פ’ מטות מסעי – תשע”ה
Volume 9, Issue 10
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.
וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות…איש כי ידר נדר לה’…ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה
“Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes…If a man takes a vow to G-d…According to whatever comes from his mouth he shall do.” (30:2, 3)
The expression of “speaking to the heads of the tribes” is not found anywhere else in the Torah. Why here?
I once saw an interesting answer, very relevant to our times. It is typical of people who seek positions of power to make grandiose promises to the people in the hope of being chosen, but with no intention of ever fulfilling them. In time, people become cynical about their dishonest leaders and the general level of honesty and integrity in all matters declines among the population. Hence, in this chapter that deals with keeping one’s words, Moshe began with the leadership, who will set the tone for all the people. Nothing changes. (Chasam Sofer)
איש כי ידר נדר לה’ או השבע שבעה לאסר אסר על נפשו
“If a man shall vow a vow to Hashem, or swear an oath to invoke a prohibition upon himself…” (30:3)
The verse discusses keeping one’s word in connection with vows and oaths that he has undertaken. It is interesting to note that in regards to vows, the Torah speaks of “vowing to Hashem,” whereas when it comes to oaths the Torah changes its wording to “invoking a prohibition upon oneself,” and not “a prohibition unto Hashem.” What is the reason for this difference in expression?
There is a basic distinction between a vow and an oath, the Talmud (Nedarim 2b) tells us. A vow is affected by declaring an object or a set of objects to be off limits to oneself, as if it were an object consecrated to G-d. In fact, there is an opinion that if one does derive benefit from an object forbidden to him by a vow he must atone for this sin by bringing the Asham-Me’ilos sacrifice – the sacrifice prescribed for the sin of benefitting from consecrated items. With an oath, on the other hand, the prohibition takes hold on the individual who makes the oath, not on the object being proscribed.
Given this information, we can easily understand the Torah’s wording in our verse: A vow is called “a vow to Hashem,” because the object involved takes on a certain aspect of consecration to Hashem. But concerning an oath the Torah speaks of “prohibition upon himself,” because there is no holiness whatsoever imparted onto the object affected by the oath, and the oath therefore takes effect only “upon oneself.” (Brisker Rav)
זאת חקת התורה
“This is the decree of the Torah.” (31:21)
This section dealing with the laws of cleansing vessels that had previously belonged to non-Jews is introduced with the words, zos chukkas hatorah, “this is the decree of the Torah.” This phraseology is indicative of a universal aspect inherent in the law. The law itself teaches that utensils which absorbed forbidden things must be cleansed and purged. Applying this law to our lives, we learn that even if a person’s life is soiled with sin and transgression, it can be rectified with teshuva, repentance. Therefore a person must not despair when he has sinned, for there is a way to set things right.
The concept governing the various methods of cleansing vessels teaches us a new concept in the teshuvah process. Just like a forbidden vessel is purged in a manner corresponding to the way it became forbidden, so too, the manner of teshuva one must do mirrors the condition of the sin, If the sinner was driven by a feverish desire, then his teshuvah must be just as fervent. If his sin was stimulated by only a mild impulse, then a lesser degree of teshuvah is required.
This “mirror” principle may also be applied to mitzvot. The more enthusiasm, joy and desire one invests in the performance of a mitzvah, the stronger the impact that mitzvah will have on one’s personality, and the more lasting will be its beneficial effects.
This concept may explain why the Torah attributes the misfortunes of the curses to the failure to perform the mitzvot with enthusiasm and joy, as it is stated, “Because you did not serve Hashem your L-rd with happiness…”(Devarim 28:47) For in truth, are the curses not in retribution for the failure to observe the mitzvot? However, since a mitzvah done with joy and fervor makes a lasting impact and forges a firm bond between Bnei Yisrael and Hashem, it makes it impossible for the person to ever abandon the Torah. Therefore, when a mitzvah is not done with joy, it becomes possible to abandon the Torah, which is a reason for the punishment stated in the curses. (Darash Moshe)
ויסעו מקברת התאוה
“And they traveled from Kivrot Hata’avah.” (33:17)
Rabbi Yitchok of Vorki said that the Torah hints to us here to keep a distance from desires. Kivrot comes from the word kever, a burial site. Ta’avah is desires. A person needs to be on guard that his desires do not cause him an early burial. How does one overcome his desires? By remembering that “they traveled”; our stay in this world is only temporary, so do not allow temporary desires to cause you to lose out on something permanent as your share in the next world.
Desires can destroy someone, both spiritually and physically. The Torah gives us instructions for living that guide is to avoid those things that are spiritually harmful. The Torah also includes a commandment to guard our health. Giving in to desires to overeat, to eat unhealthy food, to smoke, etc. can cause an early death. Be in control of your desires and do not allow your desires to control you. (Growth Through Torah)
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