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Vol. 19 No. 41
Hag'oloh, Tevilah & Taxation
"And Elazar ha'Kohen said to the soldiers who returned from the battlefront 'This is the law of the Torah … Only the gold and the silver, the copper, the iron and the tin … Whatever is used in fire you shall pass in fire, and it will become permitted. It must however be purified in a Mikvah; whereas whatever is not used in fire you shall pass in water. And you shall wash your clothes (in a Mikvah) on the seventh day and you will be pure. Then you will (be permitted to) enter the camp' " (31:21-24).
This Parshah incorporates the Dinim concerning Kashering vessels that have absorbed non-Kasher food and vessels obtained from a non-Jew that require Tevilah, as well as the need for a person who is Tamei Meis to Tovel before entering the Camp of the Shechinah - though the latter set of Halachos were already taught in Parshas Chukas.
Among the various Dinim of Hag'olas Keilim (Kashering vessels) discussed by Rabeinu Bachye is that of 'Ta'am ke'Ikar' (or 'Ta'amo ve'Lo Mamasho [where the taste of something that is prohibited, though the actual food is not there]), which is Asur min ha'Torah. He says this with reference to the Midyonite cooking utensils that required hag'alah in order to exude the non-Kasher food that they had absorbed.
He explains that the Torah only forbids a taste that is 'fit for a Ger' - in other words, one which tastes pleasant. After twenty-four hours, what is absorbed in the walls of a vessel becomes spoilt, so that the taste that it adds to other food that is subsequently cooked in the vessel is permitted.
That being the case, all the vessels that they now had to Kasher would anyway have become permitted twenty-four hours after their Midyonite owners had last used them, as they were only forbidden on that day.
Moreover, he says, we have a principle that 'S'tam keilim einan b'nei yoman' - unless we know for sure that a vessel has been used by a gentile within twenty-four hours, we assume that he hasn't.
It therefore transpires that the Halachah being taught affected only those cooking utensils that were known for sure to have been used within twenty-four hours. And even those utensils would become permitted once those twenty-four hours had past.
Granted, the Chachamim forbade using such vessels even after many years without Tevilah, but min ha'Torah, they were permitted. That being the case, practically speaking, it is doubtful whether even one cooking utensil that the soldiers brought back with them actually required Hag'oloh, and Elazar presented those Halachos in the form of a Halachah Shi'ur, even though it was barely relevant at that time.
Rabeinu Bachye asks why all the above Halachos were not taught with regard to the utensils that they captured from Sichon and Og, as the Torah records in Devarim (2:35). Following in the footsteps of the Ramban, he explains that Sichon and Og's territory was part of the land that was promised to K'lal Yisrael. And when it came to the conquest of Eretz Cana'an, whatever they found they were allowed to eat ('even pork chops', as the Gemara says in Chulin [17a]). And this concession extended to the laws of Tum'ah, which are also not mentioned following the battle with Sichon and Og.
All of this was not applicable to Midyan, which had no connection with the conquest of Cana'an, and against whom they fought to avenge the debacle of Ba'al Pe'or.
The following Parshah describes in detail, the tax that the soldiers and the people had to give to Elazar and the other Kohanim from the vast herds of cattle and of sheep that they captured. There too, comments R. Bachye, no such tax is mentioned following the battles against Sichon and Og. And there too, the author explains, it did not apply, due to the Pasuk in Korach (18:20) which prohibits Kohanim from receiving any portion in Eretz Yisrael (even from the booty - Rashi).
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Who was Ya'ir ben Menasheh?
"And Ya'ir the son of Menasheh went and captured their villages and he called them 'Chavos Ya'ir' " (32:41).
We know that Ya'ir was an outstanding Tzadik, so much so, that when in the battle against Ay (the second in the conquest of Eretz Cana'an), the Pasuk tells us that thirty-six men were killed, it was really Ya'ir who died, and that he was equal in standing to thirty-six men (half the Sanhedrin).
The description of Ya'ir as the son of Menasheh however, is misleading, as we shall now see.
The I'bn Ezra writes that Ya'ir was not really from the tribe of Menasheh at all, but from the tribe of Yehudah. And he cites the Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim 1 (2:21/22), which explains how Chetzron (the son of Peretz ben Yehudah) married the daughter of Machir the son of Menasheh (mentioned incidentally in the previous Pasuk) from whom he fathered S'guv, and how S'guv fathered Ya'ir, who possessed twenty-three cities in the land of Gil'ad.
And it was because his mother was from th
e tribe of Menasheh that he opted to go and live with them and was ultimately called after them.
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THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"And Bil'am the son of Be'or they killed by the sword" (31:4).
In Yehoshua, the Pasuk adds the word "the sorcerer".
This teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that they brought him before Moshe, who sentenced him to death for sorcery. Even though sorcery is subject to stoning, Bil'am was killed by the sword, since that is the death-sentence that is meted out to all gentiles.
The Ba'al ha'Turim's version of Bil'am's death differs radically from that of the Medrash. According to the Medrash it was Pinchas who killed Bil'am with his sword, either in an air battle (as described by Targum Yonasan), or after shooting him down with the Tzitz.
"ve'Chol ishah yoda'as ish le'mishkav (zochor)" (and any [Midionite] woman who had relations with [a man] you shall kill)" 31:17.
The Ba'al ha'Turim points out that the Gematriyah of "ve'Chol ishah yoda'as ish le'mishkav" is equivalent to that of 'im bas shonim ve'yom echod' (as long as she was [also] above the age of three). This is because intimacy below that age does not affect her virginity.
If he means to say that the test marked all girls above the age of three to be killed, even if she never had relations with a man (as Rashi explains), then he is contradicting the explanation that he cited immediately prior to this one (See 'Parshah Pearls' of last year).
"And Moshe sent them, a thousand per tribe … them and Pinchas ben Elazar ha'Kohen … " (31:6).
He did not, it seems, send the princes of the tribes, observes the Ba'al ha'Turim. This was in order not to embarrass the tribe of Shimon, whose prince (Sh'lumiel ben Tzurishadoy - alias Zimri ben Salu) had only recently died (during the episode of Ba'al Pe'or), and had not yet been replaced.
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