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

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Vol. 15   No. 43

This issue is sponsored jointly l'iluy Nishmos
Eliyahu ben Yehuda Leib HaLevi z"l (Alec Bank)
by his family in
Jerusalem, Palm Beach (Florida) and Sydney
Alecsander Ziskind ben Aharon Baruch z"l
whose Shloshim terminated on 12 Tammuz
by his son

Parshas Matos

Moshe's Efforts to Curtail His Own Life
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

Following the debacle of Ba'al Pe'or at the hand of Midyan, the Pasuk describes how G-d commanded Moshe to avenge the twenty-four thousand who fell in the ensuing plague. After that, He told him, he would die, before the people entered Eretz Yisrael. To this end, he ordered him to gather an army and attack Midyan. And the Torah goes on to explain how Moshe ordered the people to mobilize, in order to avenge what the Midyanites did to Hashem.

The K'li Yakar poses two questions, one on the Pasuk itself, the other on Rashi, who comments on Moshe's immediate response, that, although he knew that this would precipitate his death, he acted promptly and joyously.

Firstly he asks, why did Moshe attribute the battle against Midyan to a revenge of G-d, when G-d Himself had specifically referred to the revenge of Yisrael?

And secondly, how does Rashi know that Moshe acted joyfully? How does he know that he did not act promptly out of duty, but that in his heart of hearts, there was not a twinge of sadness?

Furthermore, he adds, when Rashi comments, just two Pesukim later, that the Torah is teaching us the praise of the Jewish leaders, who, when they heard that the ensuing war would hasten Moshe's death, had to be coerced to mobilize, he fails to explain what it was that caused them to relent.


By way of introduction, the K'li Yakar explains that the Midyanites sinned both against G-d and against Yisrael. They sinned against G-d, by causing Yisrael to sin in the areas of idolatry and adultery; and they sinned against Yisrael, in that they caused twenty-four thousand people to die in the ensuing plague.

Consequently, when G-d told Moshe to avenge Yisrael, He meant that although He was willing to turn a blind eye to what the Midyanites had done to Him, He was not willing to forego what they had done to His people Yisrael, whose honour therefore needed to be avenged. And that explains why He attributed the forthcoming battle to the revenge of Yisrael.


Moshe however was fully aware of the high esteem in which Yisrael held their leaders. He therefore realized that if he would carry out G-d's instructions and request of Yisrael to go to war to avenge Yisrael's honour, the people, for their part, out of love of him, would gladly forego their Kavod, thereby negating the need to go to war, or at least, pushing off the event for a later date; for they knew that as long as they did not go to war, their beloved leader Moshe, was safe. So what did Moshe do? He told them to mobilize to avenge (not Yisrael's honour, as Hashem had said, but) G-d's Honour. By doing that, he left Yisrael without the option of postponing the mobilization, since as far as they were concerned, it was now G-d's honour that was at stake, and G-d's honour was not theirs to forego.

Moshe had no illusions about the fact that the change that He had made would precipitate his own death. However, his own well-being, even his own life, had never been a consideration in his calculations. Moshe's sole concern was Kavod Shamayim, and in any event - and today's so called leaders would do well to take their cue from the greatest leader of all time - he always placed the needs of the people before his own.

The lengths to which Moshe went, the K'li Yakar concludes, even to the point of changing the Divine instructions, to ensure that Yisrael went to war immediately, certainly leave no room for doubt that his actions, rather than being performed with reluctance, were performed joyously.

* * *

Parshah Pearls

Nedarim & Nedavos

"And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes " (30:2).

The Torah inserts this Pasuk next to the words " besides your Nedarim and Nedavos" (29:39), says the Ba'al ha'Turim, to teach us that the heads of the tribes (i.e. the Beis-Din) are obligated to force people to bring the Korbanos that they swore to bring.

Furthermore, he says, the Yamim-Tovim, which the previous Parshah was discussing, is fixed by them too (since they are the ones who ultimately decide exactly when Rosh Chodesh will be).


The Rashbam was once asked about the unusual opening Pasuk of Nedarim, which begins with Moshe teaching the heads of the tribes about Nedarim, but says nothing about G-d having told him to do so?

To answer the Kashya, he too points to the Nedarim and Nedavos mentioned at the end of the previous Parshah, which one is obligated to bring on Yom-Tov to avoid transgressing 'Bal Te'acher', as the Gemara explains in Rosh Hashanah, and which Moshe now passed on to the heads of the tribes to enforce.

Incidentally, the previous Parshah does mention G-d's command to Moshe (28:1), as the Da'as Zekeinum M.T. points out, in connection with Nedarim that one made regarding Korbanos, and it is (initially) about those Nedarim that the Torah is referring.


According to the Seforno, the Parshah of Nedarim is connected, not to the Parshah of Korbanos, but to the Pasuk in Kedoshim (19:12) "And do not swear by My Name falsely". That Pasuk, he explains, refers to someone who makes a Neder or a Shevu'ah, and who profanes G-d's Name by desecrating his word. And the Pasuk here adds that it is only a man who is guilty of this sin at all costs, but not a woman, who is not always independent, and who is absolved from guilt there where her father or her husband have released her Neder.


A Woman Needs Music

"Every Neder and every Shevu'ah that cause personal affliction (le'anos nefesh') her husband may uphold it and her husband may revoke it" (30:14).

Besides Nedarim that affect their personal relationship, Chazal learn from here that it is only Nedarim that afflict a woman that her husband has the right to revoke.


The only other time that the word "le'anos" appears in T'nach, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is in the Pasuk "al machalas le'anos", which is a kind of musical instrument.

This comes to teach us that if a woman makes a vow not to hear any musical instruments, it is considered a personal affliction, and her husband is therefore permitted to annul it.

Indeed, the Gemara in Mo'ed Katan cites the mantra that 'a woman of sixty will run to listen to a Tavla (a kind of musical instrument) that is being played, just like a six-year old'.


One Thousand + One Thousand =

"A thousand per tribe, a thousand per tribe, for all the tribes you shall send to war" (31:4).

Two thousand per tribe, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, making a total of twenty-four thousand - corresponding to the number that fell in the plague following the episode of Ba'al Pe'or; a classical case of 'measure for measure'. To explain the strange expression, other commentaries add that one thousand from each tribe were combatants, whilst the other thousand guarded the camp, as initiated by Avraham Avinu.

The Pasuk begins with an 'Alef' and ends with an 'Alef', he points out, to teach us that each and every soldier had but one heart that was directed towards his Father in Heaven.


What About the Camels?

"And the booty was sheep and cattle and donkeys " (31:32-34).

What happened to Midyan's camels, of which the Pasuk in Shoftim writes (6:5) " they and their camels were countless"? It must be, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explain, that they only imported them at a later stage (though not that much time elapsed between the two episodes).


Some Things are Permitted,
Some are Not

"And we brought the Korban of Hashem " (31:50).

Rashi in Shabbos (64a) explains that they brought this 'Korban' to atone for any lewd thoughts that they may have had when capturing the women (with many of whom they were familiar from the episode of Ba'al Pe'or).


Despite the fact that the Torah permits even intimacy with a Y'fas To'ar, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., because that the Torah only permits under certain specific circumstances - one woman and only once during the course of the war.


I would suggest that the Torah only permits a Y'fas To'ar Bedi'eved (if the soldier saw her and wanted her), but not lechatchilah. Indeed, from the sequence of the Parshiyos at the beginning of Ki Seitzei, Chazal learn that the Torah itself frowns upon their relationship. What's more, the soldiers who fought against Midyan were Tzadikim, as Rashi (31:11) explains, who saw fit to atone for even the slightest immoral thought.


How about Ya'ir ben Menasheh?

"With the exception of Calev ben Yefuneh the K'nizi and Yehoshua ben Nun" (32:12).

How about Ya'ir ben Menasheh, whom the Torah will discuss at the end of the Parshah, and who crossed the Yarden together with K'lal Yisrael (for the Gemara in Sanhedrin informs us that he fell at the battle against Ai), ask the Da'as Zekeinim M.T?


Sure he did, they reply, only he was less than twenty when the decree at the time of the Spies was issued (thirty-eight years earlier), and all those under twenty were not included in the decree.


Changing the Names

"And N'vo and Me'on, whose names were changed " (32:38).

These places, the Da'as Zekeinim M.T. explains, had now changed for the second time. Originally, they belonged to Amon and Mo'av, then to Sichon and now to Yisrael. As each nation conquered it they changed its name to fit their language and culture.

See also Rashi.


A Hey Minus the Dot

"And he called it (loh) Novach after his name" (32:42).

Rashi commenting on the fact that the word "loh" is missing the dot (known as a 'Mapik Hey'), citing R. Moshe ha'Darshan, explains that without the dot, it has connotations of 'Lo' (meaning 'not'). This teaches us that its name was not Novach for long, inasmuch as the town's name was eventually changed.


The question is asked as to how Rashi will then explain two other Pesukim where in similar fashion, the 'Hey' in the word "loh" is missing a dot: 1. the Pasuk in Zecharyah (5:11) "Vayomer eilai, livnos loh bayis be'Eretz Shin'ar" and 2. the Pasuk in Rus (2:14 [following Rus' statement that she was not worthy of being one of Bo'az's maidservants]) "Vayomer loh Bo'az "?

The Chizkuni, based on the Gemara in Sanhedrin (24a) explains the Pasuk in Zecharyah (in connection with the poverty of Torah), which went down to Bavel and moved on to Eilam, which merited to learn Torah but not to teach it. What the Pasuk therefore means is that although he said that they would build Torah in Bavel, they did not succeed in building it. And as for the Pasuk in Rus, Bo'az's response to Rus' statement was that 'No, she was not like one of his 'amohos' (maidservant), but rather like one of the 'imohos' (the Matriarchs).


The Rosh cites this latter explanation in the name of R. Moshe ha'Darshan, adding that he prefers it to the alternative explanation (that Bo'az spoke to Rus through a Shali'ach, and not directly) - because then all the explanations are based on the same theory, that interprets 'loh' without a dot as if it was written 'lo', with an 'Alef', as we explained earlier.

* * *


'Only alone, without the rust, vessels of gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead, not unshappen, and not flat (without an Inside)' (31:22).


'Anything whose way it is to be used with fire, such as basins, pots, spit-rods, and grills you shall pass in fire, and it will be pure, after which it shall be cleansed in water that is fit for a Nidah to Tovel in; whereas whatever is not used with fire, such as the covers of cups, ladles and tea-pots, you shall pass in forty Sa'ah of water' (31:23).


'And we brought a gift to the Name of Hashem, since Hashem delivered the Midyanites into our hands; we captured their land, and their provinces, we entered their palaces and saw their beautiful, tender and delicate daughters; and every man who found on them golden ornaments, removed them, the crowns from their heads, the rings from their fingers, necklaces from around their necks, bracelets from their wrists, rings from their fingers and ornaments from their bodies. In spite of all this, we were careful not to gaze at one of them, so as not to be guilty of sinning with any of them, not to die the death of the wicked in the World to Come, that it should not be held against us on the day of great judgement, to atone for our Souls before Hashem' (31:50).

* * *

(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 402:
To Bring a Korban Musaf Every Rosh Chodesh

We are obligated to bring a Korban Musaf on each and every Rosh Chodesh, besides the daily Korban Tamid, as the Torah writes in Pinchas (28:11) "And on your Roshei Chodashim you shall bring a burnt-offering to Hashem, two bulls from the herd, one ram and seven lambs without blemish; and their Flour-Offering and their Drink-Offering . And one goat as a Sin-Offering to Hashem " .

A reason for the Mitzvah The author opens with an introductory comment, reminding us how the planets, the sun and the moon, by virtue of the immense power with which the Master of all the forces in the world has imbued them, perform great tasks that affect our bodies, and the bodies of the many other living creatures that exist, as well all the numerous plants that grow from the ground, from the cedars down to the small blades of grass. In brief, they affect whatever comprises any combination of the four basic elements, which are below them and under their jurisdiction. And so the Torah writes in ve'Zos-ha'B'rachah (33:14 [in connection with the sun and moon]) "and from the sweetness of the sun's crops, and from the sweetness of what the moon produces". Now it is common knowledge that the power of the moon is evident in everything that takes place here on earth. That is why people who chop wood for building refrain from so doing at the beginning of the month when the moon is still new, until at least five days, or even more, days of the month have passed. Nor do sailors set out on a fresh voyage during that period, and by the same token one does not let blood up until at least the fifth of the month, and there are many other tasks some small, some big, that one refrains from undertaking as long as the moon is still new. It is even said that flax that is being soaked or that has been placed in the caldron to boil, will spoil, and that its preparation will not succeed. These things are common knowledge and there is no point in elaborating further.

Therefore, just as with the renewal of the New moon, new things come about, all depending on man's deeds and according to the word of G-d and His decree, so too, is it fitting for us too, to bring a new additional Korban in His name, over and above those that we bring on the other days of the month, to arouse our spirit and to fix in our heart that all novelties that occur in the world are from Him, blessed be He, and that all the might of the planets exist only by His grace. And with this pure and truthful thought, our souls will be elevated, and we will be worthy of having Hashem's blessing resting upon us.

The Dinim of this Mitzvah - with regard to the Korban Musaf in general, the author already discussed in Parshas Emor, in connection with the Musaf of Pesach (Mitzvah 298). He adds here that when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, the Shir of Rosh Chodesh overrides that of Shabbos. This is in order to publicize that today is Rosh Chodesh. It is known, he writes, that the Shir of the Shabbos Musaf is that of Ha'azinu, which they divided into six sections (known as 'ha'Ziv Lach' (the acronym of the first letters of those six Parshiyos) which they sang, one each week in rotation for a period of six weeks, in the way that we read them in Shul when Parshas Ha'azinu falls due.

* * *

Two bulls, One Ram & Seven Lambs
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Rashi, citing R. Moshe ha'Darshan (and based on the relevant Pesukim) writes that the bulls correspond to Avraham, the ram to Yitzchak and the lambs, to Ya'akov.

R. Bachye adds that the goat corresponded to the tribes (who Shechted a goat after selling their brother Yosef).

He also observes that the total number of sacrifices brought for the Musaf of Rosh Chodesh is eleven. This he explains, corresponds to the eleven hours that the sun was created before the moon, as well as to the eleven days the sun year (365 days) exceeds the lunar year (354 days).

The two bulls, he says, correspond to Avram and Avraham, the one ram to Yitzchak, whom he refers to as the unique one from the flock, and corresponding to whom, the ram had been waiting since the six days of the creation. Whilst the seven lambs correspond to Ya'akov, whose image is carved out beneath G-d's Throne, which is located above the seven Heavens.

* * *

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