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1. Where, according to the Ramban, is the positive command to live in the Holy Land stated in the Torah?
2. Why, according to the S'forno, were the borders of the nine and a half tribes on the west bank of the Jordan described separately from the two and a half tribes on the east bank of the Jordan?
3. The Torah states that the tribes collectively had to contribute forty-eight cities to the Levites - including open areas for cattle, and farmland. Given that an actual city is 1,000 cubits in diameter, how many square cubits in total would the Levites receive for that city and its surroundings - based on 35:5 - (a) according to Rashi and (b) according to the Ramban?
4. Following the Talmud (Makkot 9b), what four types of homicide are described in this Parasha, and what are the judicial consequences for each category?
5. What problem was posed by the decision to allow the daughters of Zelaphchad inherit their deceased father's portion in the Land? How was that problem solved (a) in the short run (following the text) and (b) in the long run (following the derivation in the Talmud: Bava Bathra 120a)?
ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT MASSEI
1. The Ramban derives the positive command to live in the Holy Land from the words: 'You shall possess the Land and settle in it: for I have given the Land to you to possess' (33:53).
. 2. According to the S'forno, the borders of the nine and a half tribes on the west bank of the Jordan are described separately from the two and a half tribes on the east bank of the Jordan, because the former were to be apportioned by lot (33:54), whereas the latter had already been distributed by Moses in his own lifetime.
3. The Torah states that cities of the Levites should come complete with two thousand cubits measured around them in all directions (35:5). Whether that area includes the city or not is debated by the commentaries.
(a) Rashi holds that the two thousand cubits should be measured from the periphery of the actual settlement in all four directions. Thus in the example in the question:
- the city area would be 1,000 cubits x 1,000 cubits =1,000,000 square cubits
- the land for farming and cattle would be 2,000 cubits in all directions from the edge of the city - thus the whole area would be, in cross section, 5,000 cubits. 5,000 cubits x 5,000 cubits = 25,000,000 square cubits - comprising of the above mentioned 1,000,000 square cubits for the city itself, and the remaining 24,000,000 square cubits for farming and cattle-ranching land.
(b) The Ramban holds that the measuring of two thousand cubits is the total cross section of the city and farming/cattle-ranching environs in all directions. Thus the whole area ceded to the Levites would be 2,000 cubits x 2,000 cubits = 4,000,000 square cubits - much smaller than according to Rashi. A quarter of the area - 1,000,000 square cubits - would be occupied by the actual city - the remaining three quarters of the total land area would surround the city on all directions - mainly used for cattle ranching, farmland being at the corners of the total land ceded.
4. The Talmud (Makkot 9b) derives from the Parasha four categories of taking life:
(i). The act was completely accidental - the perpetrator is absolved of responsibility (implied from the slight degree of negligence needed to qualify for exile in 35:22-25).
(ii). The act was completely unintentional, but with a small element of carelessness - the person committing the act is exiled to a city of refuge until the death of the High Priest, as in the examples given 35:22-23
(iii). The act was intentional, but with insufficient evidence; or there was a high degree of negligence - bringing it near to the category of intentional. In those cases, the Court cannot act: the neglect makes the circumstances too serious for the city of refuge, but the evidence is not strong enough for the Court to punish directly (implied by the requirement of the weapon's having to be lethal [35:16-18] for the death penalty to be imposed on one side, and the small degree of negligence for the city of refuge [35:22-23] on the other.)
(iv) The killing was intentional - the murderer is liable to execution by the Court - explicit in 35:16-19.
5. The problem posed by the decision to allow the daughters of Zelaphchad inherit their deceased father's portion in the Land was as follows. Were they to marry anyone outside their own tribe, the property would pass in perpetuity from their own tribe of Menasseh to a different tribe (36:3-4). Thus Moses relayed G-d's ruling that (a) in the short run, women in such a situation would only be allowed to marry within their tribes, so that land should remain within the tribe (36:5-9) (b) that rule was temporary: it was only to last as long as the Israelites had not taken their portion in the Land ('in order that the Israelites should succeed to the inheritance of his fathers' - 36:8). Once that happened, the property became fixed within the tribe's inheritance, and women succeeding their next-of-kin would be able to marry from whatever tribe they wished in the knowledge that their real estate would always remain within the realm of their own tribe. (Indeed the Talmud [Taanit 30a] relates that this prohibition was lifted after the Land was apportioned, and the anniversary of that event - the Fifteenth of Av, became a time of celebration.)
Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: email@example.com for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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