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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com