by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS VA'YEILECH 5769 BS"D
Ch. 31, v. 2: "Lo uchal ode lotzeis v'lovo va'shem omar eilai" - I am unable to leave and to come and Hashem has said to me - Rashi explains that Moshe's inability to go and come was not the result of his frailty, as right near the end of the Torah it says that his eye-sight was not dimmed nor was his youthfulness reduced (34:7). Rather, the reason he was unable to go and come was that Hashem told him not to, which is the next phrase in our verse, "vaShem omar eilai." We must explain the prefix letter Vov of "vaShem" as "because." We are used to having a prefix letter Kof serve this purpose. However, this is not unique. Rashi similarly explains, "Ki lo himtir Hashem Elokim al ho'oretz V'odom a'yin laavod es ho'adomoh" (Breishis 2:5). Hashem did not let down rain onto the earth BECAUSE man was not yet existent to work the land, and there was no one to appreciate the rain. (Nachalas Yaakov)
The Ibn Ezra says quite simply that Moshe was unable because he was very old. The Ramban raises the question of the verse in 34:7 and disagrees with him and with Rashi as well. He says that although Moshe still had youthful strength, as is testified by 34:7, nevertheless, he sensed that the bnei Yisroel, knowing that he would die on the east side of the Jordan, and not enter Eretz Yisroel, were very worried about combating the Canaanites. Moshe calmed their fears by saying that Hashem told him that he would not merit entry to Eretz Yisroel and also appointed Yehoshua as his replacement, fully cognizant of the upcoming confrontations. Surely Hashem would be with them and all would be well.
Ch. 31, v. 9: "Va'yitnoh el haKohanim bnei Levi hanosim es arone bris Hashem v'el kol ziknei Yisroel" - And he gave it to the Kohanim the sons of Levi who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem and to all Yisroel's elders - Why is it necessary to point out here that the Kohanim are descendants of Levi?
1) The gemara Gitin 59b raises this question and answers that the intention of these words is that Moshe gave the Torah he wrote to the Kohanim, then to the Levites, and then to the elders. It is as if the verse is read, "el haKohanim, V"EL bnei Levi, v'el kol ziknei Yisroel."
Haksav V'hakaboloh says that the words, "hanosim es arone bris Hashem" refer only to the Levites, who normally carry the Holy Ark. The Torah was given to the Kohanim to study, to the Levites to study and issue halachic rulings, and to the elders to study and issue verdicts in cases of disputes.
2) Chizkuni says that the Kohanim are called "those who carry" because it is indeed the Levites who actually carry the Holy Ark, but the Kohanim are mentioned because they prepared all the vessels for travel, as detailed in the end of parshas Bmidbar. In essence, the Kohanim through their preparation are considered the main participants in the carrying of the Holy Ark. I do not know how this explanation resolves the "bnei Levi" issue.
3) We see in verse 26 that the Torah Moshe gave to the Kohanim was to be placed alongside the Holy Ark. It was in the Holy of Holies. The Levites could not enter. It would have to be taken by Kohanim when they disassembled the Mishkon to place the Torah there. This is why they carried it here. (Malbim)
Again, this would not seem to explain why the Kohanim are called bnei Levi.
While on the subject of Kohanim carrying the Holy Ark, it is the position of the Rambam that the Levites were given this privilege only when there were too few Kohanim to carry it, and from this point on, when there were more Kohanim, they would always carry it.
The Sforno says that the Kohanim would carry the Holy Ark only when a miracle took place. This was elaborated on in a previous issue of Sedrah Selections.
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch takes note of "hanosim," who are now carrying, in contrast with, "no'sei" of verse 25. He explains that by the exceptions, where the Kohanim carried the Holy Ark, it is expressed as, "who are carrying, and when the Levites carried it, they are "no'sei," as this is hteir description, their regular duty. (We find the Kohanim carrying the Holy Ark being described as "no'sei" in Sefer Yehoshua.)
The gemara Sotoh 33 lists three places where the Kohanim carried the Holy Ark, when passing through the Jordan River, when encircling Yericho, and when the Holy Ark was brought into the Beis Hamikdosh. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch explains that the incident here is left out because the gemara only lists the cases where the Kohanim carried the Holy Ark from place to place, and not when they just held it, as was the case here.
Ch. 31, v. 10: "Mikeitz sheva shonim b'mo'eid shnas hashmitoh b'chag haSukos" - At the end of seven years at the set time of the year of shmitoh in the festival of Sukos - Sukos is already into the eighth year, so why is it called "shnas hashmitoh?" Rashi answers that the Torah alludes to certain growths, which although the majority of their growth takes place in the eighth year, are nevertheless considered shmitoh produce. This is produce that had at least one third of its growth take place in the shmitoh year. It is still governed by the laws of shmitoh in the eighth year, thus the eighth year is somewhat a shmitoh year.
The N'tzi"v in Haameik Dovor explains that during the seventh year one's storage houses are full of the previous year's produce. At the beginning of the eighth year the storage houses are mostly empty. Thus the impact of shmitoh is felt at the beginning of the eighth year, allowing for the appellation "shnas hashmitoh."
Ch. 31, v. 12: "Hakheil es ho'om ….. l'maan yish'mu ulmaan yil'm'du v'yoru es Hashem Elokeichem v'shomru laasose es kol divrei haTorah hazose" - Assemble the nation …… so that they will hear and so that they will learn and they will fear Hashem their G-d and they will safeguard to do all the words of this Torah - The Sefer Hachinuch in mitzvoh #612 writes: The reason for this mitzvoh is based on the one and only source of the Jewish nation, the Holy Torah. Through it this nation is uniquely different from all other nations, and through it they will merit a life of everlasting pleasure, which is greater than any other pleasure the world has to offer. Since the Holy Torah is the source of all this good, it is most appropriate to have the whole nation assemble from time to time to hear its holy words. This includes men, women, and even children. When thinking, "What is the point of this mass assemblage," they will realize that it is to hear the words of the Torah, which is our basis as a nation, and that it is our proud heritage and glory. This will bring people to discuss its greatness and to emotionally attach themselves to the Torah with great fervour. This will bring the nation to a greater understanding of Hashem and bring them great merit, as it brings Hashem great pleasure from His creations.
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