by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS CHUKAS 5771 BS"D
Ch. 19, v. 3: "V'yikchu ei'lecho foroh adumoh" - And they shall take to you a red heifer - Rashi comments that "V'yikchu ei'lecho" indicates that the red heifer ashes mixture of all later generations will retain the concept of being "Moshe's 'poroh adumoh.'" This is explained by Rabbi Y.D. Sharfhartz. The fulfillment of every mitzvoh should have in it three components, the actual act, the speech component, and the thought component. (Obviously mitzvos that seem to only contain one or two of these three need supplementation in some manner, such as the blessing that is made when doing the mitzvoh.) Processing the "poroh adumoh" lacks the thought component as no one has fathomed the understanding of the "poroh adumoh," not even King Shlomo. However, Hashem granted Moshe, to the exclusion of everyone else, the understanding of this mitzvoh. Thus there is the need to have a bit of the ashes of the original "poroh adumoh" ashes mixture mixed into all subsequent "poroh adumoh" mixtures so that there is the understanding component present. This could well be the intention of Rashi when he wrote, "L'olom nikreis al shimcho, poroh she'ossoh Moshe."
Alternatively, M'kubolim write that if a person does not have any understanding of the words he is reciting in prayer, he should preface his prayer with, "May my prayers be accepted as if I had all the intentions of the great Rabbis of the "Anshei knesses hagdoloh" who structured the words of prayer."
Similarly, here, where only Moshe grasped the true insights into "poroh adumoh," those in later generations who prepared the mixture would have the same dilemma and would likewise have in mind that the intentions that Moshe had should be imbued in their preparation of the ashes mixture. (Pninim Y'korim)
Ch. 20, v. 1: "Va'yovo'u bnei Yisroel " - And the bnei Yisroel came - Rashi (M.R.) comments that this verse is a fast-forward, that it was said after all 600,000 people who were to die in the desert had already died. How this is evident can be explained based on the words of Eichoh Rabosi preface #33. It says there that on the eve of the ninth of Ov Moshe would announce that all the men should dig themselves graves and go to sleep there on the night of the ninth of Ov. Every year 15,000 people died and the rest arose. Thus the order of death and burial was first burial and then death. Since our verse says that Miriam died and was then buried, it is evident that this took place after the death of the 600,000 people upon whom it was decreed to die in the desert. (Shnei Hamoros)
Although this is quite an insight it troubles me since the decree never was on women.
Ch. 21, v. 1: "Va'yishma haC'naani" - And the Canaanite heard - Rashi comments that in truth these people were Amoleikites, and they intentionally changed their language to that of the Canaanites so that if and when the bnei Yisroel would engage them in war and would certainly pray to Hashem that they vanquish them, they would pray that the Canaanites should be vanquished, and since in truth they were Amoleikites the prayers would be ineffective.
The Meshech Chochmoh explains this. It would seem that if the bnei Yisroel would realize that they were in truth Amoleikites they would surely pray that Amoleikites should be vanquished. If so, why wouldn't Hashem hearken to their prayers anyway since their actual concern was the people who are standing up against them presently? The Meshech Chochmoh derives from this that the efficacy of a prayer depends greatly upon the accuracy and specificity of the prayer. He uses this concept to clarify the gemara B.M. 106a, which gives a scenario of a person renting his agricultural field to another on the condition that he plant wheat. He instead planted barley and the field deteriorated and was unproductive. The gemara says that the renter has the right to claim the full rental fee with the claim that, "If you would have planted wheat as I told you there would have been a fulfillment of the verse, "V'sigzar omer v'yokom loch" (Iyov 22:28), that since I prayed that wheat production should be successful Hashem would have hearkened to my prayer, but since you planted barley instead my prayers were ineffective.
A highly placed police official in Eretz Yisroel had a son who contracted cirrhosis of the liver. He became extremely ill and his life was in danger. The doctors held out small hope for his recovery given the intensity of the illness. The official had connections to the extremely religious people in Bnei Brak and gained access to some of the great luminaries who lived their, beseeching them to pray for his son's recovery from cirrhosis. To the great surprise of the medical field he made a total recovery. It was but a scant few weeks after his recovery that he was killed in a car accident. This puzzled Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, the Rav of the Ramat Elchonon section of Bnei Brak. He came to his brother-in-law Rabbi Chaim Kanievski and asked him why Hashem hearkened to the prayers of "tzadikim" to heal him from his severe case of cirrhosis, which was seemingly almost for naught given that he died shortly thereafter. Rabbi Chaim responded with the insight of the Meshech Chochmoh. The police official asked the great "tzadikim" to pray for recovery from cirrhosis, but not that he recover and remain hale and hearty and to live a long life. Had he expanded his request and they in turn would have prayed for the broadened blessing, he likely would have been spared from the fatal accident. (O'leinu L'sha'bei'ach)
Ch. 21, v. 6: "Va'y'shalach Hashem bo'om es hanchoshim" - And Hashem sent upon the nation the snakes - Rashi explains that sending snakes to bite them is a commensurate punishment since they complained about manna, a most marvelous food that took on the taste of almost any food. Snakes taste only sand flavour in anything they eat. Let the snakes who have a single taste in their food come to punish the people who have food that takes on almost any taste and yet they still complained. An alternative insight is offered: The complaint they verbalized against the manna was that it was totally absorbed by the body and there was no waste expelled by the body. How long can this continue? The manna will accumulate in the body until their intestines would explode. Is there a human who consumes and does not expel?
This is most unusual. The gemara Gitin 56b relates that there is a tiny sort of flea called a "yitosh" that eats and does not expel any waste. True they questioned if "one born from a woman" can survive on this manner, but if we find a parallel by another creature, why not accept that it can also be the case with a human being? We must conclude that they pushed to the side, i.e. did not take into consideration this tiny creature. The gemara Shabbos 77b says that there is no creature in the world that Hashem created for naught (a solid case for preservation of every species of creature). Among the examples the gemara cites is that even a "yitosh" has a purpose. If a person is bitten by a snake, crushing a "yitosh" and placing it on the bite site offers healing. Thus, with their negating the value of a "yitosh" they deservingly were bitten by the creature for which the "yitosh" was created as an antidote.
(Rabbi Shimshon Bloch baal N'zirus Shimshon)
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