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כל דבר אשר יבא באש תעבירו באש וטהר אך במי נדה ותחטא

Everything that comes into the fire – you shall pass through the fire, but it must be purified with the water of the sprinkling. (31:23)

The Torah discusses the laws of kashering utensils. Horav Chaim Volozhiner, zl, observes that the Torah’s concept of “clean” is quite different than the secular perspective. Take any utensil that has been washed/scrubbed and dried. It is now pristine. Indeed, it cannot be any cleaner. Yet, if within the last twenty-four hours it has been used to cook a piece of non-kosher meat, it is considered ritually treif. If one were to cook a piece of kosher, mehadrin min ha’mehadrin meat in this utensil, the meat is unquestionably treif. But is it clean? Yes, to the naked eye it appears…

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והנה קמתם תחת אבתיכם תרבות אנשים חטאים לספות עוד על חרון אף ד' אל ישראל. כי תשובן מאחריו ויסף עוד להניחו במדבר ושחתם לכל העם הזה

And behold you have risen up in the place of your fathers, a group of transgressors, to add to Hashem’s anger against Yisrael. For if you will turn away from Him, He will once again let them remain in the Wilderness, and you will destroy this entire nation. (32:14,15)

The Tribes of Reuven and Gad approached Moshe Rabbeinu with a unique request. It was not as if they did not care about Eretz Yisrael; it was just that, on the eastern side of the Yarden River, the newly-conquered land was extremely fertile. This would be a boon for the many livestock which they possessed. Thus, they hoped to be allowed to remain on eiver ha’Yarden, rather than move to Eretz Yisrael proper. They did not mean to be insolent. They were just being practical. Grass was more plentiful here. Why shlep to Eretz Yisrael, if what they needed for…

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לא יחל דברו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה

He shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth, he should do. (30:3)

The word of a Jew is sacred. He must stand behind his word. When a person does not keep his word, he is mechallel diburo, desecrates his word. Chillul is a strong term. We use the term chillul with regard to desecrating Hashem’s Name – chillul Hashem. Also, when a bas Kohen, daughter of a Kohen, acts in a morally profligate manner, the Torah writes, Es avihah hee mechalleles, “She desecrates her father” (Vayikra 21:9). Apparently, the sanctity of a Kohen, the sacredness of a person’s word, are of a similar nature to the sanctity of Hashem, in the sense…

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גדרת צאן נבנה למקננו וערים לטפנו

Pens for the flocks shall we build here for our livestock and cities for our small children. (32:16)

The response tendered by Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven, “we will build pens for our flock and (then) cities for our small children,” did not sit well with Moshe Rabbeinu. By prioritizing the needs of the flock before those of the children, they were implying that the sheep had greater significance in their eyes than the children. Moshe immediately corrected their attitude. It is difficult to believe that such holy individuals as Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven would have misplaced priorities. To prioritize sheep over children is to confuse one’s priorities in life. It is not imaginable that members of…

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ויסעו ממדבר סיני ויחנו בקברות התאוה

They journeyed from the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in Kivros HaTaavah. (33:16)

The yetzer hora, evil inclination, works overtime in its efforts to sway us to sin. Hashem has provided us with a panacea to help us circumvent/overcome the allure of the yetzer hora: Torah. Our Torah is the tavlin, antidote, to protect us from falling into the yetzer hora’s grasp. This is alluded to in our pasuk. Once Klal Yisrael leaves Sinai, meaning the Torah which was given at Har Sinai, they fall into the clutches of Kivros HaTaavah, graves of lust/desire. Passion, lust, desire, hate, envy, anger: all of these negative character traits destroy a person. One’s pursuit of passion,…

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כי בעיר מקלטו ישב עד מות הכהן הגדל

He shall dwell in it until the death of the Kohen Gadol. (35:28)

The Talmud Makkos 11a teaches that, since the fate of the rotzeach b’shogeg, unintentional murderer, was dependent upon the Kohen Gadol’s longevity, there was fear that the rotzeach would pray for the early demise of the Kohen Gadol. Once the Kohen Gadol died, the murderer would be free to leave the ir miklat, city of refuge. To circumvent their prayers, the mothers of the Kohanim Gedolim would furnish the murderers with food and clothing to keep them happy and satisfied, so that they would not pray for the death of their sons. Why did the Kohen Gadol not personally pray…

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נקם נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים

Take vengeance for the Bnei Yisrael… against the Midyanim. (31:2)

The Torah seems to underscore the number of soldiers involved in the war of vengeance against Midyan. It then makes a point to detail how much booty was taken after the war. Veritably, numbers do not seem to play a role in the parshios, other than the parshios which deal with the census of the Jewish nation. In this case, however, the size of the army and the amount of booty apparently maintain a significant position in the parsha. Horav Arye Leib Heyman, zl, suggests that the key to the role of numbers in the parsha is to be found…

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ויקצף משה על פקודי החיל...ויאמר אליהם משה החייתם כל נקבה

Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army…Moshe said to them, “Did you let every female live?” (31:14,15)

Moshe Rabbeinu was angry with the officers of his army for not following his orders. They spared the Midyanite women, despite their involvement in inciting the orgies which catalyzed the plague that brought death to so many Jews. Upon reading the pesukim, one may question why Moshe’s name is repeated in his rebuke. The Torah said that Moshe became angry. Obviously, he was the one rebuking the officers. Why did the Torah mention his name again? The commentators explain that Moshe did not immediately rebuke them out of anger. He waited a short while until his anger subsided and then…

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ויאיר בן מנשה הלך וילכד את חותיהם ויקרא אתהן חוות יאיר. ונבח הלך וילכד את קנת ואת בנתיה ויקרא לה נבח בשמו

Yair ben Menashe, went and conquered their villages and called them Chavos Yair. Novach went and conquered Kenas and its suburbs, and called it Novach after his own name. (32:41,42)

Yair had no children to carry on his name. Therefore, after conquering the villages, he named them after himself as a memorial. Everyone wants to be remembered. Indeed, after having lived a mortal life replete with many achievements, all that is left are memories – memories of the individual. He is gone, but his memory lives on. It is up to each and every one of us to decide, by the way we act, how we want to be remembered. Sadly, for some, when we wake up to this realization, it is too late. Novach also conquered villages. He, too,…

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החלצו מאתכם אנשים לצבא ויהיו על מדין לתת נקמת ד' במדין

Arm men from among yourselves for the legion that they be against Midyan that they may inflict Hashem’s vengeance against Midyan. (31:3)

When the Jewish army went into battle, it was unlike any other national army. Horav Mordechai Druk, Shlita, notes the apparent differences between our army and the armies of the nations of the world. Moshe Rabbeinu did not lead the Jewish army in a war of retribution against Midyan because he had benefitted from the land of Midyan years earlier when he escaped Egypt. Clearly, such a moral compass is unlikely to be found in any other nation: a leader to choose not to lead against a sworn enemy because he owes them hakoras hatov, a sense of gratitude, is…

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