Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 30, v. 2: "Zeh hadovor" - THIS is the matter - Rashi (Sifri #2) says that Moshe and other prophets prophesied with the expression "koh." ADDITIONALLY Moshe prophesied with the expression "zeh hadovor." We must both clarify what the exact difference is between these two expressions and why Moshe used both, while other prophets only used the one. As well, we see that all commentators say that "zeh" is a higher level. If so, why would Moshe use "koh" when he could use "zeh"?

2) Ch. 31, v. 22: "Taaviru vo'aish taaviru vamoyim" - You shall pass through fire you shall immerse in water - The Torah requires the six types of metal vessels mentioned in the previous verse to be cleansed of their impurity by either being purged by fire or immersed in purifying waters. The gemara Yerushalmi K'subos chapter #8 states that Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach instituted schools for young children and that ancient impurity be reinstated for metal vessels. This means that by Torah law any vessel, even made of metal, that is impure, if destroyed, loses its impurity, as it is no longer a vessel. However, Rabbi Shimon instituted that if the vessel were to be recast or repaired in any other way, the previous impurity would re-awaken. Why is this stated together with his instituting a schooling system for young children? Is there any connection?

3) Ch. 32, v. 1: "Umikneh rav hoyoh livnei Reuvein v'livnei Gad otzum m'ode" - And there belonged a large amount of cattle to the sons of Reuvein and to the sons of Gad exceedingly strong - Does "otzum m'ode refer back to the cattle of both Reuvein, or only to that of Gad?


4) Ch. 33, v. 2: "Va'yichtov Moshe l'masseihem al pi Hashem" - And Moshe wrote to their travels as per the word of Hashem - Does "al pi Hashem refer back to only "masseihem," only to "va'yichtov Moshe," or to both?

5) Ch. 33, v. 22: "Va'yachanu biK'heilosoh" - And they encamped in K'heilosoh - The Baal Haturim says that this name alludes to Korach's congregating people to stand up against Moshe, as per the verse in Bmidbar 16:19, "Va'yakheil a'leihem Korach es kol ho'eidoh." On the words in verse 25, "va'yachanu b'Makheilos" he says that this alludes to the incident where the verse says "va'yikohalu al Moshe v'al Aharon." At first glance this cannot be, as these words are in Bmidbar 20:2 where we find the incident of "mei m'rivoh." This only took place after they entered midbar Tzin, much later. He adds that we cannot be referring to the other verse discussing Korach, 16:3, because this is already alluded to in the word "biKheilosoh."



1) "Koh" is a general idea, not exact wordage, open to the expressions and semantics used by the individual prophet. Moshe also used "zeh," meaning exact wordage. At the beginning of his career Hashem communicated with him with a "koh" prophecy in parshas Shmos (3:14,15 - 4:22), and as well the verse (3:2) says that a "malach" appeared to him, meaning a go between, i.e. a lower level prophecy, in parshas Vo'eiro we also find "koh" (7:17,26 - 8:8 - 9:1,13), and in parshas Bo (10:3 - 11:4) when being told to or actually talking to Paroh. Later he graduated to only use "zeh." A "zeh" prophecy is called "aspaklaria ha'm'iro." (Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi)

2) The choice of terms depends upon level of the one to whom the prophecy is to be transmitted by the prophet. (Malbim)

3) The choice of terms depends upon difficulty of the subject, so if a visual aid is needed, such as "sh'chitoh," then "zeh" is used, based on the maxim that "zeh" indicates that something is being shown. (B'eir Baso'deh)

4) In total disagreement with Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi, any prophecy to any prophet is always with exact words, just like "KOH s'vorachu" (Bmidbar 6:23). Are we to say that by prefacing the priestly blessing with "koh" the Kohanim have leeway to use the words of their choice in their blessing? Of course not! The difference is if the word of Hashem is actively being transmitted, a live broadcast, "sh'chinoh m'da'be'res mitoch grono," then "zeh" is used, but if it is a "tape recording" (exact words however), then "koh" is used. This does not explain why this or that is used at different times. (Eimek

haN'tzi"v) 5) "Koh" is used when a prophecy of temporary relevancy is being given, i.e. talk to Paroh, talk to Aharon and tell him to accompany you, fight Sichon, etc. This is a NEW happening in the world, as it is a prophecy, but it has no permanence, as it is for the situation at hand, the need of the present time. This is a lesser message, as it comes to an end. A prophecy to transmit a parsha of Torah laws is PERMANENCE. This deserves "zeh." (Mahara"l in Gur Aryeh)


Rabbi Meir Shapiro, Rosh Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, answers that the common thread is that we see from the law of a metal vessel retaining its impurity when reconstructed, that there is a most powerful nature of retention. Even if the vessel was totally destroyed, rendering it unfit for any function, nevertheless, upon being reconstructed its original defiled status remains. If so, it is of the utmost of importance to instill Torah values and knowledge into a child from his earliest years. Thus even if he goes through much travail throughout his life there is the great possibility that he will retain the values of his formative years. Although it is the responsibility of the father to instill both Torah knowledge and values into his children, this was not always done, either because the father was not knowledgeable of the Torah or because he did not apply himself properly to this responsibility, often throwing himself headlong into pursuit of a livelihood. Rabbi Shimon therefore instituted Torah schools.


Some explain that the description of the cattle applies to both the tribe of Reuvein and the tribe of Gad, as if the verse would say, "Umikneh rav otzum m'ode hoyoh livnei Reuvein v'livnei Gad." Others, who prefer to keep to the order of the words, explain that the bnei Reuvein had a large amount of cattle, while the tribe of Gad had an exceedingly large amount, "otzum m'ode" referring back to "rav."

The Kli Yokor both sticks to the exact order of the words of our verse and translates the word "otzum" in the literal sense, "strong," as we find in Targum Onkelos and Yonoson ben Uziel, "takif." He thus interprets the dialogue between the tribes and Moshe in a novel manner, putting these tribes in a better light. I suggest that you take out your trusty Mikro'os G'dolos and READ it. Unfortunately, we have some lazy readers who will not do this. I will put aside my better judgment and include it.

Reuvein had a large number of cattle, while Gad had very strong cattle. The tribe of Gad had fearless warriors who lead the bnei Yisroel's army (see Breishis 49:19, Dvorim 33:20). Likewise they had no fear that their cattle would be mauled by wolves, as the gemara Taanis 25a relates that goats would bring bears who attempted to kill them on their horns, as per the verse in Iyov 1:10. They were not afraid of the enemy as they were brave and were not afraid of wild animals attacking their livestock, as it was very powerful.

Although we commonly understand the ensuing dialogue as one of the bnei Gad giving priority to their cattle over their families, as indicated by their first mentioning that they would build corrals for their livestock before mentioning that they would build cities for their children (verse 16), and Moshe reprimanding them for this and first mentioning the building of cities for their children (verse 24), we can now say that they had a noble intention in mind. They offered, "gidros tzone nivneh l'mikneinu PO." We can say that they were offering to build corrals for their livestock HERE, at the border of Eretz Yisroel, and further back, away from the border, they would build a city for residence. Thus if the enemy would come to attack, they would first encounter the livestock, and the children would have the opportunity to escape.

Moshe criticized them, saying that if they set things up in this manner it would show that they had insufficient trust in Hashem, Who would surely save them in any case. He therefore told them to build cities for their children closer to the border and corrals for their livestock further back, thus demonstrating that they had full trust in Hashem, and in turn injecting trust in Hashem into their fellow bnei Yisroel.


Ibn Ezra explains that "al pi Hashem" refers to their travels, that their travels were guided by the word of Hashem. However, Haksav V'hakaboloh disagrees and says that "al pi Hashem" refers back to "Va'yichtov Moshe," that Moshe's recording the travels of the bnei Yisroel in the Torah was as per Hashem's word. The Haksav V'hakaboloh brings a proof to his interpretation, as according to the Ibn Ezra "l'masseihem al pi Hashem" is one phrase and should not have a cantillation stop of "tipcho."


Shaarei Aharon asks this question and offers no answer. Perhaps we can answer that the Baal Haturim's intention is 16:3, and there were 2 assemblies, one in verse 3, where Korach assembled only the leaders, "n'si'ei eidoh," and Makheilos alludes to the assembly of all the common folk whom he persuaded, "es kol ho'eidoh" (verse 19).



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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