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

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Vol. 13   No. 40

This issue is sponsored in honour of
ha'Bachur he'Choson Eliyahu Ya'akov ben David Yerachamiel n.y
May he go from strength to strength in both Ruchniyus and Gashmiyus.

Parshas Matos/Masei

A Double Rebuke
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

The question arises now that the tribe of Reuven and Gad accepted Moshe's first rebuke, and willingly undertook to accompany the remaining tribes into Eretz Yisrael and to fight at the head of the troops, even agreeing to remain until the conquest was complete (see 32:16-19), why did Moshe see fit to admonish and warn them again (32:20-24)? What's more, this merely elicited a second response on the part of the B'nei Reuven and Gad that seems to add nothing to the first one?


R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld solves the problem based on the wording of the B'nei Reuven and Gad's initial response. They said "We will construct sheep-pens for our flocks and cities for our children; and we will arm quickly before B'nei Yisrael, until we have brought them to their destination". It is clear from Moshe's answer that he perceived a glaring omission in this statement, in that they only spoke of arming themselves in order to fight before the B'nei Yisrael. But how about G-d? Was it not in His honour that they were going to fight? So why did they fail to mention Him?

This is reminiscent of the adage 'to fight for king and country'. They mentioned their country, but omitted their 'King'! Or perhaps it was a failure to acknowledge that our wars are fought and won only because -d participates in the fighting. Conversely, to have mentioned His Name would have constituted an acknowledgement that the outcome of the war was in His hands, whilst their failure to do so was akin to claiming that it was due to their fighting acumen that they won the battles (see also first Parshah Pearl).

And that is why Moshe stressed this in his reply, when he said "If you will do this thing; If you will arm yourselves before G-d until He dispossess His enemies before Him. And the land will be captured before G-d, then you will return (and only then will you be deemed innocent in the eyes of G-d and of Yisrael). But should you not do this (i.e. not mention the name of G-d), then you will have sinned to Him ... ".

When the B'nei Reuven and Gad heard this, they realized their mistake. That is why they replied "Your servants will do as our master commanded. Your servants will pass, all armed men before G-d to war just as our master spoke (but not as we spoke)", later repeating it when they added "We will pass armed before G-d to the land of Cana'an".


The Or ha'Chayim poses the same question. All of Moshe's initial reply, he argues, appears superfluous, when all he needed to do was to call Yehoshua and Elazar (which he did in Pasuk 28) to ratify the agreement.

His answer may well appear similar to that of the Chochmas Chayim, yet it is very different. Moshe sensed, he says, that the B'nei Reuven and Gad were willing to go at the head of the troops, but only in order to fulfill their agreement, and that in turn, was in order to acquire the lands that were promised to them.

But that was not sufficient, says the Or ha'Chayim. That is not the sort of motivation that the Torah expects of a Jewish soldier, and is certainly not the motivation that wins wars. To that end, one needs to fight in order to take revenge on the enemies of G-d. And it is motives such as these that earn a Jewish war the title of a 'Milchemes Mitzvah'. And he cites the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (7:15) 'Whoever fights with all his heart ... and his sole motivation is to sanctify (the Name of) Hashem, he is assured that no harm and no evil will befall him ... and he will merit life in the World to Come'. That is why, the Or ha'Chayim concludes, Moshe stressed that they go and fight before G-d, to remind them to fight to sanctify His Name and to defeat His enemies, and not just in order to fulfill their promise.

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Parshah Pearls
Parshas Matos

Hashem Ish Milchomoh

"Mobilize from among you men for the army, and they will attack Midyan" (31:3).

According to the Degel machanah Efrayim, one may also translate the Pasuk as 'Remove from you the concept of 'private men' as long as you are in the army'. In other words, once you are conscripted, you must dedicate your every move to the good of the cause.

And the No'am Megadim takes this idea one step further. When you are in the army, he explains, forget about the idea that it is the soldiers who overcome the enemy. One must remember at all times that "G-d is the Master of war" (as the Torah writes in the Shirah). See also main article.

That is why the Pasuk continues "And they shall attack Midyan, in order to wreak G-d's vengeance on Midyan".


Hashem's Neder

"And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of B'nei Yisrael saying ... this is the thing that G-d commanded" (30:2).

The concept of Nedarim has already been mentioned at the end of last week's Parshah (" ... besides your Nedarim and Nedavos "), as the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. And that explains why the Torah does not record Hashem's command to Moshe here. But where was Moshe told about the concept of nullifying them, asks the M'lo ha'Omer?

Chazal interpret the Pasuk in Ki Sissa (following the Eigel ha'Zahav) "Va'yechal Moshe ... ", to mean that Moshe annulled the vow that G-d made to destroy K'lal Yisrael. Hashem must have issued him with instructions at the time, so Moshe did not have to be told about it again.


When Moshe Became Angry

"And Elazar the Kohen said to the soldiers who had been to war 'This is the statute of the Torah... Only the silver and the gold ... ' " (31:21/22).

Because Moshe became angry, say Chazal, he erred, and the Dinim of Kashering vessels were hidden from him (which explains why Elazar had to present them).

Tosfos asks in Shabbos (64) why Moshe was angry with the generals for keeping alive the female captives. Why should this be worse than the Din of a beautiful woman, whom the Torah, in the beginning of Ki Seitzei, allows to bring back from the battlefront?

The P'nei Yehoshua answers by citing commentaries who point out that the battle against Midyan was a Milchemes Mitzvah, whereas the Torah confines the concession of Eishes Y'fas To'ar to a Milchemes Reshus (a voluntary war), as Rashi there explains.

This is not however, the opinion of the Ramban. The Ramban asks why it was that Yisrael were commanded to Kasher the vessels following the battle against Midyan, but not after the battle with Sichon and Og? And he replies that, whereas the latter was a Milchemes Mitzvah, where even Chazir that they found was permitted, the battle against Midyan was a Milchemes Reshus, were all Isurim remained forbidden, which is why the vessels needed to be Kashered.

And if the battle with Midyan was a Milchemes Reshus, then Tosfos' question, why Moshe was angry with the generals, remains intact. And what's more, from the fact that Tosfos does not give the commentaries' answer, it seems that they (Tosfos) too, agree with the Ramban.

According to Rashi, the P'nei Yehoshua in Shabbos explains, the point under discussion was, in fact, the basis of Moshe's mistake. How is that?

Since Moshe, in his anger, asked them why they left all the women alive, he clearly maintained that they had just fought a Milchemes Mitzvah, in which case they were not permitted to bring back women from the battle-front.

In that case, the vessels would not have required Kashering either. Moshe may well have erred, seeing as in fact, the battle against Midyan was not considered a Milchemes Mitzvah, and the women were in fact, permitted. According to Moshe's contention, that it was, the vessels did not require Kashering. No wonder then, that he 'forgot' to teach them the Halachos.


Nosein Ta'am li'F'gam


According to the Rambam, the Torah only permitted non-Kasher foods during a Milchemes Mitzvah in case of emergency, where it was a matter of life and death.

In that case, asks the Or Chadash in Pesachim, the Ramban's question returns; Why did the vessels not require Kashering after the battle with Sichon and Og (seeing as, under ordinary circumstances, they were not permitted to eat non-Kasher food)?

Bear in mind, he answers, that the battle with Sichon and Og lasted an entire day, for Chazal have taught that just as the sun stood still for Yehoshua for twenty-four hours, so too, did it stand still for Moshe for the duration of the battle. And the Halachah is that after twenty-four hours, whatever is absorbed in the walls of a vessel is 'Nosen Ta'am li'F'gam' (emits a bad taste) and becomes permitted - in which case, it no longer requires Kashering.

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Parshas Masei

Retracing Our Steps to Egypt

"And Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys" (33:2).

Many commentaries offer their view of why the Torah sees fit to list all of the forty-eight journeys that comprized Yisrael's itinerary.

The best reason of all, R. Yosef Shaul Natanson maintains, is based on the ruling of the Yere'im, the S'mag and the Hagahos Maimoni, who restrict the Torah's prohibition of returning to Egypt (to reside there), to returning via the same route as our ancestors traveled (but in reverse), when they left Egypt. The Torah therefore needs to map that route, to teach us how to apply the prohibition.


Two Kinds of Enemies

"And should you fail to dispossess the inhabitants of the Land ... then those that you keep alive will be pegs in your eyes and thorns in your sides" (33:55).

There are two kinds of enemies, the Gelilei Zahav points - one who attacks you directly; the other, who pretends to be your friend, but who does everything in his power to undermine your efforts (as the commentaries explain with regard to Ya'akov's prayer that Hashem save him from the hand of 'his brother, from Eisav' (Bereishis 32:12).

That is what the Pasuk is referring to here ... the enemy that will confront you directly and blind you ("pegs in your eyes"), and the one that attacks indirectly (from the side ["thorns in your sides"]).


Righteous Women

"Like G-d commanded Moshe, so the daughters of Tzlofchad did ... and Machlah, Tirtzah, Choglah, Milkah and No'ah, daughters of Tzlofchad, were married to their cousins" (36:10/11).

See the level of righteousness that these women reached, says the Seforno. All five of them married their husbands, not because they were physically attracted to them, but in order to fulfill G-d's command to Moshe.


From the Haftarah
A Sure Sign that Somethin Is Wrong

"The Kohanim did not say 'Where is Hashem ... ?'

The Gemara in Yuma (39) informs us that forty years prior to the Churban Beis-Hamikdash, the lot for Hashem (on Yom Kipur) came up in the Kohen Gadol's left hand - symbolizing Midas ha'Din (G-d's strict quality of Judgement), an ominous warning of things to come.

When the Kohanim saw this, they should have realized that something was wrong, and this ought to have led them to Teshuvah. But that is not what happened.

They remained blissfully unaware of these things. They did not ask (as one might have expected them to do) 'Where is (the Name) Hashem (symbolizing the Midas Rachamim)"? Why does the lot persist in coming up in the Kohen Gadol's left hand, instead of in his right, as it did in all the years prior to that?

* * *

(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 409:
Not to Put an Accused Sinner to Death before He Has Been Judged

It is forbidden to carry out the death-sentence on a sinner (who has been seen perpetrating a sin which carries the death-sentence) before he has been brought to Beis-Din to be judged, as the torah writes in Mas'ei (35:12). One is however, obligated to bring him before the judges, with the accompanying witnesses, and they will judge him and decide his fate. The Mechilta elaborates 'I might have thought that he is put to death as soon as he has murdered someone or committed adultery; therefore the Torah writes (Ibid.) "and the murderer shall not die until he stands before the Beis-Din to be judged". In the event that the Beis-Din ha'Gadol witness a murder, the murderer is brought before a smaller Beis-Din, before which they must all appear as witnesses.

A reason for the Mitzvah ... matters involving the death-sentence must be taken seriously, and require more careful scrutiny than matters that are of less consequence. For this reason, the Beis-Din are commanded to save the defendant from death in any possible way. Not to twist the law, Heaven forbid, but as the Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (26a) Darshens from the Pasuk - "And the Beis-Din shall judge ... and the Beis-Din shall save", Beis-Din must search for a merit on his behalf. Should they find one, then they free him, but if not, he must be put to death. That explains why, as we mentioned earlier, the sinner must be brought before the Beis-Din and not judged by witnesses who saw the act being performed. For it is more than likely that, since they saw the act with their own eyes, they will be so deeply biased as to render them unable to search for merits that will save the defendant's life.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Sanhedrin (73a) qualifies the ruling that requires the defendant to be judged in Beis-Din before being sentenced, confining it to where the act has already been committed. But there where two witnesses see one man chasing another to kill him, or chasing a betrothed girl to rape her, and who, after being warned, persists in his actions, they are obligated to take the law into their own hands and to kill him, if necessary, to save the victim, even if the sinner refuses to accept the warning (a fact which under regular circumstances, would absolve him from the death-sentence). The Torah actually obligates the witnesses to do this with a specific La'av, as the author will explain in Parshas Ki Seitzei (Mitzvah 421) ... and the remaining details, are discussed in Makos.

This Mitzvah applies to men and to women at all times, who are all commanded not to kill any sinner, even if they actually see the perpetrator sinning. When the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, they are obligated to take him to Beis-Din to be judged. Someone who contravenes this La'av, and carries out the death sentence on someone he finds sinning, even if it is a sin for which Beis-Din would sentence him to death, is considered a murderer, and, assuming that he did so in front of witnesses, he is himself punishable by death.


Mitzvah 413:
Not to Take Ransom-Money from Someone who is Chayav Galus

It is forbidden to take ransom money from someone who is obligated to live in exile for having killed be'Shogeg, as the Torah writes in Matos (35:32) "And do not take ransom on behalf of the one who flees ('lo'nus') to his city of refuge to return to live in the land". What the Pasuk appears to mean is that one may not accept ransom money on behalf of someone who has to flee to a city of refuge, to enable him to go back and live in the land of his fathers.

A reason for the prohibition of taking a ransom from someone who killed be'Shogeg is very much the same as the prohibition of taking a ransom from someone who killed be'Meizid. It is obvious and there is no need to elaborate.

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