If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check which may be more up-to-date

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

 Parshas Pinchas - Vol. 7, Issue 38
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Uv'eileh lo haya ish mi'pekudei Moshe v'Aharon HaKohen asher pakdu es B'nei Yisroel b'midbar Sinai (26:64)

After 24,000 Jewish people were killed in a plague as a punishment for sinning with the Moabite women and their idols, Hashem commanded Moshe and Elozar to count the remaining Jews. The Torah proceeds to detail the results of the census, recording the names of the families in each of the 12 tribes as well as their total numbers. The section concludes by noting that none of the men counted in this census were among those counted earlier by Moshe and Aharon, as they had all died as a result of the sin of the spies. Rashi notes that the Torah seems to emphasize that it was onlyo the men from the previous census who had died. He explains that the decree against those who accepted the negative report of the spies regarding the land of Israel did not apply to the women, as they loved Eretz Yisroel and expressed their desire to live there.

Rav Avrohom Yaakov Pam points out that Rashi's implication that the sin of the spies and those who accepted their report was an insufficient love of the land of Israel seems to contradict explicit verses which state in conjunction with the sin of the spies (14:11), "How long will they not have faith in Me" and (Devorim 1:32) "In this matter you do not believe in Hashem your G-d." These verses clearly indicate that the underlying nature of their sin was not a lack of love of the land of Israel, but rather a lack of faith and trust in Hashem to assist them in conquering the mighty inhabitants of the land.

On the other hand, there are also verses which seem to support Rashi's explanation, as Hashem decreed (14:31), "They (your children) shall know the land that you despised," and Dovid writes (Tehillim 106:24), "They despised the desirable land; they had no faith in His word," mentioning both sins, but listing their rejection of the land first, indicating that it was the primary sin. In what way did the spies in fact despise the land, and how was that sin related to the very real concerns that they expressed about their ability to militarily defeat the oversized inhabitants of the land?

The Gemora in Bava Basra (142b) rules that if a person attempts to transfer legal ownership of an object to an unborn fetus, his actions are legally meaningless, with one exception. If he is giving ownership to his own unborn child, his actions take effect. What is the reason for this distinction? Rav Pam explains that there are a number of concerns about a fetus - if it will be born alive, and even if it is born, whether it will be physically and mentally healthy. As a result, a person can never decide with absolute certainty that he is ready to transfer legal ownership to a fetus. If so, why is his own child any different? A person is so full of love for his child that he doesn't even contemplate the inherent risks and dangers. His love overwhelms his rational fears and causes him to view his child as innately complete and healthy, in which case there are no obstacles to his commitment to give an item to his own child.

The lesson of this Gemora is that when a person's love for something is strong enough, he doesn't allow himself to see any potential pitfalls or dangers. Although the sin of the spies outwardly manifested itself as a lack of faith and trust in Hashem, the underlying root of their sin was an inadequate love of Eretz Yisroel. Had they possessed the love of the land that the Jewish women did, they wouldn't have been able to concern themselves with the risks involved in conquering a land full of giants.

With this understanding, we can better appreciate why the response of Calev and Yehoshua to the spies' report was to tell the Jewish people (14:7) that the land of Israel is very, very good. In what way did that address the spies' concern that they wouldn't be able to defeat the inhabitants of the land? Rav Pam explains that Yehoshua and Calev understood that these fears were rooted in their opinion that the land of Israel was merely a good land, unremarkable in any way. Therefore, they responded that if the people changed their mindsets and internalized the belief that Eretz Yisroel is truly exceptional, their ensuing love of the land would overpower any feelings of anxiety and gloom.

Rav Pam adds that there are often students in yeshiva who express a desire to grow and become great Torah scholars, yet they despair of ever doing so due to their acknowledgement that remaining in yeshiva for the period of time necessary to do so isn't financially viable. Because of concerns about being able to support a family and eventually find a satisfying teaching position, they conclude that they have no choice but to pursue other professional options.

In reality, these concerns and fears are rooted not in a savvy understanding of economic pressures, but rather in an insufficient love of Torah study. Just like the father giving a gift to his unborn child, and just like the women in the wilderness who refused to accept the negative report of the spies, a yeshiva student who loves to learn Torah with every fiber of his being will be unable to concern himself with these issues, as his entire heart will be filled with such a love of Torah that it will become his sole focus. As we now find ourselves in the three-week period during which we mourn the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash as a result of the sin of the spies and because of a lack of proper appreciation of Torah study (Bava Metzia 85b), let us strengthen ourselves in our emotional connections to the tremendous gifts of Eretz Yisroel and our Holy Torah.

Yom teruah yihyeh lachem (29:1)

The Gemora in Rosh Hashana (16b) teaches that blowing the shofar has the tremendous effect of confusing and silencing the accusing angel in Heaven. Nevertheless, the Gemora (Rosh Hashana 29b) rules that when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbos, the shofar may not be blown. This enactment was made due to a fear that a Jew may be unfamiliar with the proper way to blow the shofar.

To learn how to do so, he may carry it to the house of the Rabbi, in the process violating the prohibition against carrying in the public domain on Shabbos. Although this would indeed be a tragedy, why did the Sages deny tens of thousands of people this invaluable and irreplaceable merit simply because one Jew may carry it – unintentionally, and for the sake of performing a mitzvah – to a Rabbi to learn how to blow it?

Rav Yitzchok Blazer explains that the impending arrival of Rosh Hashana is heralded by the blowing of the shofar each morning during the month of Elul. Certainly, when Rosh Hashana itself comes, everybody will come to the synagogue, anxiously awaiting the 100 blasts which are sounded.

When the normal time for the blowing of the shofar arrives but no sounds are heard, people will become curious about the omission. Upon asking, they will be told that it is because of the aforementioned fear of another Jew accidentally carrying the shofar outside on Shabbos. The questioner will press on, wondering why so many people must lose out over such an improbable fear, one which would seem to be greatly outweighed by the guaranteed downside of Jews across the world being unable to hear the shofar blasts.

However, from the fact that Chazal nevertheless made their decree, we see that they understood that indeed, the possibility that one Jew may inadvertently carry the shofar outside – even for the sake of a mitzvah – is so incredibly detrimental that they saw no choice but to forbid the blowing of the shofar for everybody. Upon understanding this, the questioner will be left with a new appreciation of the severity of even an accidental sin and all the more so an intentional one. This new recognition will inspire him to a newfound resolve to repent his sins in a manner which even the sound of the mighty shofar couldn’t have accomplished.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at

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

1) Rashi writes (25:13) that prior to the episode in which he killed Zimri and Cozbi, Pinchas wasn’t a Kohen. As he was alive at the time that Aharon and his sons were anointed, why didn’t Hashem allow him to become a Kohen at that time? (Gur Aryeh, Sifsei Chochomim, Ohr Gedalyahu)

2) Rashi writes (26:1) that just as Moshe began his leadership of the Jewish nation by counting them after the exodus from Egypt, so too he was commanded to count them at the end of his leadership as the time of his death approached. After the sin of the golden calf, the male Jews between ages 20 and 60 numbered 603,550 (Shemos 38:26), while 39 years later they numbered only 601,730 (26:51). In what way is it considered a compliment to Moshe that the total number of Jews actually decreased during the period of his leadership? (Darash Moshe)

3) Does a firstborn son delivered through Caesarian-section receive a double portion in the inheritance of his father, and if he does not, does the son who is born after him receive a double portion instead? (Rambam Hilchos Nachalos 2:11)

4) In Parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:24), the Torah refers to Rosh Hashana as a remembrance of shofar blasts. In Parshas Pinchas (29:1), it is called a day of shofar blowing. The Gemora in Rosh Hashana (29b) explains that Parshas Emor refers to Rosh Hashana which falls on Shabbos, in which case the shofar is only remembered but not actually blown, and our parsha refers to Rosh Hashana which falls during the week, when the shofar is sounded. Why did the Torah write them in this order, first mentioning the less common case of Rosh Hashana falling on Shabbos? (Rav Akiva Eiger Al HaTorah, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha Parshas Emor)

  © 2012 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


Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel