Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 4, v. 3: "Asher holach acharei baal p'ore" - Who has gone after baal p'ore - Sforno says that this refers to cleaving to the daughters of the baal p'ore adherers. Once they involved themselves with these women they inevitably fell into the trap of serving baal p'ore. Although this is historically what happened, why does the Sforno mention this to explain our verse? It could be understood in a straightforward streamlined manner, simply that they served baal p'ore.

2) Ch. 4, v. 9: "Rak hishomer l'cho ushmor naf'sh'cho m'ode" - Only safeguard for yourself and safeguard your soul greatly - "Hishomer ……ushmor" seems to be repetitive.

3) Ch. 4, v. 37: "Va'yotziacho b'fonov" - And He took you out in front of him - Everything takes place in front of Hashem, so what is the meaning of "b'fonov?"

4) Ch. 4, v. 41: "Oz yavdil Moshe" - At that time Moshe would set aside - This verse and the next two seem to be glaringly out of place, coming smack in the middle of a major pep talk about commitment to the mitzvos, which indeed comes to a crescendo with the repetition of the Ten Commandments. Also, once these three verses give us the complete details of the three Trans-Jordan cities of refuge, why does the Torah go back to the previous subject of Moshe's transmitting the various mitzvos without a division, namely, a paragraph divider, just as it does when beginning this seeming non sequitur?

5) Ch. 5, v. 12: "Shomore es yom haShabbos l'kadsho kaasher tzivcho Hashem Elokecho" - Safeguard the day of Shabbos to sanctify it as Hashem has commanded you - "Kaasher tzivcho" refers back to when?



Perhaps it is because the verse says "holach acharei." Rashi (Breishis Raboh 44:5) on Dvorim 11:30 says that "acharei" always means "after by quite a distance." Had our verse said "holach achar baal p'ore" we would explain it in the direct manner. Now that it says "acharei" it means "he went after it from a distance." The Sforno therefore explains that the intention is that "he involved himself in baal p'ore from a distance," namely, first getting involved with women, who then enticed him to serve this false god. (n.l.)


Kli Yokor explains this. "Hishomer l'cho" refers to guarding one's physical health, while "ushmor naf'sh'cho" refers to one's soul. The Holy Chozeh of Lublin seems to have understood these words the same way, because he interprets "rak" at the beginning and "m'ode" at the end as: When it comes to your physical needs, although they should be safeguarded, "rak," a limited effort is sufficient, but when it comes to "naf'sh'cho," this does not suffice. It requires "m'ode," great safety.

Alternatively, "Rak hishomer l'cho" refers to "Torah shebiksav," while "ushmor naf'sh'cho m'ode'' refers to "Torah sheb'al peh." (Haflo'oh)

"M'ode" is readily understood when referring to the oral Torah, as per the Medrash Tanchuma on parshas Noach #3, which elaborates on the relative ease of studying the written Torah, as compared to the study of the oral Torah.


1) When Hashem took the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt He placed them in a prominent position, as if they were in front of Hashem, as per the verse in Shmos 14:19, "Va'yeilech mei'acha'reihem." (Rashi)

2) In front of our Patriarchs, even though "b'fonov" is singular, so are the Patriarchs expressed in the singular, "b'zarO acharOV" (Rashi)

3) With a face of anger upon the Egyptians (Ibn Ezra)

4) Through an angel, which is expressed as "ponim," as per the verse, "umalach PONOV hoshiom" (Yeshayohu 63:9) (Ibn Ezra)

5) Waging war, as per the verse "ufo'necho holchim b'kerev" (Shmuel 2:17:11) (Ibn Ezra)

6) Through His word, "b'meimrei" (Targum Onkelos)

7) With willingness, "b'a'pei r'u'sei" (Targum Yonoson ben Uziel)

8) With Hashem in front, as per the verse "vaShem holeich lifneihem yomom" (Shmos 13:21) (Rashbam) This is totally the reverse of Rashi's first explanation.

9) With acts that are beyond nature (Sforno)

10) In front of Yaakov (based on the explanation of the Rokei'ach that the change to singular form of "b'zarO acharOV" refers only to Yaakov)


Obviously, the bnei Yisroel were in the general geographic location of these 3 cities of refuge, although they are somewhat distanced one from the other. Moshe could easily have first set them aside and then uninterruptedly could have delivered his exhortation about the importance of complying with all the mitzvos. However, for dramatic effect that would enter the hearts of the masses, he began with a short history of what had earlier taken place, a sort of "musar shmuess," and then at the beginning of chapter 4 began in earnest to extol the importance of mitzvoh adherence. What better way than to stop dead in his tracks and "b'po'al mamash" do a mitzvoh himself, and especially one that would not be effective immediately, as these three cities would not be functional as cities of refuge until the three in Eretz Yisroel would be set aside as well? This sends a profoundly powerful message to not only "do as I say," but to also "do as I do." (Nirreh li)


The intention of "kaasher tzivcho" might be that just as Hashem commanded you earlier (either in Moroh, Olush, or at Mount Sinai) to keep the Shabbos, a generation that was to live in a miraculous manner, with all their physical needs taken care of, and no doubt they had no thoughts of business dealings, etc., as all was done for them, so too, even when you enter Eretz Yisroel, and will live a non-miraculous life, and during the weekdays will have your mind on agriculture, livelihood, etc., you should also have a clear mind, devoid of all these type of thoughts on Shabbos, "k'ilu kol m'lach't'cho asuyoh." (Nirreh li)



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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