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Parshas Massei – Overview and Life Lessons

by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

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This Parsha sheet was written l’ilui nishmos the three murdered Yeshiva students: Gilad Michael ben Ophir, Yaacov Naftali ben Avraham, and Eyal ben Uriel, HY”D.

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Parshas Massei

This Sidrah has 8 sections (Parshios)

1. Travels – This last Sidrah of Sefer BaMidbar ends with the listings of the travels that Klal Yisroel made under Moshe and Aharon. Moshe Rabbeinu wrote them down. They left Raamses (0) on the 15th of Nissan. They camped at Sukkos (1). Then Aisam (2), Migdol (3), and then crossed the Red Sea and camped at Marah (4). Then Ailim (5), near the Yam Suf (6), Midbar Seen (7), Dafkah (8), Alush (9), Refidim (10), Midbar Sinai (11), Kivros HaTaavah (12), Chatzeiros (13), Rismah (14), Rimon Peretz (15), Livna (16), Risa (17), K’hailasa (18), Har Shafer (19), Charada (20), Makhailos (21), Sachas (22), Tarach (23), Miskah (24), Chashmonah (25), Mosairos (26), Bnei Yaakan (27), Chor HaGidgad (28), Yatvasa (29), Avronah (30), Etzion Gever (31), Kadaish (32), Hor Hahar (33). Aharon died there on thefirst of Av.

Why was Risma (place # 14) called by that name? Rashi explains that is is named after the Broom Tree -Ratema raetem – on account of the fact that they spoke Lashon Hara there. Lashon Hara is similar to the coals of the Broom tree. Just as coals are still hot inside even though they appear to be extinguished from the outside – so too is Lason HaRah. It appears harmless on the outside, but is in reality quite damaging. We learn two things from here. The effect of imagery in the expression of words and the terrible consequences of Lashon HaRah.

2. Latter Travels – the Cnaani king of Arad heard Bnei Yisroel arriving. They left Hor Hahar and camped in Tzalmonah (34), then Punon (35), Ovos (36), Iyei HaAvarim near Moav (37), Divon Gad (38), Almon (39), Avarim Mountains before Nevo (40), and then Arvos Moav on the Jordan (41).

What did the king of Arad hear? He heard that they no longer had the protective clouds after the death of Aharon and thus thought to attack. The Maharal explains that Aharon’s whole life was dedicated to connecting Klal Yisroel to Hashem in Heaven – thus it was appropriate that the clouds came in Aharon’s merit. This mission of Aharon is one we should emulate.

3. Inheriting Eretz Yisroel – Hashem told Moshe to tell them that when they cross they must drive everyone out, destroy the stones, metal idols, and altars. You will distribute it by lottery. If you don’t drive them out, they will be thorns in your sides, and I will do to you what I had planned for them.

The discussion of the lottery in the middle seems out of place. The Kli Yakar explains that there were two concerns: 1] that the Bnei Yisroel would leave the removal of the evil inhabitants to someone else and it wouldn’t be done (as ultimately happened see 1st half of Sefer Shoftim) and 2] that each would choose the easiest place to live. The lottery addressed these concerns in that each was assigned a section to take responsibility for. The Torah here teaches a fundamental of management – assign ultimate responsibility.

4. Boundaries of Eretz Yisroel – Hashem tells Moshe to instruct Bnei Yisroel as to the boundaries of Eretz Yisroel called HaAretz C’naan. On the South the border will be in the Tzin Desert along Edom until the Dead Sea. The western border will be the Mediterranean Sea. The Northern border will from the Mediterranean to Hor Hahar. Then further points. The Eastern border is a line from Chatzar Ainan to Shefam and more points.

Rashi is bothered by the extra letter Hay in the word HaAretz. He writes that the Torah does this occasionally. The Yonas Eilim, however, explains that Eretz Yisroel, on account of its holiness, demands extra Hachna’ah – deference. When one is in the King’s palace – one needs to be particularly exacting in His protocols. Thus we gain more appreciation for Eretz Yisroel because of its other name – the Land of deference [ to Hashem].

5. New Leadership – Hashem tells Moshe to appoint along with Eliezer and Yehoshua, new leaders for each tribe to oversee the inheritance of the land of Israel. Yehudah’s leader was Calaiv. Binyomin’s was Elidad Ben Kislon. Ephraim’s was K’muel Ben Shiftan.

The Midrash Tanchuma explains that Elidad and K’muel were Eldad and Maidad. They alone among the z’kainim merited to enter Eretz Yisroel. Why? Because when Moshe was called to choose the elders they, in their humility, stepped backward. We see how rewarding humility truly is.

6. Cities of the Leviim – The Bnei Yisroel are told to give the Leviim cities and areas outside their cities for their animals. This is aside from the refuge cities.

Why were the refuge cities taken from the cities of the Leviim? The Kli Yakar explains that people have a tendency to be territorial and the accidental murderers would feel like strangers – out of place. The Leviim, however, also have no land. We see from here that the Torah was concerned about the feelings of accidental killers. Certainly we should be sensitive to the feelings of others.

7. Irei Miklat – The leviim will have six refuge cities for careless killers. The family members of the victim may pursue and kill the careless killer of their relative until he reaches the city of refuge. He remains there until the death of the Kohain Gadol, at which point he may go back home. Purposeful murderers must be tried by the court.

Why is the release of the killer dependent upon the death of the Kohain Gadol? The Rambam and Rabbeinu Bachya explain that the death of the Kohain Gadol is a national tragedy, and in that national tragedy the anger of the relatives will no longer burn so strongly. We see from here, to what degree the entire nation took national tragedies to heart. This is a good thing that we must emulate.

8. Keeping the Property in the Family – The Bnei Menashe descendants of Yoseph came before Moshe and said that if Tzlafchad’s daughters marry another tribe – the land they inherited will forever be lost to the tribe of Yoseph. Moshe responded that they could marry members of their own tribe. They did.

The Meforshim ask why it is that only Bnos Tzlafchad are mentioned regarding this problem. Weren’t there other families that only had daughters? The Tzror HaMor answers that the Bnos Tzlafchad had remarkable love of Eretz Yisroel. Because of this, they merited that every member of Klal Yisroel was running after them to marry them. This caused the heads of the tribe of Menashe to be concerned about the inheritance of their tribe. We see from this Tzror HaMor, the tremendous reward for love of Eretz Yisroel – something that we should all carefully cultivate.

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Posted by on July 25, 2014. Filed under Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.