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Vol. 4 No. 38
"Oppress the Midyonim and kill them", Hashem commanded Moshe Rabeinu. The Midyonim, Chazal deduce, but not the Mo'ovim, since Ruth was destined to descend from Mo'ov. And also, explains the Gemoro in Bovo Kamo, because the Mo'ovim felt threatened by the Jews at their border, thus entitling them to engage in their own self-defence (even if the tactics they ultimately employed were totally unacceptable). The Midyonim, on the other hand, entered into an argument that did not concern them. By what token and by whose authority did they interfere with Klal Yisroael's well-being? Therefore, their very entry into the dispute was deplorable.
Yet in spite of this, both nations were severely punished. The Medrash Rabbo (Ba'midbar 21:5), quoting R. Shimon states: "From where do we know that a person who causes someone else to sin is worse than the one who kills him? It is because killing a person only deprives him of this world, but not of his portion in the World to Come, whereas making him sin, kills him both in this world and in the next."
Two nations attacked Yisroel with the sword and two nations made them sin: the Egyptians and the Edumeans attacked them with the sword, etc., whereas Mo'ov and Ammon made them sin. About those that attacked them, it is written in Devorim 23:4: "Do not reject an Edomi or an Egyptian. But of those that caused Yisroel to sin, the Torah writes: "An Ammoni and Mo'ovi may not enter the community of Hashem - even the 10th generation!"
And the Medrash writes there (21:7) that, although it is forbidden to destroy fruit-trees, even in the course of combat against an enemy, this does not apply to a battle against Ammon and Mo'ov, where it is a mitzvah to destroy even their fruit-trees. The Medrash (21:6) also describes how anyone who deals mercifully with these two nations will only go on to suffer humiliation at their hands, citing as an example Dovid Ha'melech, who had pity on Chanun ben Achbor, King of Ammon, only to be deeply humiliated by him for his pains.
It is truly remarkable that the G-d Who loves peace to the extent that all major blessings conclude with peace, and Who commanded our leaders to open all negotiations, even with enemies of the calibre of Par'oh and the Cana'anim, with an offer of peace-terms, that that same G-d should write in His Torah (about Ammon and Mo'ov): "Do not ever seek their peace or their good!" And this is in keeping with the words of the prophet: "There is no peace for the wicked, says Hashem" (Yesha'yoh 48:22).
Clearly, there is major distinction between someone who merely hates Klal Yisroel, which might stem from fear or from jealousy, and someone who intrinsically hates Hashem, a hatred which manifests itself in a total condonement of evil and sin, since those who "love Hashem hate evil" [Tehillim 95]. Why is that? Because He is the epitome of goodness. It follows therefore that those who hate Hashem, love evil. And it is people of this calibre who will have no scruples when it comes to making others sin.
It is inconceivable that one person will exhort another to murder, shall we say, unless he considers murder to be tolerable. Consequently, to set in motion a plan of such proportions, to ensnare the whole of Klal Yisroel into committing adultery, involving what must have been thousands of their own womenfolk, as Ammon and Mo'ov did, cannot have resulted merely from a tolerance of immorality. It must have been rooted in a positive desire to perpetrate such practices, a desire which, as we just explained, stems in turn from a hatred of Hashem and all forms of G-dliness.
It is interesting to note that, when Ammon and Mo'ov were offered the Torah at Har Sinai, they refused it on the grounds that the prohibition of adultery did not suit their lifestyles. This is a clear indication that this incident was not just a flash-in-the pan, but an integral part of Ammon and Mo'ov's way of life.
Adapted from the Gro
"Pinchas ben Elozor" etc. "heishiv es Chamosi" etc. The Gro explains that in the "Machtzis" (ha'shekel) the middle letter is a "tzadey", which represents Tzedokoh. The letters which flank it on both sides spell "chai" whereas those on the outside spell "meis", to show that someone who gives Tzedokoh is closer to life than he is to death. Pinchas, with his supreme act of self-sacrifice to save Yisroel (what would he have done had Zimri,, together with the rest of the tribe of Shimo'n, turned against him?), performed a tremendous chesed to Klal Yisroel in saving them from total destruction. That is why the Torah writes "heishiv es chamosi", the middle letters of which spell "meis" and the outer letters "chai". At that moment, Yisroel were closer to death than they were to life, until Pinchas turned the decree around from "chamosi" to "machtzis".
The Division of the Land
"To these the land shall be divided... to the larger tribe, you shall give a larger inheritance" etc.
The Gro explains the seemingly repetitive pesukim in the following way: First of all, he asks, how was it possible to divide the land by lots? The tribe of Yehudah, for example, due to the size of the tribe, had to receive the largest portion of land. Now what would have happened, had the portion of land designated for Yehudah fallen to another tribe (a possibility that, by virtue of the nature of the lots, one had to contend with)?
Therefore, what must have happened is that the portions of land were all initially equal - the location of each tribe though, was fixed. Once that was done, explains the Gro, pieces of land were taken from the smaller tribes and added to the larger ones. It was however, important, that the land should be taken from an adjoining tribe, so that each tribe received their portion of land in one place. This explains the posuk in Masei: "To the larger tribe you shall add more land, and to the smaller tribe etc. to wherever the lot falls etc., there you shall divide their inheritance". (33:54)
And this also will explain as to why the borders of each tribe were not straight but jutted out in some places and went in, in others. And the same method, explains the Gro, was used to divide the tribe's land into families.
Oy to that Shame!
Moshe was told to place only some of his glory on Yehoshua, not all of it - "Moshe's face shone like the sun, Yehoshua's like the moon." When the elders of that generation saw the difference they would say "Oy to that shame! Oh to that embarrassment!" Why just the elders, asks the Gro?
He explains because, as things were, considering the age difference between Moshe and Yehoshua, the distinction between them would not have struck the people of that generation as being out of the ordinary. It was the elders of the generation, who remembered Moshe forty years earlier, when he (like Yehoshua now) had just begun his career as leader of Klal Yisroel, who grasped Moshe's supremacy.
In similar vein the posuk in Ezra records how, when they celebrated the building of the second Beis Ha'mikdosh, there were many people there who remembered the glory of the first, and they wept. In fact, the weeping of those who recalled the splendour of the first and how feeble by comparison was the second, drowned the celebrations, even together with the sound of the trumpet blasts.
We wrote last week that, according to Rashi, four of the five reasons for fasting on Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz are rooted in events that took place during the second Beis Ha'mikdosh.
In other words, the only reason to fast on Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz to predate the second Beis Ha'mikdosh, was the breaking of the Luchos.
We know for a fact that they fasted in Tamuz during the time of the first Beis Ha'mikdosh, because the Novi Zecharyoh (8:19) refers to the fast of the fourth month (Tamuz). So, unless we say that the fast of Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz was initiated already in the days of Moshe Rabeinu, to commemorate the breaking of the Luchos, we will have to accept that in the time of the first Beis Ha'mikdosh (from the end, through to the building of Bayis Sheini) they actually fasted, not on Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz, but on the ninth, the date on which the walls were breached before the first Churban.
The other Meforshei ha'Tenach ignore the above issue; they explain that by "Tzom ho'Revi'i", Zecharyoh meant Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz, whereas Rashi simply writes 'the fast of Tamuz which is in the fourth month'.
The other Meforshim presumably, follow the opinion of the Yerushalmi (quoted by the Meforshei ha'Mishnah) which explains that, in fact, the walls of Yerusholayim were breached on the seventeenth of Tamuz, both by the first and by the second Churban. Only, due to the terrible persecutions, they confused their dates, and the Novi recorded the date that they mistakenly accepted - namely, the ninth.
Interestingly, it is also a Yerushalmi which cites two opinions (depending on the text of the Mishnah) as to who placed an image in the Heichal. If the text reads "he placed an image", etc., then it must refer to Apostumus, the Greek or Roman general who also burnt the Seifer-Torah in the time of the second Beis Ha'mikdosh.
But if we read "and there was placed" then it refers to another incident altogether - namely, to the act of Menasheh, King of Yehudah, and that took place during the days of the first Beis Ha'mikdosh.
Hashem, in anticipation of Yirmiyoh's reluctance to accept the prophecy, informed him that he had prepared him for that role even from before the time of his birth. But that did not deter Yirmiyoh from declining. Moshe, he argued, rebuked Yisroel close to his death, at the height of his leadership, but how was he, a man with no experience, expected to successfully rebuke Klal Yisroel?
Hashem, however, reassured him that he would succeed, because whether he spoke to the nations of the world (whose prophet, G-d declares him) or to Yisroel, Hashem promised to be with him, to save him from those who would do him harm. And with those words, Hashem touched Yirmiyoh on the mouth, placing the Divine word in his mouth and officially appointing him as the prophet of destruction and doom, if Yisroel would not listen to him, but the prophet of building and planting, if only they would (see also Rashi).
G-d then asked him what he saw, and he replied that he saw an almond stick, to which G-d commented that he saw well, because the almond stick, which blossoms in twenty-one days - faster than any other fruit - was symbolical of Hashem's haste to bring the Churban Beis Ha'mikdosh upon Klal Yisroel very soon (besides hinting to the twenty-one days that the final period of destruction would last - between Shiv'oh-osor be'Tamuz and Tish'oh be'Av).
The Ma'ayonoh shel Torah explains the Haftorah up to this point, by referring to the Chazal that Hashem hastened the Churban by two years, in order to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecy that Yisroel would be destroyed after 852 years, due to their pervert ways (see Rashi Devorim 4:25).
Yirmiyoh, not aware of this, initially declined the prophecy, because he was young. In keeping with Chazal, who have taught that one rather postpones punishment than bring it forward, Yirmiyoh was trying to delay the impending Churban, until he was older. That is why, when Yirmiyoh replied that he saw an almond-stick, a symbol of bringing the punishment forward, as we explained, Hashem commented "Heitavto lir'os" - what you have seen is a good thing, not a bad one, because, in this instance, bringing the punishment forward will save Yisroel from extinction.
Hashem then spoke to the Novi for a third time, hinting to him by means of a bubbling pot of meat facing the north, that the attackers would be the Babylonians. They would eventually destroy Yerusholayim, due to Yisroel's having forsaken Hashem and their idolatrous practices.
The prophecy concludes with G-d repeating His assurance that He would stand by Yirmiyoh and fortify him against all who would seek to do him harm. G-d appeared to Yirmiyoh for a fourth time, telling him to go and inform Yisroel that, in spite of everything, Hashem would never forget how Yisroel followed Him blindly, without provisions, into the barren desert, and how they proclaimed "Na'aseh ve'nishma" at Har Sinai. Therefore, Yisroel are holy (eternal), and, just like the person who eats T'rumah (which is also called "Kodesh") is guilty of death by the Divine Hand, so too, will those who attack Yisroel and attempt to "devour" them suffer the same end. With these short words, Hashem has explained that Yisroel will survive all attempts at genocide, whilst the Babylonians, the Romans and all others who would destroy them, will themselves perish.
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