Monthly Archives: 10 Elul 5775

Parshas Balak 5775

And the malach of Hashem stood in the path of vineyards with a fence on this side and a fence on that side. (Bamidbar 22/24)

Zera Shimshon asks why is it important for the Torah to mention that the Malach stood in a path of vineyards between two walls. Why wouldn’t it have been enough to say simply that the Malach stood on a path closed in by two walls?

He answers in light of the Medrash Rabah (Parshas Noach) that says that after Noach left the ark and planted a vineyard he met a female demon. She said to him, “Let’s be partners (in the vineyard). But be careful, she warned, because if you take from my portion I will strike and injure you.”

In other words the Medrash teaches us that vineyards and wine are not something simple but they have  two parts, one portion is kosher and the other one belongs to the Satan. Therefore when someone drinks wine he has to heed the advice that the female demon gave to Noach and be very careful not to “cross lines” and take from the “other” half.

According to this, Zera Shimshon explains, the reason that the Malach appeared to Billum in a vineyard was to allude to him that he is similar to a vineyard in that he also has two parts. One the one hand Hashem gave him prophecy but on the other hand there is an evil part of him that belongs to the Satan. The Malach, who was a Malach of Mercy, was warning him not to fall into the hands of Satan but to carry out the wishes of Hashem.

According to this, adds Zera Shimshon, we can also understand why the Malach appeared to Billum between two walls. It is to allude to him that he has to be very very careful to stay on the right side of the partnership in him and not to go to the side of the Satan.
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Parshas Chukkas 5775

 “This is the statute of the Torah which Hashem commanded, saying, Speak to Benei Yisroel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow (parah adumah), upon which no yoke was laid.” 

The Medrash comments, This is the meaning of the possuk “Who can take something clean from something that is unclean? Not One?” 

For instance, when a dead corpse is in a house then the house is  tommai. However, if you remove the corpse from the house then the house becomes tohor (spiritually clean). (The Medrash continues) We learnt that on the one hand even the clothes of whoever helps to prepare the parah adumah become tommai. However, on the other hand when we spritz it on a garment that was tommai, the garment becomes tohor! (The Medrash concludes) Hashem said that this is a choke (a mitzvo without a reason) that I decreed.”

Zera Shimshon asks why did the Medrash give these two specific halachos as examples of our inability to understand tumma and the purification power of parah adumah? Seemingly, the whole concept of tumma and parah adumah is way beyond our grasp and not only these two specific halachos!

He answers that the general concept of tumma and parah adumah is really understandable. Tumma is not only a halachic status of a corpse, a dead animal, a metzora (who person who has suffers from leprosy), etc. Rather, in the object that is tommai resides bodiless destructive spirits (mazikkim). When a person comes in contact with something that is tommai (or is even under the same roof with a corpse) these mazikkim cling to  him and he becomes tommai!

For instance, the Gemorra says that some great and holy sages  even SAW the “spirit of leprosy” sprouting from a person. The Arizal writes that the smell of a dead animal that was not halachically slaughtered damages a person’s nefesh

Therefore the Medrash understood that the general concept of transferring tumma is not a choke.

The same is with the ability of the parah adumah to purify. 

At the time of the giving of the Torah we were freed from all destructive forces like death and oppresion from foreign goverments. However when we sinned with the Golden Calf then these destructive forces returned. 

We are not, though, completely captive to them with no way to save ourselves. Whenever there is a huge surge of kedusha these forces “flee”. 

Rashi explains that just like a mother cleans up after her child so too the parah adumah, who is a mother cow, cleans up after her young child, the sin with the Golden Calf. In other words, the kedusha that emanates from the parah adumah causes mazikkim to flee and therefore the object becomes tohor!  This is how we can understand, explains Zera Shimshon, that the Cohan looked into the Bais HaMikdash when they shechted the parah adumah; it was in order to bring kedusha into the parah aduma in order that these mazikkim will go away.

According to this, the general ability of the parah adumah to make something pure is also not a choke but something understandable.

The Medrash therefore explains that there are two halachos that is above our understanding. If  the mazikkim reside on a dead corpse and attach themselves to anything underneath the same roof, why when we take the dead body out of the house the mazikkim also leave without any purifaction process.

The same goes with the parah adumah. Even though we can understand the tremendous kedusha in the parah aduma that drives away the mazikkim, how do we understand that this kedushah doesn’t protect the people and the clothes of the people who prepare the parah adumah from becoming tommai! It is these because of these two halachos that the Torah calls parah adumah a choke!
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