By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
This Sidrah has 35 sections (parshiyos).
1. The Reward for Pinchas. Pinchas turns Hashem’s anger away from Klal Yisrael. He is given the B’ris of Peace. The Kehunah will always be his and his descendants’. The names of those who were “struck” were Zimri and Kozbi.
Why does it say the names of “those who were struck” instead of saying “killed by Pinchas”? The Zohar explains that since Pinchas is now elevated to a permanent status of Kehunah, it is not proper to mention “killing” together with his name. This seems strange because the pesukim clearly tell us of the incident immediately beforehand. We see from here the power of words—even voicing something that is already known has an effect on our perception of the holiness of Kehunah. Words can be very powerful—both as a positive and negative force. This is an important lesson.
2. The Commandment to Attack Midyan. Hashem tells Moshe to “abhor” (tzaror) and “strike” the Midyanim because of their plot to cause Klal Yisrael to stumble with Baal Peor and with Kozbi the daughter of Prince Tzur. She was killed on the day of the plague.
Why does it say both “abhor” and “strike”? The Baal HaTurim explains that the commandment to strike was for Klal Yisrael. Moshe was not permitted to do so because he had grown up in Midyan. We see here how far hakaras ha’tov must go. Even if they deserve punishment, Moshe or anyone who received good from them should not be the instrument of the striking. This applies to us as well.
3. Counting Klal Yisrael and Shevet Reuven. Hashem told Moshe and Elazar to count Bnei Yisrael from ages 20 and up. For Reuven, they totaled 43,730; Shimon 22,200; Gad 40,500; Yehudah 76,500; Yissachar 64,300; Zevulun 60,500; Menasheh 52,700; Ephraim 32,500; Binyomin 45,600; Dan 64,400; Asher 53,400; and Naftali 45,400. Total 601,730.
Of all the shevatim, only Reuven, Shimon, and Zevulun have the Divine letters of yud and hey attached to their names. Why only them and not the other tribes (although the subfamilies also have it)? The Chezkuni answers that Hashem had previously either severely censored or maltreated them. Reuven with his father’s bed, Shimon with Zimri, and Zevulun because he had to do business all the time. On account of this, Hashem felt it necessary to go the extra yard for them. We can learn much from this.
15. Dividing the Land. Hashem instructs Moshe to divide it as an inheritance, the larger groups getting the larger inheritance and the smaller getting smaller inheritances. It shall be done through a lottery system.
The meforshim explain the various understandings of the inherent fairness of the division of the land. The Seforno, however, understands that the smaller family groups did get smaller parcels of land. However, they were apportioned the land of a better quality where the land yielded more produce. All this so that Klal Yisrael will see the inherent precision and calculations that Hashem makes for everyone’s benefit.
16. Counting the Levi’im. The Levi’im from one month and up totaled 23,000. They weren’t given land so their counting was separate.
Why were the Levi’im counted at this point? There was no need, as they were not receiving land. The Ramban explains that it was for the honor of the “King’s Legion”—the men who study Hashem’s Torah—so that they are not treated any less than any other member of Klal Yisrael. From this Ramban the following principle emerges: A shidduch was once proposed to a wealthy businessman’s son. He inquired what the girl’s father does. When the answer was that he was a rebbe in a cheder, the businessman should have jumped on it just like he would have if her father had been a businessman—if not more.
17. Tzlafchad’s Daughters. Tzlafchad’s daughters, Machla, Noa, Chagla, Milka, and Tirtza, approached Moshe and Elazar and stood before him asking, “Our father died in the Midbar, didn’t partake in the rebellion, and had no sons. Why shouldn’t he get an inheritance for his family?” Moshe asked Hashem.
Why does it say both “approached Moshe” and “stood before” him? The Ohr HaChaim explains that before they disturbed Moshe, they group-analyzed it first. We see how precious it is not to waste other people’s time—especially that of a great person such as Moshe.
18. Inheritance for Daughters. Hashem answered that they are correct and should get their father’s inheritance alongside their uncles. Hashem then enumerates the laws of inheritance. No son, it goes to the daughter. No daughter, it goes to his brothers. No brothers, it goes to his father’s brothers. No paternal uncles, it goes to closest family on paternal side.
Why was there a need to say that they were correct? The Abarbanel explains that Moshe wished to argue their case. Hashem responded that they argued well enough on their own. We see here that we should take the time to point out effective and competent work whenever possible.
19. Moshe Prepares for His Own Death. Hashem tells Moshe to arise on the mountain, see the land, and be gathered unto his nation, like his brother Aharon. This was because they did not sanctify Hashem’s Name. They, “Heim,” are the waters of Merivas Kadesh.
Why does it say the extra word “Heim”—“they”? Rashi explains that the pasuk is teaching us that this was Aharon and Moshe’s only aveirah. We see from here that when Hashem is chastising Moshe, he is softening the blow by saying that was “your only sin.” It is important to soften the blow and show how much you respect the person when giving mussar.
20. Yehoshua to Replace Moshe. Moshe asks Hashem, “Elokei HaRuchos,” to appoint someone. Hashem says to take Yehoshua and let Klal Yisrael see you appoint him. Give him some of your radiance. Moshe did all this.
Why does it say Elokei HaRuchos, an expression we do not find elsewhere? Rashi explains that Moshe was so concerned about Klal Yisrael that he asked of Hashem to appoint someone who will be tolerant and patient of all different types of people. We see from here two things: The love of a true leader of Klal Yisrael and how very important patience is, especially in leaders and teachers.
21. The Korban Tamid. Two each of one-year-old male sheep. One in morning and one in the afternoon.
22. The Korban Mussaf for Shabbos. On Shabbos, an extra two each of one-year-old male sheep.
23. The Korban for Rosh Chodesh. Two bulls, one ram, seven sheep.
24. The Korban for Pesach. On 15 Nissan, eat matzos for seven days. Two bulls, one ram, seven sheep. No melachah permitted on first and seventh days.
25. The Korban for Shavuos. Bring the new grain offering. No melachah. Two bulls, one ram, seven sheep.
26. The Korban for Rosh Hashanah. No melachah. Blow the shofar. One bull, one ram, seven sheep.
27. The Korban for Yom Kippur. Fast on 10 Tishrei and do no melachah. One bull, one ram, seven sheep.
28. The Korban for Sukkos. 13 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
29. The 2nd Day of Sukkos. 12 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
30. The Third Day of Sukkos. 11 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
31. The Fourth Day of Sukkos. 10 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
32. The Fifth Day of Sukkos. 9 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
33. The Sixth Day of Sukkos. 8 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
34. The Seventh Day of Sukkos. 7 bulls, 2 rams, and 14 sheep.
35. The Korban for Shmini Atzeres. 1 bull, 1 ram, and 14 sheep.
All of the above had a chat’as goat as well as the minchah (wheat offering) and libations (wine offering). v
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.
This week’s lesson was prepared as a z’chus for the three murdered yeshiva students: Gilad Michael ben Ophir, Yaakov Naftali ben Avraham, and Eyal ben Uriel, Hy’d.