Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 18   No. 41

This issue is sponsored jointly
in honour of the birth of
Yakir Chaim Friedman n"y
May he grow up to Torah, Chupah and Ma'asim Tovim

Parshas Balak

The Twelve Miracles
(Translated by Targum Yonasan)

The Targum Yonasan lists the following twelve miracles that Pinchas experienced when he killed Zimri and Kozbi. (The Gemara in Sanhedrin lists only six):

1. They should have separated (when he lifted them into the air on his sword), but didn't;

2. They became dumb and were unable to shout for help - because had they done so, their relatives and friends would have rushed to their aid.

3. With one thrust Zimri neatly pierced both Zimri and Kozbi exactly in the right location, and that was how he carried them around the camp for all to see.

4. The sword remained in place where it had pierced them and did not slip out (as it lifted its heavy load).

5. As Pinchas was carrying them raised above his head, the lintel of the tent rose into the air to enable them to pass underneath it and to exit the tent.

6. He held them above his head, as he carried them through the Camp of Yisrael - a distance of six Parsah (twenty-four Mil [kilometers]) without getting tired.

7. As he held them aloft - in his right hand (rendering himself defenseless), all Zimri's relatives saw what he had done. Their anger was aroused, yet they were unable to stop him.

8. The wood of his sword became hard and did not break, in spite of the tremendous weight of the two people.

9. The (short) sword grew in size to hold the two of them transfixed. Otherwise, they would have fallen off.

10. An angel came and switched them round, thereby enabling all of Yisrael to see them in the exact position in which they sinned.

11. The two sinners remained alive until Pinchas had taken them round the entire camp. so that Pinchas, who was a Kohen (or was about to become one), should not become Tamei. In fact, had they died, he would have been Tamei for seven days, since he was touching a metal object, which in turn, was touching a corpse (See last week's Parshah Pearls 'Tamei for Seven Days, Tamei for One Day).

12. The blood of Zimri and Kozbi congealed, and did not pour all over Pinchas.


The moment Pinchas' mission came to an end, he cast the two sinners down, and they died on the spot.

(Raising his eyes Heavenwards), he proclaimed before the Master of the World "Is it possible that on account of these, twenty-four thousand people should die?' Immediately, the Divine Mercy enveloped Hashem (Kevayachol) and the plague was removed from on the B'nei Yisrael!'


Pinchas' Reward
(Translated from R. Bachye)

Rabeinu Bachye points out that, over and above the numerous miracles that he experienced, Pinchas was rewarded in many ways: he became a Kohen - and ultimately a Kohen Gadol; he lived for four hundred years (and if, as some maintain, he was alias Eliyahu, he never died), and he was granted a covenant of peace, including everlasting life in the World to Come.

To understand why he merited such a multi-faceted reward, let us see what R. Bachye himself writes at the end of the Parshah (following the last Parshah Pearl): 'Pinchas then came and was zealous on behalf of Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu, thereby deflecting G-d's anger from Yisrael. In the process, he risked his life at the hand of Zimri's large and powerful family, And he did this because he saw the public Chilul Hashem that was taking place. He ignored the honour and dignity of the Rasha, even though he was the Prince of the tribe of Shimon, nor did he show any respect for the honour and dignity of the Midyanis, who was, after all, the daughter of a king. He was zealous only for the Kavod of Hashem, to teach the people that the world and all that fills it exists for Kavod Shamayim and for Kavod Shamayim alone, as the Mishnah at the end of Pirkei Avos writes, quoting the Pasuk in Yeshayah (43:7). As a matter of fact, that is why G-d is called "Melech ha'Kavod", as David ha'Melech writes in Tehilim (24:10) "Who is the King of Glory? The G-d of Hosts, He is the King of Glory forever!"

Pinchas reinstated G-d's glory and Yisrael's self-respect. No wonder he merited such great reward.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted mainly from the Riva)

Why Was Mo'av Afraid

" and Mo'av was afraid before the people" (22:2).

The Riva asks why Mo'av was afraid, bearing in mind that G-d had commanded Moshe not to attack Mo'av, and that Yisrael therefore had no intention of waging war with them (as Rashi explains in Parshas Beshalach [15:15])?

And he answers first of all, that it was not the people of Mo'av that worried them, but Balak, who was from Midyan, and whom Yisrael would therefore attack and kill.

Alternatively, he says, they were concerned, not about Mo'av itself, but about the surrounding areas, as the Pasuk specifically writes "Now the congregation will lick up all our surroundings".

Presumable they were afraid that the destruction of the surrounding areas would make them more vulnerable to attack from their enemies.

The Riva also cites Rashi himself who explains in Parshas Devarim, that although Yisrael were commanded not to wage war against Mo'av, they were permitted to frighten them by pretending to attack them, and even to plunder and pillage them - and that is what frightened them into taking action.

He also suggests that G-d only instructed Moshe not to fight with Mo'av after the command to fight with Midyan (in Parshas Matos), when Moshe figured that if it was a Mitzvah to take revenge against Midyan, who after all, only came to help Mo'av, how much more so Mo'av themselves, who instigated the confrontation with Yisrael. And it was in answer to that Kal va'Chomer that G-d ordered him to desist with fighting Mo'av.

He concludes however, that the command not to fight with Mo'av preceded the revenge against Midyan. Nevertheless, Moshe planned to wage war with them, because he assumed that the prohibition was restricted to fighting them in order to capture their land, but it did not apply where Mo'av initiated a war with them, in which case, self-defense takes precedence over all other considerations.

That is why G-d had to order him not to attack them, even if they would be the ones to attack first, since the reason for the prohibition was due to the two jewels (Rus ha'Mo'aviyah and Na'amah ha'Amonis) that were destined to emerge from them, irrespective of who attacked first.


To Go Or Not to Go?

"If the men came to call you (li'k'ro l'cho), get up and go with them!" (22:20).

But did G-d not already tell Bil'am in no uncertain terms not to go with Balak's men, asks the Riva?

To answer the question, quoting the Ram from Coucy, he translates the words "li'k'ro l'cho" (not just as 'to call you', but) 'to consult with you', and he cites the Pasuk in Vayeitzei (31:4), where Ya'akov called Rachel and Le'ah to the field - in order to consult with them.

Initially, G-d had forbidden Bil'am to accompany Balak's messengers, in order to curse (or even to bless) Yisrael. But if it was for consultation, that was another matter.

Alternatively, the Riva cites the famous Gemara in Makos (which Rashi will quote later [in Pasuk 35]) - which discusses the principle 'One leads a person on the way that he wishes to go!' Consequently, if Bil'am really wanted to sin, then G-d would open all the doors for him. However, as Rashi adds later, he would then end up being destroyed together with those whom he was accompanying.

Rashi here writes 'If you think that you will gain financially, then you may go!'. It is not clear however, how this answers the Riva's question.


An Ox and a Sheep

"And Balak slaughtered an ox and a sheep (Bokor vo'tzon)" 22:40.

'Very little', comments Rashi - ' just one bull and one sheep!'.

How does Rashi know that Balak did not mean many oxen and many sheep - like we find for example, at the beginning of Parshas Vayishlach, where Ya'akov referred to herds of oxen as "shor"?

And he answers by citing the Pasuk in Melachim 1, 1:9, which states that "Adoniyahu Shechted Bokor vo'tzon ", but adds the word "lo'rov" (many), implying that, when the Pasuk omits it, it means literally just one animal.


A Hundred and Fifty-Six Thousand!

"And Moshe said to the judges of Yisrael 'Each of you shall kill his men!' " (25:5).

Rashi explains that Moshe commanded each of the seventy-eight thousand (the wording in Rashi 'eighty-eight thousand' is clearly a printing error) judges to kill two sinners (See also Targum Yonasan, quoted later).

Rabeinu Bachye is unsure as to whether they actually carried out this order or whether, as the Ramban assumes, Pinchas' prompt action negated this punishment as well as the Divine plague, which it stopped in its tracks.

His first suggestion is difficult to comprehend, as it would have meant the annihilation of a staggering hundred and fifty-six thousand people, more than a quarter of K'lal Yisrael!

It therefore seems to me that the fact that no mention is made either of this judgement having been carried out, or of such a huge reduction in the total numbers of the tribes, makes the Ramban's explanation the more likely one.


Which was Worse?

"And those who died in the plague numbered twenty-four thousand" (25:9).

Why, Rabeinu Bachye asks, did twenty-four thousand people die here, whereas after the sin of the Golden Calf, the plague claimed a mere three thousand lives?

And he answers that it was because, whereas the sin of the Golden Calf was confined to idolatry, the one of Ba'al Pe'or incorporated idolatry and adultery. Moreover, he says, the adulterous relationship with gentile women resulted in a debasement of the inherent sanctity of Yisrael. The sin was infinitely worse, so the punishment was infinitely greater. See also previous Pearl.

* * *


' Bil'am arose and left, whilst Balak following the advice of the wicked Bil'am, set up the daughters of Midyan in shops from Beis ha'Yeshimos until Mount Chermon, where they sold a variety of delicacies below cost price (located) at the cross-roads' (25:25).


'And Yisrael settled in a place called "Shitim" on account of the (spirit of) stupidity and perversion that held them, and the people began to desecrate their sanctity, to defecate before the idol of Pe'or and to commit adultery with the daughters of Mo'av, who produced images of Pe'or from under their belts' (25:1).


' Yisrael attached themselves to Ba'al Pe'or like a nail in a piece of wood that cannot be separated without leaving splinters ' (25:3).


'And G-d said to Moshe "Take the heads of the people and appoint them judges, They shall sentence to death the people who went astray after Pe'or, and hang them before the word of G-d on a piece of wood whilst the sun is shining, and when it sets, they shall take them down and bury them (25:4).


'And Moshe said to the judges of Yisrael "Each of you shall put to death the members of his tribe who cleaved to the idol Pe'or (25:5).


' and if you will rule that she (Kozbi bas Tzur) is forbidden, did you not marry a Midiyonite woman - the daughter of Yisro? When Moshe heard this he became angry and forgot (the Halachah); and they were crying and reciting the Sh'ma at the entrance of the Ohel Mo'ed' (25:6).


' Pinchas ben Elazar saw and he remembered the Halachah, He raised his voice and said "Who will kill (the sinner? The tribe of the lion of Yehudah!" But when he saw that they remained silent, he got up from his Sanhedrin and took a short sword in his hand (25:7).

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 228:
Not to Withhold Somebody Else's Money

It is forbidden to hold on to somebody else's money by force, by delaying tactics or by trickery, in the way that sinners do, when they push off the claimants by saying 'Come back tomorrow!', with the intention of retaining money that belongs to someone else. This is a particularly nasty trait from which our perfect Torah distances us, and it warns us against it here in Kedoshim (19:13), when it writes "Do not hold on to your fellow-Jew's money!". Someone who holds on to somebody else's money in this way is called 'an Oshek'. Included in this La'av is whoever owes another person a specific sum of money and who refuses to pay, such as an employer who holds back the money owing to his employees and the likes. It is not necessary for the money to have reached the hands of the defendant directly from the claimant - as long as the claimant has a positive claim against the defendant, and the latter pushes him off either using force, or guile to hold on to the money. The fact is that withholding money (oshek). robbing (gezeilah), and stealing (geneivah) are really one and the same, in spite of the different methods used to obtain the money, all three entail taking another person's money in one way or another, and it is in one of these three ways that people rob each other. Nevertheless, the Torah presents them as three separate La'avin, issuing each one with an independent warning, as Rava explains in Bava Metzi'a (111a) 'Oshek and Gezel are one and the same thing, and the Torah divided them into two only in order to make a person Chayav two La'avin'. This can be understood in two ways: Firstly, that whenever G-d wants to distance us far from sinning for our own good, He adds additional warnings. And secondly, because of the great advantage that lies in many warnings, as the Mishnah at the end of Makos teaches us 'G-d wanted to furnish Yisrael with many merits. So He showered them with much Torah and with many Mitzvos!' 'Mitzvos' also refers to warnings (La'avin) - G-d issued Yisrael with many warnings, even where one would have sufficed, such as in our case, where the Torah could have written 'Do not take money belonging to somebody else illegally'. Yet it chose to add La'avin, in order to increase our reward for desisting from contravening them. And so it is whenever Chazal use the expression 'to contravene many La'avin'.

Chazal do not Chalilah, mean that he added La'avin with the intention of implicating Yisrael and inflicting on them more pain and suffering when they transgress the La'avin. Since it is G-d's wish to merit His creatures, not to sentence them. It must therefore be that He issues them with warning after warning, for them to take instruction, and to gain merit and great reward when they distance themselves from sin.

The reason for the Mitzvah is obvious, since it is a Mitzvah that common sense dictates.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah are discussed in Bava Kama, mainly in the ninth and tenth chapters (and in Choshen Mishpat, Si'man 359).


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