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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Beha'aloscha (70)

This week's sedra has many topics in it. Beginning with the lighting of the Menorah; the purifying of the tribe of Levi; the second Pesach for those who couldn't partake of the first one; the beginnings of the travels in the wilderness and then some of tragic complaints of the people in their travels.; the giving of the manna and the meat (fowl) from the heavens and more. We will look at two verses and the Rashi-comment.

Numbers 10:35, 36

35: And it was when the ark traveled, that Moses said: Rise up Hashem and scatter Your enemies and make flee those that hate You from before You.

36: And when it rested he said: Return, Hashem to the myriads of thousands of Israel.

35: And it was when the ark traveled: Rashi: He made dividing marks (the letter 'nun') in front and behind it (verses 35 & 36) in order to indicate that this is not the proper place for it. Why then is it written here? In order to make a break between one tragedy and that of another tragedy.


Some background information may be helpful here. The two verses 35 & 36 have before them and after them an inverted Hebrew letter 'nun'. The question is: Why? Rashi gives one explanation offered in the Talmud. This was done, it says, to indicate that these verses are out of place and are placed here in order to separate between one tragedy and another.


A question: If this is not the right place for these verses, what is?

A second question: Immediately after these verses we read of that some of the People complained to G-d. The specific complaint is not mentioned but there is an immediate tragedy as a divine fire consumed the complainers. The question is where is a tragedy mentioned before our verse?


An Answer: The appropriate place for these verses about traveling would seem to be earlier Ch. 2 after verse17 where it first speaks of the tribes traveling.

An Answer to our second question: An answer that is given by Tosephos (Talmud Shabbat 116a) is that right before these verses (verse33) it says: "And they traveled from the Mt. of Hashem". This is interpreted to mean they left G-d's presence at the earliest opportunity, "like a pupil flees from his school."


Another opinion for the signs before and after our verses is stated in the Talmud (Shabbat 116) that they designate these two verses as a separate Book in the Torah. This would mean that there are Seven Books of Moses and not five as we usually assume.


It certainly is strange that these two verses, consisting of a mere nineteen words, are considered one of the Books of the Torah. What is so special about them?

Can you see something special about them?

Your Answer.


An Answer: These two verses synopsize the whole of Jewish history in a nutshell. First we have the "wandering Jew" and his fights with his non-stop adversaries and G-d's ultimate protection of His People. The next verse speaks of the resting ("shuva") that the multitude of Israel will finally merit.

It is a picture of final tranquility, true peace- the ultimate goal of all history - achieved after (and perhaps, only after) our enemies are scattered and flee. It is reminiscent of the verse in Psalms 29:11

"Hashem gives strength to His People, Hashem will bless His People with peace.

Such a message justifiably merits a separate book in G-d's Torah.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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