Vol. 8 No. 37
This issue is sponsored
Yehudah Zev ben Yisrael Saperstein z.l.
Yeta Mirtcha bas David Mottel Tropper z.l.
Dasan and Aviram
The first time we encounter Dasan and Aviram is in Egypt, the day after Moshe killed an Egyptian for beating a Jew. Feigning to be her husband, the Egyptian had just commited adultery with the man's wife. When he saw that the husband, upon his return from work, was aware of what he had done, he beat him viciously.
The next day, when Moshe rebuked Dasan and Aviram, calling Dasan a rasha for raising his hand against a fellow-Jew, they referred to the incident of the previous day. Not only did they threaten Moshe that they would inform Par'oh that he had slain an Egyptian, but they actually carried out that threat. This in itself, is shameful enough (see Rashi Sh'mos 2:14). But what makes it a thousand times worse is the fact that the name of the man whose wife the Egyptian had coveted, and whose life Moshe had probably saved, was none other than Dasan!
And when we examine Dasan and Aviram's history, it is clear that they possessed no scruples, and that they were devoid of the least spark of moral decency. Whenever there was trouble, they were sure to be at the forefront.
Dasan and Aviram were the ones to brazenly challenge Moshe the first time he left Par'oh's presence (Sh'mos 5:20/21). There, as on subsequent occasions, it is not so much what they said, as the shockingly disrespectful way in which they spoke to Moshe, that shakes one to the core.
Dasan and Aviram were the ones with whom Par'oh discussed his tactics after Yisrael had left Egypt (because they, out of the whole of Yisroel, remained behind).
Dasan and Aviram were the ones who rebelled at the Yam-Suf (claiming that just as they had emerged unscathed on this side, so too had the Egyptians escaped on the other).
Dasan and Aviram were the ones who left over from the Mon, and
Dasan and Aviram were the ones who desecrated the Shabbos on the first week that it fell.
Dasan and Aviram were the ones who, during the episode with the spies, announced (Sh'lach-Lecha 14:4) 'Let us appoint a leader' (a god to boot! - Rashi). And finally,
Dasan and Aviram were the ones who stood up to Moshe, and who, in a display of unprecedented arrogance, shamelessly denigrated him, in spite of the fact that, as Moshe himself pointed out, he had never caused them the least harm. Quite to the contrary, Dasan was indebted to Moshe for having saved him from a viscious beating, and perhaps even worse, as we saw earlier.
The list of rebellions that they headed is so long that it hardly comes as a surprise when the Yalkut says that whatever evil one can ascribe to them, one should. But what is particularly striking about them is the fact that their trouble-shooting was not based on self-interest, but on pure hatred, hatred of Moshe and of the forces of good, which in turn, can only be attributed to a love of evil. This would place them in the category of 'mumar le'hach'is' (a sinner in order to anger Hashem) as opposed to other rebels, who sinned out of self-interest and who would therefore fall under the category of 'mumar le'te'ovon' (a sinner for personal gain). This would adequately explain the Or ha'Chayim's contention, that even assuming the rest of Korach's congregation to be destined to arise at Techi'as ha'Meisim, they are not.
In truth however, the Or ha'Chayim himself gives a different reason for this. Proving his point from the fact that Moshe attempted to pacify, not Korach, but Dasan and Aviram, he maintains that in fact, Dasan and Aviram were the ring leaders of the rebellion, even to the point of having incited Korach to lead it, and of having discouraged the people from withdrawing and doing teshuvah. Consequently, they were directly responsible for the many deaths that resulted from their handiwork, and explains why they, more even than Korach, deserved to suffer eternally for their deeds.
(Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)
The word kin'ah (zealousness) appears three times (in various forms) in the second Pasuk. This corresponds to the three sins which Yisrael perpetrated by Ba'al Pe'or, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim: They committed adultery with the women of Mo'av, they prostrated themselves to Ba'al Pe'or and they worshipped it.
The Cut 'Vav'
"Therefore (Lochein) say, behold I am giving him My covenant of peace (es b'risi shalom)" (25:12).
The word 'Lochein', says the Ba'al ha'Turim, has the same numerical value as 'midah be'midah' (measure for measure). The significance of this observation is self-explanatory.
The 'vav' in "shalom" is broken, the Gemara explains in Kidushin, because it then resembles a 'yud', and the word reads 'sh'lim' (complete). This teaches us that not only is a blemished Kohen forbidden to serve (which the Torah expressly forbids in Emor), but that if he does, his service is disqualified.
And at the same time, the Pasuk hints that Hashem gave to Pinchas (and to all the kohanim) a complete covenant, including ten gifts in the Mikdash and ten in the borders of Yisrael (Ba'al ha'Turim).
In addition, he says, the broken 'vav' hints that Pinchas is Eliyahu, who is often called 'Eliyah (missing a 'vav'). Correspondingly, Ya'akov Avinu is spelt with an extra 'vav'. This is because Ya'akov took the 'vav' from Eliyahu's name as a security, until such time as Eliyahu accompanies the Mashi'ach to redeem his children. When he does, he will return it to him.
Zimri Alias Shelumiel
"And the name of the man who was smitten … was Zimri ben Salu" (25:14).
There are those who equate Zimri with Shelumiel ben Tzurishaday (the Nasi of Shimon (although Rashi on this Pasuk does not seem to subscribe to this opinion). And this is hinted in the numerical value of the Shelumiel, which is equivalent to that of 'Zeh Zimri ben Salu'.
Making a Break
"And it was after the plague ... and Hashem said to Moshe and to Elazar ... Count all the congregation" (26:1/2).
This Parshah is 'open' (there is a 'pey' in the middle of the Pasuk - after the opening phrase), comments the Ba'al ha'Turim. This is to make a break between the plague and the counting, so that the plague should not affect them whilst the count was taking place.
Maybe that is also why the Torah uses the word "acharei ha'mageifoh" (rather than 'achar') because 'acharei' (as opposed to 'achar') denotes distant (whereas 'achar' implies close).
" ... from the age of twenty years and upwards to the house of their fathers ... " (26:2).
The Torah does not mention "to their families" as it did in Bamidbar, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. Nor does it need to, he adds, seeing as it goes on to mention "family" by each and every name.
When Mashi'ach Comes
"For Tz'fon (one of the sons of Gad), the family of the Tz'foni" (26:15).
The word "Tz'foni" appears twice in T'nach, here, and in Yoel (2:20), where the Navi writes "and I will keep the Tz'foni away from you".
Based on the fact that Eliyahu descended from the tribe of Gad (one of a number of opinions), and that one of the seven names of the Yeitzer ha'Ra is 'Tzafun' (the hidden one) this is a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that in the days of Mashi'ach (who will be heralded by Eliyahu), the Yeitzer ha'Ra will be out of a job.
Guess Who's Hidden There
Tz'fon is alias Tzifyon (with a 'yud - ten), says the Ba'al ha'Turim. He is called by both names, a hint that Moshe, who received the Luchos with the Ten Commandments, is hidden in Gad's portion of land, as the Torah specifically writes in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah.
When Puhey becomes Puney
"To Puvah (one of the sons of Yisachar), the family of Puny" (26:23).
The Ba'al ha'Turim comments that the Torah should really have written " ... the family of Puhey". It changes it to "Puney" he explains, because everyone turned (from the word 'poneh' [to turn]) to Yisachar, to learn from their Torah.
And Yov became Yashuv
"To Yashuv, the family of Yashuv" (26:24).
And by the same token, the Torah changed 'Yov' to "Yashuv", he explains, because they were B'nei Yeshivah.
"These are ("Eileh") the B'nei Ephrayim" (26:35).
The significance of this opening phrase, not used by most of the other tribes, lies in the infamous announcement "These are ('Eileh') your gods Yisrael", which followed the completion of the Golden Calf. And it was Ephrayim's infamous descendent Yerav'am ben N'vat, who took his cue from the sin of the Eigel, to make two golden calves, that the Pasuk opens with these words.
And it is because he placed one of them in Dan, that the Torah opens the Parshah of Dan in the same way (Ba'al ha'Turim).
It seems rather surprising that the Ba'al ha'Turim does not link the use of "Eileh" by the tribe of Dan, with the image (the Pesel Michah) that they transported in the desert, and for which reason they were denied the protection of the Clouds of Glory. That would seem a more likely reason to denigrate them here, rather than Yerav'am's future placing of a golden calf in Dan, something for which the tribe of Dan was not directly responsible.
"Let Hashem ... appoint a leader over the congregation ... who will go before them ... " (27:16/17).
These two Pesukim, comprising Moshe's request of G-d to appoint a replacement for himself, contain twenty-eight words, observes the Ba'al ha'Turim, the precise number of years (between the time that Moshe died and his own death) that Yehoshua would lead Yisrael. And the Pasuk also hints this in Eikev (8:18), where the Torah writes "And you will remember Hashem your G-d, because He is the one who grants you strength" (ko'ach - whose numerical value is also twenty-eight, though it is unclear what this has to do with Yehoshua).
(based largely on the Sidur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
Hashem Sefosai Tiftach (cont.)
The Iyun Tefilah cites the Medrash, which describes how Yisrael excused themselves before G-d. They were unable to bring Korbonos, they claimed, because they were poor and could not afford them. Hashem replied 'I am asking you for words, not sacrifices, as the Novi Yeshayah writes "Take with you words" '. And another Medrash, based on the Pasuk "Your lips are like a scarlet thread", explains how the movement of our lips is as meaningful to G-d as the scarlet thread used in the ritual of the Sa'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach (which atoned for all of Yisrael's sins).
Rebbi Avahu there explains the Pasuk "And we will pay the bulls with our lips" to mean that instead of the bulls and instead of the Sa'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach, we give G-d (the prayers of) our lips. And this explains why, in the Pasuk following that of "Hashem, sefosai tiftach ... ", David ha'Melech continues "Because (having destroyed Your Mizbei'ach) You do not want us to bring sacrifices, and You do not accept our burnt-offerings". That is why we ask Hashem, to 'open our lips ... '.
The Lips and the Mouth
The Agados Maharsha explains that David ha'Melech first asked G-d to open our lips, and then that He should enable the other parts of our mouths to work in concert to praise Him. (We can draw an analogy to a bound prisoner who must first have his chains removed before he can even contemplate making his escape.)
And that is also why we say 'Hashem, open my lips' before the Amidah, and 'May the words of my mouth be acceptable to You' after it, as prescribed by Chazal.
Our G-d and the G-d of our Fathers
Surely the order ought to be inverted, and what we should be saying is 'the G-d of our fathers and our G-d'?
The Dover Shalom explains that it is the duty of every Jew to understand Hashem and to appreciate Him to the best of his ability from his own personal perspective and according to his own experiences. And then, in order to understand Hashem in the framework of Jewish history, he needs to turn to the Ovos to learn more about Him from them.
The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak
And the G-d of Ya'akov
And again, it ought to have sufficed for us to say 'the G-d of Avrohom, Yitzchak and Ya'akov'. Why do we need to mention 'G-d' in connection with each of the Ovos?
The Eitz Yosef explains that, just as we have the obligation to understand Hashem from our own perspective, so too, did the Ovos. To say 'Elokei Avraham, Yitzchak ve'Ya'akov', would have implied that Yitzchak and Ya'akov took their cue from Avraham, the first exponent of monotheism and founder of the Jewish nation, and simply followed blindly in his footsteps. Whereas the truth of the matter is that each one understood Hashem and appreciated Him from his own personal experiences. And the proof of this lies in the fact that, whereas Avraham served Hashem on the basis of chesed, Yitzchak served Him from the basis of Gevurah, and Ya'akov, from that of Emes (as we go on to hint in the words 'ho'Keil ha'Godol, ha'Gibor ve'ha'Noro').
This is what the Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim (1) means when it writes "Know the G-d of your father". It is not enough just to accept Him because one's father knew about Him and believed him (though that is certainly the ideal starting point from which to develop Emunah, as indeed is implied in this very pasuk, which does not say "know your G-d," but "know the G-d of your father"), but that one gets to know Him oneself.
Who performs Good Kindnesses
At first sight, the word 'good' is redundant, for who has ever heard of a bad chesed?
The truth of the matter is however, that there is such a thing as a bad chesed, inasmuch as a chesed that is not for the ultimate good of the recipient is not really a chesed at all.
Consequently it is quite easy to perform an act which is inherently good, but which is anything but chesed, and it is equally easy to cause someone pain in a way which is truly an act of chesed. For example, giving an alcoholic a drink which kills him can hardly be termed a chesed. On the other hand, severing a gangrenous limb which saves a person's life is chesed in the extreme.
A human being, with all his limitations, cannot fully assess what is good for someone else and what is bad. Neither can he always see the end-result of the good deed or the bad one that he is about to perform. In addition, he cannot know that the good deed that he is performing on behalf of one person is bad for someone else. It is G-d, and G-d alone, who sees and knows everything (including the thoughts of man) and who transcends time. Consequently, the kindnesses that He performs, taken in their overall context, are all ultimately good kindnesses, not only for the benefit of the person concerned, but for the benefit of the whole of mankind.
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