Hatarat N'darim is a rare example of a mitzva that is considered Torah law, although there is no clear supporting text in the Written Word. The Mishna in Chagiga assures us that Hatarat N'darim is no less a Torah concept because of the lack of a written source. This is but another in a long series of demonstrations of the absolute inseparableness of the Written Word and the Oral Torah.
[P>] G-d next commands Moshe to do battle against Midyan, and then to prepare
to die. Moshe drafts 1000 men from each tribe for the task.
Pinchas is sent as "chaplain". The 12,000 strong army succeeded in killing all male Midyanites including 5 kings and Bil'am. The women, children, herds, flocks, and possessions of Midyan were taken as booty. The cities and palaces were destroyed. The army returned to the Israelite camp at Arvot Moav.
Note: There is confusion among commentaries as to whether the tribe of Levi sent a contingent to fight this war or not. If they did, did Menashe and Efrayim combine as the tribe of Yosef, thereby keeping the total number at 12000, or were there actually 13000 who fought. Levi's probable involvement is due to the fact that the war was NOT for the purpose of conquest of territory; had it been, Levi would not be directly involved. If so, Menashe and Efrayim probably fought as the tribe of Yosef.
[S>] Elazar HaKohen sets down the laws of purification of vessels. Many of the
details of "kashering" and "toveling" of vessels are derived from here.
And then the half that went to the people is itemized. A tax of 1/50 (the standard amount for T'ruma) is imposed upon the people. These taxes were turned over to Elazar HaKohen. Detailed itemization takes up many more p'sukim.
The officers approach Moshe with more gifts of gold in thanks to G-d for not losing even one person in battle.
[S>] They then requested permission to settle on the east bank of the Jordan
River, Moshe's initial reaction is intense anger, fearing that the request of
the two tribes would discourage the People of Israel from wanting to proceed
into the Land, repeating the experience of the "spies" of almost 40 years
[SDT] In addition to the main "dressing down" that Moshe gives Reuven and Gad, there is a more subtle rebuke on another issue. The tribes offer to build corrals for their flocks and homes for their children. Later, when Moshe gives them permission to establish themselves on the east bank, he tells them to build homes for their children and accommodations for their animals. Your children go first. Then your property.
[P>] Moshe's response is the administration of an oath (many details of the proper form of "conditions" are derived from this famous oath of the 2½ tribes) agreeing to the request to settle on the east side of the Jordan iff (if and only if) the 2½ tribes fight side by side with the others.
The Torah describes the cities that the 2½ tribes established to settle their families and flocks prior to their crossing the Jordan.
Perhaps the seemingly unnecessary details give us the message that we are
dealing with part of Eretz Yisrael, and not just something extraterritorial.
...to Tzalmona to Punon to Ovot to I'yei HaAvarim to Divon Gad to Almon Divlataima to Harei HaAvarim to Arvot Moav.
G’matriya of RAAMSES = 430, the number of years from the original prophecy to Avraham Avinu in the BRIT BEIN HA'B'TARIM until the EXODUS (as in Sh'mot 12:40-41).
The first stop out of Raamses is SUKKOT, G'matriya = 480, the number of years from the Exodus until the building of the First Beit HaMikdash - the arrival of the People EL HAMENUCHA V'EL HANACHALA (D'varim 12:9). So just the first leg of the wandering represents (numeri- cally) the major first (and second) leg of the journey of Jewish History.
SUKKOT, says the Baal HaTurim, got its name from the Heavenly Clouds that began their “jobs” there.
MIDBAR SIN got an extra YUD and became SINAI to mark the fact that the ASERET HADIBROT were given there. - Baal HaTurim
The Midrash says that it was at ALUSH that the People first received the Manna and where we spent our very first Shabbat. The Manna was given to the People of Israel in the merit of our mother Sarah, who was asked by Avraham to knead and bake cakes for the angels/guests. Her enthusiastic providing of food for others was repaid by G-d, Who provided food for Sarah's children more than 400 years later. The name ALUSH is a play on the word "I will knead".
RITMA was the place from which the spies were sent, and therefore the place where the decree to wander the wilderness was pronounced. One can imagine a qualitative difference in the mental attitude during the first 14 encampments as compared to those following Ritma.
CHASHMONA was the 25th resting place of the People. Centuries later, there was a resting (from battle) on the 25th (of Kislev). The people through whom G-d wrought the miracles of Chanuka were the Chashmona'im. This is considered one of the "hints" to Chanuka from the Torah.
Rashi points out that with 14 places before the decree to wander, and with 8 places in the final year, there were only 20 places that the People moved to and from in 38 years or so. That is not really all that much. G-d was merciful with the People even as He was punishing them.
Part of the mitzva, explains the Ramban, is that the people of Israel may not shun G-d’s gift and promise and go conquer and settle elsewhere. Jews who live anywhere in the world outside of Israel should always remember their “stranger in a strange land” status. Adopting someplace else as your own and removing Israel from your personal agenda, seems to contravene the spirit (and maybe the letter) of this mitzva.
[P>] The boundaries of the Land are detailed. These boundaries are now for the 9½ tribes, since Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe have claimed their allotments on the East Bank.
Read the description of the boundaries of the land that is being given by G-d to the Jewish People. To the Jewish People. To the Jewish People. (No, not a typo - emphasis.) To us. Unlike the identity of many of the encampments, we know where these boundaries are. Eretz Yisrael for the Jewish People goes at least (see next paragraph) from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. The Torah does not seem to indicate that parts of the Promise Land should become a foreign state.
In G-d's original promise to Avraham Avinu, the land to be given to his descendants was to be "from the Egyptian River until the great river, P'rat". The boundaries described in this week's sedra contain a territory significantly smaller than that which was promised. Our Sages tell us that the original promise includes territory to be added to Eretz Yisrael in the future, in the times of the Moshiach.
SDT Note that the first 3 tribes mentioned do not have the word NASI (leader) mentioned - the others all do. One commentary suggests that it was unnecessary to identify Calev b. Yefuneh as a leader - that is well- known. The tribe of Shimon does not deserve to have a leader with the title NASI because of the Zimri affair. Binyamin's leader was Eldad (here called Elidad - according to the Baal HaTurim, the extra YUD represents Prophecy, which has 10 different names), a person who already had the higher title of Prophet.
[P>] The previous parsha was left unmarked by mistake. It is a parsha p’tucha. So is the next parsha.
[P>] Following the general plans for dividing the Land, the People are instructed to provide cities for the Leviyim [408,A183], since they, the Leviyim, do not receive Land as inheritance. The cities and their surrounding areas number 48, including the 6 cities of refuge.
Note that the measure of 2000 amot as "city limit" was subsequently borrowed by the Sages in fixing the distance outside the dwelling place that a person may walk on Shabbat, known as T'CHUM SHABBAT.
Rashi points out that there were three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan River, even though in the western case, they would serve 9½ tribes and in the eastern case, they would serve 2½ tribes. An inference is drawn that there would be more careless homicides on the eastern side of the river.
These cities, to be given by the tribes to the Leviyim, were given proportional to the populations of the tribes.
It is forbidden to kill a murderer until he stands trial and is found guilty [409,L292].
The inadvertent killer is sent - or he flees - to a city of refuge [410,A225]. The Torah presents guidelines for defining murder and inadvertent killing and sets down some of the court procedures, such as the prohibition of a witness also acting as judge in a criminal case [411,L291]. We are also warned not to permit substitute punishments for a murderer [412, L296] and the inadvertent killer [413, L295]. Strict adherence to all rules of justice assure us continued "quality living" in Eretz Yisrael, accompanied by the Divine Presence.
Why does the Torah feel, so to speak, that it must reinforce (if that is what 412 and 413 are doing) these two areas of court-mitzvot?
The answer can be illustrated by the absurd story of the Wise Men of Chelm who were about to convict the town’s tailor to a term of imprisonment when someone raised the question of who would do the tailoring in the town during his absence. After due deliberation, the Wise Men decided to send one of the town’s two shoemakers to prison instead of the tailor. This way, the different needs of the townsfolk would be seen to and “justice” would be served, as well.
Although we see the absurdity in that whimsical story, the following scenario is much less absurd. A city’s leading surgeon was playing golf (no doubt on a Wednesday) in Caesaria. He missed a crucial putt and in utter frustration, he throws his putter high in the air. It falls right on an onlooker’s head and kills him instantly. The golfer-doctor is brought before a Beit Din (23 judges, remember) and after thorough examina- tion of the witnesses, it is determined that the good doctor is a ROTZEI’ACH B’SHOGEG, an inadvertent, but contrib- utorily negligent, killer. The “proper” procedure according to the Law of the Torah is to send the doctor to a City of Refuge until the death of the Kohein Gadol. The mayor and city council members approach the judges and express their great concern. The doctor has a world-famous reputation for his skill as a surgeon. So much so, that the doctor has been a tremendous asset to the city, drawing patients and their families to the city from all over Israel and the world. The city would lose a good deal of prestige, not to mention financial income if they lose the doctor.
Okay, how about this. He was responsible for the death of another human being. He didn’t kill him on purpose, but he was reckless. And he must be punished. So I suggest, says the mayor with the backing of most council members, that we put the doctor under house arrest right here in our city. We’ll provide him with an apartment on the grounds of the hospital and we will further require him to donate his fees from surgery to charity.
Logical. Reasonable. Very tempting. After all, he won’t get away free for what he did. He will be punished. But in a way that will benefit the city, rather than hurt it. So why not?
Mitzva 413 is WHY NOT. G-d, so to speak, anticipated these temptations to be a little self-servingly “flexible”. No go. There are discretionary powers given to our human courts, but not this time. We don’t have the whole picture; only G-d does. We might not understand to effect of specific punishments and procedures on the soul of the person. But the soul is involved, and we are forbidden to tamper with matters that we cannot understand. This is part of why the Torah has to command the court these “extra” mitzvot. The Torah calls the laws of IR MIKLAT (City of Refuge), CHUKAT-MISHPAT. Part common sense, part unexplained (and partially unexplainable) command of the King.
[P>] Leaders of the family of Menashe to which the daughters of Zelofchad belong, approach Moshe and raise the problem of potential erosion of their tribal allotment if Zelofchad's daughters marry outside their tribe, taking their land with them. Moshe issues a ruling restricting them from marrying outside their tribe. This is not a law in perpetuity; it applies only in this case. In compliance, Machla, Tirza, Chogla, Milka, and No'a marry Menashe-ites.
The Book of BaMidbar ends with the statement, "These are the Mitzvot and the
Laws that G-d commanded Moshe to (transmit to) Bnei Yisrael, in Arvot Mo'av on
the Jordan (Jericho) River."
Haftara - 28 p'sukim - Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4, (4:1-2)