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Parshas Mattos/Masei

V’Yair ben Menashe halacha vayilkod es chavoseihem vayikra es’hen Chavos Yair …
V’Novach halacha vayilkod es K’nas v’es b’noseha vayikra la Novach bish’mo (32:41-42)

            One of the great Rosh Yeshivos of the Telz yeshiva in Cleveland, Rav Eizik Ausband, was once faced with a dilemma. His father-in-law, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Bloch hy”d, had been one of the illustrious leaders of the original Telz yeshiva in Europe, but was tragically murdered in the Holocaust. Rav Ausband’s wife was pregnant, and in the event that the baby would be a boy, he wished to commemorate the memory of his father-in-law by naming the baby Avrohom Yitzchok. The problem was that Rav Ausband’s full name is R’ Yitzchok Eizik. As the prevalent custom is not to give a child the same name as his father or mother, Rav Ausband’s wondered whether he, R’ Yitzchok Eizik, was permitted to have a son named Avrohom Yitzchok. Perhaps the fact that both names would contain the name “Yitzchok” would be considered as having the same name and should be avoided, or perhaps the fact that each had an additional name would cause them to be considered as two separate names and would be perfectly appropriate.

            He presented his query to one of the great survivors of pre-war Europe, Rav Eliezer Silver, who was at the time serving as the Rav of Cincinnati. Rav Silver cryptically replied that the Torah “explicitly” answers this very question at the end of Parshas Matos. The Torah relates that Yair went and conquered the villages in Gil’ad and re-named them Chavos-Yair – the villages of Yair. Rashi explains that because Yair had no children, he named the villages after himself in order to memorialize his name. The Torah continues and recounts that Novach went and captured K’nas and its suburbs and re-named them Novach in his name. Rav Silver questioned why this phrase – “in his name” – isn’t similarly used in reference to Yair’s naming his villages Chavos-Yair. Indeed, we find later (Devorim 3:14) that in Moshe’s recounting the 40-year national history, he mentions that Yair called the cities al sh’mo – after his name.

Rav Silver answered that only Novach gave his conquered territory the exact same name as he had, and therefore the Torah was able to write that he called them “in his name.” Yair, on the other hand, added an additional name in calling his villages not “Yair” but “Chavos Yair.” While Moshe referred to this as a memorial to his name, the additional name makes it a new name, one which can’t be considered “in his name.” As a result, the names Yitzchok Eizik and Avrohom Yitzchok, each of which contains an additional name, are considered two different names and may indeed be used by a father and son!


V’hikrisem la’chem arim arei miklat tih’yena lachem v’nas shamah rotzeiach makeh nefesh bish’gaga (35:11)

            A man once traveled from Israel to Europe in order to collect money for the poverty-stricken Yeshivos of Jerusalem. Try as he might, his heroic efforts at collecting door-to-door in the freezing European winter were largely unsuccessful. Difficult as it was, he was willing to accept Hashem’s decree, but upon hearing that the non-religious agent collecting for Zionist causes had quickly reached his target and was already on his return voyage, he became distraught and frustrated. He approached the Chofetz Chaim for an explanation to help him understand Hashem’s perplexing ways.

            The Chofetz Chaim responded by noting that the Gemora in Makkos (10b) rules that signs must be placed along the roads indicating which path accidental murders should take in order to arrive at the cities of refuge, and questioned why we don’t find a similar law requiring that signs be posted pointing the way to Yerushalayim for those on their way to fulfill the mitzvah of ascending to the Beis HaMikdash on Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos.

He answered that the person on his way to the city of refuge, even if not an intentional murderer, is still not a moral role model to whom we wish people to be exposed, and Hashem wouldn’t have caused this to happen to a completely righteous person. We therefore provide directions for him so that he won’t have to stop and obtain them from innocent people. On the other hand, the Medrash relates (Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel 1:1 77) that each year Elkanah and his family would ascend to the Mishkan in Shiloh and share his plans with those he encountered, thus encouraging them to join him in the mitzvah. Each time he would take a different path so as to enable all Jews to participate in the mitzvah. There are no signs pointing the way to Yerushalayim so that a person ascending there will be forced to ask the locals for directions, thus exposing them to the righteous so they may  join them in the performance of mitzvos.

The Chofetz Chaim concluded his words of comfort by suggesting that the representative of the anti-religious causes would only act as a negative influence on all those he encountered. Hashem therefore enabled him to quickly obtain the funds he sought so that he would immediately leave, thus sparing the upright Jews of Europe from encountering his misleading ideologies. The representative of the Israeli yeshivos, on the other hand, was a righteous person representing holy causes. Frustrating and time-consuming as it may be, Hashem specifically wanted that his collection efforts should be dragged out so as to allow as many people as possible to meet him and become inspired from his stories of the pious Jews studying Torah in Yerushalayim!


Zeh ha’davar asher tzivah Hashem liv’nos Tzelofchad leimor l’tov b’eineihem tih’yenah l’nashim ach l’mishpachas mateh avihem tih’yenah l’nashim (36:6)

The Torah requires that a daughter who inherits land from her father must marry somebody from her father’s tribe in order to prevent the ownership of the land from being transferred to another tribe upon her death (36:7-9). Although the Torah seems to require the daughters of Tzelofchad to marry men from their father’s tribe (Menashe) for this reason, the Gemora in Bava Basra (120a) states this wasn’t a commandment to them but rather a piece of good advice that Hashem told Moshe to give to them. As this section of the Torah was brought about by the argument of the tribe of Menashe (36:1-4) that the marriage of the daughters of Tzelofchad to men from other tribes will bring about a reduction in the size of their tribal land, why wasn’t this advice indeed made an obligation incumbent upon them?

The Steipler answers by noting that the Rambam rules (Hilchos Nachalos 1:8) that a husband only inherits his wife’s possessions due to a Rabbinical enactment. Therefore, if one of the daughters of Tzelofchad marries a man from another tribe, there is no fear that her land would pass over to him. The only way for the land to pass to another tribe would be in a case where her son, whose tribe is determined by his father, inherits it from her. However, the Gemora there in Bava Basra states that each of the daughters of Tzelofchad was already over the age of 40 at this time. The Gemora questions this by noting that if it were true, they would no longer be able to biologically bear children; the Gemora answers that although this is true, Hashem made a miracle for them due to their rigtheousness and allowed them to have children.

Based on this Gemora, it is difficult to understand why the tribe of Menashe argued that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry men from other tribes. Their husbands wouldn’t inherit the land, and they weren’t biologically capable of having children who might inherit it. We must conclude that their tribesmen recognized their piety and feared that they may indeed miraculously give birth to sons. However, this miracle could only take place before Hashem gave the commandment regarding the transfer of tribal property. Once this mitzvah was given, there was no longer any basis for worry, as in the event that the daughters of Tzelofchad would ignore Hashem’s preference and marry men from another tribe, they would no longer be considered sufficiently righteous to merit the miraculous birth of sons, which would result in the transfer of their tribal land.

With this understanding, it is now clear that there was no prohibition for them to marry men from another tribe, as their husbands wouldn’t inherit their land and they wouldn’t give birth to sons who may inherit it, thus leaving the land firmly in the hands of their relatives from the tribe of Menashe. Nevertheless, Hashem gave them a piece of “good advice,” that if they married men from the tribe of Menashe, they could miraculously merit to give birth to children, as in that case the children’s inheritance would pose no threat to the ownership of the tribal land!


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     A man betrothed a woman on the condition that she not consume any forbidden foods for 30 days. She subsequently took a vow not to consume a particular food. Upon hearing of her actions, her father revoked the vow while her conditional husband remained silent. She then proceeded to eat the food in question. If one maintains that she violated the condition of the betrothal by eating a forbidden food, the retroactive result will be that she was single at the time of her oath and her father’s revocation rendered the food permissible. If so, it will turn out that she fulfilled the condition and was married at the time, in which case her father’s revocation is meaningless as she is now subject only to the response of her husband, who effectively upheld the vow with his silence, rendering the food forbidden and causing her to break the condition of the betrothal. Is she legally married or single? (Zahav Sh’va)

2)     If the Jews killed every Midianite male (31:7), how is it possible that in the times of Gideon, 120,000 Jews were killed by the Midianites? Lest one answer that they were descended from the young Midianite females who weren’t killed (31:18), the Gemorah in Kiddushin (66b) rules that the nationality of non-Jews is determined by the father, such that the children of these girls wouldn’t be considered Midianites? (Mi’Tzion Mich’lal Yofi)

3)     Elozar taught the laws (31:21-24) about koshering the utensils which they plundered in the war against the Midianites. As they were surely considered by this time to be eino ben yomo – vessels which haven’t been used in the previous 24 hours – their use should have been Biblically permitted, so why was there a need to teach the laws of koshering them? (Kreisi U’Pleisi 103, Paneiach Raza, P’ninei Kedem quoting  Ohr Chodosh)

4)     Upon hearing the request (32:5) of the tribes of Gad and Reuven to dwell in the land to the east of the Jordan River and not in the land of Israel proper, Moshe suspected that their intentions were similar to those of the spies and responds strongly and critically. After they clarified that they were indeed willing to take part in the battle to conquer the land of Israel on behalf of the other tribes, Moshe acquiesced to their request. Why don’t we find that Moshe ever asked forgiveness from them for falsely accusing them and embarrassing them publicly? (Yishm’ru Daas)

5)     Rashi writes (32:17) that the tribes of Gad and Reuven were particularly strong and therefore led the Jewish army in its conquest of the land of Israel. How can this be reconciled with Rashi’s comment in Bereishis 47:20, in which he offers two different opinions about which of the tribes were strong and which were weak, and according to both opinions one of the tribes of Gad and Reuven was strong while the other was weak? (Matamei Yaakov)

6)     The tribes of Gad and Reuven agreed to Moshe’s condition, that they would leave their wives and children on the east side of the Jordan River while they would lead the Jews in the battle to conquer the land of Israel proper and remain there until it was divided among the other tribes (32:25-27, Rashi 35:24). How were they permitted to agree to such terms, which would require them to remain away from their wives for a total of 14 years, leaving them unable to fulfill the mitzvah of marital relations during this lengthy period? (Meshech Chochmah, Taam V’Daas)

7)     The Mishnah Berurah writes (428:21) that the 42 journeys detailed at the beginning of Parshas Masei (33:3-49) correspond to Hashem’s mystical 42-letter name, and as a result he rules that they shouldn’t be split up but rather should be read consecutively in one aliyah. Why does the traditional division of aliyos printed on the side of standard Chumashim call for this section to be divided, with the first aliyah ending with 33:10 and the next aliyah to begin with 33:11?

8)     Rav Chaim Kanievsky notes that in the section detailing the laws of the cities of refuge (35:6-34), the word rotzei’ach – murderer – is used 17 times. He suggests that this is an allusion to the 17 (improper and injustified) murderers who are found throughout Tanach. How many can you name? (Taima D’Kra)

© 2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to

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