso," the accidental murderer is the cause for this person being appointed.

Perhaps it is most befitting for this concept to be pointed out by the case of the accidental murderer, since the gemara Makos 10b says that the accidental killing also takes place, not as a self-contained incident, but rather, as an outgrowth of other incidents, and is not just an independent cause for going into exile. The gemara says that such an incident takes place specifically with these people, because the one who was accidentally killed had intentionally killed someone else when no witnesses were present. The accidental murderer had previously killed another person unintentionally, and not in front of witnesses. Neither of these two people will get off scot-free, but rather, they come to one location. The intentional murderer is killed by the unintentional murderer in front of witnesses, and everyone gets his just desserts.


See also Sedrah Selections, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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 parsha@shemayisrael.com

Jerusalem, Israel