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

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Vol. 14   No. 39


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Parshas Matos-Masei

The Other Side
of the River Yarden

When the B'nei Reuven and Gad asked for permission to settle "in the land that G-d had smitten before the congregation of Yisrael", says the Or ha'Chayim, they intimated that it was an intrinsic part of Eretz Yisrael. But Moshe disillusioned them by informing them that their behaviour was turning the people away from inheriting the land "which G-d had given them" (insinuating that the other side of the Yarden did not belong to that category).

The land of Sichon and Og, Moshe was telling them, was not part of the land that G-d had promised Avraham. Indeed, the Sifri specifically extrapolates from the Pasuk in Devarim (4:38) "to give to you their land as an inheritance", 'to preclude Eiver ha'Yarden, which you took by yourselves'. And although this is a statement of R. Shimon, it is not on this point that the Chachamim disagree with him.

And he cites a further proof from the Medrash Bamidbar Rabah, which discusses the ten levels of Kedushah into which Eretz Yisrael is divided, and which declares Eiver ha'Yarden ineligible to have the Beis-Hamikdash built in it, and for the Shechinah to rest there. What's more, he says, the Pasuk in Yehoshua (22:19) clearly intimates that the Kedushah of the territory of Sichon and Og is inferior to that of Eretz Yisrael.

In all likelihood, the Or ha'Chayim concludes, this explains why initially, Moshe had not the least intention of distributing the land currently under discussion, and that, had Reuven and Gad not officially requested it as their inheritance, he would have settled all twelve tribes in Eretz Yisrael proper, which has more Kedushah, leaving Eiver ha'Yarden undivided and uninhabited.

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On the other hand, the Mishnah in Shevi'is (9:2) teaches that Eiver ha'Yarden is one of the three areas as regards Biy'ur in the Sh'mitah year, and Tosfos in Yevamos (16b) proves from there that those who returned from Galus Bavel captured Eiver ha'Yarden. And Rashi in Menachos 83b, commenting on the Mishnah there that considers all lands as being eligible to provide the Menachos and the Nesachim, explains that the Tana is coming to incorporate all sections of Eretz Yisrael in the Mitzvah, Yehudah, Eiver ha'Yarden and the Galil.

The Ha'amek Davar too, writes that, if Reuven and Gad had not asked for Eiver ha'Yarden, he would have divided it into twelve equal strips of land, of which each of the twelve tribes would have received a portion as pasture-land for his animals.

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The Chasam Sofer turns the issue (of the Kedushah of Eiver ha'Yarden) into a Machlokes between the Rambam and the Ramban. He asks why the B'nei Reuven and the B'nei Gad waited until after the battle with Midyan before asking for the territory that they had captured from Sichon and Og?

And he answers with the Ramban, who explains that the reason that Yisrael were not commanded to Kasher the vessels that they captured from Sichon and Og was because whatever they captured from them was permitted, like what they would later capture during the conquest of Cana'an, for so Chazal have taught 'Even sides of bacon that they captured there would be permitted'. The people only realized this however, when they were informed that the vessels they captured from Midyan required Kashering (whilst those that they had previously captured from Sichon and Og did not). Only then did it strike them that the latter must have possessed the Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael, whereas the former did not.

And this also explains, he says, why, although the soldiers had to pay a tax from the booty to the Kohanim from the former, they were not asked to do so from the latter. It is because the Torah distinctly forbids the Kohanim from receiving any part of the booty that was captured during the conquest of Cana'an.

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But according to the Rambam, who maintains that, even during the conquest of Cana'an, it was only if the troops were starving that the Torah would permit them to partake of non-Kasher foods captured from the Cana'anim, the reason that the vessels captured from Sichon and Og did not require Kashering was because they had not been used that day, and by Torah law, non-Kasher vessels that have not been used within twenty-four hours become permitted anyway.

According to the Rambam, therefore, we have no proof that the land of Sichon and Og has the inherent Kedushah of Eretz Yisrael.

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Parshah Pearls

Why Pinchas?

"And Moshe sent them, a thousand per tribe, them and Pinchas ben Elazar ha'Kohen" (31:6).

G-d instructed Moshe to avenge what Midyan had done to Yisrael, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. asks, so why did he send Pinchas? (See Rashi).

Citing the adage 'Do not throw earth into the well from which you have drunk', they explain that Moshe grew up in Midyan, and he did not consider it correct to lead an attack against the people who had been kind to him on an earlier occasion (in the same way as, in Egypt, he had asked Aharon to strike the water and the dust, which had both done him a favour when he needed it).

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Others however, explain that this was not the same Midyan as the one where Moshe had lived, but a country that is situated beside Mo'av, and that, until this day, is in ruins.

And the reason that Moshe sent Pinchas was because he was the one to smite the Midyanis (Kozbi bas Tzur) and it is only right for 'the person who begins a Mitzvah to complete it'.

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No Pots & Pans in the Field

"Whatever is used in fire, you shall pass in fire and whatever is not used in fire you shall pass in water" (31:23).

Why is it, asks the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., that Yisrael were only taught the Dinim of Kashering vessels here? Why were they not taught them after the battle with Sichon and Og, which took place earlier (see end of Chukas)?

Not a problem, they reply. They fought the battles against Sichon and Og in the field, a location where people do not tend to take their pots and pans. They defeated Midyan, on the other hand, in their cities, and took the spoil from their houses, including their household utensils.

This answer would seem to be inadequate however, as when they fought against Sichon and Og too, they captured their land, as the Torah specifically states, in which case the question remains unanswered vis-?-vis the vessels that they captured from their houses.

The answer of the Ramban would therefore appear to be more correct. The Ramban explains that Sichon and Og were considered part of Eretz Yisrael, and with regard to the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, the Torah specifically permits all spoil that they captured, even non-Kasher foods, as we explained in the main article.

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What Happened to the Camels

"And cattle, seventy-two thousand" (31:33).

The Da'as Zekeinim M.T. wonders why no mention is made of camels, when the Pasuk in Shoftim (6:5) refers to the fact that, not long afterwards, in the time of Gid'on, there were numerous camels in Midyan.

Perhaps, he suggests, they imported them only later.

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For the Love of Money

"And the sons of Reuven and the sons of Gad owned a lot of cattle " (32:1).

Since they were exceptionally wealthy, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., they loved their money, and since they loved their money, they parted from their brothers (the rest of K'lal Yisrael), and went to live in an area of their own.

That is why they were the first to be led into exile.

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Parshas Masei

Encamping in Eilim

"And they traveled from Marah, and they came to Eilim " (33:9).

The Torah does not write 'and they encamped in Eilim', as it does by all the other places of encampment, says the K'li Yakar, because due to the short distance between Marah and Eilim, they had no intention of stopping there. And it was only when they discovered twelve springs (corresponding to the twelve tribes) and seventy date-palms (corresponding to the seventy elders) that they perceived their arrival there as a good omen. Indeed, the very word "Eilim" hints at the phenomenon, since its numerical value is eighty-two (corresponding to the seventy palms plus the twelve springs that they found there). Besides, the word "Eilim" means strong, a sure sign that their encamping there would strengthen and invigorate them.

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What Should the Kohen Gadol have Done

" and he shall live there until the death of the Kohen Gadol, whom he anointed with the holy oil"(35:28).

'Did he really anoint the Kohen Gadol?' asks the Gemara in Makos (11). No, answers the Gemara, but the Pasuk is talking about a Kohen Gadol who was anointed in his days; for if the Kohen Gadol died before his court-case was concluded, and they appointed another Kohen Gadol, he only goes free with the death of the second one.

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At the end of the day, the murderer did not anoint the Kohen Gadol, asks the Meshech Chochmah; so how has the Gemara answered the original question?

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The Torah is teaching us here the ways of Divine Providence. For example, it is possible that a Kohen Gadol is appointed specifically to serve the interests of one murderer. How is that? Let us say that a murderer (be'Shogeg) is destined to remain in the city of refuge for X number of years, Hashem has therefore to arrange for a Kohen Gadol to be chosen who is destined to die when those years come to an end. It transpires that the murderer in question was deeply involved (albeit inadvertently) in the appointment of the Kohen Gadol, whose death will set him free. That being the case, it is hardly incorrect to say that the murderer anointed the Kohen Gadol.

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That's What the Kohen Gadol Should have Prayed for!

Ibid.

With reference to the same case that we began with above, the Gemara in Makos asks why the Kohen Gadol, who was only anointed after the murder took place, is held responsible for the murderer's situation? What could he possibly have done to prevent his sentence from taking place?

The answer is that he should have Davened for the Beis-Din to pronounce him innocent.

But how is that possible, asks the Teshuvah me'Ahavah, to pray for a guilty man to be pronounced innocent? That would be false, and does the Torah not command us to distance ourselves from falsehood?

To answer the question, he cites the Halachah that if the entire Sanhedrin pronounces somebody guilty of a certain crime, he goes free. And that it seems, is what the Kohen Gadol ought to have prayed for in this case.

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM TARGUM YONASAN

" if she marries a man (see Rashi) and her Nedarim are still on her, or the utterance of her lips, that she forbade upon herself in the house of her father, and which her father did not annul before her marriage, now that she is married, they stand" (30:7).

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"And they attacked Midyan, surrounding it on three sides " (31:7).

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"And they killed the kings of the Midyanim on the slain ones of their camp, Evi, Rekem, Tzur (alias Balak), Chur and Reva, the five kings of Midyan, and they also killed Bil'am the son of Be'or by the sword. When the wicked Bil'am saw that Pinchas the Kohen was chasing after him, he performed magic and flew into the air. Meanwhile, Pinchas mentioned G-d's great and Holy Name, and took off after him. He grabbed him by his hair and lowered him to the ground. He then took out his sword to kill him, but Bil'am began to plead with him. 'If you will spare my life', he said, 'I swear that for as long as I live, I will not curse your people'; To which Pinchas replied 'Are you not Lavan ha'Arami, who intended to eliminate Ya'akov our father. Later, you went down to Egypt with the intention of annihilating his children, and when they left Egypt, you incited the wicked Amalek to attack them. Then, when you saw that you had not achieved your aim, and that G-d did not accept your plans, you advised the evil king Balak to place 'his' daughters at the cross-roads, in order to trick Yisrael into sinning. And as a result, twenty-four thousand people died. It is no longer possible to let you live.' Having said that, he drew his sword from its scabbard and killed him" (31:8).

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"And all the female children you shall place opposite the holy Tzitz-band. They shall all look at it, and it will be that the faces of all those who had been intimate with a man will turn green; whereas the faces of those who had not will turn red like fire - those you may retain for yourselves." (31:18) See Rashi.

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THE LAST THREE KINGS

(Part 1)

It is safe to say that the era of Galus began, with the death of Yoshiyahu ha'Melech, the last of the great kings of Yehudah, twenty-two years before the destruction of the first Beis-Hamikdash.

After a short reign of three months, Yeho'achaz, Yoshiyah's son, was taken captive by Par'oh Nechei, who replaced him with his brother Elyakim, whom he renamed Yehoyakim.

It was during the latter's reign that Nevuchadnetzar came to power, and in fact, the last few chapters of Melachim describe the relationship between him and the last three kings of Yehudah; Yehoyakim, his son Yehoyachin (alias Yechonyah), and his brother, Tzidkiyahu, in whose days Yerushalayim was destroyed.

Incidently, out of the four kings mentioned above, only Tzidkiyahu, whose real name was Matanyah, is described as a Tzadik (despite the fact that he crossed swords with Yirmiyah a number of times prior to the Churban). And the reason that the Navi writes about him that "he perpetrated evil in the eyes of Hashem" is because he failed to rebuke the people, who were as wicked as he was righteous, in spite of the fact that he had the power to do so. The other three kings were all Reshai'm.

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Here are a few stories (adapted from the Kol Agados Yisrael) reflecting the relationship between Nevuchadnetzar and the last kings of Yehudah:

A Donkey's Burial

When the Sanhedrin heard that Nevuchdnetzar had arrived in Rivlah with his army, they went to see him, and asked him whether he had come to destroy the Beis-Hamikdash. Not at all, he replied, he had come to take Yehoyakim, who had rebelled against him, captive, and that if they would hand him over, he would return to Bavel without doing them any harm.

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The Sanhedrin returned to Yerushalayim, and asked Yehoyakim to allow them to hand him over to Nevuchadnetzar. Yehoyakim expressed surprise in that they were willing to save their own lives by handing him over to the enemy, as one is not permitted to save one Jewish life at the expense of another. To which they replied that seeing as Nevuchadnetzar had specified him by name, this was permitted, in the manner that, in the time of the Shoftim, Serach bas Asher had done to Sheva ben Bichri, in order to save the entire town.

So they took him and delivered him to Nevuchadnetzar, who promptly placed him inside a wooden donkey, which he paraded round the cities of Yisrael, before cutting him up into pieces and throwing him to the dogs.

Others maintain that the King of Bavel took him in chains to Bavel, and he died on the way, where he remained unburied.

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Giving Back the Keys

When, upon his return to Bavel, the King described to his servants how he had killed Yehoyakim and appointed his son Yechonyah as his successor, they cited him the famous adage that one should avoid bringing up a good dog, the son of a bad one, how much more so a bad one! So what was the point of replacing one rebel with another potential one?

Conceding that they were right, he returned to Rivlah. Once again, the Sanhedrin paid him a visit, asking whether he had come to destroy Yerushalayim and the Beis-Hamikdash, and once again he replied in the negative, and that if they would hand him Yechonyah, he would return to Bavel without more ado.

When Yechonyah heard that he was wanted by Nevuchadnetzar, he took the keys of the Beis-Hamikdash, and ascended to the roof of the Heichal. If Hashem had declared them unworthy of holding the position of Guardians of the Beis-Hamikdash, he announced, then he would have to return the keys. He had barely finished speaking, when a Hand of Fire appeared from the sky, took the keys from his hand and disappeared.

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