Category Archives: Bamidbar

Parshas Mattos

It is written in this week’s Haftorah, “What wrongdoings did your forefathers see in Me that they distanced themselves from Me..”
Zera Shimshon asks why did Hashem mention that the reason that the Jewish Nation “distanced themselves” from Hashem (i.e. stopped keeping His mitzvos) was because they thought that Hashem did some wrongdoing? Why didn’t He just rebuke them  that they distanced themselves from Him?
He explains in light of a very interesting ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Daya 236/6).  The Shulchan Aruch rules that two people who make an agreement between each other, and one of them breaks the agreement then the other one is automatically exempt from his commitment.
For instance, a man and a lady swore that they would marry each other by a certain date. When that date arrived one of the parties willfully ignored the agreement and simply didn’t show up. Since one of the parties didn’t “keep their part of the bargain” then the other party is exempt from the agreement and is allowed to get married to someone else. However, the one who didn’t keep the agreement is still bound by the oath and cannot marry someone else.
This is only until the other person didn’t get married to someone else. After the second party married someone else, since now they didn’t “keep their part of the bargain”,  then the one who broke the agreement is also annulled from the oath.
There is a covenant between the Jewish Nation and Hashem. The Jewish Nation swore to keep all of Hashem’s mitzvos and not to worship avodah zarah. Correspondingly, Hashem swore to the Jewish Nation that He would never abandon them and that He won’t exchange them for another nation.
According to this Zera Shimshon explains the above possuk from the Haftorah.
When Hashem saw the Jewish Nation leave the Torah way and worship Avodah Zara He asked them “What wrongdoings did you see in Me”. Meaning, if I would have abandoned you and not kept My part of the covenant, then I would understand why you worshipped avodah zarah (in accordance to the above ruling of the Shulchan Aruch). If this was the case Hashem would not have rebuked them.
However Hashem said that He blessed our forefathers. And even after we didn’t fulfill our part of the covenant and we worshipped avodah zarah and you didn’t keep Hashem’s commandments in Mitzrayim, He continued to keep His promise and He gave us great riches when He took us out of Mitzrayim.
Only after Hashem mentioned that He never broke the covenant with us was He able to rebuke the Jewish Nation for their breach of the covenant and distancing themselves from Him!

Parshas Mattos 5775

 On the possuk “Take revenge for Bnei Yisroel from the Midyanim….” the Medrash Tanchuma  comments, “Our teachers asked, ‘How many times do we sound the Shofar Erev Shabbos to remind the people to stop working?’ (The Medrash answers) ‘Three times…. What is the reason for this? Because Shabbos is sanctified with the sounding of the Shofar!”

Zera Shimshon asks why does the Medrash mention the halacha of sounding the Shofar Erev Shabbos in connection with the mitzvo to wage war against Midyan? How are they connected?

To answer this question he first explains that this war against Midyan was permitted to be initiated even on Shabbos. (He explains the source for this is, as Rashi points out, the original commandment to attack the Midyanim (written in last week’s Parsha), is not written in the imperative form but rather in the continuous present form. From this we learn that this mitzvah is constant-even on Shabbos.)

This, however, has to be understand. Halachakly there are two types of wars, each one with its own halachos. There is an obligatory war (milchemes mitzvo) which is permitted to be initiated on Shabbos. There is also a voluntary war (milchemes reshoos) that not only is it ossur to start it on Shabbos but it is ossur to start it even 3 days before Shabbos!

According to this, he asks, if this war is considered an obligatory war, why did the Torah write the mitzvo in the unusual continuous present form? Even if it was written in the common imperative form we would know that the war “overrides” Shabbos, just like all obligatory wars!

And if it is considered a voluntary war it is also difficult to understand; why is it different than other voluntary wars that are prohibited to start on Shabbos?

He explains that even though Bnei Yisroel were commanded to wage are against  Midyan, it is not considered like an obligatory war that must be fought right away since Moshe’s death is connected with it. However it was different than other voluntary wars. The Shach on the Torah writes that we really didn’t need weapons for this war. It was fought supernaturally. We only took weapons to give the Midyanim the impression that we will  fight a conventional war but in actually the war was fought by itself. (The Sha’ch brings a few sources to proof this point). 

The Bais Yosef in hilchos Shabbos explains that the reason for the prohibition to fight a war on Shabbos (or three days before) is that it will disturb our oneg Shabbos

This being so, posits Zera Shimshon, the prohibition only applies to other wars that are fought conventionally when there is fear of being hurt or killed. However, since this war against Midyan was fought supernaturally and there was no reason to worry and therefore it is permitted even on Shabbos!

However, according to this, why did they bring the chatzrossos (shofars) with them into the war? The main purpose of the chatzrossos was in order to davven to Hashem when they are afraid. But if they were totally calm (and therefore were permitted to fight even on Shabbos) why did they need to bring the chatrossos?

This question, concludes the Zera Shimshon is what bothered the Medrash Tanchuma; Why did they need to bring the chatzrossos

The Medrash answers that they were NOT needed for the same reason that they are needed in other wars; to sound it when they were scared and to davven to Hashem. Rather they were  needed in order to warn the people that even though that it was permitted to wage war on Shabbos other melachos (work) that are not connected to the war were still prohibited!
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