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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 19, v. 2: "Asher ein boh moom asher lo oloh o'lehoh ole" - The Avodas Yisroel, the Holy Kozhnitzer Magid interprets: If one feels that he has no flaw, "asher ein boh moom," it is a sure sign that, asher lo oloh o'lehoh ole," that person has not accepted upon himself "ole malchus shomayim," the yoke of accepting the reign of Hashem.

Ch. 19, v. 14: "ODOM ki yomus b'ohel" - The gemara Y'vomos 61a derives from these words that only Yisroel is called ODOM, and not people of other nations. During the infamous blood libel against Mendel Beilis in Russia, and to an extent against the whole Jewish community in the land, one of the psychological claims against Mr. Beilis was that since the murdered child was a non-Jew there was no great respect for his life by a Jew, since non-Jews are considered to be a level below a full-fledged human. This ridiculous claim was bolstered by quoting the above-mentioned gemara. Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Rosh Hayeshivah of Chachmei Lublin sent a response to this false claim. He pointed out that there are four different words used to express MAN. They are: Enosh, Gever, Ish, and ODOM. Each of the first three words have a plural form as well: Anoshin, G'vorim, and Ishim. However, the word ODOM has no plural form. This form of the word MAN is one that expresses the nuance of man being one, united, and indivisible, hence there is no plural form. The gemara tells us that only Yisroel is called ODOM because it is only the nation of bnei Yisroel that has true unity, as if all are one person. If people of a Jewish community suffer at any far-flung corner of the earth, Jews, even at the furthest distance from them, feel the pain very exquisitely, and if they are able to do anything to alleviate their brethren's plight, they do so. The gemara says that this, as a rule, is only true regarding the bnei Yisroel, but not so with other nations. Thus, the gemara in no way indicates that bnei Yisroel consider others at a level below that of a human. The judge accepted this obviously correct explanation. As is well known, eventually Mr. Beilis was released after the court reached a verdict of not guilty. This insight is also attributed to the T'cheiles Mordechai.

With this explanation an answer is afforded to an otherwise quite difficult question. How can the gemara say that only Yisroel is named ODOM? We find in T'hilim 115:4, "Atza'beihem kesef v'zohov maa'sei y'dei ODOM, in T'hilim 124:2 "b'kum o'leinu ODOM, and in Yeshayohu 31:3 "U'Mitzrayim ODOM." The answer according to the above would seem to be that the gemara is saying that "A'TEM k'ru'yim ODOM," YOU (IN THE PLURAL) are called ODOM, many people as one, and this is not so with the other nations. However, as a single person even a person of another nation can also be given this appellation.

Ch. 20, v. 5: "Lo m'kome zera u's'einoh v'gefen v'rimone" - Since this was a complaint about the lack of fruit types that the bnei Yisroel were looking forward to upon entering Eretz Yisroel, why did they leave out "zeis shemen u'd'vash," olives and honey-dates, which are also among the species that grow in abundance in Eretz Yisroel? The Meshech Chochmoh answers that although it was wrong for them to complain, they did not use fabricated claims. The flavours of oil and honey were readily available to them in the manna, as the verse says, "V'taamo k'tzapichis biDVOSH" (Shmos 16:31), and "K'taam l'shad ha'SHO'MEN" (Bmidbar 11:8).

Ch. 20, v. 8: "Kach es HA'ma'teh" - The word "ma'teh" is preceded by a definitive Hei, "THE staff." The Rashbam and Chizkuni say that this refers to the staff of Aharon.

"THE staff" indicates a staff that was set aside, as indeed Aharon's was as a testimony to his right to the priestly position. His staff was a totally dried out piece of wood, and yet it miraculously gave forth blossoms and fruit. This requires the nourishment of rain. Hashem asked Moshe to take along this staff to symbolically show that it is possible to draw water (the outgrowth of watering) from a totally dry object. This is what was to be said to the rock. It should give forth water in spite of its being a dry rock, just as the staff had given forth produce, a result of water. This verse says "V'di'bartem el ha'sela," - and you should speak to the rock, telling it, "V'nosan meimov," which can be translated as "and it HAS GIVEN forth its waters," referring to the staff of Aharon, which HAS GIVEN forth its waters. Thus the rock should do likewise. The rock could readily learn from the staff, a piece of wood, as "sela" and "eitz" each has the numerical value of 160. (Kli Yokor)

Ch. 20, v. 11: "Va'yach es ha'sela b'ma'teihu paamoyim va'yeitzu mayim rabim" - Why did Moshe hit the rock twice? The B'eir Mayim Chaim, the Holy Admor Rabbi Chaim of Tchernovitz, answers that to extract the water from within the rock Moshe had to remove the outer barrier. He approached this in a spiritual manner. The letters of the Alef-Beis that make up the word for the object are its spiritual DNA. The word SELA, rock, is spelled Samach-Lamed-Ayin. When these letters are spelled out as well, creating the word SELA "b'millui," we have Samach-MEM-Chof, Lamed-MEM-Dalet, and Ayin-YUD-Nun. The middle letters of SELA are Mem-Mem-Yud, which switched around spell MaYiM, water. Moshe hit the SELA once to remove the first letters Samach-Lamed-Ayin, and hit it again to remove the final letters Chof-Dalet-Nun, and was thus left with MaYiM. It is interesting to note that if we take all the letters of the word SELA "b'millui," we have nine letters that make up the words "Mei sela dinchem," - Your judgement, both Moshe's and Aharon's, as per verse 24, "m'ri'sem," (of not being allowed to enter Eretz Yisroel) is because of the waters of the rock.

Ch. 20, v. 24: "M'ri'sem"- We see that Moshe did not comply with Hashem's command, thus rebelling. But how did Aharon rebel against Hashem? It seems that he did absolutely nothing. The Zayis Raanon answers that the Yalkut Shimoni remez # _ _ says that we find that Moshe hit the rock twice, "Va'yach es ha'sela b'ma'teihu paamoyim." If Moshe did not listen to Hashem by hitting the rock rather than speaking to it, why was it necessary to mention that he struck it twice? Herein lies the answer to the previous question. After Moshe hit the rock once, Aharon should have stopped him from hitting it again, knowing that this was not Hashem's will.


Ch. 22, v. 2: "Va'yar Bolok ben Tzipor" - This verse only mentions his name but does not tell us that he was the king of Moav. This is only mentioned at the end of verse 4, "U'Volok ben tzipor melech l'Moav bo'eis ha'hee." Rabbi Chaim Brisker answers that originally Bolok was not the king of Moav. It was only after he spoke negatively about the bnei Yisroel, saying that they would swallow up all their surroundings, leaving behind nothing, that he was chosen as king. One who has diabolical plans against the bnei Yisroel is popular and can reach a position of great influence. This is what is meant with the words at the end of the verse, "melech l'Moav bo'eis ha'hee." He was only appointed king once he criticized the bnei Yisroel.

Ch. 22, v. 5: "Hi'nei kisoh es ein ho'oretz" - The Sfas Emes interprets these words in a most masterfully Chasidic manner. Behold, the bnei Yisroel have covered over and blocked out the "ein ho'oretz," - the artificial earthy view of things that only sees the veneer. They have taught the world how to look into the inner depth of every matter.

Ch. 22, v. 7: "U'ksomim b'yodom" - Rashi said that the elders of Moav had signs from the elders of Midyon to indicate if they would be successful. If Bilom would come with them after their first request he is of SUBSTANCE, "Yeish bo MA'MESH." If he would push them off, he is of NO VALUE, "Ein bo TIKVOH." When Bilom responded that they should wait the night for a response, they said that there is NO HOPE in him, "Ein bo TIKVOH."

Why does Rashi use three different expressions of level of expectation from Bilom? The GR"A and the Holy Admor R' Avrohom of Tchechinov say that the elders of Moav pinned their hopes on Bilom only because they hoped that he was a greater prophet than Moshe. Moshe, when approached with a request, said "Imdu v'esh'm'oh mah yitza'veh Hashem." He first had to hear from Hashem. If Bilom were greater than Moshe he would respond that he would go along with them and guarantee them success in his mission. This is greater than Moshe who said that he must first ask Hashem. Hence Bilom is of VALUE. If he would push them off, meaning that he could not give an immediate response, this indicated that he too would first have to communicate with Hashem. If so, he was on an equal footing with Moshe, and they were not sure that one of equal power could outdo Moshe, and he is of NO VALUE. Once Bilom responded that they should wait the night until he had a response for them, they realized that he was of a lesser stature than Moshe. Moshe received prophecy from Hashem by day (according to some opinions by night as well), while Bilom could only receive prophecy at night. If so he is of NO HOPE. See the M.R. 20:8, which expresses these three thoughts in other terms.

Ch. 22, v. 21: "Va'yachavosh es asono" Rashi (M.R. 20:12) says that Hashem told Bilom, "Although you have arisen and saddled your donkey, Avrohom has already preceded you, as is written "Va'yashkeim Avrohom baboker va'yachavosh es chamoro" (Breishis 22:3). What is the comparison? The Holy Admor of Kotzk explains that although Avrohom arose early to do Hashem's will, he was nevertheless thwarted, and was not able to fulfill his pursuit. Bilom, whose intention was to go against the will of Hashem, surely will be stopped.

Ch. 22, v. 28: "Ki hikisoni zeh sholosh r'golim" - Rashi (M.R. 20:14) says that the words "sholosh r'golim" are the donkey's alluding to Bilom, "How do you expect to uproot a nation that observes the three holidays of pilgrimage to Yerusholayim?" To explain this, Rabbi Dovid, the Holy Admor of Kotzk says that Rashi on the words "Linu fo ha'leiloh (verse 8) says that Bilom was only able to receive prophecy at night. The donkey therefore told him that his abilities were time restricted. If so, how could he expect to defeat a nation that is empowered with the ability to set the dates of the three holidays, Pesach, Shovuos, and Sukos?

Another explanation is offered by the Meshech Chochmoh. The gemara Chagigoh 2a interprets the words of the verse in Shmos 34:23 "Sholosh p'omim bashonoh YEIRO'EH," - three times a year they SHOULD BE SEEN, as if it were written YIR'EH, - they SHOULD SEE, an allusion to the fact that all the bnei Yisroel who go on the thrice yearly pilgrimage, envision Hashem's Countenance at some level. If so, how does Bilom, who cannot even see an angel, a mere messenger of Hashem, expect to overpower the bnei Yisroel, who merit seeing a level of Hashem's Countenance?

Perhaps another insight can be offered. How does Bilom expect to defeat the bnei Yisroel when he is motivated by a large payment for his services (See Rashi on 22:18 d.h. "M'lo"), while the bnei Yisroel go on a thrice annual pilgrimage to Yerusholayim, leaving behind almost all their worldly possessions to fulfill Hashem's mitzvoh of "aliyoh l'regel?"



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