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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 30, v. 3: "Ish ki yidor neder laShem o hishova shvuoh le'esor" - A man if he will make a vow to Hashem or swear to prohibit - Rashi says that a "neder' is a case of someone saying, "Ha'rei olai konem shelo ochal o shelo e'eseh dovor ploni." This is very puzzling as this exact terminology does not create a binding neder. A neder, as explained by Rashi has the component of attaching a formerly permitted item to be equated to an item sanctified for the Mikdosh, "konem." Rashi's going on to say "shelo ochal o shelo e'eseh dovor ploni" does not fit into this structure. "Konem olai achilas dovor" or the like would be correct, appending something to a "konem."

There is a text of Rashi where one word is added. Besides being added, it is a new heading, "dibur hamas'chil." The word "shvuoh" is placed after the word "konem," as a new heading. Rashi then goes on to explain what a "shvuoh" is, a straight-forward statement of swearing to not eat or not do some other act. This is most befitting here, as our verse mentions both "neder" and "shvuoh." (shomati miR' C.M.)

Ch. 31, v. 2: "N'kome nikmas bnei Yisroel mei'eis haMidyonim achar tei'o'seif" - Take the bnei Yisroel's revenge from the Midyanites afterwards you will be die - Numerous reason's are offered for Moshe's having to pass away after the war against Midyon. Last year a beautiful insight was offered, pitting two conflicting matters. Had Moshe himself gone to war it would have been morally improper, as he was taken in by the Midyanites when he was a refugee, on the run from Paroh. This would be akin to "throwing a rock into the well from which you have drunk." On the other hand, had there not been a war against Midyon during his lifetime, people would criticize him, saying that because he benefitted from them, as above, he totally looked aside, notwithstanding the terrible destruction they wrought, a delicate balance between two conflicting dilemmas.

Another insight is now offered. Hashem allows for an existence in this physical world where mankind has the opportunity to do good or ch"v. This is somewhat strongly influenced by the existence of holy and l'havdil unholy people of influence present in the world. Moshe was a powerhouse of sanctity, and counterbalancing this there was Bilom, a person who was a conduit for messages from Hashem, but at the same time a decadent immoral person. Hashem knew that during the war with Midyon Bilom would be killed. Had Moshe died before this war, there would have been an imbalance toward sanctity. Once Bilom would be killed, them Moshe's passing could be tolerated. (Rabbi Yoseif Chaim Sonnenfeld)

Ch. 31, v. 14: "Va'yiktzofe Moshe al p'kudei hechoyil" - And Moshe was angry at the appointees of the army - Moshe's complaint was extremely justified, as they allowed the women to live, and the women were the cause of the deaths of so many bnei Yisroel. Rashi on verse 3 says that Moshe undertook this war with alacrity and happiness, notwithstanding that his death would then be imminent. Commentators ask how we see that he was happy. Maybe he just did as he was instructed. Since we see here that he was very upset about the women being left alive, and this was in essence an incomplete fulfillment of warring against the Midyanites, we clearly see that he was very eager and happy to complete the war by also having them be killed. This is extremely noble and selfless. Notwithstanding all of this, he is taken to account for angering. He forgot the halachos of purging non-kosher vessels and Elozor gave over these laws to the people. What a powerful lesson this is for all of us to not come to anger, and especially when it is not justified. (Alter of Novharadok)

Ch. 31, v. 24: "V'chibastem bigdeichem ba'yom hashvii ut'hartem" - And you shall cleanse your garments on the seventh day and you will become purified - And you will cleanse your rebelling through experiencing the sanctity of the seventh day, Shabbos, and you will become purified. (Imrei Yoseif of Spinka)

Ch. 31, v. 53: "Anshei hatzovo boz'zu ish lo" - The men of the army took spoils each man his - The simple translation of these words is enigmatic. Hashem sends people that which He allots to them through various means. Here the bnei Yisroel had to first engage in war with the Midyonim and capture booty. In essence what each soldier received through capturing the goods, was actually his. (Tiferes Shlomo Admor of Radomsk)

Ch. 32, v. 32: "Nachnu naavore chalutzim lifnei Hashem" - We will cross over armed in front of Hashem - The reason the letter Alef is missing from the beginning of the word "nachnu" is because the bnei Gad were powerful warriors and they were so confident and proud of their battle prowess, as indicated by their saying that they would lead the battalions. At the same time they wanted to temper this with diminishing "anachnu," as we find Moshe telling the bnei Yisroel in Shmos 16, "V'nachnu moh." (Rabbeinu Bachyei)


Ch. 34, v. 2: "Zose ho'oretz asher tipol lochem b'nachaloh" - This is the land that will fall for you as an inheritance - The Sforno comments that "This is the land" to the exclusion of the land east of the Jordan. "Fall" means being apportioned by lottery, as we find in Megilas Esther 3:7, "Hipil Purim hu hagorol." The land taken by Reuvein, Gad, and half of Menasheh was apportioned, but not by lottery. The system of the lottery involved miracles, the lot itself spoke, etc. Since the lands east of the Jordan did not have as great holiness as the land to the west, it was inappropriate to have miracles. This is reiterated in verse 13, "Zose ho'oretz asher tisnachalu osoh b'gorol."

Ch. 36, v. 7: "V'lo sisov nachaloh livnei Yisroel mimateh el mateh" - So that there will not be an inheritance of the bnei Yisroel that will turn away from a tribe to another tribe - The gemara Horios 6b raises the question of Menasheh and Efrayim being two tribes only for inheritance or also for other matters. A question is raised. True that they received their apportionments through two lots, but are they totally separate to the point that the ruling given to the daughters of Tzelofchod to marry within their tribe includes not marrying in to Efrayim as well?

Ch. 36, v. 11: "Va'ti'hi'yenoh bnos Tzlofchod livnei do'deihen l'noshim" - And daughters of Tzlofchod became wives to their cousins - Rabbi Zalman Volozhiner had a "sheina Yid" from Vilna come to him for counsel. He had done a shidduch for his son with a very fine girl, a wise and G-d fearing person from a fine family. It was only after their marriage that he became apprised that she was a full ten years older than her husband. This was hidden from him earlier. His question was if he should advise his son to bring the marriage to an end, given the extreme disparity of ages. Rabbi Zalman cited our verse and Rashi's comment that the order of their names here differs from parshas Chukas, and Rashi says that in our verse they are listed by age. Rabbi Zalman asked, quite simply, "Why weren't they listed by age earlier?" The gemara B.B. 119 says that the youngest of them was over forty years of age before she married. Being somewhat elderly spinsters it is not pleasant to stress their ages, or even their order of oldest to youngest. We see from here, where the Torah relates that they were already married and listed them by age, that it is of no further import.


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Ch. 32, v. 19: "Ki VO'oh nachalo'seinu eileinu mei'eiver haYardein" - Because our land heritage HAS COME to us on the other side of the Jordan - I cite a few more verses in this episode of the bnei Reuvein, bnei Gad, and half of the bnei Menasheh's receiving their land apportionment on the trans-Jordanian side:

Verse 22 - "V'nich'b'shoh ho'oretz lifnei Hashem v'achar toshuvu . V"HOYSOH ho'oretz hazose lochem laachuzoh lifnei Hashem."

Verse 29 - "Va'yomer Moshe a'leihem im yaavru lamilchomoh UNSA'TEM lo'hem es eretz haGilod laachuzoh."

Verse 32 - "V'ITONU nachalo'seinu mei'eiver laYardein."

Verse 33 - "VA'YITEIN lohem Moshe es mamleches Sichon melech hoEmori v'es mamleches Og melech haBoshon."

I have capitalized all words that indicate the giving of the trans-Jordanian lands BEFORE or AFTER the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. This is the point of disagreement that we will explore.

Besides the negotiation of these tribes to have the lands formerly belonging to Sichon and Og on the east side of the Jordan River to be their land apportionments, a second issue is at hand. Rashi brings this to our attention here in verse 19. The verse says "ki VO'oh nachalo'seinu ei'leinu." As is well known to those who know it well, there is a difference between "BO'oh," accent on the first syllable, and "bo'OH," accent on the last syllable. Rashi by the story of Yaakov meeting Rochel (Breishis 29:6) points out that in that verse it says, "Rochel bo'OH," accent on last syllable, it means "Rochel IS coming," while in verse 9, where is says, "V'Rochel BO'oh," accent on first syllable, it means "Rochel HAS come." Similarly, in our verse it says, "ki VO'oh nachalo'seinu," - our land apportionment HAS COME to us. The two tribes not only agreed to Moshe's conditions, but even went beyond them by committing themselves to stay on in Eretz Yisroel after warring with its inhabitants and seeing that the tribes were settled into their land inheritance. However, they clearly stated that they agreed to all of this provided that they have the trans-Jordanian lands allotted to them NOW, "VO'oh." (See Ramban)

In verse 29 we find Moshe exhorting Elozor, Yehoshua, and the tribal family heads upon the completion of fulfillment of the conditions to THEN GIVE the trans-Jordanian lands to these tribes, "UNSA'TEM lo'hem es eretz haGilod laachuzoh."

Clearly, Moshe did not agree to their stipulation.

In verse 32 we have the tribes again saying the same point, "V'ITONU nachalo'seinu mei'eiver laYardein." In the first half of the verse they agreed to the clause of going to war hand in hand with the rest of the bnei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel, but not to having to wait for the trans-Jordanian lands to become theirs only afterwards. "We will go out to do war fully armed, but only when "v'itonu nachalo'seinu."

In verse 33 we have, "Va'yitein lohem Moshe," that Moshe acquiesced and GAVE them the lands NOW, BEFORE they would join in the war effort. The Sforno on verse 33 comments that Moshe gave in to this request simply to avoid arguing with them. We will get back to this point and see that this was not a simple matter, and was a major sacrifice on Moshe's part.

The Shem miShmuel takes note of two issues at play here. One is the overt matter Moshe brought to these tribes attention, that they would weaken the resolve of the others and that their request was simply unfair. It sounds as if these issues could be alleviated then their living on the trans-Jordanian side would be quite acceptable. The Shem miShmuel cites a verse in Yehoshua 29, which says that the lands outside Eretz Yisroel are defiled, so why didn't Moshe add to his list of grievances that it is morally unacceptable to choose to live outside of Eretz Yisroel when the opportunity to live there exists?

He cites a medrash in parshas R'ei, which says that Syria was not accorded equal sanctity as Eretz Yisroel after King Dovid's conquest. Even though the verse in Dvorim 11:24 says, "Kol hamokome asher tidroch kaf rag'l'chem bo lochem yi'h'yeh" (Once mentioning this verse I will mention an issue that has been plaguing me for a while. Yehoshua makes mention of this verse right in the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua (1:3), where it likewise says, "Kol *mokome asher tidroch kaf rag'l'chem bo lochem yi'h'yeh." However, the word "mokome" has no definitive letter Hei as its prefix, and in the Torah it says "HAmokome." Why the difference?), and we derive from the word "kol" that this is true even of areas outside of the Eretz Yisroel boundary, i.e. that upon conquest they will also become Eretz Yisroel with its inherent sanctity and laws, nevertheless this does not apply to Syria. Why? The medrash goes on to say that Hashem reprimanded King Dovid and said, "Before you go out to Syria and conquer it why don't you conquer areas that are near My palace?" In other words, the verse cited here, "kol hamokome," only applies when we accord Eretz Yisroel its proper respect, totally conquering it and having control over it BEFORE conquering areas outside of original Eretz Yisroel boundaries as outlined in parshas Massei. King Dovid at that time still did not have areas occupied by the Y'vusim vanquished.

The medrash says that the areas in which Reuvein, Gad, and half of Menasheh resided do not have the same level of sanctity as actual Eretz Yisroel. (There are varying opinions of Tano'im regarding this matter.) Asks the Shem miShmuel: "This is well understood by Syria, as nothing compelled King Dovid to enter into war with it at that time, before all of Eretz Yisroel was in his control, but the lands of Sichon and Og were not vanquished by choice. The bnei Yisroel were denied ingress to pass through and enter Eretz Yisroel. Both Sichon and Og began wars against the bnei Yisroel. Once the bnei Yisroel vanquished them and had control of their lands how can we fault them for doing this before they entered Eretz Yisroel?"

He answers that we must say that although this situation was forced upon them, out of reverence for Eretz Yisroel, they nevertheless should not have taken possession of these lands as their apportionment before the bnei Yisroel conquered Eretz Yisroel (whether or not they would go along to fight). They insisted that they take possession immediately, PRIOR to crossing the Jordan and embarking on the upcoming wars. Not according Eretz Yisroel its due respect impacted on the sanctity of the trans-Jordan and it remains on a lower level than Eretz Yisroel proper. To somewhat placate Moshe they offered more than he requested, i.e. that they would remain in Eretz Yisroel and help tend to the settling of the tribes into their allotted areas, as recorded in verse 18, "Lo noshuv el bo'teinu ad hisnacheil bnei Yisroel ish nachaloso," and only then go back to their families on the trans-Jordanian side. Notwithstanding this magnanimous offer, they still insisted that they take legal possession of the lands of Sichon and Og PRIOR to embarking on the conquest of Eretz Yisroel. The Shem miShmuel says that Moshe did not bring up the issue of their forsaking the land that has full sanctity for "chutz lo'oretz," as he expected them to not take ownership immediately, and then when the conquest of Eretz Yisroel would be completed AHEAD of their settling into the trans-Jordanian lands, those lands would also be accorded full Eretz Yisroel sanctity.

Given all of the above the obvious question is: Why were the bnei Reuvein and bnei Gad so dead set on taking legal possession of these lands before conquering Eretz Yisroel? The Malbim says that there was a "frum" angle to this. They picked up Moshe's jargon and also said "lifnei Hashem" in verse 27, "Vaavo'decho yaavru kol chalutz tzovo LIFNEI Hashem lamilchomoh." What they meant was that they felt that to be successful in the war arena they needed a special merit. This was that they would have absolutely no personal agenda. Once Moshe said that they would not own the trans-Jordanian lands unless they would join their brethren in warring in Eretz Yisroel, they felt that if they were not given actual ownership of the lands before embarking on the war in Eretz Yisroel, they would have a personal agenda in mind when warring, namely to gain possession of the lands they so coveted on the east of the Jordan river. If given immediate ownership they would be able to do battle "lifnei Hashem" i.e. totally for the sake of Hashem's command to enter into war. Without this merit they felt that they would not be successful.

(The fact that the other tribes would not have this merit is a moot point. There was no way of their taking possession pre-war as it wasn't in their control. Alternatively, the bnei Gad and bnei Reuvein felt they needed extra merit to be successful at the HEAD of the regiments. n.l.)

Note the use of the term "lifnei Hashem" appears liberally in this episode, in verses 20 and 21, in verse 22 twice, and in verses 27,29, and 32. See the Baal haturim who makes note of this and explains its repetitive use.

We have two explanations of these words, that of the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh in verse 22, meaning that the land would be "in front of Hashem" i.e. in very close proximity to Eretz Yisroel as there were no intervening lands, and the Malbim's verse 27 explanation, that it means totally committed to Hashem, with no personal agenda. I leave the numerous other mentions of this term for you to work out.

Given all of the above, a STARTLING lesson emerges in how far one must go to avoid conflict. As mentioned earlier, the Sforno says that Moshe acquiesced to their demands simply to avoid conflict. The Shem miShmuel said that the missed opportunity of these lands being invested with "kedushas Eretz Yisroel" was at stake, and that unfortunately, it was not to be. We all know that Moshe longed to enter Eretz Yisroel. The medrash on parshas v'Zose Habrochoh says that he entreated Hashem to enter as a common man, not a leader, and was denied, even as an animal, and was again denied. Moshe was told that he was denied to even have his body be interred in Eretz Yisroel. He lies in "chutz lo'oretz" for thousands of years. Had he INSISTED that the bnei Reuvein and bnei Gad not take possession of the trans-Jordanian lands until AFTER the conquest and settling of the tribes in Eretz Yisroel so that basic Eretz Yisroel be accorded proper honour, 14 years later these lands would have been EQUAL in sanctity with Eretz Yisroel, and even though for 14 years he would have been buried in "chutz lo'oretz," when the tribes of Reuvein and Gad would help conquer and have Eretz Yisroel settled he would from that point onward be buried in Eretz Yisroel proper! (Do not think that where one is buried is a simple matter. See the gemara B.M. 84b, where it says that some people did not want Rabbi Elozor the son of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to be buried next to his illustrious father because of their perceived shortcomings in his behaviour.)

This gives us a sort of "remez" insight into a verse in parshas Korach. In 17:5 it says, "V'lo yi'h'yeh ch'Korach v'chaadoso kaasher di'ber Hashem b'yad Moshe." Rashi comments on the choice of wording "b'yad." He explains that whoever argues about the appointment of Aharon and his family as Kohanim will be stricken with "tzoraas," as we find by Uzioh (Divrei Hayomim 2:26:20). We find "tzoraas" connected to one's hand by Moshe, when he spoke negatively of the bnei Yisroel to Hashem, and was temporarily stricken with "tzoraas" (Shmos 4:6). We might offer that to stress to an extreme how devastating "machlo'kes" is, the Torah says "b'YaD Moshe," to hint at the mere fourteen (Yud-Dalet = 14) years Moshe might have been buried in "chutz lo'oretz" had he insisted on "fighting it out" with bnei Gad and bnei Reuvein. Don't be like Korach! Rather, be like "YaD Moshe." To avoid "machlo'kes" Moshe acquiesced, but only with an EXTREME personal sacrifice! The lesson we are to take from this is very, very obvious. "Machlo'kes" was a major cause leading to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. This parsha being read the "three weeks" brings home the lesson of avoiding "machlo'kes" even at a TREMENDOUS cost.



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

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