· jewish continuity
· jewish heritage
· jewish people
· jews of america
· jewish community
· jewish history
· jewish culture
· judaism · kabala
· jewish tradition
· jewish life
· torah · parsha
· jewish links
· jewish interest
· jewish humor
· jews · Israel
Subscribe - FREE!
Sharing and caring
on the Internet
In Recognition Of
- Reconnecting Jews To Their Heritage
Preserving a near-lost legacy and heritage.
Sharing and Caring on behalf of Torah Judaism
Parsha Pearls Archives
"You shall count them"
The Ramban commentary points out that the term "Tifkedu" can mean
either "you shall count " or "you shall remember." He explains that
the Torah used this word to indicate that the counting was to be done indirectly. The
total number of people was to be "remembered" by counting the half-shekel coins
that each man brought. Thus "counting" and "remembering" took place
simultaneously. The Ramban states that had there been an actual head count, then there
would have been a plague.
We may wonder, even if there is something wrong with making a head count, why
would the people die because they were counted?
The answer is that the danger of a head count lies in it focus on people as
individuals. This can cause a person to be judged outside of the group that he is in.
A person who may be unworthy in his own right can be judged favorably as part
of a worthy congregation. During a head count, when people are singled out, they are for
that moment subject to Divine judgment on the basis of their own individual merit only,
not as members of the congregation. This puts the person in jeopardy.
(Rabeinu Bachye - see P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)
V'Nosa Ohel Moed Machaneh HaLevi'im B'Soch HaMachanos
"And the Ohel Moed (Tabernacle) traveled in the camp of the Levites, among the
The phrase "among the camp" indicates that the Ohel Moed traveled in
the very center of the camp of the Children of Israel. The reason for this is that the
Ohel Moed contained the Aron (Holy Ark) that held the Torah. In order to symbolize that
the Torah is equally accessible to anyone within the camp who wishes to learn it, the
Torah was placed in the very center.
For the same reason, the Bimah (platform from which the Torah is read) is
placed in the middle of the synagogue. This symbolizes that the Torah is equally
accessible to all.
(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)
THROUGH FIRE AND WATER
Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe Bamidbar Sinai
"And G-d spoke to Moshe in the desert of Sinai."
The Medrash states "The Torah was given in association with three things:
fire, water, and desert."
Rav Mayer Shapiro of Lublin explains this Medrash in the following manner:
Throughout a history that included severely adverse conditions, the Jewish
people exhibited the ability to adhere to the Torah and their faith. What is our source of
We are taught that the trials of faith that our ancestors successfully
undertook inculcated certain tendencies within us.
This Medrash uses fire, water, and desert to represent the trials of faith
FIRE represents the fiery furnace into which Avraham (Abraham) was thrown
because he professed his belief in G-d. He was miraculously saved and the devotion of his
act left its imprint upon his descendants, the Jewish people. As great as it was, this act
was of an individual. It was therefore necessary to test an entire population and this was
the test of water.
WATER represents the crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews at G-ds
directive. The sea did not split until they after they entered this vast body of water.
This act of faith and devotion was performed by an entire nation and it reinforced their
steadfast loyalty to their faith. Yet, this needed to be complemented by a heroic action
that was sustained over a great period of time. Only a long-term trial of faith would
enable the virtues of faith and devotion to seep into the very soul of the Jewish nation.
This came from the test of desert.
DESERT represents the Jewish people's trek through the desert on the way to the
Promised Land. For forty years they followed G-ds clouds through the desert by the
strength of their faith. This provided the ultimate reinforcement.
The Medrash is therefore understood to mean that the Torah was upheld by the
Jews throughout all generations because of the three tests of faith that their ancestors
undertook, represented by fire, water, and desert.
(Ma'ayana shel Torah)
BY THEIR OWN RIGHT
Mateh Z'vulun V'Nosi L'vnei Z'vulun Eliav Ben Chailon
"The tribe of Z'vulun: And the prince for the children of Z'vulun was
Eliav ,the son of Chailon."
During their travels through the desert, the Children of Israel camped in four
separate groups - three tribes in each group. The tribe of Z'vulun was the third component
of Yehuda's group which also included the tribes of Yehuda and Yissochor (Issachar). When
the Torah discusses the tribes in the third position of the other encampments, the Torah
uses the conjunction "and" to join them with the other tribes.(For example,
"And the tribe of Gad was Elyasaf the son of Reuel.) Why didn't the Torah use such a
conjunction in Z'vulun's case as well?
The Torah deliberately avoids using such a conjunction while discussing Z'vulun
to prevent one from mistakenly inferring that Z'vulun's importance was secondary to that
of Yissochor. Yissochor spent his days studying Torah while his brother Z'vulun supported
him. Their descendants carried on the respective roles. One might have thought that
Z'vulun was second in importance to Yissochor because Yissochor was doing the actual
studying and Z'vulun's role was but an auxiliary one. However , since Z'vulun expended all
his energies to facilitate Torah study, his service of Hashem was not inferior to that of
Yissochor's. Both used their resources maximally for the purpose of facilitating Torah
Since it is possible to erroneously believe that Z'vulun's status was inferior
to Yissochor"s, the Torah avoids using the word "and" when discussing
Z'vulun, for if the Torah would discuss Yissochor, and then continue with "And
Z'vulun", it would seem to indicate that Z'vulun was but an also-ran to Yissochor.
The Torah deliberately steers clear of giving such an impression.
(Ba'al Haturim) *Itturei Torah*
ALONG OUR FATHERS' PATH
Ish Al Diglo V'osos L'Vais Avosum Yachanu B'nei Yisroel
"(Each) man on his banner with signs to their fathers' house shall they
camp - the Children of Israel"
Literally, this verse refers to the banners under which the Jews camped during
their travels through the desert. These banners had symbols representing each of the
tribes. They were "signs to their fathers' houses"
This verse can be interpreted in a homiletic sense as well. The lives of our
Avos (Patriarchs) are quite an example to live up to. Although one can barely expect his
own deeds to measure up to those of the Avos, one should emulate them as much as possible.
This verse can be understood in a manner that imparts this lesson.
Here is the above interpretation of the verse explained line-by-line. The text
of the verse is in capitals, followed by the homiletic interpretation of each phrase.
(EACH) MAN ON HIS BANNER / Each individual
WITH SIGNS TO THEIR FATHERS'HOUSE /
in a way that at least shows SIGNS of our forefathers' behavior
SHALL THEY CAMP -THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL /
so shall they conduct themselves.
(S'fas Emes)"Itturei Torah"
In this week's portion, we find the laws of the Sotah. This is a wife whose
actions arouses suspicion of misconduct. The next section deals with the laws of the
Nazir. This is a person who takes a Nazirite oath, forbidding him/her to drink wine
Rashi references the Talmud that views the adjacency of these two sections as
an indication an important lesson. One who sees a Sotah in her degradation should separate
him/herself from wine. That is, one who sees the devastating effects of lewdness should
distance him/herself from wine, a drink that can set the stage for immorality.
The question arises: Wouldn't the sight of the Sotah's degradation be a
sufficient deterrent from sin? Why is it recommended for one who sees such a sight to seek
additional safeguards from sin by taking an oath as a Nazir?
The answer is that everything that a person sees has an impact on the person.
The trial of the Sotah brings out two conflicting ideas. On one hand, the Sotah represents
the allure of sin. On the other hand, the trial brings out the degradation of sin.
Exposure to a bad influence is not negated merely by denigrating the bad
Without additional safeguards, the deterrent may be cancelled out by the
(R' Yosef Leib Bloch - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)
BLESSINGS FOR THE BEST
Yivorech'cha Hashem V'Yishmorecha
"Hashem should bless you and He should watch over you"
At times, when a person receives a blessing, it can turn against him. For
example, a person's own wealth can make him haughty and spoiled, thus causing spiritual
and moral downfall.
The above verse provides a blessing after a blessing. "He should watch
you" in order to ensure that the newly acquired blessing should cause no harm to its
OWING HASHEM (G-d)
V'Im Ain LoIsh Goel L'Hoshiv HoOshom Ailov, HoOshom HaMooshav LaHashem LaCohen
"And if the man has no redeemer (relative) to return the obligation to, then the
obligation which is to be returned to Hashem (G-d) goes (instead) to the Cohen (priest).
If one steals money and the victim dies before the robber returns the money,
the robber must return the money to the victim's heirs. If the victim has no heirs, then
the robber must give the stolen property to the Cohen, as stated in the above verse.
Why does the Torah say that the obligation is to be returned to G-d?
The answer lies in the fact that G-d predetermines how much money every person
is supposed to receive each year. G-d had many ways to replenish the victims loss
and He does not need the thief's remuneration. As G-d surely settled the victims account
in some other manner, the thief must now repay G-d. so to speak, for "bothering"
Him to compensate the victim. This is accomplished by giving the stolen property to the
"V'Hisvadu Ess Chatosom Asher Osu"
"And they shall confess their sins that they did"
The words "that they did" seem superfluous.
When one wishes to confess and repent, he must repent the actions that led him
to sin as well. For example, the sin of theft is usually preceded by the sin of coveting
the stolen object.
This requirement is alluded to by the words "that they did" Not only
should the confession deal with the present sin, "their sins", it must also deal
with "that they did," whatever was done that led to the present sins
Daber Ell Aharon V'ell Bonov Leimor Koh Sivorchu Ess B'nei Yisroel Amor Lohem:
Yivorechecho Hashem V'Yishmorecha ,Yoer Hashem Ponov Ailecho VeeYichunecho, Yiso Hashem
Ponov Ailecho ViYosem Lecho Shalom
"Speak to Aharon (Aaron) and to his sons as to say 'So shall you bless the
Children of Israel, say to them: Hashem shall bless you and watch over you, Hashem shall
(so to speak) illuminate His countenance to you and He shall favor you, Hashem should lift
His (so to speak) countenance to you and set for you peace."
The blessing that the Kohanim (priests) confer upon the Jews is a wish that
Hashem Himself would bless them. This is actually the greatest blessing that one can
receive. The Kohanim were not meant to add any of their own wishes to these blessings.
This point is emphasized in the verse "So shall you bless the children of Israel, say
to them." The directive "say to them" indicates that what should be said as
a blessing is only that which is stated the following verses, no more. Adding any other
wishes would only detract from the ultimate blessing, that all of the Jewish people should
be blessed by Hashem.
Naso Ess Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem
"Count the heads of the children of Gershon, also them"
The term "also them" refers back to the end of the previous parsha
(weekly portion) which details the counting of Kehos' family. The verse states that not
only were the people of Kehos counted, but the people of Gershon were counted as well. The
verse indicates that it was more obvious that Kehos should be counted, but in the end,
Gershon too was counted. it would seem that the Torah places greater importance upon
Kehos' counting. The children of Kehos actually performed the holiest work that was
allotted to the Leviim. They carried the Aron (Ark) and the other holy vessels of the
Mishkon (Tabernacle). The children of Gershon, however, carried the boards and pillars of
the Mishkon, a less prestigious task. As a result the Torah places emphasis on the fact
that Gershon was equally worthy of being counted. In no way or degree were they to be
considered lesser servants of Hashem. Their job may have been less prestigious than that
of Kehos but the true importance of their work lay in the fact that they did it for
Hashem, not in the nature of the work itself. The Torah emphasizes this point by stressing
that Gershon's children too are worthy of being counted. (Darash Moshe)
HERE LIES LUST
"VaYikra Ess Shem HaMakom Kivros HaTa'avah Ki Shom Kovru Ess HaOm
"And they called the name of the place "Kivros HaTa'avah because
(that is) where they buried the people who lusted."
Some people complained because they desired to eat meat and it wasnt
supplied. The complaint brought a pestilence, which was a punishment. The place where they
were buried was called Kivros HaTa'avah, or Graves of Lust.
It is interesting to note that this place was not named Kivros Hamisavim,
Graves of those who lusted. This indicates that the Jews buried or overcame their lust.
The punishment drove home the lesson that they must learn to overcome physical
(Bina L'Itim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
NOT FOR SHOW
V'HoIsh Moshe Onov MiKol Ha'Odom
"And the man Moshe (Moses) was the most humble of all people."
The Torah makes this statement immediately after relating that Miriam told
Aharon that she didn't know why Moshe had separated from family life. She didn't realize
that Moshe was actually greater than every other prophet and that this mandated a more
ascetic lifestyle. She mistakenly suspected that Moshe acted out of haughtiness.
The Torah's praise of Moshe indicates the sincerity with which he practiced
humility. A person who practices humility for appearances' sake will often abandon these
practices if people are saying that he acts haughtily. He will feel that if his deception
is unsuccessful then there is no point to continue the charade. Here, the Torah emphasizes
that Moshe's unsurpassed humility was not affected at all by other people's suspicions of
haughtiness. This underscores that his humility was genuine.
(K'sav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
VaYomer Al Na Ta'azov Osanu Ki Al Ken Yoda'ato Chanuseinu Bamidbar V'Hoyeeso
"And he said 'Please don't leave us, because you know our camping in the desert, and
you can be for us as (our) eyes."
Moshe (Moses) tried to convince Yisro (Jethro) to remain with the Children of
Israel. He told Yisro that he will be their guide.
Why did the Jews need Yisro for their guide if they were being led by Moshe and
the Divine Clouds of Glory? In what sense could Yisro, a newcomer to the Jewish people,
serve as a guide?
Yisro was a very special role model. He achieved his level of spirituality on
his own, without the aid of a teacher or righteous parents.
The Jewish people had people who were far greater than Yisro. Yet, Yisro
provided a very important lesson by demonstrating how great a person can become someone
through his/her own hard work.
(R' Eliyohu Meir Bloch - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)
AWE AND DEFERENCE
V'hoIsh Moshe Onov Meod Mikol HaOdom
"And the man Moshe (Moses) was very humble among all of the man(kind)."
The Medrash Yalkut states that the above verse excludes the Patriarchs.
According to this Medrash, it would seem that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov
(Abraham Isaac, and Jacob) reached a degree of humility that was higher than that which
Moshe achieved. However, a second Medrash explicitly states that Moshe reached the highest
level of humility.
Specifically, the Torah records that Avraham said, I am dust and
ashes while Moshe said we are nothing. How can we reconcile these two
views in the Medrash?
Moshe's humility was not mere self-deprecation. Moshe knew very well that he
was the greatest prophet of all time and that he had many other talents and qualities. His
humility came from an extremely high awareness of G-ds greatness, from which he felt
The Patriarchs did not reach Moshe's extreme level of awareness of G-ds
greatness and they still humbled themselves before G-d. Their peak in humility was the
result of their great deference to the will of G-d, not from an awareness of His
greatness. Their humility was from a different source and it was therefore of a different
(R' Yisroel Salanter - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)
Compiler's Note: Self-depreciation may not even be considered true humility.
The true humility which is praised as a virtue is a deference to G-ds will , not
denial of one's talents. Everyone must recognize the gifts that G-d provided us with.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Vaya'as kain Aharon
"And Aharon (Aaron) did as such."
Rashi comments that this verse indicates the praise of Aharon - that he did not
swerve from Moshe's instructions. At first glance, this may seem but a simple
accomplishment for anyone receiving instructions from Moshe would be likely to fulfill
them meticulously. The Vilna Gaon explains Rashi's words "to indicate the praise of
Aharon -that he did not act differently" in the following manner.
When an ordinary person performs a particular mitzva (commandment) many times,
his later performances may come to lack the original zeal. Once the original novelty of
the mitzva wears off he may begin doing the mitzvos in a mechanical manner. Rashi's
statement "that he did not act differently " means that throughout the years,
Aharon always performed the mitzvah with the same care, fervor, and zeal as he had the
Voetno Ess HaLevi'im Nesunim L'Aharon Ul'Vonov Mitoch B'nei Yisroel L'avod Ess
Avodas B'nei Yisroel B'Ohel Moed U'lChaper Al B'nei Yisroel V'Lo Yihyeh Negef B'Vnei
Yisroel B'Geshes B'nei Yisroel Ell Hakodesh
"And I gave over the Levi'im (Levites) to Aharon and his sons from among
the Children of Israel to serve the service of the Children of Israel in the Ohel Moed
(Tabernacle) and to atone for the Children of Israel and there should not be a plague in
the Children of Israel when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary"
The term "B'nei Yisroel" (Children of Israel) appears five times in
this verse. Rashi explains that the reason it is repeated five times, is to demonstrate
Hashem's love for B'nei Yisroel. The number five is special, too - it alludes to the Five
Books of the Torah.
It is noteworthy that this demonstration of Hashem's love for the Jewish people
is found in a verse which discusses how the Levi'im were singled out for a special role.
The indication of Hashem's love for all the Jews in this particular verse serves as a
reminder that although the Leevi'im have an especially exalted position, Hashem's love of
the general populace is great. While dealing with the importance of the Levi'im, the Torah
takes special care to emphasize that everyone else is important as well.
(Chiddushei HaRim)-[Itturei Torah]
TRIALS OF AN UNWILLING LEADER
VaYikra Moshe L'Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua
"And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun 'Yehoshua' (Joshua)."
Yehoshua (Joshuah) was initially named Hoshea. His new name means G-d
Moshe prayed for him. Only Yehoshua and one other spy were saved from sin.
Why did Moshe single out Yehoshua and pray only for him? Didn't the other spies
also need Divine assistance to keep them from sin?
Moshe realized that the temptation to dissuade the Chidren of Israel from
entering the Land would be especially great for Yehoshua.
You may recall that in last weeks parsha, Eldad and Meidad prophesized
that Moshe would die in the desert and Yehoshua would lead the people into the Land. Moshe
noticed that this made Yeshouah upset. It prompted him to ask Moshe to put an end to
Eldad's and Meidad's careers as prophets.
This indicated Yehoshuas great humility, that he shied away from
prestigious positions. Moshe therefore feared that Yehoshuah would feel a need to dissuade
the Jews from entering the Land so that he should not be forced to assume the mantle of
leadership. Moshe therefore prayed that Yehoshuah should receive Divine assistance and
resist the pressure to join the other spies, who led the Jews astray.
The prayer worked to counteract Yehoshuahs tendency. Thus, he was
afforded a test according to his own tendencies. As the Torah relates, Yehoshuah passed
his test, while the other spies failed.
(Avodas Yisroel - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
THE MERIT OF CHILDREN
Poked Avon Avos Al Bonim
"The One who remembers the sins of fathers upon children"
Literally, this verse means that G-d takes the sins of parents into account
when He judges the sins of sons and daughters. A wicked person whose tendencies towards
evil are reinforced by the evil behavior of his ancestors needs more atonement to purify
his soul than an ordinary sinner does.
The verse can be interpreted in an alternate method as well.
The word 'Poked' can mean "one who lessens" as well as "one who
remembers" Thus, the verse would read "The One who lessens the sins of the
fathers upon children - meaning on account of the children.
This refers to a wicked person whose children act righteously. G-d would
ascribe merit to him for bringing such righteous people into the world thereby
"lessening" his sins.
"VaYikra Moshe L'Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua"
"And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun "Yehoshua" (Joshua)"
Moshe (Moses) changed Hosheahs name to Yehoshua (Joshuah).
In Hebrew, Hosheah suggests salvation. The name Yehoshua suggests a prayer,
that G-d should save him from the evil plans of the spies.
Why did Moshe pray for only Yehoshua sake and not for the other spies?
Targum Yonason, a translation of the Torah, states that Moshe made the name
change when he realized the degree of Yehoshuas humility.
Moshe feared that Yehoshuas humility would make him susceptible of being
influenced by the spies. Thus, Moshe did not give Yehoshua an advantage over the other
spies. Rather, he provided a way to help him deal with a potential source of weakness.
The Jews sent some of their greatest people on the mission to spy out the Land
of Canaan. Upon their return, the spies sought to dissuade the Jewish people from entering
the Promised Land.
Why did they do this?
Jewish life in the desert was essentially a physical and spiritual utopia. All
their physical needs were miraculously provided for and they were able to focus their
energies on spiritual pursuits.
The spies were initially very righteous people and they enjoyed the opportunity
to concentrate on spirituality. They did not want to enter the Land of Canaan where they
would have to concern themselves with their material needs as well.
This was a fatal error.
Although their reckoning appears to be quite admirable, G-d had decreed
otherwise. G-d wanted the Jews to apply the lessons they learned in the desert to
establish a civilization in the Promised Land that is based on spirituality
(R' Yosef Leib Mendik-P'Ninim Mishulchan Govoha)
"THE CHALLENGE' - PART 1
"Kulom Anoshim Roshei B'nei Yisrael Haimoh"
"All of them men of stature, heads of the Children of Israel they
Rashi explains that the usage of the term anoshim - "men of stature"
indicates that the Meraglim (spies) were notable people - righteous men of a high
spiritual caliber. Yet they led the Jews astray by bringing back a discouraging report
about Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). How could such great men commit such a deed?
The Yetzer Hora (Evil Inclination) has many ways to convince people to sin. One
of the subtler methods is to lull people into false humility. Although humility is a
virtue, when misused it can prevent people from undertaking worthy endeavors. Under the
influence of the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination), one may erroneously come to say, "I
am too puny to succeed in any lofty spiritual pursuits." To withstand such an
onslaught by one's Yetzer Hora, one must maintain a healthy self-image, and not be misled
by an inferior self-image that the Yetzer Hora sometimes tries to present.
The spies, as well as the Jews in general, were unable to overcome their
feelings of inferiority. They said "However, strong are the people who dwell in the
land" (Numbers 13 :28). They contended that although Hashem promised to bring the
Jews to Eretz Yisrael, this promise was conditional upon the Jews' merits, and since they
were swayed by false humility, they feared that they would fall short." Another fear
that they had as a result of this false humility is seen in their words, "It is a
land that eats its inhabitants." (Numbers 13:32) They noticed that all the
inhabitants of the land were strong. They assumed (mistakenly) that only the fittest
people could survive in the land. They surmised that extra merits would be needed to
survive in such a land, extra merits that they did not have. Thus, with their misplaced
false humility, they misled the Jews into a great blunder, their greatness
THE RESPONSE (PART 2)
"Vayahas Calev Ess Ho'om Ell Moshe Vayomer Aloh Na'aleh V'Yorashnu Osuh Ki
Yochul Noochal Loh"
"And Calev (Caleb) quieted the people to Moshe and he said 'We will go up
and we will inherit it (the land) because we are able to."
The spies' argued that the Jews would not merit to be brought into Eretz
Yisrael. Calev countered this by reminding the people of all the miracles that Hashem had
already performed for them. Calev said that these miracles proved that Hashem intended to
lead them to Eretz Yisrael. Why would He have done them if He had no plan to bring them
into Eretz Yisrael?
He therefore said confidently "We will go up and we will inherit." It
was clear that Hashem intended that they reach their destination. Hashem insured their
success because of the promise that He made to the Patriarchs - irrespective of whether
the Jews had extra merits with which to gain the land or not. All that the Jews had to do
was to follow Hashem without worrying if they earned enough merits. Misplaced humility
would be nothing but a breach in trust of Hashem; Worrying of any kind would show a lack
of faith in Hashem's unequivocal guarantee. Tragically, most of the Jews accepted the
other spies' argument over Calev's.
Calev also countered the spies' second argument - that it would take sustained
merit to survive in the land of Israel. He said "Only in Hashem do not
rebel."(Numbers 14:8) With these words he expressed the concept that Hashem is
benevolent and always looks out for a person's benefit even if the person doesn't deserve
it. as long as the person does not rebel against Hashem, Hashem will continue to act with
the person in the most benevolent manner - irrespective of the person's own merit.
Of course, if someone must be punished, Hashem will punish him. This, however,
will not prevent the person from otherwise enjoying Hashem's benevolence overall.
Furthermore, such punishment can be forestalled if one repents. Even if the Jews were
worried about their previous sins, and were afraid that they forfeited their right to
Eretz Yisrael, their thoughts should have been about repentance. False
"humility"- and the despair which it had begotten- were totally out of place.
The proper thing for the Jews to have done would have been to simply rely on Hashem's
Calev's message is relevant to all of us as well. It is crucial not to allow
oneself to be discouraged from important endeavors because of false "humility".
One must appreciate his own potential and not be fooled by the Yetzer Hora's negative
caricature of his sins and shortcomings.
FREE FOR ALL?
Ki Kol HoEidah Kulam K'doshim
"For all of the congregation are all holy"
Korach organized a rebellion against Moshe (Moses), contending that he, Korach,
should have been appointed as Kohen Gadol (High Priest) rather than Aharon (Aaron).
His rallying cry was: "For all of the congregation are all holy".
Korach tried to claim that all Jews are equally holy and that Moshe had no
right to take all of the authority of leadership for himself and his family. In addition,
Korach applied logic to criticize certain precepts of Moshes Torah.
Actually, the root of Korach's distortion was his contention that "All of
the congregation are all holy." In his personal opinion, everyone was equally
qualified to interpret the Torah as he/she sees fit.
In truth, only a qualified Torah scholar, who has received and mastered the
traditions of Torah scholars, can be relied upon to interpret the Torah properly.
Unfortunately, throughout history Korach's distortion has appeared many times with
charlatans of all kinds claiming that they can interpret the Torah however they see fit.
Lo Chamor Echad Meihem Nosasi V'Lo Hariosi Ess Echad Meihem
"I didnt take anyones donkey and I did not wrong even one of
When Moshe prayed to G-d that Korach's rebellion should be unsuccessful, he
mentioned that he did not obtain any benefit from the opposing camp, nor did he wrong any
The Chasam Sofer notes the order of the statements in Moshes prayer.
Usually, when a person's gift to a renowned person is refused, the giver feels
hurt and/or disappointed. In his prayers, Moshe stated that he was careful with the needs
and sensitivities of his adversaries. That is, he knew that he did not cause even an
incidental insult, such as the refusing a complimentary gift.
HERESY WITH A PURPOSE
Korach instigated a rebellion against Moshe (Moses). The Jerusalem Talmud
states that Korach was a heretic in that he came to deny Moshe's status as a prophet,
thereby denying the veracity of the Torah.
Maimonides states in his "Igeres Taiman" that all who stood at Mount
Sinai during the Giving of the Torah achieved a faith in the Torah and in Moshe's prophecy
that would last throughout all of their descendants. This is reflected in the verse:
"And also in you (Moshe) they (the Jews) will believe forever." Since Korach was
present at the Giving of the Torah, why was he not protected by this Divine promise?
The answer is that this promise was not made to interfere with free choice and
it allows for people to distort the truth because of their personal biases. This promise
was that no one whose ancestors were present at the Giving of the Torah would reject the
Torah out of a lack of understanding.
(Steipler Gaon - Peninim MiShulchan Govoha)
PERCEIVING THE ISSUE
V'Doson V'Avirom B'nei Eliav V'On Ben Peles B'nei Reuven
"And Doson and Avirom the sons of Eliav, and Owne the son of Peles,
the children of Reuven."
Owne the son of Peles was originally a party in the rebellion but he withdrew.
The Talmud tells us that Owne's wife saved him from the disaster. She told him
"Regardless of who will emerge victorious, you will remain a follower. Why get
involved in a dispute that does not directly benefit you?" He listened to her advice
and abandoned the rebellion.
The Talmud praises Owne's wife and applies the following verse to her:
"The wisdom of women builds her home " applies to her.
The reference to her having "wisdom" is puzzling. Her argument
reflected logic, not necessarily wisdom.
HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz derived a lesson from this teaching. Tempers are hot
and people do not have full control of their faculties during a dispute. Whoever can
perceive the pure simple truth at such a time is truly a wise person.
(Peninim Mishulchan Govoha)
ONLY FOR ARGUMENTS SAKE
"Vayikanu L'Moshe BaMachane, L'Aharon Kadosh Hashem" (Psalms 106:16)
"And they envied Moshe (Moses) in the camp, to Aharon the Holy one of
This verse refers to the attack that Korach and his people made against Moshe
and Aharon. R' Naftali of Ropshitz explains that it indicates the specific nature of their
They criticized Moshe about how he handled "the camp", the community
at large. They claimed that Moshe was not sufficiently involved in the issues of the
people. They claimed that although Moshe was a G-dly person, he was an isolationist who
was not interested in the people, he was too distant from the people to meet their needs.
Aharon, on the other hand was known as "a lover of peace and a seeker of
peace". He freely mingled with the people to promote harmony. Therefore against
Aharon, Korach needed a different approach. The allegation was that Aharon was a 'holy'
one of Hashem and thus had no business interfering in the internal affairs of the people.
They asserted that he should stick to his of holiness and stay out of community affairs.
These arguments are contradictory. They complained against a leader who
allegedly did not involve himself in the community affairs and they complained against a
leader who involved himself in publics affairs. This shows that they were just looking for
excuses to complain about their spiritual leaders.
Echoes of such complaining have been heard throughout the generations.
Whichever manner a leader chooses to conduct himself, there are usually dissenters who
contend that he should act otherwise. As illustrated by Korach's example the dissenters
often cannot be placated by any particular mode of behavior. Such complaints must be
(Ma'ayneh Shel Torah)
KNOW WHO YOU'RE STARTING WITH
"V'Aharon Mah Hu KI Salinu Olov"
"And Aharon - what is he that you should quarrel against him?"
This verse relates how Moshe attempted to dissuade the members of Korach's camp
from campaigning against Aharon. Moshe told them that since Aharon's appointment as High
Priest was divinely inspired, they were in effect taking issue with Hashem, not with
Aharon. Moshe thus said "What is he (Aharon) that you should quarrel against
him?" Instead, your quarrel is with Hashem.
This verse lends itself to another interpretation as well. When Moshe asked
"What is he that you should quarrel against him" he meant to say "Are you
aware of Aharon's true worth that you dare to quarrel with him?" How can you
entertain the thought of quarreling with such a great person?
(R' Menachem Mendel of Kotsk Itturei Torah)
SOURCE OF BLESSING
V'Dibartem Ell HaSela
"And you shall speak to the stone."
Moshe was commanded to speak to the stone and it was supposed to produce water.
The Midrash says that Moshe was supposed to tell the stone a chapter of the
Oral Law. As soon as the stone was exposed to Torah, it would produce water.
This would have been a demonstration that Torah study is the source of all
(Yalkut - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
THE PROPHET AND HIS DONKEY
VaYiftach Hashem Ess Pi HaAson
"And G-d opened the mouth of the donkey."
The evil prophet Bila'am went to curse the Jews. During the journey, G-d caused
Bilaams donkey to speak to him.
The donkey's newfound power of speech was a hint to Bila'am that he should not
be arrogant about the fact that G-d had granted him prophecy and other spiritual powers.
G-d showed him that if He wills it, even a donkey can receive special powers. Because
Bilaam did not earn his powers through his merit and good deeds, Bila'am's spiritual
powers did not elevate him any more than the donkey's power of speech elevated the donkey.
G-d indicated that Bila'am should recognize the source of his powers and that
he should refrain from abusing them by cursing the Jews.
(Kli Yakar - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
Shimu Na HaMorim
"Listen, please (you) the Morim."
Rashi offers two interpretations for the word Morim
1) Morim is a Greek word that means fools.
2) Morim is a Hebrew word that means teachers. In this instance, Moshe (Moses)
the Great Teacher, is talking to those who are trying to teach their teacher
The two interpretations reflect a common idea.
Proverbs (26:12) states "(Have) you seen a man who is wise in his own
eyes? (There is) more hope for a fool than for him." A man who believes that he is
wise is more hopeless than a fool because he will not take counsel from anyone.
Those who try to teach their teacher are acting as the ultimate "one who
is wise in his own eyes."
(R' Avrohom Mordechai of Gur - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)
THE ABORTED LESSON
VaYach Ess HaSela B'Matehu ... VaYomer Hashem El Moshe V'El Aharon Ya'an Lo
He'emantem Bi L'Hakdisheni L'Einay B'nei Yisroel...
"And he hit the stone with his staff... And G-d said to Moshe and to Aharon 'Since
you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel...'
G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon to obtain water in the desert for the Jews by
speaking to a stone. Instead, they made the stone produce water by striking it.
This verse is saying that, according to their great level of spirituality, they
fell short of their duty in sanctifying G-ds name.
We must now try to understand how what they did was a lesser degree of
sanctifying G-d's name. Whether the stone produced water by speaking to it or by hitting
it, either method of obtaining the water would have been a miraculous wonder. For what
reason is hitting considered any less a glorification of G-d's name than speaking to the
There is a side benefit from obtaining water by talking to the stone. This
would demonstrate that even a stone obeys G-d's word as it is transmitted through Moshe.
Because Moshe hit the rock rather than speaking to it, this important lesson was not
"Zos Chukas HaTorah"
"This is the law of the Torah"
This verse introduces the laws of the Red Heifer. The ritual involving the
ashes of a Red Heifer was performed to cleanse those who had contracted a high degree of
ritual impurity. Paradoxically, people who were ritually pure and came into unnecessary
contact with these ashes, contracted a degree of ritual impurity themselves. The Red
Heifer thus simultaneously contained elements of purification and contamination. Whether
one was purified or contaminated by it depended upon the nature of one's encounter with
it. The usage of the phrase "this is the law of the Torah" indicates that the
principle of the Red Heifer is reflective of the rest of the Torah as well. The Red
Heifers effect depended upon how it was used. So it is with the Torah life. Any
character trait can be used properly for a Mitzvah - or abused for an aveira
For example, love of money is often a negative trait. It can prevent one from
giving charity, when one loves his own money too much. On the other hand, love of money
can cause a person to respect the property of others.
Thus, no character trait or item is inherently good or evil. Everything has
potential for good or evil - depending upon its use.
"Asher Ein Bo Mum Asher Lo Oloh Oleha Ol"
"That has no blemish, that did not go upon it a yoke"
Literally this verse refers to the requirements of the Red Heifer. It had to be
a perfect, unblemished animal that had never been worked.
The Chozeh of Lublin offers a homiletic interpretation of this verse. He
interprets the verse as follows: One "that has no blemish" is indicative that
one is an individual - "That did not go upon it a yoke" - meaning the yoke of
Heaven. One who does not undertake the Service of Hashem can delude himself into thinking
that he is perfect - by overlooking and remaining blissfully ignorant of his own very red
Every person has inherent character imperfections that they are supposed to
correct. However, one who does not even try to serve Hashem and improve himself, will
often not even recognize these flaws as such. They may be flaws inasmuch as they impede
his spiritual growth, but to such a person they are invisible. He may likely perceive
himself as perfect.
(Maayna Shel Torah)
Bila'am asked Hashem for permission to go and curse the Jews. At first this was
denied. Subsequently he repeated the request and was allowed to go. The question arises:
Why did Hashem initially deny him permission only to grant it upon his second request?
Had Hashem immediately allowed Bila'am to go and try to curse the Jews, such
permission may have been misconstrued as an endorsement of Bila'am's actions.(In fact,
Hashem did not approve at all of Bila'am's cursing the Jews; Hashem just let him try in
order to prove that cursing the Jews would not work.) On the other hand, if Hashem would
have forbidden Bilaam to go, Bila'am may have said that Hashem's refusal to allow him to
go implied that his curses were a powerful force to be reckoned with since Hashem saw it
necessary to prevent them.
Hashem therefore arranged events so that this distortion could not be made.
Initially, permission to go was denied, indicating that cursing the Jews was not a worthy
deed. Hashem then told Bila'am that if he so desires he would be allowed to go,
demonstrating Hashem's disregard for the potency of Bila'am's curses.
"Lo Hibit oven B'yaakov V'Lo Ro'oh Omel B'Yisroel Hashem Elo-hav Eemo
V'Sruas Melech Bo"
"He (Hashem) did not look at transgression within Jacob and did not see sin within
Israel; Hashem his (Israel's) G-d is with him, and the friendship of the King is with
This verse indicates that if a person fully accepts the yoke of Heaven, even if
he sins occasionally, the effect of the sin would not be as damaging as it would be if he
were a free thinker. The sins of a generally pious and G-d loving person are viewed by
Hashem as aberrations which are not indicative of the person's general status.
As such, the verse begins with Hashem who "did not look at transgression
within Jacob and did not see sin within Israel".
However, this is only relevant for a person about whom it is true that
"Hashem his G-d is with him and he has the friendship of the King," the second
part of this verse. That is, the person generally loves and goes along with Hashem by
trying to lead a Torah life.
Vayachvosh Ess Asono
"And he saddled his donkey"
The fact that Bilaam saddled is donkey by himself instead of letting a servant
do it for him shows the great rush he was in to try to curse the Jewish people.
Concerning Bilaam, Rashi tells us that G-d said, "You wicked one! You have
already been preceded by Avrohom (Abraham) as it states 'And Avrohom arose in the morning
and he saddled his donkey.'" (Gen. 22:3)
In preparing for the Akeida (sacrificial binding of Yitzchok (Isaac), Avrohom
demonstrated his zeal to fulfill G-d's will by saddling his own donkey.
It appears that Avrohoms enthusiasm is a response to Bilaams. How
is this a response?
Although Avrohom had lofty intentions and demonstrated great zeal, Hashem did
not allow him to complete that act of sacrifice. In effect, G-d was telling Bilaam that
his eagerness to do a wicked act would have no effect on the outcome.
(Rebbe of Kotzk - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
THE WITNESS STRIKES FIRST
Gader Mizeh V'Gader Mizeh
"A fence from this side and a fence from this side."
The Torah tells us that Bilaam and his donkey were on a path that ran between
two fences. The donkey saw an angel that was trying to deter Bilaam from cursing the
Jewish people. In trying to avoid the angel, it squeezed through, crushing Bilaam's leg
was against one of the barriers.
The Torah describes the fence as a Gader. Rashi comments that as a
rule, the term Gader refers to a stone fence.
The relevance of this statement can be understood with a bit of background
Several hundred years to this event, Ya'akov (Jacob) and Lovon (Laban) made a
truce. They set up a stone monument as a memorial or "witness" to the pact that
neither party would cross over the barrier to do evil to the other. Now, Bilaam was a
descendant of Lovon. His mission to curse the Jewish people violated this truce. It was
thus fitting that the first installment of his punishment - a crushed leg - should be with
stone, a fitting punishment which reflects the concept of: "The hand of the witnesses
should be in him (the culprit) first"
This is why Rashi mentions that the fence was made of stone.
REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PEOPLE
V'Hoysah Lo U'l'Zaro Acharov Bris Cehunas Olam Tachas Asher Kinei L'EloKav
VaYichaper Al B'nei Yisroel
"And it shall be for him and his children after him a treaty of priesthood
forever, (in reward) for that which he acted zealously for his G-d and he atoned for the
Children of Israel.
Pinchos (Phinehas) averted a major desecration of G-d's Name by killing a
perpetator, Zimri. Zimri sinned publicly with a Gentile woman in order to desensitize the
people to such abominations. Pinchos' noble act stopped a plague that was decimating the
Jews in punishment for the acts of Zimri and others who yielded to temptations. As a
reward, he became a Cohen (priest).
This reward fit his act in a manner of measure for measure.
Many righteous people were incensed by Zimri's act. However, they were at a
loss as to what to do in order to uphold the sanctity of G-d's Name. Pinchos, in effect,
represented these people with his action. Because he took it upon himself to represent the
people in their time of need, he merited the distinction of being appointed a Cohen and
representing the people with Divine service.
(Sfas Emes - Itturei Torah)
L'Chanoch Mishpachas Hachanochy
"For Chanoch, the family HaChanochy."
The Torah prefixes the names of the Jewish families with the letter
"Heh." Also, the Torah suffixes these names with the letter "Yud".
Together, these letters spell Yud-Heh which is one of G-d's Names.
G-d surrounded His Name around the names of every family to indicate that they
were worthy of great distinction. Everyone kept spousal loyalty and lived a totally pure
family life in Egypt despite the influence of the immoral Egyptian society.
The question arises: Why were the letters of G-d's name placed around the
families' names in reverse order, Heh at the beginning and Yud at the end? G-ds name
is Yud - Heh.
This can be explained in light of the following statement of the Sages.
"When a man and a woman dwell together (in harmony) the Divine presence is
among them." That is, a holy union of a man and a woman invites the Divine Presence
among them. This is indicated by the fact that the Hebrew word for "man"
contains a "Yud" and the word for "woman" contains a "Heh" -
together spelling the name of G-d Yud-Heh. Thus, the holiness of the man is represented by
the letter "Yud" and the holiness of the woman is represented by the letter
As indicated in various Midrashim, the Jewish woman in Egypt were more
scrupulous than the men in upholding the sanctity of the Jewish families. Thus the letter
"Heh" representing the women's role in preserving the holiness of the Jewish
family is put before the "Yud," which represents the role of the man.
(Kli Yakar - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
"Asher Yaitzai Lifneihem Va'Asher Yavo Lifneihem Va'Asher Yotziaim
"That will go out before them and that will come before them and that will
take them out and that will take them in" Moshe (Moses) prayed to Hashem that an able
person be appointed to succeed him as leader of the Jews. Moshe asked for a person who
"will go out before them and who will come before them." He sought a leader who
is in front of the people, who sets forth his ideals and leads the people in the direction
of those ideals. Such leader can expect to influence the people to grow in a path of
self-improvement. This is in contrast to a leader who is behind the people, who is lost
among them and is led by them to maintain his popularity. A leader who "will go out
before them will be able to "take them out" of the various pitfalls that they
may encounter. Such a person will also be able to "take them in" to an idealist
way of life.
The Temple service of the "Nisuch Hamayim" (water libation) is
alluded to in this week's Torah portion. This service was a highlight of the Succos
holiday and the Jews rejoiced greatly each time it was performed. Water is a commodity
that costs next to nothing and yet it was used for the service. This demonstrates that
even an inexpensive resource can be used in the service of Hashem, even simple water. No
matter how limited one's resources may be, he can always find a way to serve Hashem and
demonstrating this belief contributed to the great rejoicing which accompanied the drawing
of the water for the libations. The service reassured the people that even if their
resources are limited, whatever way they find to serve Hashem would be graciously
TRYING TO BE OF SERVICE
B'Kano Ess Kinasi
"In his (acting) zealous(ly) with my zeal"
Rashi explains this verse to mean that Pinchos (Phinehas) performed the
zealous act that Hashem would have performed. Although Hashem can do anything
effortlessly, it is praiseworthy to do something that Hashem would have done. This is the
point that Rashi is making about Pinchos' action. Such actions are especially praiseworthy
since they demonstrate one's love for Hashem. When one shows that he wishes to
"help" Hashem - even though he realizes that Hashem does not actually need his
help - he shows how much he loves Hashem and wants to fulfill his will.
STANDING TALL - ALONE
Tachas Asher Kinei LeElo-kav
"In the place (because) of that which he acted zealously for his
It is noteworthy that this verse refers to Hashem as "his
(Pinchos') g-d", inferring that Pinchos had an exclusive relationship with Him. Since
Hashem is the Master of the whole universe, He should have been referred to as the G-d of
all. The fact that He is called "his G-d" indicates that Pinchos accepted the
entire responsibility of defending Hashem's honor. He was unaffected by anyone else's
inaction. Thus, he earned the honor that this verse accords him.
(Chomas Aish - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
Matos - Masei
Heichaltzu MeiItchem Anoshim LaTzava ViYihyu Al Midian Loses
Nikmas Hashem BiMidian
"Arm from among you men for an army and they should be on
Midian to put the revenge of Hashem in Midian."
The Jews waged war against Midian
because the Midianites made a concerted effort to entice them to sin with Midianite women.
The Midianites did this in order to diminish the holiness of the Jewish nation. The only
motive for this war was to avenge Hashem's honor which the Midianites had desecrated by
their immoral conduct. This point is indicated by the above verse. The word
"Heichaltzu" which often means "to arm" can also mean
"remove". The verse would then mean that the soldiers were to "remove"
themselves from any personal motive which they may have had in attacking the Midianites.
They proceeded into battle only to restore Hashem's glory by demonstrating that they would
not tolerate those who led people to sin.
(S'fas Emes - Ma'ayana shel Torah)
CLEANSING EVERY TRACE
Avodecha Nosu Ess Rosh Anshei HaMilchomo Ashe B'yodeinu V'Lo
Nifkad Mimenu Ish VaNakrev Ess Korban Hashem
"Your servants counted the head of the warriors that were
in our hands and not one of them was missing and we brought a sacrifice to Hashem."
This verse was stated by the heads of the Israelite army after
the Children of Israel took revenge upon the Midianites for enticing them to sin with
Midianite women. The Midrash relates that when they told Moshe that "not one of them
was missing" they meant it in a spiritual sense as well. Not only were there no
casualties on the Jewish side, there was also not a single soldier who was enticed to sin
by the conniving Midianites.
The Midrash relates that Moshe then asked them, "Why then
is this sacrifice being brought?" If indeed no one committed any sins, there would be
no need to bring a burnt-offering. They responded "Although we were spared from sin,
we were not altogether spared from sinful thoughts." Even thinking about lewd matters
sullies one's soul and necessitates atonement.
It is interesting to note that the heads of the army did not
come forth with their offering immediately upon returning from battle. They only came
forth after Moshe taught them the laws regarding the purification of vessels that were
used with unkosher food. The army heads saw an important concept demonstrated by the laws
of kashering (rendering kosher) utensils. Traces of impurity are indeed signifacant. An
unkosher pot must be purged with boiling water to remove any traces of the unkosher food's
flavor, from within the walls of the pot, even if all of the food was scrubbed away. This
indicates that even the minutest "residue" of sin - which is sinful thoughts -
should be removed from one's soul when cleansing oneself, just as one must purge even the
flavor of unkosher food's absorbed within the walls when koshering a vessel. (Chidushei
HaRim Mayana shel Torah
PURIFICATION - THE GOLDEN RULE
Zos Chukass HaTorah
"This is the law of the Torah"
The Torah prefaces the laws of cleansing unkosher utensils with this
statement "This is the law of the Torah" It would seem that there is something
about cleansing unkosher utensils that is a fundamental issue to the whole Torah. What is
this important lesson?
The laws of cleansing unkosher utensils demonstrate to us the fact that
even if an individual is sullied by sin, he can always cleanse himself - just as an
unkosher utensil may be cleansed. This is applicable to all the laws of the Torah. If
someone transgresses any of the commandments, he can cleanse himself through repentance.
A corollary of the comparison of all the commandments of the Torah to
the laws of cleansing utensils is based upon the fact that a utensil is cleansed through
the same medium with which it became unkosher (e.g. a grill used over an open flame for
unkosher meat is cleansed over an open flame.) This law illustrates the concept that a
repentance must be made with the same fervor with which one did the sinful act.
"VaYomer Bnei Gad U'Vnei Reuven Ell Moshe Leimor Avodecha Yaasu
Kaasher Adoni Mitzaveh"
"And the children of Gad and the children of Reuven said to Moshe
as follows: Your servants will do as my (our) master commands"
The children of Gad and Reuven wished to settle in the Transjordan.
They offered to accompany their brethren into the battle, and then return to their homes.
Moshe accepted their request to settle in Transjordan on the condition that they fulfill
their offer of joining their brethren in battle. They replied "Your servants will do
as our master commands". This statement implies that Moshe commanded them to do
something other than the actions prescribed by their own offer. At first glance Moshe
seems to be merely reiterating their words. Moshe however adds two crucial words in his
directions to them. He states "If you will arm yourselves before Hashem for
battle" (Num 32:20). Moshe emphasized that the warriors from the tribes of Reuven and
Gad must realize that they are fighting before Hashem. they must join the Jewish ranks to
fight for Hashem' glory - not just out of loyalty to their brethren. They must conduct
themselves in such a fashion. This is the additional command which they accepted upon
In Loving Memory Of Our Father, Mr. Joseph Black (Yosef Ben Zelig) O"H
In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
|Rabbi General's Warning: Unbridled web surfing is not recommended. Navigate the web with caution. Use the Internet in a way so that it enhances quality of life for yourself as a person, as a family member, and as a member in society. The Internet can enhance the mastery of Torah knowledge and it can also interfere. If you are able to study in a Bet Medrash at this time then you should do so right now.
© 1996- by Harlan Black, JewishAmerica. All rights reserved.