by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MATOS-MASSEI 5761 BS"D
Ch. 30, v. 3: "Lo yacheil dvoro k'chol ha'yotzei mipiv yaa'seh" - Rabbi Chaim Vi'tal writes that every word a person says makes an impression in the celestial worlds. If he speaks words of Torah and sanctity he adds to the level off sanctity and if he speaks improperly, i.e. "loshon hora" etc., then he creates a negative affect. This is alluded to in our verse. One should not cheapen his words by considering them inconsequential, because "k'chol ha'yotzei mipiv yaa'seh," all that leaves his mouth will have an affect.
Ch. 30, v. 6: "VaShem yislach loh ki heini ovihoh osoh" - Rashi (Sifri 17) says that this verse is discussing a woman who has vowed to become a "noziroh" whose father has become aware of her vow and has annulled it. She was unaware of his nullification and she drank wine and defiled herself to the dead. She requires atonement because when she acted she was unaware that her vow was nullified. Surely one who transgresses a vow that was not nullified requires atonement.
The Holy Admor of Skulen zt"l asks why specifically examples of transgressing "nozir" rules are given, and once they are given why wasn't the prohibition of cutting one's hair also mentioned. He answers that we derive (gemara Nozir 5a) from the words "Mi'yayin v'sheichor yazir" (Bmidbar 6:3) that a "nozir" is prohibited from even consuming wine that would otherwise be a mitzvah to drink, i.e. kiddush or havdoloh. Similarly, there is a prohibition of defiling oneself to a corpse even in the line of helping in its burial, which is normally a mitzvoh, except where there is no one else to tend to this, called a "meis mitzvoh." Rashi therefore gives us specifically these two scenarios to stress that even where her vow was nullified and even though it would otherwise have been an act that is a mitzvoh, nevertheless, since she was unaware of her vow being negated, she requires atonement.
Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel mei'eis haMidyonim achar tei'o'seif el a'mecho" - The gemara Sotoh 14a says that Moshe was buried across from the false god baal p'ore to atone for the sinning of the bnei Yisroel with baal p'ore. Tosfos d.h. "Mipnei" brings in the name of the Medrash Agodoh that every year on the anniversary of the time that the bnei Yisroel sinned with the daughters of Midyon which brought to their sinning with baal p'ore, baal p'ore elevates itself and attempts to indict bnei Yisroel for their sin. When baal p'ore sees Moshe's burial place it is stymied and sinks back into the ground up to its nose. This situation repeats itself annually. Thus Moshe's overpowering Midyon and its god was not limited to the war that was waged during his lifetime, but is an ongoing annual event. Thus our verse can be read: Take revenge for the bnei Yisroel from the Midyonim, "achar tei'o'seif el a'mecho," even after you will pass on. (Rabbi Yoseif Zvi Dushinski)
Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel mei'eis haMidyonim achar ei'o'seif el a'mecho" - Why was it necessary for Moshe to be involved with the war and revenge against the Midyonim? What would be wrong if the bnei Yisroel would wage war with them after Moshe passed on? The Meshech Chochmoh answers that had Moshe not waged war with them some people might have accused him of not acting because he was reluctant to fight the people of the country that harboured him for many years and had at its head his father-in-law Yisro who served there as a priest.
The N'tzi"v answers that we find by the war of the bnei Yisroel at Ay, Hashem told Yehoshua that the bnei Yisroel would be victorious. Nevertheless, Hashem gave Yehoshua strategic advice to overpower the people of Ay by setting a trap of a regimen of warriors behind the city. Why was this necessary? Hashem could have just as easily given over the people of Ay into the hands of the bnei Yisroel with no specific military tactic. We must say that since the bnei Yisroel sinned at Ay their merits were not sufficient to win the battle. It therefore required extra effort, in this case a special strategy. Similarly here, since the bnei Yisroel sinned with the daughters of Moav, special merits were required. Therefore the prayers of Moshe were needed.
Ch. 31, v. 16: "Hein heinoh hoyu livnei Yisroel bidvar Bilom" - Hashem requires of us to fully adhere to His commands. The gemara B.K. 50a says that one who says that Hashem overlooks one's sins, his life will be forfeited. The Meshech Chochmoh points out that we find that Bilom expressed exactly this sentiment when he said "Lo hibit oven b'Yaakov v'lo ro'oh omol b'Yisroel" (Bmidbar 23:21). He added a proof to this by saying "Keil motziom miMitzrayim" (next verse), that Hashem redeemed the bnei Yisroel from Egypt even though they sinned, having lowered themselves to the 49th level of impurity through idol worship. In spite of this He took them out of Egypt, indicating that he overlooked their sins.
As a result of this the bnei Yisroel dared to sin with the daughters of Midyon, harbouring the false belief that Hashem would overlook their sins. This is the intention of our verse. This was the stumbling block for the bnei Yisroel, "BIDVAR Bilom, by virtue of Bilom's words, "Lo hibit oven b'Yaakov." The Meshech Chochmoh adds that this concept is to be found in the M.R. Dvorim 1:2. On the verse in Mishlei 28:23, "Mochiach odom acharai chein yimtzo mimachlik loshon." The medrash says that "Mochiach odom acharai chein yimtzo," refers to Moshe. Even though he reprimanded the bnei Yisroel in harsh terms, nevertheless, afterwards he found favour in the eyes of those who took his words to heart. "Mimachlik loshon" refers to Bilom who used sweet words to entice the bnei Yisroel to sin, saying that they may pursue their lusts and no retribution would follow.
Ch. 31, v. 49: "Avo'decho nossu es rosh anshei hamilchomoh ASHER B"YO'DEINU v'lo nifkad mi'menu ish" - The words "asher b'yo'deinu" seem superfluous. The gemara Y'vomos 61a interprets "v'lo nifkad mi'menu ish," - and no man was lacking, to mean that no person sinned during the battle, even though it involved combating women. Moshe asked that if no one sinned why was there a need for atonement. The warriors responded that even though no one actually sinned in action, nevertheless, they were tainted by thoughts of sin. The Meshech Chochmoh says that this is the intention of the words "asher b'yo'deinu." The Medrash Tanchuma says that one cannot readily control the senses of his eyes ears and nose from absorbing sin. Thus our verse says that they reported that there was no person who was lacking in his spiritual level by sinning regarding "asher b'yo'deinu," the organs that are under their control. However, they did sin in thought.
Ch. 32, v. 24: "V'ha'yotzei mipi'chem taasu" - Rashi explains that Moshe told them that they are required to fulfill their words to Hashem that they would not go back to reside in the Trans-Jordan until after they would join in conquering Eretz Yisroel and it would be apportioned to the tribes and family units. The Maharsha"m asked of his teacher Rabbi Meir Arik, that the words of Rashi contradict the Mahari"k who says that the rule of "amiroso liGvoah kimsiroso l'hediot," - one who verbally commits himself to give something to the Sanctuary, or to Hashem, is considered as if he physically gave it over into the Sanctuary's repository, only applies to committing property but not one's own body. Here we see that their verbal commitment to Hashem that they would go to war, in essence giving themselves, was binding. Rabbi Meir Arik answered that this Rashi presents no difficulty for the Mahari"k. The reason the Mahari"k differentiated between one's property and his own body is that one's body is so dear to himself that a verbal statement is not a true commitment. Here we are discussing the tribes of Reuvein and Gad who were admonished by Moshe for their improper values, placing their possessions ahead of their families, as indicated by the order of their concern, mentioning living quarters for their cattle ahead of their families (verse 15). For people with these distorted values, a verbal commitment to go to war, even though it is a commitment about their own bodies, is also binding.
Ch. 33, v. 16: "Va'yisu miMidbar Sinoi va'yachanu b'Kivros Hataavoh" - When one travels from Har Sinai, leaving behind the Torah, he will have no weapon to counter his evil inclination. He will surely end up being overpowered and buried by his lusts. (Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank - Har Zvi)
Ch. 35, v. 25: "V'yoshav boh ad mose haKohein haGodol asher YIMSHACH oso" - The gemara Makos 11b says that the fugitive accidental murderer who escapes to a city of refuge must remain there until the death of the Kohein Godol who had that position at the time of the verdict of the accidental murderer. If so, should the verse not have said "asher NIMSHACH b'yomov?" "Asher YIMSHACH" seems to connote that the accidental murderer anointed and elevated the Kohein to his position. The Meshech Chochmoh points out that we see from this wording an insight into the workings of Hashem that is contrary to the thinking of the common man. One thinks that the Kohein Godol was appointed because he in particular was worthy of the position. However, the reason can be a totally different one. Hashem decrees the length of each person's life. As well, He also calculates how long the accidental murderer should have to remain in a city of refuge. It is quite possible that Hashem has decreed that a specific person become Kohein Godol because the number of years left to his life match with the number of years Hashem wants the accidental murderer to remain in the city of refuge. Thus his remaining in the city of refuge until the death of the Kohein Godol, "v'yoshav boh ad mose haKohein haGodol, is the cause for this Kohein having been anointed as Kohein Godol in the first place, hence "asher yimshach oso," the accidental murderer is the cause for this person being appointed.
Perhaps it is most befitting for this concept to be pointed out by the case of the accidental murderer, since the gemara Makos 10b says that the accidental killing also takes place, not as a self-contained incident, but rather, as an outgrowth of other incidents, and is not just an independent cause for going into exile. The gemara says that such an incident takes place specifically with these people, because the one who was accidentally killed had intentionally killed someone else when no witnesses were present. The accidental murderer had previously killed another person unintentionally, and not in front of witnesses. Neither of these two people will get off scot-free, but rather, they come to one location. The intentional murderer is killed by the unintentional murderer in front of witnesses, and everyone gets his just deserts.
Ch. 35, v. 27: "V'rotzach go'eil hadam es horotzei'ach" - We find two terms in the Torah for killing a person, "harigoh" and "r'tzichoh," killing and committing murder. As a rule, "harigoh" is used when a person justifiably kills, and "r'tzichoh" is used when a murder has been committed. There are two exceptions with the use of "r'tzichoh." Our verse says "v'rotzach" as does verse 30, "Kol ma'kei nefesh l'fi eidim yirtzach es horotzei'ach." Why is a term that means "murder" used where killing is permitted? Rabbi Chaim Kanievski shlit"a in Taamo Dikro answers that our verse discusses the blood avenger. Permission is granted to him to avenge the blood of one who was accidentally killed. This is not a court decreed punishment carried out by a private citizen, hence the term "r'tzichoh." Rather, permission is granted to treat the accidental killer in kind. He was somewhat negligent, and death was brought about by his not being careful to avoid bloodshed. In kind, his life is cheapened and a blood avenger may kill him. Similarly in verse 30, it discusses a case where a person was found guilty by a court of committing murder, on the strength of testimony by eyewitnesses. The verse says that if the court did not carry out the death penalty the blood avenger may do so, again justifying the use of the term "r'tzichoh."
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See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha
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