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by Daneal Weiner
Welcome, once again, to our first DDOOUUBBLLEE parsha together,
Last week the Midianites had sent their daughters out to whoredom (kind of like in America but there it's called 'college.' ). This week Hashem tells Moshe to say to Israel (31:2) to avenge themselves against the Midianites, to go to war, and after this last command is fulfilled Moshe will die. When Moshe tells Israel to ready themselves he says (31:3) in order to avenge H'! Why does Moshe change G-d's wording and why is his life dependant on this last mitsva?
An answer to the first question is that Moshe did not want B"Y to hesitate going out to war. If he told them to avenge themselves then they could have passed on their honor in order to keep Moshe alive. Now that it is H's name they are avenging they are ready to fight immediately. A second answer (still the first question) is that Moshe is saying that the Jews would be nothing were it not for our relationship with H'. We represent Him. If a Jew does something wrong, it's not "Shame on you!" It's, "Chilul H'!!!" Likewise, it is not our own honor we avenge, but the honor of H'.
To answer the second question we'll take the scenic route beginning with the Yad Yechezkel by Rabbi Yechezkel Levinstein, just because of the incredible-ous-ness of what he says. He brings down a medrish on our verse which states, "Moshe says to H', 'The uncircumcised and the idolaters and the heretics would not chase after us were it not for Your Torah and mitsvot that You have given us.'" R. Levinstein pointed out that this medrish was used by Maimonedes in his famous letter offering words of fortification to a terribly oppressed Yemenite community. He uses it to say that the goyim are jealous of us! Incredible!!
When I first heard this I couldn't believe it. I always understood that the goyim did not want the moral responsibility that we represent in the world. Tell a goy who is beating you for killing Jesus that Jesus was Jewish and he'll beat you even harder. We just had a medrish 2 weeks ago that the kings of the world said to Bilaam "H' yivarech es amo bashalom" meaning "Let G-d bless His nation..." HIS nation, as long as He leaves them alone! Hitler, y"sh said he wanted a guilt free world. These don't sound like cases of jealousy. But if the medrish and the Rambam say it than it must be so. It just occurred to me, another medrish which says that the mountain the Torah was given on was called ‘Sinai' from the word ‘Sinah' which means ‘hate'. I love it when all the pieces come together!
So what the Yad Yechezkel is emphasizing is don't be fooled. Not by words and not by actions. What appears on the surface is NOT what is at the root! Hitler y'sh, also wanted to create the superior race. How could he if there already was one. (le'havdil elef alfai havdalos)? Wherever the Jews are, or should I say wherever the non Jews are, there will always be this jealousy/hatred waiting to emerge. But how will it emerge? R. Levenstein goes on to explain what this new awareness means to us. What actions will emanate from us if we have even the slightest hint of jealousy within our own hearts?
Rabbi Zev Leff points out that in the 10 Commandments it says "you shall not covet your neighbors wife, man servant, maidservant, ox or donkey..." The Torah puts the wife and the donkey in one fell swoop! Don't desire your neighbors wife or his donkey? Where's a feminist when you need one? What nerve is that to equate the desire for a woman with the want of some extra transportation??? Rabbi Leff explains that the Torah is not talking about a jealousy because you want something to serve a purpose or to fill a need. Then certainly there would be a difference between woman and animal. The Torah is describing a jealousy that you want it JUST BECAUSE IT'S HIS! You couldn't care less what it is, if you need it or if it sits in the shed! You just don't want him to have it! In such a case, it really doesn't matter if you are talking about his wife or his donkey. The want is all the same want! And it's entirely destructive!
Somewhat related, a Gemorah in Pesachim says that the hatred of an am ha'arets, an ignorant Jew to a Talmid Chacham is far greater than that of a goy to a Jew! R. Joung explains this Gemorah with the following parable. If someone wants to catch a train and they get to the station and find out that they're a half hour late, their anger is tempered. What could they do? But if he gets to the station and he is just a minute late??? Now he is mad. To be so close is too much. The soul of the goy to the soul of the Jew is worlds apart. The soul of the am ha'arets is very near to the soul of a Tsaddik.
A soul is a potential. G-d expects 100% from everyone, regardless of the measure. But the greater the potential to do good is directly proportionate to the potential to do evil. I once read a survey of the 5 most famous people ‘in the world'. The results were 1)Moses 2)Jesus 3)Freud 4)Marx 5)Einstein. Obviously, this survey wasn't taken in Turkey or China. Still, all 5 individuals affected major portions of world history and all 5 were Jewish. Only Moses used his potential wholly and totally to the side of good. Jesus and Marx killed countless millions. Einstein was highly informative. It can be debated if he made the world a better place , especially when it's Eisav's world.. The Torah says that Eisav will live by the sword. Indeed, all new information or invention is first investigated as to what kind of weapon to make out of it. A year or 2 later it eventually filters down to the consumer market as an accessory to an action doll or in one of the thousands of worthless gimmick catalogs. But first and foremost, a new sword...ergo, the ‘debate' over Einstein's contribution. And as for Freud... take a look at California...'nuf said. I digress but this reminds me...
I once heard Ms. Christy Hefner speak about her empire of shmuts (at a Jewish function, of course). It was very amusing to hear her choosing to be a vehicle for the moral decay of Western civilization as ‘good business'. It was even more amusing when she commented that California was Playboy's testing ground for new products. I thought to myself, with all the rainstorms, mud slides, earthquakes and brush fires that California gets, apparently Someone else is using it for a testing ground as well. But now I really digress.
So one of the roots of evil is jealousy. How it manifests itself we said is another story. When Yaakov left Lavan and was about to meet Eisav he prayed to H' for protection (Breishis 32:12) "from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Eisav." He didn't fear Eisav just as an ‘enemy' but even as a ‘brother'. There are many nations and temptations waiting for B'Y over the Jordan River and even without bringing B'Y in, Moshe Rabbeinu knew it was his job to see that they were prepared. B'Y's test would be the war against Midian. The Ohr HaChaim explains that Midian represents physical lusting. They had to be seen as the evil that they are and destroyed. Then Moshe would know B'Y was ready to enter E'Y and then his job as leader would be over.
According to the Medrish Tanchumah, Moshe rounded up 12000 soldiers to fight in the foreground 12000 more to guard the arms and prepare food in the middle ground and another 12000 soldiers to pray in the background. Chazal tell us that not one single Jew was killed in this war. That's 12000 against millions! Every male of Midian was killed and not one of our men was killed! The 12000 who prayed did a great job!!! (Makes you wonder why Shabbos morning we don't say a bracha for all the young men and woman sitting and learning, protecting our soldiers.) At first Moshe was concerned that they let the Midianite women live. They thought that having killed every male, they certainly fulfilled the command to avenge G-d. There was nothing left of the nation but enslaved captives. Moshe explained that since most of these woman were THE catalysts for the sin by Ba'al Peor and the cause of the death of 24000 Jews, they should certainly pay the same price as the men. The job was finished. Moshe now know's that B'Y are spiritually and physically ready and now he was ready to die.
By the way, Pinchas was appointed to lead the war against Midian. Usually this is the role of the High Priest. Why Pinchas? One answer, the most simple; one who starts a mitsva should finish it. Pinchas committed the first act of avenging H' by killing Zimri and Cozbi so he should finish. Another answer brought by the Sha'arei Aharon is that Moshe let Pinchas avenge his great grandfather Yoseph! How so? The brothers sold Yoseph to Yishma'elim who then sold him to Midianites! Although Rashi tells us these Midianites were selling fragrances because H' watches out for his tsaddikim, I can assure you Yoseph was not inhaling and enjoying the ride. He was pleading for his life!, "You know who I am? I'm the son of Ya'akov, the grandson of Abraham! Surely you heard about my father's wealth!? Take me home and we'll buy your entire stock! He'll give you 10x my market value! We'll give you great rewards! You can all be rich!!"
Needless to say, but I'll say it anyways, his pleading fell on deaf ears. These Midianites had a Jew and they preferred to sell him into slavery rather then be handsomely rewarded giving him his freedom. H' doesn't like people not showing respect to His Tsaddikim and gave Yoseph's descendant the opportunity to avenge his honor.
The Maharal says to this, "Ancient history! Old news! Who remembers it?" It's not the events then but the man now. Joseph, every day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, 12 months a year, for yeeeeeeears had to fight off the advances of Potiphars wife. Joseph stood for morality. We know very well how grandson Pinchas uphold's Grandpa's values. Pinchas is THE man for this job.
And speaking of advances, let's move on to the next Parsha. In
is listed the 42 camping sights of B"Y while in the desert. Rashi says that even though B'Y was sentenced to 40 yrs of wandering, don't think all they did was wander. Another opinion says they represent 42 stages in a persons life. (Don't ask, I don't know) Rav Osher Reich points out that little paragraph everyone shmears just before Lecha Dodi is 42 words long. The acronym of that paragraph is said to be the 42 letters of the 42-letter name of H'. (Don't ask, I don't know) These letters of G-d's holy name spread out over 42 words sounds related to the Rabbeinu B'chayai who says that there were sparks of holiness in those 42 locations in the midbar and B"Y had to go get ‘em. The actions of the fathers are an indication for the children. This also was an indication of the exile when the Jews will be scattered to go picking up sparks of holiness from all corners of the world.
If you've been on your toes, you probably have a question, not to mention a cramp. I told you previously in the name of Rabbi Tatz that the midbar is a place deserted of all kedusha. It's a concentration of all things unholy. Now I bring that there are 42 sparks lying about. How do I explain myself?! To get out of this I draw upon the city of Sodom. It too was so evil and unholy that it had to be destroyed AND YET it was the birthplace of the lineage of the Mashiach!!! (On the mother's side.) Commentaries say that it is the incredible potential of the holiness within which is the very attraction for the forces of evil to converge on it. I'll correct myself saying that the desert wasn't totally void but overwhelmingly void of all kedusha except for a number of sparks buried deep under the tuma.
The Rabbeinu B'chayai also says that just as we journeyed through the desert after the first redemption, so too will we with the mashiach in the final redemption. That will be the final test. Those who have the faith will drop everything, wallets, car keys, insurance policies, 401K's, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-I-n-g and follow the mashiach into the desert. A medrish on Megillas Ruth says we will again receive the mon from Heaven and water from the rock. (That's good because we just left everything behind.) The Medrish Tana D'Vay Eliyahu says the mishkan was put in hiding and is being saved till that future time. My magid shiur, Rabbi Fox asks, "But isn't the mashiach going to build the third Temple? Why do we need the Mishkan?" Now the answer is clear. "It must be for this rendezvous in the desert!" And since there will be a 3rd Temple as well, perhaps this is why the Otser Acheres HaYamim who also says that the mishkan will again be used, adds, but as a place of prayer and not for sacrifice! I love it when all the pieces come together!
33:2 "Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journey at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth." Why the repetition and why is only the first "by the bidding of Hashem"?
Even with the 42 stops connoting the exile, the thrust of the parsha is talking about redemption. This is the Matos-Masai combo. Matos is exile and Masai is redemption. The first ‘goings' & ‘journey' in the verse is about the past redemption and the second is referring to the one which will begin any day now. Why is only the first ‘by H's bidding'? Pesach was all H's doing. We didn't deserve it. That won't be the case with the final redemption. That's the final test. We are going to have to turn our backs on our own modern day Egypt and head into the desert. For right now all we have to do is head into Shabbos. Ideally, when Shabbos comes, one is supposed to drop everything work related. One is supposed to enter into Shabbos like he just quit his last job and is starting a new job on Sunday. Now I see how that's good practice for the aforementioned test of dropping everything and heading into the time that's yom shekulo Shabbos umnucha! I love it when all the pieces come together! Especially a piece of chala, of chicken, of kugel, of kishke....Shabbot Shalom!
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