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

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Vol. 18   No. 43

This issue is sponsored jointly

Parshas Matos

Hatoras Nedarim
(Adapted from the Toldos Yitzchak)

Nullifying Vows

The concept of nullifying a vow has no clear source in the Torah. To quote Chazal 'The nullification of Nedarim flies in the air'. Citing Tosfos in Chagigah, the Yalkut Yitzchak explains that it is based on a weak hint, which in turn, is based on a traditional interpretation. In fact, the Chachamim learn Hataras Nedarim from the phrase (in this week's Parshah (30:3, in connection with someone who makes a Neder) " he shall not profane his words", from which they extrapolate "He shall not profane his words", but others may cause his words to become profane (obsolete - by annulling them).

The Rashbam in Bava Basra quoting the previous Pasuk (Pasuk 2), " and Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes" (to teach them the Dinim of Nedarim) cites these words as the source for the Halachah that requires three ordinary people to annul vows; since the plural ("heads of tribes") denotes two people, and since a Beis-Din can never comprise an even number of judges, three are required.


Tosfos there queries the Rashbam however, in that ("the heads of the tribes" implies expert judges and indeed) we learn from there that one expert judge can annul vows. As far as the plural used by the Torah, that must be understood in general terms - to say that heads of tribes can nullify Nedarim). That being the case, how can we now use the same Pasuk to teach us that three ordinary people can annul a vow?

The Ri therefore concludes that we do not need a special Pasuk to teach us the Din of three ordinary people. Rather we can extrapolate it directly from the above ruling, in that, the fact that one expert may release a Neder implies that two ordinary people may. Since however two people can never act as a Beis-Din, as the Rashbam explained, it is necessary to add one judge, to make up a Beis-Din of three!


To Nullify a Neder or to Keep it?

Although the Halachah is like Rebbi Meir, who says in Chulin (2a) that, on the one hand, it is preferable to fulfil a Neder that one makes than to contravene it, on the other, it is better still to annul it. (Hence the Shulchan Aruch writes that someone who makes a vow it is as if he has built a Bamah [an altar] - at a time when altars are forbidden, and that if he then keeps it, it is as if he sacrificed on it.)

The Yalkut Yitzchak however, citing Rabeinu Bachye in the name of the Rambam, writes that somebody who makes vows in order to strengthen his Midos or to rectify his deeds is doing a good thing. For example, he says, if a person who tends to be a glutton or a drunkard vows not to eat meat for a year or two or to abstain from wine for a certain period or even for his whole life (like a Nazir), or if someone who spends his life searching for free bargains and trying to become a millionaire, or if he is always chasing Kavod, makes a vow not to accept gifts or any other favours from his contemporaries or to keep a low profile at all times, this is true Avodas Hashem! It is about such a situation that Chazal say in Pirkei Avos that -'Nedarim lead to the Midah of P'rishus (abstention)'.

Similarly, R. Bachye adds, one may make a Neder to fulfil a Mitzvah the moment it falls due - to avoid being lax when it does, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (119) "I swore and I kept (my oath) to fulfil Your righteous judgements!" Furthermore, he cites the Pasuk in Parshas Vayeitzei that when Ya'akov Avinu was about to confront Eisav, he " made a Neder (to give a gift to G-d) ", from which the Chachamim derive that one may - even should - make Nedarim in times of trouble.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

Why No Command?

"And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes a man who makes a vow " (30:2/3).

Why, asks the Riva, does the Torah not begin this Parshah, like it does most Parshiyos that contain Mitzvos "And G-d spoke to Moshe saying "?

He explains that this Parshah actually pertains to the Pasuk at the end of Pinchas which, in connection with the Musaf offering, writes "These you shall bring to G-d on your festivals, over and above your Nedarim and your free-will offerings ,,, ". This refers to the Korbanos that one vowed to bring, and that one brings on Yom-Tov, to avoid transgressing 'bal te'acher', once Yom-Tov is over.

Moshe now went and taught the elders of Yisrael these Dinim, who were all Dayanim, so that they in turn, should then go and teach them to K'lal Yisrael.


Disillusioning Moshe

"Avenge the B'nei Yisrael from the Midyanim, then you will be gathered to your people" (31:2).

Citing the Ram from Coucy, the Riva explains the connection between this Parshah and the previous Parshah of Nedarim: When Moshe heard that it is possible to annul one's vows, he assumed that, having been permitted to enter the land of Sichon and Og (which was part of Eretz Yisrael), G-d must have annulled His vow forbidding him to enter the Land via His celestial Beis-Din.

Therefore G-d found it necessary to disillusion him by informing him that, immediately following the war with Midyan, he would die, because the vow still stood in full force. And as for his entry into the land of Sichon and Og, G-d had sworn (not that he would not enter Eretz Yisrael, but) that he would not cross the Yarden.


A Lesson in Midos


Again quoting the Ram from Coucy, the Riva points out that although Moshe was ordered to go personally to fight with MIdyan (the Torah writes "N'kom!" [in the singular] and not 'Nikmu' [in the plural]), he did not do so. Instead, he sent Pinchas (see also Rashi on Pasuk 6).

The reason for this, he explains, is because he had spent many years in Midyan (which had simultaneously served him as a country of refuge), and 'One does not throw stones into a well from which one has drunk!'

We have already seen Moshe's remarkable Midah of Hakaras Ha'tov (gratitude) when, in Egypt, he declined to strike with his staff the water and the earth (both of which had saved his life), instructing Aharon to do so in his stead, even though he was commanded by G-d to do it. Now we can add to the list his refusal to fight against Midyan, because he grew up there. And this is reminiscent of Avraham Avinu, who gave the Mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim priority over being with the Shechinah, Moshe too, gave priority to the Midah of gratitude over G-d's direct command.

* * *


"And now, kill every woman who had relations with a man (yoda'as ish) " (31:17).

The word "yoda'as" appears in T'nach on two other occasions: 1. In Shoftim (21:11), where the Torah writes (in connection with the inhabitants of Yavesh Gil'ad) " and every woman who had relations (yoda'as mishkav zochor) with a man", and 2. in Tehilim (139:14) "Wondrous are Your works, and my Soul knows it (yoda'as) well".

This conforms to the Gemara in Yevamos (60b), the Ba'al ha'Turim comments, which explains that (in our case), whether or not, the women concerned had had relations with a man, was determined by the Tzitz ("the wonders of G-d's works").

The Gemara there explains that regarding the women of Yavesh Gil'ad, who were Jewesses and who were destined to die, they had to use other natural methods to determine which women had had relations with a man. This was because, in connection with the Tzitz, the Torah uses the word "le'rotzon" (goodwill), and if Jewish women had to be killed, that would not fit into the category of "rotzon" at all.

See also Rashi on the current Pasuk.


" and not a man of ours is missing" (31:49).

See Rashi.

The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Gematriyah of the words "ve'lo nifkad mimenu ish" is equivalent to that of 'la'aveiros'.

What the Pasuk then means is that not one of the soldiers was guilty of sinning ('lacking' spiritually) with the women of Midyan (despite the recent episode of Ba'al Pe'or, for which the current battle came to make amends). They may have sinned in thought (See Rashi and Targum Yonasan on Pasuk 50), but they did not sin in deed.


"And every armed man (chalutz) among you shall cross the Jordan River" (32:21).

The same word "Chalutz" appears in ki Seitzei (25:10), in connection with the Mitzvah of Chalitzah " beis chalutz ha'na'al", though there it means -'the house of the one whose shoe was removed'.

As is well-known, David ha'Melech's soldiers used to hand their wives a Get before going to war, in order to dispense with the need for his brother to make Yibum or Chalitzah, should he die in battle,

From here, says the ba'al ha'Turim, we learn that Moshe Rabeinu's soldiers used to do the same thing, and that presumably, David ha'Melech took his cue from Moshe Rabeinu.


" and this land will (then) become yours as an inheritance before G-d (lifnei Hashem") 31:22.

The term "lifnei Hashem" appears seven times in this Parshah, the Ba'al ha'Turim observes, corresponding to the seven years that they subsequently fought to conquer Eretz Yisrael.

* * *

And Half the Tribe of Menasheh

Initially, it was only the tribes of Reuven and Gad who requested permission to receive their inheritance on the other side (the east bank) of the Yarden. It was only after the deal was made and they accepted Moshe's conditions that the Torah relates how Moshe gave the land of Sichon and Og to Reuven, Gad and half the tribe of Menasheh. Even then, no mention is made of any request on the part of Menasheh to inherit it.

The Ramban therefore explains that it was Moshe who realizing that the vast territory that he was about to distribute to Reuven and Gad, was far in excess of their needs, asked for volunteers to join them on the other side of the Yarden. And it was a number of families from the tribe of Menasheh who took up Moshe's call (perhaps, the Ramban suggests, they owned large flocks of sheep and were tempted to live there due to the ideal pasturing conditions that attracted Reuven and Gad in the first place). The footnote in the Ramban, citing the T'cheiles Mord'chai, points to a Yerushalmi, which declares the half-tribe of Menasheh innocent of the attraction to money that prompted Reuven and Gad to separate from the rest of the community.

He also points out that of the eight founding families that comprised Menasheh, it was only two (the smallest families to boot, comprising no more than a tenth of the tribe) - those of Machir and Gil'ad, who volunteered to live on Eiver ha'Yarden. Both, he explains, were fearless warriors who lost no time in conquering the territories where they chose to live.


The Ha'amek Davar takes a similar line, only he points out that the half tribe of Menasheh, who only entered the picture after the conditions that Moshe had set for Reuven and Gad were firmly in place, were not bound by those conditions (a fact with which the Meshech Chochmah disagrees). He also points out that Moshe allotted to the two families of Menasheh far more territory than he did the two tribes (Ya'ir ben Menasheh alone was allowed to retain the sixty cities that he conquered). And he therefore concludes that Moshe chose the two families with a specific agenda (i.e. that he wanted to install in Eiver ha'Yarden, people who were steeped in Torah learning). He clearly differs from the Ramban in that the families of Menasheh, in his opinion, did not volunteer, but they were hand picked by Moshe to suit this program.


Ya'ir ben Menasheh

A little earlier, we mentioned Ya'ir ben Menasheh (one of the great Tzadikim of that generations, who later fell in the battle against Ay, early on in the conquest of Cana'an). The I'bn Ezra comments that Ya'ir was not really the son of Menasheh at all. In fact, he is listed in Divrei Hayamim as the son of S'guv of the tribe of Yehudah. And who was S'guv? S'guv was the son of Chetzron (who was also the father of Calev), who was the son of Peretz ben Yehudah. Now S'guv married the daughter of Machir ben Menasheh, who bore him Ya'ir, and it was through his mother that Ya'ir subsequently obtained cities in the territory of Menasheh.

Nor can one ask how it was possible for Ya'ir to obtain property in Menasheh, says the Ibn Ezra, since the lands of Eiver ha'Yarden were not subject to the Dinim of inheritance as were the lands that were situated in Eretz Yisrael proper, on the eastern side of the Yarden.

* * *

(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 229:
Not to Rob (cont.)

A reason for the Mitzvah It is self-understood, as common-sense dictates that this is something from which one should keep far away. The person who robs those who are weaker than themselves are surely aware that by the same token, someone who is stronger than him, will come and rob from him. Clearly, this sort of behaviour will lead to a breakdown of civilization.

The Chachamim have said that it is an Isur d'Oraysa to rob or to steal (which, to all intents and purposes, share the same Dinim) even a kol-shehu (a minimal amount), although the La'av of 'Lo sigzol' one only transgresses if one robs money or an object that is worth least a P'rutah. This is because the Torah will only declare a person chayav for something that is considered 'mamon' (the minimum that is considered of value), and less than a P'rutah is not considered mamon.

Nevertheless, even a kol-shehu is forbidden min ha'Torah, in the same way as, regarding other La'avin (such as eating, one is forbidden to eat even less than the prescribed Shi'ur) even though one is not subject to Malkos for doing so The Rambam writes that one is not permitted to rob or to withhold the wages of a gentile; and that someone who does, is obligated to return the stolen object or to pay what he owes And the Gemara in Bava Kama (109a) rules that one is forbidden to rob, to steal or to destroy the property, even of someone whose body one is permitted to destroy - such as a heretic. The reason for this, the commentaries explain, is due to the possibility that a worthy heir will descend from him who will inherit his money; or in order not to become accustomed to do these things; since constantly indulging in negative behaviour has a derogatory affect on one's character-traits The Gemara there (98b) also states that a thief is obligated to return the object that he stole, as the Torah writes in Tzav (5:23) "And he shall return the article that he stole", on which the Chachamim commented that the thief must return the article just as he stole it. Consequently, they said, strictly speaking, somebody who stole a beam and built it into his house, really ought to demolish the house in order to return the stolen beam (something which, incidentally, the men of Ninveh did). However, in order to encourage the thief to return the beam, they introduced a law (known as 'Takonas hs'Shovin') permitting him to leave his house intact and to compensate the owner out of his pocket instead. The author has presented elsewhere the source of the mandate to do that The numerous remaining Dinim of this Mitzvah, such as someone who steals in a residential area, and wants to pay back in desert country, and someone who steals and pays back by adding it on to an existing debt which he repays, but without informing the owner what he has done, are to be found largely in the ninth and tenth chapters of Bava Kama; some of them the author already discussed in Vayikra in Mitzvah 130 (The Mitzvah of returning a stolen article).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times to men and women alike, Someone who contravenes it and steals something to the value of a P'rutah or more has transgressed a La'av, but is not subject to Malkos, since it is connected to an Asei, as the Torah writes in Vayikra (5:23) " and he shall return the stolen article", Even if he negates the possibility of returning it by burning it or throwing it into the sea, he is nevertheless Patur from Malkos, seeing as he remains obligated to pay the owner the value of the article. A robber who denies having stolen the article and who swears (falsely) to that effect is obligated to pay an extra fifth and to bring a guilt-offering, as the Gemara explains in Bava Kama and at the end of Makos.

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