פ’ חקת תשע”ח
Volume 24, Issue 7
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholars’ 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.
Rav Soloveitchik explained how neatly this parsha follows the tragedy of Korach. From the comments of Chazal, we see that Korach mocked the logic of Moshe’s teachings. Why should one need a thread of techeiles in his tzitzit if he has a garment that is entirely made of techeiles? Why should one require a mezuzah on his doorpost if his home is full of holy texts? These are logical questions. Korach sought to convince his followers that Moshe made up these laws with fallacious logic, not from a Divine source. The Torah therefore presents the mysterious law of the Red Heifer. This is the quintessential example of a law that defies all logic. Its ashes simultaneously purify people and contaminate the kohen who handles them. The wisest man in our Tanach, King Shlomo, admitted that it was beyond his abilities to understand. The lesson to be learned is that the Torah is the Divine will, not merely a list of logical rules. Not understanding this was Korach’s error. (Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik)
Nine cows were burned from the time of Moshe Rabeinu until the destruction of the 2nd Beit HaMikdash: They were that of Moshe Rabeinu, Ezra HaSofer, Shimon HaTzaddik (who burned two), Yochanan Kohein Gadol (who also burned two), Eliyahu HaNavi, Chanamel the Egyptian, and Yishmael, son of Piabi. The tenth will be burned by Mashiach who will purify all the Jewish people that were defiled by their sins. (Rabeinu Bechaye)
ויך את הסלע במטהו פעמים
“And he struck the rock with his staff twice…” (20:11)
QUESTION: Why did Moshe strike the rock twice?
ANSWER: The letter of the word “sela” (rock) – spelled out in full are סמך-למד-עין . The middle letters of the name of each letter spell the word “mayim” (water). Thus, in a “sela” (rock) there is hidden water (mayim). Moshe, by striking the rock twice, knocked off the first letters as well as the last letters, leaving the middle letters, מים, and water flowed abundantly. (Be’er Mayim Chaim)
QUESTION: Why do we need to know how many times he hit the rock? Furthermore, why was Aharon punished for this action of hitting the rock if he was not the one that actually hit it?
ANSWER: We see form here that one who stands idly by while another is doing something improper and does not try to stop him is also guilty. The first time that Moshe hit the rock – Moshe alone is held accountable, for how was Aharon to know that Moshe was going to hit the rock? But after he hit the rock the first time, Aharon should have said something. The verse tells us that Moshe hit the rock two times to let us know that Aharon was held responsible for allowing Moshe to hit the rock the second time. (Gan Raveh)
ויאמר ה’ אל משה ואל אהרן יען לא האמנתם בי
“G-d told Moshe and Aharon, ‘Since you did not have enough faith in Me’…” (20:12)
Whatever rationalizations may justify their conduct, Jewish leaders must decide how to act based on whether their actions will inspire the public to greater devotion to the Torah and its ways.
Similarly, when interacting with others, we should always consider the potential impact that our words or actions may have on their attitudes toward the Jewish people in general and towards the Torah’s message in particular. (Likutei Sichot)
והיה אם נשך הנחש את איש והביט אל נחש הנחשת וחי
“It was that if the serpent bit a man, he would stare at the copper serpent and live.” (21:9)
The words vayehi and vehayah both mean “and it was.” The Gemara (Megillah 10b) states the rule as to when each word is used. When prefacing a sorrowful event, the Torah will write vayehi; a happy event, vehayah will be used. If so, it is incomprehensible why the Torah wrote the word vehayah here? Surely the biting of a serpent is an adverse event, and therefore the Torah should have written vayehi.
In the previous verse (21:8) we read that Hashem told Moshe that whoever is bitten by a serpent and thereupon stares at the copper serpent will definitely live. This implies that even a person who was deathly ill from another cause, if a serpent bit him and he would then look at the copper serpent, he would be totally healed from all life-threatening maladies. Such a person would be overjoyed if a serpent bit him! Therefore, since for some people a snake bite was a joyous occasion, the Torah used the word vehayah. (Meshech Chochmah)
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