" And Balaam Ben Beor, they (Israelites) killed with a sword." (31:8)
The Medyanites wished to fight the Israelites, but did not know how. Balaam advised them to use immorality as a weapon against the Israelites. Balaam knew that this would anger G-d, and cause the Israelites to have a down fall. G-d then commanded the Israelites to fight a war with the Medyanites. During this war, Balaam was killed by a sword. Why does the Torah have to inform us concerning the means by which Balaam was killed? Why is this important? I would like to propose the following original answer, Bezrat Hashem: However, before we do that , another question must be asked. How could Balaam advise the Medyanites on how to fight the Israelites? Wasn't he aware that he would be punished for such an act? Why would he endanger himself? In actuality, Balaam felt that he was far removed from sin in this regard. Firstly, he did not force the Medyanites to accept his advise, and even if they would follow his advise--the Israelites do not have to necessarily be tempted to sin. Balaam felt that there were too many factors that have to be met before the trail can be traced to him.Yet, the Torah tells us that he was surely mistaken in this regard. Balaam was definitely tainted. In this way, we can now begin to understand why Balaam was killed by the means of a sword.
Parashas Mattos/Masei – Know where you came from...
This week we have the final sedra in the book of Bamidbar which also happens to be a double sedra, and the longest leining in the whole Torah with 244 possukim.
Parashas Mattos kicks off with the first perek dealing with vows, oaths and the ability to annul them under certain conditions. What is the connection to what was mentioned in the previous chapter in Parashas Pinchas concerning the Yom-Tov offerings with this seemingly unconnected section on vowels and oaths, I hear you ask? This juxtaposition of pereks teaches us that whoever vows to offer a sacrifice is obligated to fulfil his promise and can not rashly take an oath or vow without the intention of fulfilling it, as it states in the Torah “he shall not desecrate his word, according to whatever comes from his mouth he shall do” [30:3]. The Midrash brings down three situations in which someone might find themselves making a vow or an oath; In order to do a teshuva for a sinful habit one may take a vow to strengthen his resolution against doing it, to pursue a mitzvah which has
The halachos of purifying vessels can be found in perek 31 of our sedra. The basic rule is that the purification process for any given vessel is the reversal of the way the vessel became impure in the first place. For example, if the vessel became impure via using it in contact with fire, it must be purified by fire. The Chofetz Chaim extended this idea to refer to the general purification process of Teshuva. For example, if one damaged their power of speech by speaking lashon hara then the way to remedy such a sin is to learn Torah, due to the oral expression of the words of Torah involved therein. Similarly, if one committed a sin with the fire of passion, then one should do Teshuva with a passion. Since Teshuva undoes the sin, then the form of Teshuva should match the way one committed the sin.
The title of our sedra is Mattos, and it refers to the tribes of Klal Yisrael (the pasuk itself is dealing with the heads of the tribes, but the word ‘mattos’ means ‘tribes’). Why is a tribe called a matteh in lashon hakodesh? Rav Feiner pointed out that the letters of the word matteh also spell ‘mittah,’ a bed. If two words in lashon hakodesh are similar, they must have a common theme; what does a tribe have to do with a bed? Moreover, the word ‘matteh’ also means a branch or stick (as in Moshe’s matteh). So what do a tribe, a branch, and a bed have to do with each other? The main use of a bed, says the gemarra (Shabbos), is the bonding between husband and wife in creating the next generation. In other words, a mittah represents continuity in the forming of the next generation. Similarly, a branch denotes an outgrowth of the trunk of the tree; a continuation of the main body. What all these ideas seem to point at is that the Jewish idea of tribes is that they are an outgrowth of the previous generation. The tribes take everything they have learnt from their ancestors, internalise and develop it, and pass it on to their offspring. A tribe is an offshoot. If a member of a tribe departs from the way of their ancestors then they have removed their label of being an offshoot and have decided to be a branch on their own. A true tribe member is one who values what has been passed down to him from previous generations.
There’s an issue in downtown parshas Mattos (perek 32) which has bothered me for quite a while, and I’d like to try and unravel it this week. The Bnei Yisrael, camping in Ever Hayarden (the eastern side of the River Jordan) are finally ready to enter Eretz Yisrael after forty years of meandering through the desert. Suddenly, the tribes of Reuven and Gad come forward and tell Moshe Rebeinu that they have a proposition for him. Due to their vast wealth in the form of cattle, these two tribes request to settle in Ever Hayarden as opposed to in Eretz Yisrael with the other tribes, for Ever Hayarden had better pasture for cattle-grazing purposes. What are these two tribes thinking; HaShem has finally led them to the brink of Eretz Yisrael, and they then ask Moshe for permission to live on the other side of the Jordan River solely due to their cattle?!? And to make matters even more perplexing, Moshe Rabeinu does not ‘go berserk’ at this idea (he doesn’t even seem to ask HaShem on this one); he is only worried that these two tribes will influence the rest of the Bnei Yisrael not to conquer the Land of Israel (32:7). Thus, when Reuven and Gad promise that they will join their brothers and fight to conquer Eretz Yisrael before they settle themselves in Ever Hayarden, Moshe accepts their request. Why did Moshe allow Reuven and Gad (and half of Menashe) to live in Every Hayarden; what happened to the end goal of living in Eretz Yisrael?
“Lo Yachel Devaroi, K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh”, do not profane your words; do as your mouth spoke.
The torah tells us that we must keep our word and not violate it. Rav Levi Yitzchok MiBerditchev in the Kedushas Levi makes a play on the words to explain how mortal people can perform miracles.
He reads the words as follows. If “Lo Yachel Devaroi”, you do not profane your words, then they will be holy and meaningful. Therefore, “K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” whatever comes out of your mouth will happen. This is the concept of “Tzadik Gozer, VHaKadosh Boruch Hu Mikayem”, a tzaddik decrees and Hashem makes it happen
When the war with Midyan was over and Moshe found out that they did not kill the women he became angry with Elozar because the women were the ones who caused Klal Yisroel to sin. The gemara Pesochim (66b) says that when a person becomes angry even if he is as wise as Moshe, his wisdom will leave him. Afterwards Elozar taught Bnei Yisroel Hilchos tevila since it was hidden from Moshe due to his anger.
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz points out that Moshe was perfectly correct in his assessment of the armies poor judgment and had every right to be angry. So why was he punished? He answers that Moshe was not punished. When anger overtakes a person the fact is that his wisdom leaves him. It is not a punishment it is the way things work. Therefore it makes absolutely no difference if the anger is justified or not.
Anger and wisdom just don't go together.