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July 10, 1999 26 Tamuz 5759
Rosh Hodesh Ab will be observed on Wednesday, July 14. No meat meals are permitted from Wednesday night until after Tish'ah B'ab, Thurs July 22.

Pop Quiz: Who led the army in the war against Midian?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

When the tribes of Gad and Reuben asked for permission to inherit their portion of Israel on the Eastern bank of the Jordan River, Moshe suspected them of wanting to shirk their responsibility in conquering the land of Israel. They then told Moshe Rabenu, "We will build corrals for our sheep and cities for our children and leave them alone, and we will go fight together with our brethren." Moshe acceded to their request and commanded them to first build cities for their children and then to take care of their animals.

Rashi points out that Moshe Rabenu was chastising them in a subtle way. He was telling them, first you have to care for your children and then your livestock. Although it seems like a simple thing to us, not even worthy of mention, we should reflect on our own lives and see if we don't sometimes forget this lesson. During our busy season, do we make time for our families or is the business the overwhelming consideration? If we have to travel often on business, does our home life pay the price? When we plan our excursions and outings on our days off, do we realize that our children might be second fiddle to our ball games? Let's keep our priorities straight! Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

"The children of Reuben and Gad had abundant livestock. [Moshe told them] 'Build for yourselves cities for your small children and pens for your livestock.'" (Bemidbar 32:1,24)

Moshe and the Jewish people conquered land on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The land of Israel was on the west side of the Jordan. The land on the east was lush and green, perfect for grazing. The tribes of Reuben and Gad requested this land as their portion, promising to fight the wars of conquest in Israel and only afterwards, return back to these lands. Moshe agreed. However, implied in the way they asked, they showed the importance of their money over their children. It is hard to believe that they actually meant that, since any average person today feels that children come before money. Since we are speaking of that great generation of Israel in the desert, they must have meant something else.

Rabbi L. Scheinbaum of Peninim suggests that they really put emphasis on the money for the benefit of the children. Some people have the best interests of their children in mind, and those "best" interests are financial in nature and not spiritual. Due to the great pressure of earning a livelihood, we tend to be most concerned about our children's ability to cope with the pressure when they grow up. Make no mistake about it - the Talmud teaches that a father is required to teach his son the ability to earn a livelihood. However we also must teach our children an appreciation of the finer things in life: a refined manner of speaking, a dignified way to dress, a real desire to help others, clean living and absolute honesty. Our homes must be a training ground for these abilities. We must constantly talk about these principles at our dinner tables. Tell stories about such and such a person who did such a noble act and how we should try to do the same.

Moshe Rabenu in his great wisdom picked up this problem from the way they spoke. He immediately responded and said that the Torah way is that financial concern is one concern but not the most important one. We must always pray to Hashem to help us develop our greatest treasure, our children. Shabbat Shalom.


"A thousand from a tribe, a thousand from a tribe for all the tribes of Israel shall you send to the army" (Bemidbar 31:4)

Included in this army were a thousand men from the tribe of Levi (see Rashi). The Rambam rules that the tribe of Levi is separated for the service of Hashem and does not go out to war. If so, why did they go to war against Midian?

In this perashah we learn about two major battles fought by the Jewish people. The first was against Midian, and the other was the war yet to come - to conquer the land of Canaan, Eres Yisrael.

The Midianites caused the Jews to commit idolatry and immorality, resulting in a deadly plague. Their objective was to dispel the belief in the Omnipotence and Omnipresence of Hashem and cause a rift between Hashem and the Jews. Therefore Hashem told Moshe, "Take vengeance for the Children of Israel against the Midianites" (31:2). The purpose of this war was, as Moshe said, "To inflict Hashem's vengeance against Midian" (31:3) and to destroy all those who attempted to defy Hashem.

Ultimately, His supremacy would be affirmed and a great kidush Hashem - sanctification of His name - would take place.

The war for Eres Yisrael was strictly a material issue. It was fought to conquer the enemy, take control of the land, and ultimately divide it up among the Jewish people to cultivate and develop.

The tribe of Levi was "set aside to worship Hashem and serve Him."

Thus, a war for the sake of sanctifying Hashem's name was within their domain, and they were required to participate in it. However, a war for the purpose of obtaining land in Eres Yisrael was not relevant to the Levites, and therefore they were not permitted to participate.

(Vedibarta Bam)


"And Moshe spoke to the people saying: Detach from you men for the army, and they shall be against Midian to take Hashem's vengeance against Midian" (Bemidbar 31:3)

Rashi cites the Sifri: Even though Moshe heard that he would die after this battle, he nevertheless acted with joy and did not procrastinate.

We see here two important traits in doing the will of Hashem even though we might find it difficult. One trait is joy, the other is acting with alacrity. The more difficult it is to do a good deed, the greater the reward (Pirkei Abot 5:23). The most precious thing a person has is life itself. Knowing that fulfilling the will of Hashem will cost one's life is the greatest difficulty possible. Exactly because of this, Moshe experienced joy in fulfilling this act and he did it with great speed.

The more difficult it is for you to do a good deed, the greater joy you can experience. Moreover, speed in such matters is going against one's nature and is highly praiseworthy. The next time you have an opportunity to do a difficult good deed, do it as fast as you can and with inner pleasure. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop quiz: Pinhas.

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