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

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Vol. 22   No. 38

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Parshas Pinchas

The Kal va'Chomer that Wasn't
(Adapted from the Ramban)

"Harass the Midyanim and smite them": (25:17).


Commenting on the Pasuk in Devarim (2:9) "Don't harass Mo'av", the Gemara writes in Bava Kama (Daf 38) 'Would you think that Moshe would take up arms without permission?

Only he learned a 'Kal va'Chomer' - If he was told to wage war against Midyan, who only came to assist Mo'av, how much more so would he have to wage war against Mo'av (the instigators of the plot)!.


If we examine the events in the order that they took place, the Ramban observes, we will see that Moshe cannot possibly have made the Kal va'Chomer mentioned by the Gemara. Here is the chronological order of those events, as they appear in the second chapter of Devarim. They arrived at the border of Edom, where G-d warned them to 'beware against waging war with them'. Then they came to the border of Mo'av, where He instructed them 'not to fight them', and then to Amon, where He warned them 'not to start up with them at all'. Next they approached the territory of Sichon and Og, both of which Yisrael totally destroyed.

And it is only when Mo'av saw what Yisrael had done to the two kings of the Emori (Sichon & Og) that they crowned Balak king and sent for Bil'am to curse them - as the Torah writes at the beginning of Parshas Balak. And the command to attack Midyan followed the episode of the daughters of Mo'av, which concluded that of Balak and Bil'am.

That being the case, Moshe had already received the command not to fight with Mo'av long before he was commanded to avenge Yisrael against Midyan. How could he then have made a Kal va'Chomer to fight Mo'av, after having been commanded not to?


The Ramban therefore explains that what the Medrash means is not that he actually made the Kal va'Chomer, but that G-d warned him against fighting Mo'av in anticipation of the Kal va'Chomer that he would make when He would be instructed to fight with the Midyanim.


Moreover, says the author, since G-d warned Moshe not to fight with Mo'av, He also warned him not to start up with Amon, despite the fact that the Kal va'Chomer did not apply to them. This was because, even though Amon was not involved in the sin of Ba'al Pe'or, they were guilty of not offering Yisrael food and drink, as the Pasuk explains in Ki Seitzei (23:5). Consequently, if Moshe had opted to attack Mo'av, he would have had good reason to attack Amon as well.


Three Good Reasons


The above-mentioned Gemara, citing G-d's reason for negating Moshe's Kal va'Chomer, explains that He had in mind 'two fine doves' that would emerge from the two nations - Rus ha'Mo'aviyah and Na'amah ha'Amonis, wife of Sh'lomoh ha'Melech, and on their merit, Amon and Mo'av deserved to be spared.


The same Gemara further attributes G-d's refusing Moshe permission to fight Mo'av to the fact that, whereas Midyan entered into a dispute that did not concern them, Mo'av acted out of self-interest, and were not therefore guilty of the same crime.


The Ramban gives a third reason for G-d's refusal to allow Yisrael to attack Amon and Mo'av - in that He had promised Lot that his descendants would inherit these two territories, as a reward for accompanying Avraham and serving him. Consequently, He now adhered to His promise by making sure that the two nations, together with their portions of land, remain intact.

As for the sins that they perpetrated against Yisrael, the Ramban explains, G-d punished them (measure for measure) by distancing them from Yisrael, when He wrote in the Torah "No Amoni or Mo'avi may enter the congregation of Hashem - forever" (Ki Seitzei, 23:4).

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Dual Complicity

"Because they harassed you through their conspiracy that they conspired against you in the matter of Pe'or " (25:18).

The idea of sending out women to lure Yisrael was the brainwave of the elders of Midyan, who, as we saw in Parshas Balak, were the ones to whom Mo'av sent for advice. Further proof of this lies in the fact that they sent a Midyonite princess to the Plains of Mo'av, where Yisrael were currently encamped.

On the other hand, it is clear that Bil'am too, had a hand in the shameful scheme, which explains his presence there at that time, and why he met his end at the hand of Yisrael, as the Pasuk informs us in Parshas Matos (31:8), as Rashi explains there.


Dividing the Land

" the sons of Reuven; Chanoch, the family of ha'Chanochi " (26:5).

The Ramban, citing one of two opinions in Bava Basra (122a), explains that Eretz Yisrael was divided up into twelve equal portions, so that the smallest tribe, Shimon, received territory that was the same size as Yehudah, the largest tribe.

Furthermore, he says, based on the fact that the Torah here does not use the expression "le'gulgelosam" (according to their heads),it was divided up into families, but not according to the individuals. Consequently, the tribe of Reuven, for example, was divided into four equal portions in accordance with the four families that it comprised when they left Egypt - Chanoch, Palu, Chetzron and Karmi, despite the fact that their numbers differed greatly.

According to this explanation, when the Torah writes later (in Pasuk 54) " For the larger one you shall increase his inheritance" - it is instructing the families to divide up the portion that they received among its members, equally.

The Pasuk in Yehoshua writes "according to their families" the Ramban explains, to teach us that each family received its inheritance in one specific place, so that they lived family by family, and not intermingled.


Who was Serach?

"And the name of Asher's daughter was Serach" (26:46).

Rashi explains that the Torah mentions her here because she was still alive - bear in mind that she was the one to inform Ya'akov that Yosef was still alive almost two hundred and sixty years earlier. Indeed, Chazal list her among the nine people who did not die and who went alive into Gan Eden.


According to Unklus, Serach was not Asher's daughter, but the daughter of his wife. The Ramban explains that the Torah therefore mentions her here, together with the daughters of Tz'lofchad, because, like them, she merited to receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael. This is because she had no brothers - which would not have been the case had she been the daughter of Asher.

See how Rabbi Chaval, in his commentary on the Ramban, after citing the Tur, who takes the Ramban to task on this point, explains the case.

It is not clear however, why, if Serach was not Asher's daughter, the Torah mentions her among Asher's sons?

Also difficult is the fact that, in Parshas Vayigash, the Torah refers to Serach as 'the brother' of Asher's sons?

And it is interesting to learn that there were other women in that generation, besides the daughters of Tzlofchad, who inherited a portion in Eretz Yisrael.

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