תשע”ט פ’ מטות-מסעי
Volume 29, Issue 9
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 Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמר
“Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel saying…” (30:2)
Moshe spoke to the ראשי המטות, heads of the tribes. Why refer to them in this way? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to refer to them as נשיאי ישראל, the princes of Israel?
A suggested answer is that Moshe is speaking to a group that will have the authority to compel the Jewish people to follow Hashem’s law. They will have the power to enforce judgments handed down from the beit din as well. Note that the verse states אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמר, perhaps suggesting that this is what Moshe is saying. “Even though you will be the ones with the sticks – מטות – in other words, the authority to compel the Jewish people – resorting to physical force is not the right way. Rather, speak to them, use words, use reason, use kindness – not raw authority. (Rabbi Nisson Alpert)
QUESTION: Moshe taught all the commandments first to the heads of the tribes and afterwards to the entire community (see Rashi). Why is this emphasized in connection with the laws of vows?
ANSWER: Often a candidate for office makes lavish promises. Moreover, when actually in office, he endeavors to impress his constituents that he will perform their every wish, yet when not actually facing them, he erases their concerns from his mind. Therefore, Moshe specifically warned the heads of the tribes that their promises and pledges were to be treated seriously. A man shall not desecrate his word, but “Whatever comes from his mouth shall he do.” (Chasam Sofer)
ולא נפקד ממנו איש
“Not one man is missing from us…” (31:49)
The war against Midian was a war against baseless hatred and strife. G-d commands us to wage this war constantly, in order that hatred, discord, and spite be replaced by loving-kindness, concord, and altruism. Besides the obvious benefits for us as individuals and as a society, G-d “benefits” form this struggle as well. As the Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva said, brotherly love is the foundation of the entire Torah. G-d assures us that in our ongoing war against hatred – just as was the case with the original war against Midian – we will ultimately not suffer any losses: physical, spiritual, or even financial. (Likutei Sichot)
ויסעו ממתקה ויחנו בחשמנה
“And they journeyed from Mitkah and pitched in Chashmonah” (33:29)
Our Sages comment: חשמונה is the 25th of the 42 journeys of Bnei Yisroel in the desert. There is a clue here to the holiday of Chanukah, which is on the 25th day of Kislev and which was declared after Matisyahu the Chashmonite and his sons conquered the Greeks and with help of Hashem claimed victory over their enemies and purified the Beit Hamikdash.
Our Sages also say: In the parsha of Creation it is written: ויאמר אלקים יהי אור, and Hashem said let there be light. The word יהי is numerically equal to 25 and the word אור is the 25th word in the Torah. This is another clue to the fact that the Festival of Chanukah, when we kindle the special lights, placing them on our window sills and in our doorways will always fall on the 25th day of the month of Kislev. (Parparot La’Torah)
והקריתם לכם ערים מקלט תהיינה לכם
“And you shall prepare for yourself cities of refuge…” (35:11)
In commanding us to prepare cities of refuge to protect those who kill inadvertently, the Torah does not use the term zimun, to prepare, but instead uses the word hikritem, which is related to mikreh, meaning an event which occurs by chance, without preparation. The Torah is intent to teach us that if we hear that a Jew has killed someone, we must realize and acknowledge that his act is foreign to the Torah’s view of society. We are not permitted to allow our minds to accept such an act as part of life in society. Such news is to strike us “unprepared,” so to speak, since occurrences like these are to be foreign to our Torah-dictated weltanschauung. (Rabbi Gifter)
The roads leading to the cities of refuge had to be kept wide and clear, so that anyone who would need to use them could do so easily. Signs were also posted at every crossroads, in order to clearly mark the way to these cities of refuge. Similarly, G-d keeps the way to the lifestyle of Torah (our spiritual “city of refuge”) open, accessible, and clear for each of us. In addition, He sends us signs and signals to help us find the right direction in life.
In order to hear G-d’s voice more clearly, however, we should help others find the right direction in their lives. We should all consider ourselves “signposts”, whose job it is to point others in the direction of life and goodness. When G-d sees that we are showing others the way, he will show us our way more clearly. Ideally, we should try to be more than just inanimate “signposts,” helping only those who come to us in search of the right way. We can be living signposts, reaching out to our fellow human beings and, if necessary, awakening them to the fact that a holy, Divine life should be their highest pursuit. (Likutei Sichot)