פ’ בלק תשע”ז
Volume 19, Issue 8
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
וירא בלק בן צפור את כל אשר עשה ישראל לאמרי
“And Balak son of Tzipor saw all that Yisrael had done to the Amorites…” (22:2)
Chazal explain that wherever it is written in the Torah Yisrael, in the singular form, it alludes to the fact that Bnei Yisrael were united as one entity and one force (i.e., And Yisrael camped there opposite the mountain – Chazal interpret this as “As one man with one heart.”)
When referring to Bnei Yisrael’s war with Og, it is written: “And they hit him and all sons and all his people” – in the plural. On the other hand, with the war against Sichon, it is written: “And Yisrael smote them” – in the singular. The Torah emphasizes that the war against Sichon was waged in unity and it was this unity that Balak feared, as it is written: ויגר מואב מפני העם מאוד כי רב הוא – It does not state כי רבים הם (in the plural) but rather כי רב הוא (in the singular). (Torah Gems)
ועתה לכה נא ארה לי את העם הזה
“So now, please come and invoke a curse upon this people for me…” (22:6)
Balak sends messengers to Bilam to ask him if he can curse Bnei Yisrael. Why did Balak have to request that Bnei Yisrael be cursed? He should have requested that his nation be blessed instead. We see from here that when a Jew is in need of a yeshuah – salvation, he asks a tzaddik to daven for him that he should be blessed. The other nations of the world are more focused on having Klal Yisrael cursed than their own salvation. (Chafetz Chaim)
הן עם לבדד ישכן ובגוים לא יתחשב
“It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (23:9)
Alternatively, the success of the Jewish people lies in the fact that they direct their lives according to the fundamentals and teachings of their Torah, “ubagoyim lo yitchashav” – they do not “reckon” (care or worry about) what the nations of the world think or say about them.
Alternatively, Bilam was prophesying about the Jewish people: As long as they are “am levadad” – a people apart from the entire world – “yishkon” – they will dwell and remain an entity. However, when, G-d forbid, “uvagoyim” – they will assimilate or adopt the lifestyles of the nations of the world – then “lo yitchashav” – they will lose their uniqueness and no one will reckon them as anything. (Vedebarta Bam)
מה טבו אהליך יעקב משכנתיך ישראל
“How goodly are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling paces, Israel.” (24:5)
Bilam spoke not of the lofty spiritual qualities that he saw in Bnei Yisrael, but rather of the good that could be seen in their tents and dwelling places. These are physical things, details of the Jewish home and family life, because it is these things that even someone of Bilam’s base character can appreciate.
Bilam could not be expected to appreciate the quality of Torah learning or diligence in fulfilling the Torah’s commandments. The decency and goodness shown by a person to his fellow man makes an impression on even the unlearned, and it causes glorification of Hashem’s Name. The Talmud teaches that one glorifies Hashem’s Name by studying Torah, serving Torah scholars, and dealing with people pleasantly and honestly (Yoma 86a). The Talmud says that this sort of behavior results in a Kiddush Hashem because it will influence people to respect those who keep the Torah, and in turn they will respect the Giver of the Torah. Thus people will say, מה טבו אהליך יעקב, how goodly are your tents, Yaakov, i.e. the tents of Torah study that produce such good people. The letters אהליך, your tents, also spell א-לקיך, your G-d, for the virtues of the students of Torah will reflect on its Giver. (Kol Dodi)
וירא פינחס בן אלעזר בן אהרן הכהן ויקם מתוך העדה ויקח רמח בידו
“Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon HaKohen, saw and he stood up from among the assembly and took a spear in his hand.” (25:7)
QUESTION: Why didn’t Moshe or Elazar take action?
ANSWER: When Zimri decided to commit an act of adultery with Kazbi, he brazenly confronted Moshe and asked, “Is she forbidden or permitted? If you say she is forbidden, who permitted you to marry the daughter of a Midianite?”
When one is “nogea badava” – “an interested party” – he may not rule in the matter since his decisions may be motivated by personal interest. Consequently, Moshe did not take action against Zimri. For the same reason, Elazar, too, who was married to the daughters of Putiel (Yitro – see Shemot 25:6) did not take any action.
Though Pinchas was the son of Elazar, and if his father married a woman who was forbidden, it would make him a challal – disqualified Kohen, he did not hesitate to act, because Hashem declared him a Kohen only after killing Zimri. Hence, at that time he could absolutely not be accused of any conflict of interest. (Vedebarta Bam)
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