Volume 29, Issue 6
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 DovFurer, 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, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
זאת חקת התורה
“This is the decree of the Torah…” (19:2)
The general reference to the Torah rather than to the para adumah in this introductory verse prompts an interesting interpretation by our Sages. They note that the word חקת – decree, is derived from the word חקה – to engrave, and so they interpret: חקת התורה, the Torah must be engraved (into the heart of every Jew). What is written can be erased, but what is engraved endures forever. When the Torah is engraved into a person’s heart, it will always be with him, even when it is not understandable to him. This is what leads Rashi (quoting Yoma 67) to comment that Satan and the other nations will mock the mitzvah of para adumah and therefore the Torah terms it a חקה, decree. It is My decree, you do not have the right to criticize it. (Torah Treasures)
“Its blood…shall he burn…” (19:5)
In no other offering is the blood burnt. Why is the red cow the exception? The word אדם, which means “red,” comes from the word דם, which means “blood.” The color red symbolizes sin, as in the verse: “Though your sins be like scarlet…though they become red as crimson…” (Yeshayahu 1:18).
Hashem prepares the remedy from within the malady itself. The “malady” that causes death is sin. Therefore, Hashem commanded us to burn the red cow, the symbol of sin, and use its ashes to purify us from the contamination of death. It follows, then, that the cow’s blood, which is its life and is thoroughly red, should be burnt along with the rest of the red cow, and helps in the purification. (Something to Say)
וישב העם בקדש ותמת שם מרים ותקבר שם
“And the people settled in Kadesh, and Miriam died there and she was buried there.” (20:1)
Why does the Torah use the word – שםthere twice in the verse? Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch tz”l enlightens us and explains that the Torah is providing us with an insight into the life of this great woman, a matriarch of the Jewish people. Miriam had completed her mission on earth. She had watched over and protected her people, just as she had watched over and protected her younger brother in Egypt.
The Torah stresses the fact that she was buried there, in a grave in Kadesh, in order to show future generations that she did not leave this world until the next generation was ready and fully prepared to enter into the future that had been promised to them. (Rav Hirsch)
וירם משה את ידו ויך את הסלע במטהו פעמים
“Then Moshe raised his arm and struck the rock with his staff twice…” (20:11)
Why do we need to know how many times he hit the rock? Furthermore, why was Aharonpunished for this action of hitting the rock if he was not the one who actually struck it?
We see from here that one who stands by idly while another is transgressing 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 supposed 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. (Aharon assumed that Moshe’s actions were the will of Hashem.) (Gan Raveh)
ונצעק אל ה’ וישמע קלנו
“We cried out to Hashem and He heard our voice.” (20:16)
The Jewish people continue to speak to the Edomites: We both share the tradition from our forefather Yitzchak, that “the voice is the voice of Yaakov and the hands are the hands of Eisav” (Breishit 27:22), which means that as long as Yaakov continues to use the power of his “voice” in prayer and Torah study, Eisav’s “hands”, his physical power, will be ineffectual against them. Thus, since “we cried out unto Hashem” in Egypt and He accepted our prayers – “He heard our voice” – you may observe that the “voice of Yaakov” is functioning quite well, and your sword will be of no avail against us. (Wellsprings of Torah)