CHAMISHOH MI YODEI'A - FIVE QUESTIONS ON THE WEEKLY SEDRAH - PARSHAS MATOS 5771 - BS"D
1) Ch. 31, v. 3: "Heicholtzu" - Rashi says that although Moshe was aware of his imminent death after the completion of the war against Midyon, nevertheless, he proceeded with joy. How do we know this?
2) Ch. 31, v. 16: "Hein heinoh hoyu livnei Yisroel bidvar Bilom limsor maal" - Behold they were for the bnei Yisroel through the word of Bilom to commit a betrayal - Which word of Bilom caused them to betray Hashem?
3) Ch. 31, v. 23: Kashering the vessels captured in war - Why were these laws not taught earlier, in the wars against Sichon and Og?
4) Ch. 31, v. 28: "Echod nefesh meicha'meish mei'ose" - One soul of five-hundred - This was the ratio of the spoils given by those who were actually involved in the war who received half the spoils. Those who stayed home, who in total also received half the spoils gave one of fifty, "Umimachatzis bnei Yisroel tikach echod ochuz min hachamishim" (verse 30). What insights do you have for the 1/50th and 1/500th tithes?
5) 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.
Although many answers have been offered by commentators, the Sifri #157 answers this question. The word "heicholtzu" means to send out with alacrity. Moshe would only command that this be done with dispatch if he joyfully did Hashem's bidding. An answer that pleases all who hear it is that Hashem told Moshe to take on this war as a revenge for Moshe and Moshe told the bnei Yisroel that it was a war for Hashem's honour. He feared that since the bnei Yisroel knew that Moshe would die shortly after this war they might not agree to go out to war. He therefore said that it was for the honour of Hashem. This clearly shows that he did this most willingly and happily.
The gemara Sanhedrin 106a says that this refers to the advice Bilom gave. He said that the only way the bnei Yisroel could be defeated is if Hashem is displeased with them. He counseled that they should cause the bnei Yisroel to sin with the daughters of Moav. However, the Chizkuni says that this refers to the words of Bilom in 23:21, "Lo hibit ovven b'Yaakov," which Rashi explains to mean that even if the bnei Yisroel ch"v sin, Hashem overlooks it. These words brought the bnei Yisroel to laxity with the sin of immorality, as they incorrectly surmised that they would not be punished.
Ch. 31, v. 23: Kashering the vessels captured in war - The Daas Z'keinim asks this. He answers that those wars were waged on the battlefield, so they did not yield household utensils among the spoils. However, the war against Midyon was waged in their cities, so household utensils were part of the spoils. I have difficulty in understanding this explanation as in Dvorim 2:35 it says regarding the spoils of the war with Sichon, "U'shlal he'ORIM asher lochodnu."
The Ramban answers that the lands of Sichon and Og included areas that Hashem promised to the bnei Yisroel as an inheritance, "eretz shivas ho'amim." The war waged to capture these lands was a "milchemes mitzvoh." The gemara Chulin 17a says that during this type of war, even pig may be eaten to give strength to the soldiers. If so, the non-kosher flavours absorbed into the walls of cooking vessels were surely not a concern.
The Ohr Chodosh answers that Chazal tell us that the war against Sichon and Og took a full twenty-four hours and Hashem miraculously kept the sun in the sky for that whole period of time. Once twenty-four hours pass, the flavours absorbed into the walls of a vessel spoil, and the vessel may be used. (A Rabbinical injunction prohibits their use without kashering even after 24 hours.)
Commentators explain that just as 12,000 people were conscripted to go to war, a 1/50th of the population, so too the tax on the "stay-at-homers" was also 1/50th. The Malbim explains that the 1/500th tax on those who went out to war was a tithing similar to the "trumas maa'seir" given by the Levites to a Kohein. The tithing of the "stay-at-homers" was given to the Levites and they should have given a tenth of that, a 1/500th of the original amount of spoils that the "stay-at-homers" received, to the Kohein. Those who went to war were so thankful to the Levites who were actively praying for their success and welfare, "shomrei mishmeres Mishkan Hashem" (verse 30), that they gave the Levites' tithing, hence a tithing of 1/500th. Although this is quite novel, nevertheless, if the Levites' tithing was a sort of "trumas maa'ser" it would have to come from within the tithing they received. Also, why did it go specifically to Elozor, the Kohein GODOL and not to any Kohein?
Although not an explanation for the exact ratios of 1/50th and 1/500th, perhaps an insight into the substantial tithing of the "stay-at-homers" as compared to those who waged war, ten times as much, can be offered. We have the mentality that people readily appreciate the physical efforts people put into pursuit of a goal, giving these efforts real credit, and the spiritual side of the pursuits, i.e., prayer to Hashem, the merit of kind deeds, etc., are relegated to a secondary recognition. However, the generation of the desert was keenly aware of the power of the spiritual, as we see even by the waging of wars, where the bnei Gad and the bnei Reuvein said, "ho'oretz asher hikoh Hashem lifnei adas Yisroel" (Bmidbar 32:4). Although they themselves were actively involved in battle, they totally credited Hashem with the victory.
Perhaps we can say, based upon the prevailing spiritual attitude of the times, that there was only a limited need to do an act of tithing to show appreciation for those who prayed. Everyone readily realized this and a measly 1/500th tithing was sufficient to show appreciation of those who prayed for success at war. Limited credit was given to those who actually waged war and took sword in hand. Therefore, for the "stay-at-homers" to show appreciation for those who waged war a much greater tithing was required. (Nirreh li)
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. (I believe the Holy Alshich says this thought.)
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