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- Bamidbar


Tifkedu Osam
"You shall count them"

The Ramban commentary points out that the term "Tifkedu" can mean either "you shall count " or "you shall remember." He explains that the Torah used this word to indicate that the counting was to be done indirectly. The total number of people was to be "remembered" by counting the half-shekel coins that each man brought. Thus "counting" and "remembering" took place simultaneously. The Ramban states that had there been an actual head count, then there would have been a plague.

We may wonder, even if there is something wrong with making a head count, why would the people die because they were counted?

The answer is that the danger of a head count lies in it focus on people as individuals. This can cause a person to be judged outside of the group that he is in.

A person who may be unworthy in his own right can be judged favorably as part of a worthy congregation. During a head count, when people are singled out, they are for that moment subject to Divine judgment on the basis of their own individual merit only, not as members of the congregation. This puts the person in jeopardy.

(Rabeinu Bachye - see P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


V'Nosa Ohel Moed Machaneh HaLevi'im B'Soch HaMachanos
"And the Ohel Moed (Tabernacle) traveled in the camp of the Levites, among the camp."

The phrase "among the camp" indicates that the Ohel Moed traveled in the very center of the camp of the Children of Israel. The reason for this is that the Ohel Moed contained the Aron (Holy Ark) that held the Torah. In order to symbolize that the Torah is equally accessible to anyone within the camp who wishes to learn it, the Torah was placed in the very center.

For the same reason, the Bimah (platform from which the Torah is read) is placed in the middle of the synagogue. This symbolizes that the Torah is equally accessible to all.

(Chofetz Chayim - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe Bamidbar Sinai
"And G-d spoke to Moshe in the desert of Sinai."

The Medrash states "The Torah was given in association with three things: fire, water, and desert."

Rav Mayer Shapiro of Lublin explains this Medrash in the following manner:

Throughout a history that included severely adverse conditions, the Jewish people exhibited the ability to adhere to the Torah and their faith. What is our source of strength?

We are taught that the trials of faith that our ancestors successfully undertook inculcated certain tendencies within us.

This Medrash uses fire, water, and desert to represent the trials of faith

FIRE represents the fiery furnace into which Avraham (Abraham) was thrown because he professed his belief in G-d. He was miraculously saved and the devotion of his act left its imprint upon his descendants, the Jewish people. As great as it was, this act was of an individual. It was therefore necessary to test an entire population and this was the test of water.

WATER represents the crossing of the Red Sea by the Jews at G-d’s directive. The sea did not split until they after they entered this vast body of water. This act of faith and devotion was performed by an entire nation and it reinforced their steadfast loyalty to their faith. Yet, this needed to be complemented by a heroic action that was sustained over a great period of time. Only a long-term trial of faith would enable the virtues of faith and devotion to seep into the very soul of the Jewish nation. This came from the test of desert.

DESERT represents the Jewish people's trek through the desert on the way to the Promised Land. For forty years they followed G-d’s clouds through the desert by the strength of their faith. This provided the ultimate reinforcement.

The Medrash is therefore understood to mean that the Torah was upheld by the Jews throughout all generations because of the three tests of faith that their ancestors undertook, represented by fire, water, and desert.

(Ma'ayana shel Torah)


Mateh Z'vulun V'Nosi L'vnei Z'vulun Eliav Ben Chailon

"The tribe of Z'vulun: And the prince for the children of Z'vulun was Eliav ,the son of Chailon."

During their travels through the desert, the Children of Israel camped in four separate groups - three tribes in each group. The tribe of Z'vulun was the third component of Yehuda's group which also included the tribes of Yehuda and Yissochor (Issachar). When the Torah discusses the tribes in the third position of the other encampments, the Torah uses the conjunction "and" to join them with the other tribes.(For example, "And the tribe of Gad was Elyasaf the son of Reuel.) Why didn't the Torah use such a conjunction in Z'vulun's case as well?

The Torah deliberately avoids using such a conjunction while discussing Z'vulun to prevent one from mistakenly inferring that Z'vulun's importance was secondary to that of Yissochor. Yissochor spent his days studying Torah while his brother Z'vulun supported him. Their descendants carried on the respective roles. One might have thought that Z'vulun was second in importance to Yissochor because Yissochor was doing the actual studying and Z'vulun's role was but an auxiliary one. However , since Z'vulun expended all his energies to facilitate Torah study, his service of Hashem was not inferior to that of Yissochor's. Both used their resources maximally for the purpose of facilitating Torah study.

Since it is possible to erroneously believe that Z'vulun's status was inferior to Yissochor"s, the Torah avoids using the word "and" when discussing Z'vulun, for if the Torah would discuss Yissochor, and then continue with "And Z'vulun", it would seem to indicate that Z'vulun was but an also-ran to Yissochor. The Torah deliberately steers clear of giving such an impression.

(Ba'al Haturim) *Itturei Torah*


Ish Al Diglo V'osos L'Vais Avosum Yachanu B'nei Yisroel

"(Each) man on his banner with signs to their fathers' house shall they camp - the Children of Israel"

Literally, this verse refers to the banners under which the Jews camped during their travels through the desert. These banners had symbols representing each of the tribes. They were "signs to their fathers' houses"

This verse can be interpreted in a homiletic sense as well. The lives of our Avos (Patriarchs) are quite an example to live up to. Although one can barely expect his own deeds to measure up to those of the Avos, one should emulate them as much as possible. This verse can be understood in a manner that imparts this lesson.

Here is the above interpretation of the verse explained line-by-line. The text of the verse is in capitals, followed by the homiletic interpretation of each phrase.
(EACH) MAN ON HIS BANNER / Each individual
in a way that at least shows SIGNS of our forefathers' behavior
so shall they conduct themselves.

(S'fas Emes)"Itturei Torah"


In this week's portion, we find the laws of the Sotah. This is a wife whose actions arouses suspicion of misconduct. The next section deals with the laws of the Nazir. This is a person who takes a Nazirite oath, forbidding him/her to drink wine

Rashi references the Talmud that views the adjacency of these two sections as an indication an important lesson. One who sees a Sotah in her degradation should separate him/herself from wine. That is, one who sees the devastating effects of lewdness should distance him/herself from wine, a drink that can set the stage for immorality.

The question arises: Wouldn't the sight of the Sotah's degradation be a sufficient deterrent from sin? Why is it recommended for one who sees such a sight to seek additional safeguards from sin by taking an oath as a Nazir?

The answer is that everything that a person sees has an impact on the person. The trial of the Sotah brings out two conflicting ideas. On one hand, the Sotah represents the allure of sin. On the other hand, the trial brings out the degradation of sin.

Exposure to a bad influence is not negated merely by denigrating the bad element.

Without additional safeguards, the deterrent may be cancelled out by the allure.

(R' Yosef Leib Bloch - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)


Yivorech'cha Hashem V'Yishmorecha

"Hashem should bless you and He should watch over you"

At times, when a person receives a blessing, it can turn against him. For example, a person's own wealth can make him haughty and spoiled, thus causing spiritual and moral downfall.

The above verse provides a blessing after a blessing. "He should watch you" in order to ensure that the newly acquired blessing should cause no harm to its recipients.

(Nachlas Ya'akov)


    V'Im Ain LoIsh Goel L'Hoshiv HoOshom Ailov, HoOshom HaMooshav LaHashem LaCohen
    "And if the man has no redeemer (relative) to return the obligation to, then the obligation which is to be returned to Hashem (G-d) goes (instead) to the Cohen (priest).

    If one steals money and the victim dies before the robber returns the money, the robber must return the money to the victim's heirs. If the victim has no heirs, then the robber must give the stolen property to the Cohen, as stated in the above verse.

    Why does the Torah say that the obligation is to be returned to G-d?

    The answer lies in the fact that G-d predetermines how much money every person is supposed to receive each year. G-d had many ways to replenish the victim’s loss and He does not need the thief's remuneration. As G-d surely settled the victims account in some other manner, the thief must now repay G-d. so to speak, for "bothering" Him to compensate the victim. This is accomplished by giving the stolen property to the Kohen.

(Maharil Charif)


    "V'Hisvadu Ess Chatosom Asher Osu"
    "And they shall confess their sins that they did"

    The words "that they did" seem superfluous.

    When one wishes to confess and repent, he must repent the actions that led him to sin as well. For example, the sin of theft is usually preceded by the sin of coveting the stolen object.

    This requirement is alluded to by the words "that they did" Not only should the confession deal with the present sin, "their sins", it must also deal with "that they did," whatever was done that led to the present sins

(Bais Yaakov)


Daber Ell Aharon V'ell Bonov Leimor Koh Sivorchu Ess B'nei Yisroel Amor Lohem: Yivorechecho Hashem V'Yishmorecha ,Yoer Hashem Ponov Ailecho VeeYichunecho, Yiso Hashem Ponov Ailecho ViYosem Lecho Shalom

"Speak to Aharon (Aaron) and to his sons as to say 'So shall you bless the Children of Israel, say to them: Hashem shall bless you and watch over you, Hashem shall (so to speak) illuminate His countenance to you and He shall favor you, Hashem should lift His (so to speak) countenance to you and set for you peace."

The blessing that the Kohanim (priests) confer upon the Jews is a wish that Hashem Himself would bless them. This is actually the greatest blessing that one can receive. The Kohanim were not meant to add any of their own wishes to these blessings. This point is emphasized in the verse "So shall you bless the children of Israel, say to them." The directive "say to them" indicates that what should be said as a blessing is only that which is stated the following verses, no more. Adding any other wishes would only detract from the ultimate blessing, that all of the Jewish people should be blessed by Hashem.

(Peh Kadosh)


Naso Ess Rosh Bnei Gershon Gam Hem

"Count the heads of the children of Gershon, also them"

The term "also them" refers back to the end of the previous parsha (weekly portion) which details the counting of Kehos' family. The verse states that not only were the people of Kehos counted, but the people of Gershon were counted as well. The verse indicates that it was more obvious that Kehos should be counted, but in the end, Gershon too was counted. it would seem that the Torah places greater importance upon Kehos' counting. The children of Kehos actually performed the holiest work that was allotted to the Leviim. They carried the Aron (Ark) and the other holy vessels of the Mishkon (Tabernacle). The children of Gershon, however, carried the boards and pillars of the Mishkon, a less prestigious task. As a result the Torah places emphasis on the fact that Gershon was equally worthy of being counted. In no way or degree were they to be considered lesser servants of Hashem. Their job may have been less prestigious than that of Kehos but the true importance of their work lay in the fact that they did it for Hashem, not in the nature of the work itself. The Torah emphasizes this point by stressing that Gershon's children too are worthy of being counted. (Darash Moshe)


"VaYikra Ess Shem HaMakom Kivros HaTa'avah Ki Shom Kovru Ess HaOm HaMisavim."

"And they called the name of the place "Kivros HaTa'avah because (that is) where they buried the people who lusted."

Some people complained because they desired to eat meat and it wasn’t supplied. The complaint brought a pestilence, which was a punishment. The place where they were buried was called Kivros HaTa'avah, or Graves of Lust.

It is interesting to note that this place was not named Kivros Hamisavim, Graves of those who lusted. This indicates that the Jews buried or overcame their lust.

The punishment drove home the lesson that they must learn to overcome physical desire.

(Bina L'Itim - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


V'HoIsh Moshe Onov MiKol Ha'Odom

"And the man Moshe (Moses) was the most humble of all people."

The Torah makes this statement immediately after relating that Miriam told Aharon that she didn't know why Moshe had separated from family life. She didn't realize that Moshe was actually greater than every other prophet and that this mandated a more ascetic lifestyle. She mistakenly suspected that Moshe acted out of haughtiness.

The Torah's praise of Moshe indicates the sincerity with which he practiced humility. A person who practices humility for appearances' sake will often abandon these practices if people are saying that he acts haughtily. He will feel that if his deception is unsuccessful then there is no point to continue the charade. Here, the Torah emphasizes that Moshe's unsurpassed humility was not affected at all by other people's suspicions of haughtiness. This underscores that his humility was genuine.

(K'sav Sofer - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


VaYomer Al Na Ta'azov Osanu Ki Al Ken Yoda'ato Chanuseinu Bamidbar V'Hoyeeso Lonu L'Einayim
"And he said 'Please don't leave us, because you know our camping in the desert, and you can be for us as (our) eyes."

Moshe (Moses) tried to convince Yisro (Jethro) to remain with the Children of Israel. He told Yisro that he will be their guide.

Why did the Jews need Yisro for their guide if they were being led by Moshe and the Divine Clouds of Glory? In what sense could Yisro, a newcomer to the Jewish people, serve as a guide?

Yisro was a very special role model. He achieved his level of spirituality on his own, without the aid of a teacher or righteous parents.

The Jewish people had people who were far greater than Yisro. Yet, Yisro provided a very important lesson by demonstrating how great a person can become someone through his/her own hard work.

(R' Eliyohu Meir Bloch - P'ninim Mishulchan Govoha)


V'hoIsh Moshe Onov Meod Mikol HaOdom
"And the man Moshe (Moses) was very humble among all of the man(kind)."

The Medrash Yalkut states that the above verse excludes the Patriarchs.

According to this Medrash, it would seem that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (Abraham Isaac, and Jacob) reached a degree of humility that was higher than that which Moshe achieved. However, a second Medrash explicitly states that Moshe reached the highest level of humility.

Specifically, the Torah records that Avraham said, ‘I am dust and ashes’ while Moshe said ‘we are nothing.’ How can we reconcile these two views in the Medrash?

Moshe's humility was not mere self-deprecation. Moshe knew very well that he was the greatest prophet of all time and that he had many other talents and qualities. His humility came from an extremely high awareness of G-d’s greatness, from which he felt totally awed.

The Patriarchs did not reach Moshe's extreme level of awareness of G-d’s greatness and they still humbled themselves before G-d. Their peak in humility was the result of their great deference to the will of G-d, not from an awareness of His greatness. Their humility was from a different source and it was therefore of a different nature.

(R' Yisroel Salanter - P'ninim MiShulchan Govoha)

Compiler's Note: Self-depreciation may not even be considered true humility. The true humility which is praised as a virtue is a deference to G-d’s will , not denial of one's talents. Everyone must recognize the gifts that G-d provided us with.


Vaya'as kain Aharon

"And Aharon (Aaron) did as such."

Rashi comments that this verse indicates the praise of Aharon - that he did not swerve from Moshe's instructions. At first glance, this may seem but a simple accomplishment for anyone receiving instructions from Moshe would be likely to fulfill them meticulously. The Vilna Gaon explains Rashi's words "to indicate the praise of Aharon -that he did not act differently" in the following manner.

When an ordinary person performs a particular mitzva (commandment) many times, his later performances may come to lack the original zeal. Once the original novelty of the mitzva wears off he may begin doing the mitzvos in a mechanical manner. Rashi's statement "that he did not act differently " means that throughout the years, Aharon always performed the mitzvah with the same care, fervor, and zeal as he had the first time.

(Itturei Torah)


Voetno Ess HaLevi'im Nesunim L'Aharon Ul'Vonov Mitoch B'nei Yisroel L'avod Ess Avodas B'nei Yisroel B'Ohel Moed U'lChaper Al B'nei Yisroel V'Lo Yihyeh Negef B'Vnei Yisroel B'Geshes B'nei Yisroel Ell Hakodesh

"And I gave over the Levi'im (Levites) to Aharon and his sons from among the Children of Israel to serve the service of the Children of Israel in the Ohel Moed (Tabernacle) and to atone for the Children of Israel and there should not be a plague in the Children of Israel when the Children of Israel approach the Sanctuary"

The term "B'nei Yisroel" (Children of Israel) appears five times in this verse. Rashi explains that the reason it is repeated five times, is to demonstrate Hashem's love for B'nei Yisroel. The number five is special, too - it alludes to the Five Books of the Torah.

It is noteworthy that this demonstration of Hashem's love for the Jewish people is found in a verse which discusses how the Levi'im were singled out for a special role. The indication of Hashem's love for all the Jews in this particular verse serves as a reminder that although the Leevi'im have an especially exalted position, Hashem's love of the general populace is great. While dealing with the importance of the Levi'im, the Torah takes special care to emphasize that everyone else is important as well.

(Chiddushei HaRim)-[Itturei Torah]


VaYikra Moshe L'Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua
"And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun 'Yehoshua' (Joshua)."

Yehoshua (Joshuah) was initially named Hoshea. His new name means ‘G-d will save.’

Moshe prayed for him. Only Yehoshua and one other spy were saved from sin.

Why did Moshe single out Yehoshua and pray only for him? Didn't the other spies also need Divine assistance to keep them from sin?

Moshe realized that the temptation to dissuade the Chidren of Israel from entering the Land would be especially great for Yehoshua.

You may recall that in last week’s parsha, Eldad and Meidad prophesized that Moshe would die in the desert and Yehoshua would lead the people into the Land. Moshe noticed that this made Yeshouah upset. It prompted him to ask Moshe to put an end to Eldad's and Meidad's careers as prophets.

This indicated Yehoshua’s great humility, that he shied away from prestigious positions. Moshe therefore feared that Yehoshuah would feel a need to dissuade the Jews from entering the Land so that he should not be forced to assume the mantle of leadership. Moshe therefore prayed that Yehoshuah should receive Divine assistance and resist the pressure to join the other spies, who led the Jews astray.

The prayer worked to counteract Yehoshuah’s tendency. Thus, he was afforded a test according to his own tendencies. As the Torah relates, Yehoshuah passed his test, while the other spies failed.

(Avodas Yisroel - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


Poked Avon Avos Al Bonim
"The One who remembers the sins of fathers upon children"

Literally, this verse means that G-d takes the sins of parents into account when He judges the sins of sons and daughters. A wicked person whose tendencies towards evil are reinforced by the evil behavior of his ancestors needs more atonement to purify his soul than an ordinary sinner does.

The verse can be interpreted in an alternate method as well.

The word 'Poked' can mean "one who lessens" as well as "one who remembers" Thus, the verse would read "The One who lessens the sins of the fathers upon children - meaning on account of the children.

This refers to a wicked person whose children act righteously. G-d would ascribe merit to him for bringing such righteous people into the world thereby "lessening" his sins.

(HaKsav V'HaKaballah)


"VaYikra Moshe L'Hoshea Bin Nun Yehoshua"
"And Moshe called Hoshea the son of Nun "Yehoshua" (Joshua)"

Moshe (Moses) changed Hosheah’s name to Yehoshua (Joshuah).

In Hebrew, Hosheah suggests salvation. The name Yehoshua suggests a prayer, that G-d should save him from the evil plans of the spies.

Why did Moshe pray for only Yehoshua sake and not for the other spies?

Targum Yonason, a translation of the Torah, states that Moshe made the name change when he realized the degree of Yehoshua’s humility.

Moshe feared that Yehoshua’s humility would make him susceptible of being influenced by the spies. Thus, Moshe did not give Yehoshua an advantage over the other spies. Rather, he provided a way to help him deal with a potential source of weakness.

(Ezras Yehudah)


The Jews sent some of their greatest people on the mission to spy out the Land of Canaan. Upon their return, the spies sought to dissuade the Jewish people from entering the Promised Land.

Why did they do this?

Jewish life in the desert was essentially a physical and spiritual utopia. All their physical needs were miraculously provided for and they were able to focus their energies on spiritual pursuits.

The spies were initially very righteous people and they enjoyed the opportunity to concentrate on spirituality. They did not want to enter the Land of Canaan where they would have to concern themselves with their material needs as well.

This was a fatal error.

Although their reckoning appears to be quite admirable, G-d had decreed otherwise. G-d wanted the Jews to apply the lessons they learned in the desert to establish a civilization in the Promised Land that is based on spirituality

(R' Yosef Leib Mendik-P'Ninim Mishulchan Govoha)


"Kulom Anoshim Roshei B'nei Yisrael Haimoh"

"All of them men of stature, heads of the Children of Israel they were."

Rashi explains that the usage of the term anoshim - "men of stature" indicates that the Meraglim (spies) were notable people - righteous men of a high spiritual caliber. Yet they led the Jews astray by bringing back a discouraging report about Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). How could such great men commit such a deed?

The Yetzer Hora (Evil Inclination) has many ways to convince people to sin. One of the subtler methods is to lull people into false humility. Although humility is a virtue, when misused it can prevent people from undertaking worthy endeavors. Under the influence of the Yetzer Hora (evil inclination), one may erroneously come to say, "I am too puny to succeed in any lofty spiritual pursuits." To withstand such an onslaught by one's Yetzer Hora, one must maintain a healthy self-image, and not be misled by an inferior self-image that the Yetzer Hora sometimes tries to present.

The spies, as well as the Jews in general, were unable to overcome their feelings of inferiority. They said "However, strong are the people who dwell in the land" (Numbers 13 :28). They contended that although Hashem promised to bring the Jews to Eretz Yisrael, this promise was conditional upon the Jews' merits, and since they were swayed by false humility, they feared that they would fall short." Another fear that they had as a result of this false humility is seen in their words, "It is a land that eats its inhabitants." (Numbers 13:32) They noticed that all the inhabitants of the land were strong. They assumed (mistakenly) that only the fittest people could survive in the land. They surmised that extra merits would be needed to survive in such a land, extra merits that they did not have. Thus, with their misplaced false humility, they misled the Jews into a great blunder, their greatness notwithstanding.


"Vayahas Calev Ess Ho'om Ell Moshe Vayomer Aloh Na'aleh V'Yorashnu Osuh Ki Yochul Noochal Loh"

"And Calev (Caleb) quieted the people to Moshe and he said 'We will go up and we will inherit it (the land) because we are able to."

The spies' argued that the Jews would not merit to be brought into Eretz Yisrael. Calev countered this by reminding the people of all the miracles that Hashem had already performed for them. Calev said that these miracles proved that Hashem intended to lead them to Eretz Yisrael. Why would He have done them if He had no plan to bring them into Eretz Yisrael?

He therefore said confidently "We will go up and we will inherit." It was clear that Hashem intended that they reach their destination. Hashem insured their success because of the promise that He made to the Patriarchs - irrespective of whether the Jews had extra merits with which to gain the land or not. All that the Jews had to do was to follow Hashem without worrying if they earned enough merits. Misplaced humility would be nothing but a breach in trust of Hashem; Worrying of any kind would show a lack of faith in Hashem's unequivocal guarantee. Tragically, most of the Jews accepted the other spies' argument over Calev's.

Calev also countered the spies' second argument - that it would take sustained merit to survive in the land of Israel. He said "Only in Hashem do not rebel."(Numbers 14:8) With these words he expressed the concept that Hashem is benevolent and always looks out for a person's benefit even if the person doesn't deserve it. as long as the person does not rebel against Hashem, Hashem will continue to act with the person in the most benevolent manner - irrespective of the person's own merit.

Of course, if someone must be punished, Hashem will punish him. This, however, will not prevent the person from otherwise enjoying Hashem's benevolence overall. Furthermore, such punishment can be forestalled if one repents. Even if the Jews were worried about their previous sins, and were afraid that they forfeited their right to Eretz Yisrael, their thoughts should have been about repentance. False "humility"- and the despair which it had begotten- were totally out of place. The proper thing for the Jews to have done would have been to simply rely on Hashem's graciousness.

Calev's message is relevant to all of us as well. It is crucial not to allow oneself to be discouraged from important endeavors because of false "humility". One must appreciate his own potential and not be fooled by the Yetzer Hora's negative caricature of his sins and shortcomings.

(Chafetz Chayim)


Ki Kol HoEidah Kulam K'doshim

"For all of the congregation are all holy"

Korach organized a rebellion against Moshe (Moses), contending that he, Korach, should have been appointed as Kohen Gadol (High Priest) rather than Aharon (Aaron).

His rallying cry was: "For all of the congregation are all holy".

Korach tried to claim that all Jews are equally holy and that Moshe had no right to take all of the authority of leadership for himself and his family. In addition, Korach applied logic to criticize certain precepts of Moshe’s Torah.

Actually, the root of Korach's distortion was his contention that "All of the congregation are all holy." In his personal opinion, everyone was equally qualified to interpret the Torah as he/she sees fit.

In truth, only a qualified Torah scholar, who has received and mastered the traditions of Torah scholars, can be relied upon to interpret the Torah properly. Unfortunately, throughout history Korach's distortion has appeared many times with charlatans of all kinds claiming that they can interpret the Torah however they see fit.

(Darash Moshe)


Lo Chamor Echad Meihem Nosasi V'Lo Hariosi Ess Echad Meihem

"I didn’t take anyone’s donkey and I did not wrong even one of them."

When Moshe prayed to G-d that Korach's rebellion should be unsuccessful, he mentioned that he did not obtain any benefit from the opposing camp, nor did he wrong any of them.

The Chasam Sofer notes the order of the statements in Moshe’s prayer.

Usually, when a person's gift to a renowned person is refused, the giver feels hurt and/or disappointed. In his prayers, Moshe stated that he was careful with the needs and sensitivities of his adversaries. That is, he knew that he did not cause even an incidental insult, such as the refusing a complimentary gift.

(Chasam Sofer)


Korach instigated a rebellion against Moshe (Moses). The Jerusalem Talmud states that Korach was a heretic in that he came to deny Moshe's status as a prophet, thereby denying the veracity of the Torah.

Maimonides states in his "Igeres Taiman" that all who stood at Mount Sinai during the Giving of the Torah achieved a faith in the Torah and in Moshe's prophecy that would last throughout all of their descendants. This is reflected in the verse: "And also in you (Moshe) they (the Jews) will believe forever." Since Korach was present at the Giving of the Torah, why was he not protected by this Divine promise?

The answer is that this promise was not made to interfere with free choice and it allows for people to distort the truth because of their personal biases. This promise was that no one whose ancestors were present at the Giving of the Torah would reject the Torah out of a lack of understanding.

(Steipler Gaon - Peninim MiShulchan Govoha)


V'Doson V'Avirom B'nei Eliav V'On Ben Peles B'nei Reuven
"And Doson and Avirom the sons of Eliav, and Owne the son of Peles,
the children of Reuven."

Owne the son of Peles was originally a party in the rebellion but he withdrew.

The Talmud tells us that Owne's wife saved him from the disaster. She told him "Regardless of who will emerge victorious, you will remain a follower. Why get involved in a dispute that does not directly benefit you?" He listened to her advice and abandoned the rebellion.

The Talmud praises Owne's wife and applies the following verse to her: "The wisdom of women builds her home " applies to her.

The reference to her having "wisdom" is puzzling. Her argument reflected logic, not necessarily wisdom.

HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz derived a lesson from this teaching. Tempers are hot and people do not have full control of their faculties during a dispute. Whoever can perceive the pure simple truth at such a time is truly a wise person.

(Peninim Mishulchan Govoha)


"Vayikanu L'Moshe BaMachane, L'Aharon Kadosh Hashem" (Psalms 106:16)

"And they envied Moshe (Moses) in the camp, to Aharon the Holy one of Hashem"(Psalms 106:16)

This verse refers to the attack that Korach and his people made against Moshe and Aharon. R' Naftali of Ropshitz explains that it indicates the specific nature of their attack.

They criticized Moshe about how he handled "the camp", the community at large. They claimed that Moshe was not sufficiently involved in the issues of the people. They claimed that although Moshe was a G-dly person, he was an isolationist who was not interested in the people, he was too distant from the people to meet their needs.

Aharon, on the other hand was known as "a lover of peace and a seeker of peace". He freely mingled with the people to promote harmony. Therefore against Aharon, Korach needed a different approach. The allegation was that Aharon was a 'holy' one of Hashem and thus had no business interfering in the internal affairs of the people. They asserted that he should stick to his of holiness and stay out of community affairs.

These arguments are contradictory. They complained against a leader who allegedly did not involve himself in the community affairs and they complained against a leader who involved himself in publics affairs. This shows that they were just looking for excuses to complain about their spiritual leaders.

Echoes of such complaining have been heard throughout the generations. Whichever manner a leader chooses to conduct himself, there are usually dissenters who contend that he should act otherwise. As illustrated by Korach's example the dissenters often cannot be placated by any particular mode of behavior. Such complaints must be disregarded.

(Ma'ayneh Shel Torah)


"V'Aharon Mah Hu KI Salinu Olov"

"And Aharon - what is he that you should quarrel against him?"

This verse relates how Moshe attempted to dissuade the members of Korach's camp from campaigning against Aharon. Moshe told them that since Aharon's appointment as High Priest was divinely inspired, they were in effect taking issue with Hashem, not with Aharon. Moshe thus said "What is he (Aharon) that you should quarrel against him?" Instead, your quarrel is with Hashem.

This verse lends itself to another interpretation as well. When Moshe asked "What is he that you should quarrel against him" he meant to say "Are you aware of Aharon's true worth that you dare to quarrel with him?" How can you entertain the thought of quarreling with such a great person?

(R' Menachem Mendel of Kotsk Itturei Torah)


V'Dibartem Ell HaSela
"And you shall speak to the stone."

Moshe was commanded to speak to the stone and it was supposed to produce water.

The Midrash says that Moshe was supposed to tell the stone a chapter of the Oral Law. As soon as the stone was exposed to Torah, it would produce water.

This would have been a demonstration that Torah study is the source of all worldly blessings.

(Yalkut - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


VaYiftach Hashem Ess Pi HaAson
"And G-d opened the mouth of the donkey."

The evil prophet Bila'am went to curse the Jews. During the journey, G-d caused Bila’am’s donkey to speak to him.

The donkey's newfound power of speech was a hint to Bila'am that he should not be arrogant about the fact that G-d had granted him prophecy and other spiritual powers. G-d showed him that if He wills it, even a donkey can receive special powers. Because Bila’am did not earn his powers through his merit and good deeds, Bila'am's spiritual powers did not elevate him any more than the donkey's power of speech elevated the donkey.

G-d indicated that Bila'am should recognize the source of his powers and that he should refrain from abusing them by cursing the Jews.

(Kli Yakar - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


Shimu Na HaMorim
"Listen, please (you) the Morim."

Rashi offers two interpretations for the word Morim

1) Morim is a Greek word that means fools.

2) Morim is a Hebrew word that means teachers. In this instance, Moshe (Moses) the Great Teacher, is talking to those who are trying to teach their teacher

The two interpretations reflect a common idea.

Proverbs (26:12) states "(Have) you seen a man who is wise in his own eyes? (There is) more hope for a fool than for him." A man who believes that he is wise is more hopeless than a fool because he will not take counsel from anyone.

Those who try to teach their teacher are acting as the ultimate "one who is wise in his own eyes."

(R' Avrohom Mordechai of Gur - Ma'ayana Shel Torah)


VaYach Ess HaSela B'Matehu ... VaYomer Hashem El Moshe V'El Aharon Ya'an Lo He'emantem Bi L'Hakdisheni L'Einay B'nei Yisroel...
"And he hit the stone with his staff... And G-d said to Moshe and to Aharon 'Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel...'

G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon to obtain water in the desert for the Jews by speaking to a stone. Instead, they made the stone produce water by striking it.

This verse is saying that, according to their great level of spirituality, they fell short of their duty in sanctifying G-d’s name.

We must now try to understand how what they did was a lesser degree of sanctifying G-d's name. Whether the stone produced water by speaking to it or by hitting it, either method of obtaining the water would have been a miraculous wonder. For what reason is hitting considered any less a glorification of G-d's name than speaking to the stone?

There is a side benefit from obtaining water by talking to the stone. This would demonstrate that even a stone obeys G-d's word as it is transmitted through Moshe. Because Moshe hit the rock rather than speaking to it, this important lesson was not illustrated.

(Darash Moshe)


"Zos Chukas HaTorah"

"This is the law of the Torah"

This verse introduces the laws of the Red Heifer. The ritual involving the ashes of a Red Heifer was performed to cleanse those who had contracted a high degree of ritual impurity. Paradoxically, people who were ritually pure and came into unnecessary contact with these ashes, contracted a degree of ritual impurity themselves. The Red Heifer thus simultaneously contained elements of purification and contamination. Whether one was purified or contaminated by it depended upon the nature of one's encounter with it. The usage of the phrase "this is the law of the Torah" indicates that the principle of the Red Heifer is reflective of the rest of the Torah as well. The Red Heifer’s effect depended upon how it was used. So it is with the Torah life. Any character trait can be used properly for a Mitzvah - or abused for an aveira (transgression).

For example, love of money is often a negative trait. It can prevent one from giving charity, when one loves his own money too much. On the other hand, love of money can cause a person to respect the property of others.

Thus, no character trait or item is inherently good or evil. Everything has potential for good or evil - depending upon its use.

(Darash Moshe)


"Asher Ein Bo Mum Asher Lo Oloh Oleha Ol"

"That has no blemish, that did not go upon it a yoke"

Literally this verse refers to the requirements of the Red Heifer. It had to be a perfect, unblemished animal that had never been worked.

The Chozeh of Lublin offers a homiletic interpretation of this verse. He interprets the verse as follows: One "that has no blemish" is indicative that one is an individual - "That did not go upon it a yoke" - meaning the yoke of Heaven. One who does not undertake the Service of Hashem can delude himself into thinking that he is perfect - by overlooking and remaining blissfully ignorant of his own very red character flaws.

Every person has inherent character imperfections that they are supposed to correct. However, one who does not even try to serve Hashem and improve himself, will often not even recognize these flaws as such. They may be flaws inasmuch as they impede his spiritual growth, but to such a person they are invisible. He may likely perceive himself as perfect.

(Maayna Shel Torah)


Bila'am asked Hashem for permission to go and curse the Jews. At first this was denied. Subsequently he repeated the request and was allowed to go. The question arises: Why did Hashem initially deny him permission only to grant it upon his second request?

Had Hashem immediately allowed Bila'am to go and try to curse the Jews, such permission may have been misconstrued as an endorsement of Bila'am's actions.(In fact, Hashem did not approve at all of Bila'am's cursing the Jews; Hashem just let him try in order to prove that cursing the Jews would not work.) On the other hand, if Hashem would have forbidden Bilaam to go, Bila'am may have said that Hashem's refusal to allow him to go implied that his curses were a powerful force to be reckoned with since Hashem saw it necessary to prevent them.

Hashem therefore arranged events so that this distortion could not be made. Initially, permission to go was denied, indicating that cursing the Jews was not a worthy deed. Hashem then told Bila'am that if he so desires he would be allowed to go, demonstrating Hashem's disregard for the potency of Bila'am's curses.

(Ohr Hachayim)

"Lo Hibit oven B'yaakov V'Lo Ro'oh Omel B'Yisroel Hashem Elo-hav Eemo V'Sruas Melech Bo"
"He (Hashem) did not look at transgression within Jacob and did not see sin within Israel; Hashem his (Israel's) G-d is with him, and the friendship of the King is with him"

This verse indicates that if a person fully accepts the yoke of Heaven, even if he sins occasionally, the effect of the sin would not be as damaging as it would be if he were a free thinker. The sins of a generally pious and G-d loving person are viewed by Hashem as aberrations which are not indicative of the person's general status.

As such, the verse begins with Hashem who "did not look at transgression within Jacob and did not see sin within Israel".

However, this is only relevant for a person about whom it is true that "Hashem his G-d is with him and he has the friendship of the King," the second part of this verse. That is, the person generally loves and goes along with Hashem by trying to lead a Torah life.

(Chidushei Harim)


Vayachvosh Ess Asono
"And he saddled his donkey"

The fact that Bilaam saddled is donkey by himself instead of letting a servant do it for him shows the great rush he was in to try to curse the Jewish people.

Concerning Bilaam, Rashi tells us that G-d said, "You wicked one! You have already been preceded by Avrohom (Abraham) as it states 'And Avrohom arose in the morning and he saddled his donkey.'" (Gen. 22:3)

In preparing for the Akeida (sacrificial binding of Yitzchok (Isaac), Avrohom demonstrated his zeal to fulfill G-d's will by saddling his own donkey.

It appears that Avrohom’s enthusiasm is a response to Bilaam’s. How is this a response?

Although Avrohom had lofty intentions and demonstrated great zeal, Hashem did not allow him to complete that act of sacrifice. In effect, G-d was telling Bilaam that his eagerness to do a wicked act would have no effect on the outcome.

(Rebbe of Kotzk - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


Gader Mizeh V'Gader Mizeh
"A fence from this side and a fence from this side."

The Torah tells us that Bilaam and his donkey were on a path that ran between two fences. The donkey saw an angel that was trying to deter Bilaam from cursing the Jewish people. In trying to avoid the angel, it squeezed through, crushing Bilaam's leg was against one of the barriers.

The Torah describes the fence as a ‘Gader.’ Rashi comments that as a rule, the term Gader refers to a stone fence.

The relevance of this statement can be understood with a bit of background history.

Several hundred years to this event, Ya'akov (Jacob) and Lovon (Laban) made a truce. They set up a stone monument as a memorial or "witness" to the pact that neither party would cross over the barrier to do evil to the other. Now, Bilaam was a descendant of Lovon. His mission to curse the Jewish people violated this truce. It was thus fitting that the first installment of his punishment - a crushed leg - should be with stone, a fitting punishment which reflects the concept of: "The hand of the witnesses should be in him (the culprit) first"

This is why Rashi mentions that the fence was made of stone.

(Toldos Yitzchok)


V'Hoysah Lo U'l'Zaro Acharov Bris Cehunas Olam Tachas Asher Kinei L'EloKav VaYichaper Al B'nei Yisroel

"And it shall be for him and his children after him a treaty of priesthood forever, (in reward) for that which he acted zealously for his G-d and he atoned for the Children of Israel.

Pinchos (Phinehas) averted a major desecration of G-d's Name by killing a perpetator, Zimri. Zimri sinned publicly with a Gentile woman in order to desensitize the people to such abominations. Pinchos' noble act stopped a plague that was decimating the Jews in punishment for the acts of Zimri and others who yielded to temptations. As a reward, he became a Cohen (priest).

This reward fit his act in a manner of measure for measure.

Many righteous people were incensed by Zimri's act. However, they were at a loss as to what to do in order to uphold the sanctity of G-d's Name. Pinchos, in effect, represented these people with his action. Because he took it upon himself to represent the people in their time of need, he merited the distinction of being appointed a Cohen and representing the people with Divine service.

(Sfas Emes - Itturei Torah)


L'Chanoch Mishpachas Hachanochy

"For Chanoch, the family HaChanochy."

The Torah prefixes the names of the Jewish families with the letter "Heh." Also, the Torah suffixes these names with the letter "Yud". Together, these letters spell Yud-Heh which is one of G-d's Names.

G-d surrounded His Name around the names of every family to indicate that they were worthy of great distinction. Everyone kept spousal loyalty and lived a totally pure family life in Egypt despite the influence of the immoral Egyptian society.

The question arises: Why were the letters of G-d's name placed around the families' names in reverse order, Heh at the beginning and Yud at the end? G-d’s name is Yud - Heh.

This can be explained in light of the following statement of the Sages.

"When a man and a woman dwell together (in harmony) the Divine presence is among them." That is, a holy union of a man and a woman invites the Divine Presence among them. This is indicated by the fact that the Hebrew word for "man" contains a "Yud" and the word for "woman" contains a "Heh" - together spelling the name of G-d Yud-Heh. Thus, the holiness of the man is represented by the letter "Yud" and the holiness of the woman is represented by the letter "Heh"

As indicated in various Midrashim, the Jewish woman in Egypt were more scrupulous than the men in upholding the sanctity of the Jewish families. Thus the letter "Heh" representing the women's role in preserving the holiness of the Jewish family is put before the "Yud," which represents the role of the man.

(Kli Yakar - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


"Asher Yaitzai Lifneihem Va'Asher Yavo Lifneihem Va'Asher Yotziaim Va'asher Yaiviyaim"

"That will go out before them and that will come before them and that will take them out and that will take them in" Moshe (Moses) prayed to Hashem that an able person be appointed to succeed him as leader of the Jews. Moshe asked for a person who "will go out before them and who will come before them." He sought a leader who is in front of the people, who sets forth his ideals and leads the people in the direction of those ideals. Such leader can expect to influence the people to grow in a path of self-improvement. This is in contrast to a leader who is behind the people, who is lost among them and is led by them to maintain his popularity. A leader who "will go out before them will be able to "take them out" of the various pitfalls that they may encounter. Such a person will also be able to "take them in" to an idealist way of life.

(Avnei Azel)


The Temple service of the "Nisuch Hamayim" (water libation) is alluded to in this week's Torah portion. This service was a highlight of the Succos holiday and the Jews rejoiced greatly each time it was performed. Water is a commodity that costs next to nothing and yet it was used for the service. This demonstrates that even an inexpensive resource can be used in the service of Hashem, even simple water. No matter how limited one's resources may be, he can always find a way to serve Hashem and demonstrating this belief contributed to the great rejoicing which accompanied the drawing of the water for the libations. The service reassured the people that even if their resources are limited, whatever way they find to serve Hashem would be graciously accepted.

(Darash Moshe)


B'Kano Ess Kinasi

"In his (acting) zealous(ly) with my zeal"

Rashi explains this verse to mean that Pinchos (Phinehas) performed the zealous act that Hashem would have performed. Although Hashem can do anything effortlessly, it is praiseworthy to do something that Hashem would have done. This is the point that Rashi is making about Pinchos' action. Such actions are especially praiseworthy since they demonstrate one's love for Hashem. When one shows that he wishes to "help" Hashem - even though he realizes that Hashem does not actually need his help - he shows how much he loves Hashem and wants to fulfill his will.

(Darash Moshe)


Tachas Asher Kinei LeElo-kav

"In the place (because) of that which he acted zealously for his g-d."

It is noteworthy that this verse refers to Hashem as "his (Pinchos') g-d", inferring that Pinchos had an exclusive relationship with Him. Since Hashem is the Master of the whole universe, He should have been referred to as the G-d of all. The fact that He is called "his G-d" indicates that Pinchos accepted the entire responsibility of defending Hashem's honor. He was unaffected by anyone else's inaction. Thus, he earned the honor that this verse accords him.

(Chomas Aish - Ma'ayana shel Torah)

Parshas Matos - Masei


Heichaltzu MeiItchem Anoshim LaTzava ViYihyu Al Midian Loses Nikmas Hashem BiMidian

"Arm from among you men for an army and they should be on Midian to put the revenge of Hashem in Midian."

The Jews waged war against Midian because the Midianites made a concerted effort to entice them to sin with Midianite women. The Midianites did this in order to diminish the holiness of the Jewish nation. The only motive for this war was to avenge Hashem's honor which the Midianites had desecrated by their immoral conduct. This point is indicated by the above verse. The word "Heichaltzu" which often means "to arm" can also mean "remove". The verse would then mean that the soldiers were to "remove" themselves from any personal motive which they may have had in attacking the Midianites. They proceeded into battle only to restore Hashem's glory by demonstrating that they would not tolerate those who led people to sin.

(S'fas Emes - Ma'ayana shel Torah)


Avodecha Nosu Ess Rosh Anshei HaMilchomo Ashe B'yodeinu V'Lo Nifkad Mimenu Ish VaNakrev Ess Korban Hashem

"Your servants counted the head of the warriors that were in our hands and not one of them was missing and we brought a sacrifice to Hashem."

This verse was stated by the heads of the Israelite army after the Children of Israel took revenge upon the Midianites for enticing them to sin with Midianite women. The Midrash relates that when they told Moshe that "not one of them was missing" they meant it in a spiritual sense as well. Not only were there no casualties on the Jewish side, there was also not a single soldier who was enticed to sin by the conniving Midianites.

The Midrash relates that Moshe then asked them, "Why then is this sacrifice being brought?" If indeed no one committed any sins, there would be no need to bring a burnt-offering. They responded "Although we were spared from sin, we were not altogether spared from sinful thoughts." Even thinking about lewd matters sullies one's soul and necessitates atonement.

It is interesting to note that the heads of the army did not come forth with their offering immediately upon returning from battle. They only came forth after Moshe taught them the laws regarding the purification of vessels that were used with unkosher food. The army heads saw an important concept demonstrated by the laws of kashering (rendering kosher) utensils. Traces of impurity are indeed signifacant. An unkosher pot must be purged with boiling water to remove any traces of the unkosher food's flavor, from within the walls of the pot, even if all of the food was scrubbed away. This indicates that even the minutest "residue" of sin - which is sinful thoughts - should be removed from one's soul when cleansing oneself, just as one must purge even the flavor of unkosher food's absorbed within the walls when koshering a vessel. (Chidushei HaRim Mayana shel Torah


Zos Chukass HaTorah

"This is the law of the Torah"

The Torah prefaces the laws of cleansing unkosher utensils with this statement "This is the law of the Torah" It would seem that there is something about cleansing unkosher utensils that is a fundamental issue to the whole Torah. What is this important lesson?

The laws of cleansing unkosher utensils demonstrate to us the fact that even if an individual is sullied by sin, he can always cleanse himself - just as an unkosher utensil may be cleansed. This is applicable to all the laws of the Torah. If someone transgresses any of the commandments, he can cleanse himself through repentance.

A corollary of the comparison of all the commandments of the Torah to the laws of cleansing utensils is based upon the fact that a utensil is cleansed through the same medium with which it became unkosher (e.g. a grill used over an open flame for unkosher meat is cleansed over an open flame.) This law illustrates the concept that a repentance must be made with the same fervor with which one did the sinful act.

(Darash Moshe)

"VaYomer Bnei Gad U'Vnei Reuven Ell Moshe Leimor Avodecha Yaasu Kaasher Adoni Mitzaveh"

"And the children of Gad and the children of Reuven said to Moshe as follows: Your servants will do as my (our) master commands"

The children of Gad and Reuven wished to settle in the Transjordan. They offered to accompany their brethren into the battle, and then return to their homes. Moshe accepted their request to settle in Transjordan on the condition that they fulfill their offer of joining their brethren in battle. They replied "Your servants will do as our master commands". This statement implies that Moshe commanded them to do something other than the actions prescribed by their own offer. At first glance Moshe seems to be merely reiterating their words. Moshe however adds two crucial words in his directions to them. He states "If you will arm yourselves before Hashem for battle" (Num 32:20). Moshe emphasized that the warriors from the tribes of Reuven and Gad must realize that they are fighting before Hashem. they must join the Jewish ranks to fight for Hashem' glory - not just out of loyalty to their brethren. They must conduct themselves in such a fashion. This is the additional command which they accepted upon themselves.

(Amshinover Rebbe)

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