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

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Vol. 9   No. 39

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Parshat Matos-Masei

Eiver ha'Yarden

The Or ha'Chayim comments on the Pasuk where Moshe, speaking to Reuven and Gad, refers to the West Bank of the Jordan River as 'the land which G-d gave to the tribes'. Based on a Sifri, he explains that Eiver ha'Yarden (the East Bank) was not part of the land that G-d gave to Avraham, but land which they took by themselves.

In addition, he cites a Medrash which declares Eiver ha'Yarden ineligible to contain the Beis-Hamikdash or for the Shechinah to rest there (even before Yerushalayim was designated for that purpose), because it had less Kedushah than Eretz Yisrael proper. And this probably explains, he says, why Moshe had no intention of distributing it to the tribes, until Reuven and Gad approached him with their request (despite the fact that Yisrael had already captured it and were living there, as the Torah records at the end of Chukas).


The Or ha'Chayim elaborates further in Devarim. He interprets the Pasuk there (3:13) "that is what was called the land of the Refa'im" (which was promised to Avraham) to mean that it was only called by that name, though that is not what it really was. Interestingly, the Ramban there (2:10) argues with Rashi over this very point.

And he points out that, although Sichon was King of the Emori (one of the seven nations promised to Avraham, since in effect, he actually captured the lands in question from Mo'av - as the Torah specifically records in Chukas), it was not part of the land that G-d promised to Avraham (at least not yet).

He relents however, suggesting that perhaps this was indeed part of the land promised to Avraham, since after all, the Refa'im are synonymous with the Chivi, one of the seven nations that Yisrael was destined to capture. He qualifies this however, by referring to it as booty or to a place that was to remain desolate, but was not meant for habitation.

And he extrapolates this from the Pasuk in Ki Savo (in connection with Bikurim), which implies that it is only Eretz Yisrael proper that G-d gave us to live in. This precludes the lands of Amon, Mo'av and Edom (even though they were promised to Avraham Avinu), and the same applies to the lands of Sichon and Og (refer to the Eitz Yosef, later in the article).

Finally however, he concedes that even lands that were not given to Avraham, were subject to the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael through their capture at the hands of the majority of Yisrael, as was the case with the land currently under discussion.


The Torah Temimah in Parshas Chukas (21:26), cites the Mishnah in Maseches Yadayim (4:3) where Chazal decreed T'rumos and Ma'asros on Amon and Mo'av, like Eretz Yisrael (which is min ha'Torah). And he explains that this is restricted to those parts of Amon and Mo'av which Yisrael did not conquer from Sichon and Og, which Chazal gave the Din of Eretz Yisrael because of their proximity to it. But the parts that they captured are considered Eretz Yisrael proper, and are subject to T'rumos and Ma'asros min ha'Torah.

Indeed, that is how the Bartenura interprets the Mishnah in Yadayim.


The Eitz Yosef too (on the Medrash Tanchuma in Parshas Matos, Parshah 7) considers Eiver ha'Yarden part of Eretz Yisrael, but he cites the Mishnah in Bikurim (1:6), which obligates bringing Bikurim and reading the Parshah with regarding fruit that grew there. In fact, even Rebbi Yossi Hag'lili only exempts them because the area does not fit the description 'a land flowing with milk and honey' (a criterion for the bringing of Bikurim), but not because they are not considered part of Eretz Yisrael.

And what's more, he says, Rashi in Sanhedrin connects this to the fact that the Omer (and the Sh'tei ha'Lechem) can be brought from there. Indeed, the Mishnah in Keilim (1:6), when listing the ten Kedushos, presents the first Kedushah as 'Eretz Yisrael, from which the Omer, Bikurim and the Sh'tei ha'Lechem may be brought'. It is unclear why the Tana does not add to the list the obligation to bring T'rumos and Ma'asros, which seems to belong to the same category, but that is another matter. And, the Eitz Yosef adds, Tosfos in Megilah (10a) learns like Rashi in Sanhedrin too. And he therefore wonders at the Maskil le'Eisan in Rosh Hashanah who assumes that the Omer cannot be brought from Eiver ha'Yarden. And the Eitz Yosef brings a final proof for his opinion from the fact that Moshe would never have agreed to settle Reuven, Gad and half of Menasheh in an area that did not have the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael, and that was Patur from some of the Mitzvos.


Parshah Pearls
Matos Masei

(adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Nedarim and Shevu'os

"A man who makes a neder (a vow) to G-d ... or who makes a shevu'ah (an oath)" (30:3).

Rebbi Shlomoh Kluger explains why the Torah writes "a neder to G-d" on the one hand, but just "a shevu'ah", on the other. He bases this on the diverse Halachos of Neder and Shevu'ah. On the one hand, other than nidrei Mitzvah, one should wherever possible, go to a Rav and have one's nedarim annulled. On the other, one should make every effort to fulfill a Shevu'ah, and avoid annulling it.

Consequently, he concludes, it is Nidrei Mitzvah (for the sake of G-d) exclusively, but all Shevu'os irrespective of their context, that one should make a point of observing.


The Reward of Keeping One's Word

"He shall not profane his words ... whatever comes out of his mouth he will do" (ibid.).

Taken out of context, this can be interpreted to mean that if someone is careful to keep what he says, then G-d will do whatever he says, for so Chazal have said 'When a Tzadik decrees, G-d carries out'.


Ani le'Dodi ve'Dodi Li

"And G-d spoke to Moshe ... Avenge the vengeance of the B'nei Yisael. And Moshe spoke to the people ... to take the revenge of Hashem" (31:1-3).

The Midyanim sinned against G-d and Yisrael, explains the Alshich. Consequently, G-d forewent His own honour and ordered Moshe to avenge that of Yisrael. Moshe on the other hand, as Yisrael's spokesman, was more concerned with G-d's honour, so he asked Yisrael to forego their own honour and to go and fight in defense of G-d's.

This is reminiscent of the vort of the Berditshever Rebbi, who explained in this light, why the Torah refers to Pesach as 'Chag ha'Matzos' whilst we call it 'Pesach'. The Torah (G-d's mouthpiece), refers to the Yom-tov as 'Chag ha'Matzos', an allusion to the devotion and self-sacrifice of K'lal Yisrael, who followed G-d into the desert even before their dough had had a chance to rise.

Yisrael on the other hand, called it 'Pesach', a reference to G-d's love of Yisrael and how He protected the Jewish bechorim (when he jumped over the Jewish houses), even as He struck the Egyptian firstborn.


Ataros and Divon

"Ataros and Divon and Ya'zer and Nimrah ... " (32:3).

One should take care to read the Parshah (Sh'nayim Mikra ve'echad Targum) each week, says the Gemara in B'rachos (8b), even "Ataros and Divon".

Why does the Gemara pick out "Ataros and Divon", asks Rashi?

It is, he replies, because they have no translation, and the Targum is merely a repetition of the original Pasuk (so why repeat it three times to no purpose?)

Tosfos queries this on the grounds that the Torah might just as well have picked out Reuven, Shimon and Levi ... , which do not have any translation either. And besides, Targum Yerushalmi does translate them (see also our version of Targum Unklus)? The Torah Temimah suggests another explanation, besides that of Rashi and Tosfos (who evidently agree with Rashi's basic interpretation of the Gemara).

What the Gemara means is that "Ataros and Divon ... " are already included in the next Pasuk "The land which G-d smote before the congregation of Yisrael", incorporating these cities plus many more. So what Chazal are teaching us is the obligation to read twice with Targum even the names of those cities that are already contained in the following Pasuk.


G-d will Give You Bread Provided You Plough

"The land which G-d defeated before the congregation of Yisrael" (32:4)

The B'nei Gad and Reuven knew full-well, says the Or ha'Chayim, that ordinarily, their request would have provoked Moshe's retort "Will your brothers go to war and you will remain here"?

And it was to avoid such a reaction that they stressed "The land which G-d defeated". Just as G-d had defeated Sichon and Og, they intimated, so too, would He defeat the other Cana'ani nations. In that case, what difference would it make whether they fought alongside the remaining tribes or not?

But their words did not prevent Moshe from answering exactly what they had tried to avoid.

Because even if G-d is the one who wins battles and defeats the enemy, that is only after we have made the first move. That is why Moshe said to them "Why do you move the hearts of the people?" - Do you really expect them to stand back, as a result of your attitude, fold their arms and wait for G-d to do battle on their behalf? Not at all!

"The land will be given to you, but only if you enlist (and fight) before G-d (you first, He afterwards)". Because that is the way G-d operates. He is always prepared to give us bread, but only if we have ploughed first.


Taking up Arms for G-d's Sake

"And they approached him (Moshe) and said ... and we will arm ourselves and go zestfully before the B'nei Yisrael ... And Moshe replied ... if you will arm yourselves before G-d ... and all the armed men will cross the Jordan River before G-d ... then the land will be captured before G-d" (32:16-22).

The B'nei Gad and Reuven volunteered to lead the Jewish army into Eretz Yisrael. But Moshe corrected them. They were not just soldiers fighting for land. They were first and foremost soldiers fighting on behalf of their G-d (see article entitled 'Ani le'Dodi ve'Dodi li'). And Moshe saw fit to repeat this three times (in connection with the conscription, the crossing of the Yarden and the capture of the land). As the old saying goes, 'To fight for king and country'.

And they got the message, because in their response, they stated "Your servants will do as my master has commanded ... and your servants will cross, all armed soldiers, in front of G-d".



adapted from the seifer Ishei ha'T'nach

The final exile which occurred at the time of the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash, took place in two parts, Galus Yehoyachin (or Yechonyah) in the year 3327, and Galus Tzidkiyahu, in 3338. The circumstances that surrounded the two exiles were vastly different, as was the Divine plan that set them in motion. Interestingly, the name Yehoyachin (G-d will prepare) hints at the obvious purpose of the Galus that he led - to prepare the way for the Galus that would follow eleven years later.


Yehoyachin was the son of Yehoyakim ben Yoshiyah, whom Nevuchadnetzar King of Bavel, had just defeated and killed. Returning to Bavel in triumph, Nevuchadnetzar's subjects came out to greet him, and expressed their desire to know what he had achieved. When he explained to them that he had quelled Yehoyakim's rebellion and appointed his son Yehoyachin in his place however, they objected, on the grounds of a popular saying 'that one doesn't rear (even) a good puppy, if it is the son of a bad dog'.

He immediately returned to Antuchyah. The Sanhedrin came to greet him, and when they asked him whether he had arrived to destroy the Beis Hamikdash, he replied that he come in peace, and that, if they would hand him Yehoyachin, he would depart in peace.

The Sanhedrin informed Yehoyachin of Nevuchadnetzar's request. Unlike his father, however, who refused a similar request, and who had to be dragged to Nevuchadnetzar in chains, Yehoyachin accepted his lot. But not before he had taken the keys of the Beis-Hamikdash, and ascended to the roof of the Heichal. Then, after issuing a declaration that they were no longer worthy of being the custodians of the keys, he tossed them into the air and they disappeared (others say that a hand came down and caught them).

Three months after he was crowned king, he surrendered to Nevuchadnetzar and was led into exile, together with the Sanhedrin (of which Mordechai was a member), a thousand Torah-scholars and about ten thousand exiles. This enabled them to set up a vast Torah network in Bavel that would last for a thousand years.

Yehoyachin went down to Bavel in Nevuchadnetzar's chariot, where the latter placed him in deference to his esteemed position.


There was a Shul in Neherda'a (in Bavel), called 'Shaf ve'Yasiv', where the Shechinah always rested, because it was built by Yehoyachin and his entourage with the stones and the dust that they brought with them from Yerushalayim.


When the exiles arrived in Bavel, Nevuchadnetzar immediately placed Yehoyachin in jail. Anyone jailed by Nevachadnetzar was never set free. Consequently, all (entries and) exits from his jails were automatically sealed.

Meanwhile, the Sanhedrin, realizing that Yehoyachin's predicament threatened the continuity of the royal House of David, talked over one of the royal nurses to speak to the Queen, to convince her to speak with her husband King Nevuchadnetzar. They begged her to plead with him to honour Yehoychin's royal rights, and to allow his queen to join her husband.

Miraculously, the King condescended to their request, and Yehoyachin's wife was duly lowered to her husband via a series of windows and a breach that was made in the cement specifically for this purpose.

However, before Yehoyachin could touch her, she claimed that she had suddenly become a Zavah (ritually impure). She asked to be withdrawn and after the required waiting period (of at least nine or ten days), she returned.

G-d proclaimed 'When you were in Yerushalayim, you did not adhere to the laws of Ziyvus. Now you do!' And He forgave Yehoyachin for all his sins. Indeed, it had been destined that he would die childless. But G-d now repealed that decree, and (in spite of the conditions in the jail that rendered pregnancy all but impossible), Yehoyachin's wife miraculously became pregnant with Zerubavel (alias Nechemiah), and the continuity of the House of David was assured.


The day after Nevuchadnetzar's death, Evyl-Merodach set Yehoyachin free (thirty-seven years after his incarceration), placed him above all the other kings and fed him daily in the royal palace. Yet this was considered a curse, because he did not have access to his own source of food. As a matter of fact, this was the 'scarcity of bread' that Shlomoh Hamelech accepted on his descendants when he killed Yo'av.

(to be cont. Next week - Tzidkiyah)

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