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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 19, v. 2: "Zose chukas hatorah asher tzivoh" - This is the statute of the Torah that He commanded - "Chukoh" among its many meaning includes "etched in." How can one etch into his memory the Torah that he studies so that it not be forgotten? Through "tzivoh," whose numeric value is 101. when one reviews the Torah that he has studied 101 times then it is remembered. (Toras Haparsha)

Ch. 19, v. 2: "Foroh adumoh" - A red heifer - The medrash says that the red heifer symbolizes the exile of Edom. This can be explained as follows: Just as the red heifer's ashes purify the impure and defile the pure, so too, the exile of Edom, which is the longest of all exiles, purifies those who take to heart that they were exiled because of improper behaviour when living in Eretz Yisroel. They then improve themselves. Those who do not take this to heart and believe that they were just fine before readily mix with the countrymen of the new country in which they find themselves and become defiled. (Divrei Sho'ul)

Ch. 19, v. 18: "V'lokach eizove" - And he shall take hyssop - The cantillation for these two words is "kadma v'azla." These two words mean "past and go forward." This is indeed the formula for the one who is defiled, that he lower himself like the short hyssop grass. "Kadma" - let him look into his past, "Mei'ayin boso mitipoh sruchoh," from where have you come, from a putrid drop of liquid. "V'azla," and where will you go, "L'mokome ofor rimoh v'so'lei'oh," to the grave, a place of earth, decomposing, and maggots." (P'ninim Y'korim)

Ch. 20, v. 1: "Kol ho'eidoh" - The complete congregation - Rashi says that these words tell us that this took place after those upon whom the decree of death was placed had already died, and those who would live to enter Eretz Yisroel are the "kol ho'eidoh." This is a most important comment. Our verse is a sort of "fast forward button," jumping more than 38 years forward. We find Rashi making the same comment on verse 22, and elaborating a bit. Why does the Torah repeat this? See Ibn Ezra and Ramban.

Ch. 20, v. 1: "Vatomos shom Miriam" - And Miriam died there - Why didn't Miriam merit entering Eretz Yisroel? The Kli Yokor in the third chapter of Dvorim explains that she had a set time to live and the bnei Yisroel simply didn't enter during her allotted years.

The Ari z"l writes that this was a result of her speaking badly of Moshe.

Ch. 20, v. 1: "Bachodesh horishon vatomos shom Miriam" - In the first month and Miriam died there - It is most interesting to note that the date of Moshe's death is not mentioned in the Torah, not the day and not even the month. Miriam's date of death at least has the month mentioned but not the day. Aharon's date of death is clearly stated in parshas Massei, the month and the day of the month. They all died during the fortieth and final year in the desert (a year starting from Nison). It was necessary to mention the month of Miriam's death so that one not think that she died along with all the others who died because of the sin of the spies, who died throughout the rest of the forty years in the month of Ov. Since those who died because of the sin of the spies died on the 9th of Ov, it was necessary to state that although Aharon died in Ov, it was the 1st and not the 9th of the month. Moshe's date of death needed no clarification and is not mentioned. (roisi)

Ch. 20, v. 11: "V'yach es ha'sela" - And he smote the rock - Moshe is taken to task for this and his fate is sealed to not enter Eretz Yisroel, even after his death. How is it then, that when we pray for "geshem," rain, that we mention Moshe's smiting the rock and then say, "B'tzidko chone chashras mayim," in his merit find favour for flow of water?

Although Hashem told him to SPEAK to the rock and water would flow, Moshe took into account that if a simple rock listens to his words and gives forth water, all the more so should the bnei Yisroel do as they are told to do. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as they sometimes fall short. To somewhat mitigate this he knowingly deviated from Hashem's wishes and rather than speaking to the rock he smote it. It thus responded to being hit, not to the spoken word. This would somewhat mitigate the bnei Yisroel's sometimes not doing as they were told, as they were not smitten to push them to cooperate. Moshe sinned for the benefit of the bnei Yisroel. He received a punishment for this, but when it comes to praying for rain we mention that he acted "b'tzidko," through his making us more righteous when not behaving properly. Through his "mesiras nefesh" may we merit the flow of water. (shomati)

Ch. 20, v. 12: "Yaan lo he'emantem bi l'hakdisheini" - Since you did not bring them to believe in Me to sanctify Me - The Rambam says that Moshe's sin lied in the improper chastisement, saying "Shimu na hamorim." Rashi and the Ramban say that the misdeed was that he smote the rock rather than only talking to it. These two opinions are intertwined. There are two approaches of tzadikim in bringing people to repent. One is through tough talk. The other is to be so holy that those who come in contact with him become elevated and refrain from sinning. In turn, he who brings people to repent through toughness, nature responds correspondingly, through being forced. He who brings people to repent by soft influence, nature likewise bends for him willingly. When Moshe said "Shimu na hamorim," tough talk, the rock would not respond to words. It needed to be smitten. (K'dushas Levi)

Ch. 21, v. 8: "A'sei l'cho sorof v'sim oso al neis v'hoyoh chol hanoshuch v'ro'oh oso vochoy" - Make for yourself a serpent and place it upon a pole and it will come to pass that everyone who is bitten and will see it will live - The Ramban on the following verse says that this was a miracle of vast proportions since scientifically if a person was bitten by a poisonous creature who then sees such a creature reacts severely and gets even sicker. He adds on that there are other phenomena that take place with a venom bitten person. A person bitten by a rabid dog will see small images of a dog in a glass of clean water. His urine will also contain images of small dogs.

Rabbeinu Bachyei, after citing this Ramban writes that Hashem specifically wanted an image of a serpent to be in full view and have people healed after viewing it so that they realize that it is not the venomous snake that kills, but rather, sin kills, as per the gemara Brochos 33a, "Ein ho'orud meimis ella hacheit." On the words of Breishis 2:17, "Ki b'yom acholcho mi'menu mose tomus" the Holy Alshich writes that these words should be read, "ki b'yom acholcho," because on the day of your eating, "MI'MENU mose tomus," from the sin of eating you will die, as per the earlier words of this verse, "Lo sochal mi'menu."

The Ra"n in his droshoh #6 writes that the incident with Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa and the "orud" was greater that that of our parsha. Here, miraculously, something that should have exacerbated the illness healed it but there, the venomous creature that bit Rabbi Chanina not only did not affect him, but it died from the bite it administered. All this clearly teaches us that it is the sin that is venomous.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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