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נקם נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים אחר תאסף אל עמיך

Take vengeance for Bnei Yisrael against the Midyanim; afterward, you will be gathered to your people. (31:2)

Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 22:2) teach that, had Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to remain in this world for an extended period, he could have just taken his time in carrying out Hashem’s instructions that he take revenge against the Midyanim. Hashem had stressed that (only) after Moshe had dealt with the Midyanim would he leave this world. Moshe Rabbeinu responded immediately, however, appointing an army and its leadership to go forth to battle. Chazal (22:6) draw a distinction between Moshe and Yehoshua. When Yehoshua, Moshe’s successor, fought against the thirty-one kings, the war took a long time, as Yehoshua took his time…

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לא יחל דברו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה

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

Rashi defines Lo yacheil d’varo, “He shall not profane his word.” While he does not necessarily profane his word, the mere fact that he does not use his G-d-given speech/word for a purpose imbued with sanctity is considered profanity. When a person uses his G-d-given speech, it should be elevating, sanctifying, complimentary, obligating himself in higher, more consecrating endeavors. Even a mundane conversation which wastes time that could have been used to improve and enlighten is, by omission, a form of profaning. If we want Hashem to listen to our words, we must see to it that they have value…

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נקם נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים ... וישלח אתם משה אלף למטה

Take vengeance for Bnei Yisrael against the Midyanim… Moshe sent them a thousand from each tribe. (31:2,6)

Moshe Rabbeinu was the paradigm of a baal ha’koras ha’tov, one who acknowledges his debt of gratitude and repays it at his earliest convenience.  This is the definition that applies to everyone.  Moshe is not everyone.  He lived by a bar whose standards were much higher.  When Hashem instructed Moshe to initiate the ten plagues that debilitated Egyptian life, he respectfully bowed out from being the vehicle to strike both the water (Nile River, to transform it into blood and to bring up the frogs) and the ground (to bring about the plague of lice).  For both he had a…

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נקם נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים

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

The Torah is commanding Klal Yisrael to initiate a campaign of vengeance against the Midyanim, in order to put a stop to their pernicious influence on the Jewish people. Noticeably, the Torah uses strong language in issuing this command: Take vengeance. The Midyanim sent their young women to pervert the Jewish men. This action provoked a zealous and violent response by Pinchas. Klal Yisrael, as a nation, had never previously retaliated when subjected to physical aggression. We fought back, but never acted in vengeance. We acted passively, withdrawing from the fray. We neither seek — nor approve of — violent…

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הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבונים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם

Provide for yourselves distinguished men, who are wise, understanding and well-known to your tribes, and I shall appoint them as your heads. (1:13)

Rashi notes that the word v’asimeim; and I shall appoint, is spelled missing a yud; thus, it reads v’ashmam, their guilt.  This teaches that the moral and ethical failings of the people are the fault of their judges, who should have reproved them when they sinned.  If the “class” is unruly due to a lack of discipline, the first address for blame is the teacher.  First and foremost, a leader must realize that he is not a private person.  He is held responsible not only for his sins, but also for the sins of the people that he leads.  While…

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איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם

How can I carry alone your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (1:12)

Rashi derives from the word masaachem, your burdens, that the people were apikorsim, heretics.  They were skeptics who did not believe in their leaders.  Thus, they questioned the motives of everything that Moshe Rabbeinu did.  If he left his home early, they asserted that there was trouble at home.  If he left late, they claimed that he was busy seeking ways to take advantage or hurt them.  They were bogged down with suspicion.  Nothing was good enough for them.  They had jaundiced misgivings and perspective about everyone who helped them.  This is a masa, burden.  Apparently, Rashi feels that an…

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איכה אשא לבדי טרחכם ומשאכם וריבכם

How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? (1:12)

Moshe Rabbeinu laments the nation’s behavior.  In describing his leadership, he uses the word, essa, carry. This teaches that a leader leads by carrying his flock on his shoulders.  They are not a separate entity removed from him, following him wherever he leads them.  The leader carries them upon his shoulders.  They go where he goes, because he is taking them.  Sometimes, the “weight” becomes too heavy.  Carrying one on his shoulder is a metaphor for accepting responsibility.  A leader does not dole out the blame for something gone wrong on others.  The leader steps up to the plate and…

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ויעל אהרן הכהן אל הר ההר על פי ד' וימת שם

Aharon HaKohen went up to Har HaHar at the word of Hashem and died there. (33:38)

As believing Jews, we adhere to the concept of Hashgachah Pratis, Divine Providence, which means: The world’s continued existence is directly/solely dependent upon the ratzon Hashem, will of G-d. Once a man creates an entity, the creation becomes a separate entity, apart from its creator. Veritably, he created it, but now, it exists in its own right. Furthermore, each individual creation often gains control over its creator. While human beings have within them the power and capability to be creative, to unleash forces or to combine them, they are unable to control their creations or bridle the forces they have…

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וד' יסלח לה כי הניא אביה אתה

And Hashem will forgive her, for her father had restrained her. (30:6)

The implication is that the girl sinned, and, as a result, she requires Hashem’s forgiveness; but if her father had revoked her nedarim, what prohibition did she transgress? This applies to a girl who was unaware that her nedarim had been revoked, and, despite being bound by neder (in her mind), she violated its terms. In actuality, she did not sin, but she certainly acted inappropriately, thus mandating for herself some form of repentance. Chazal compare this to one who meant to eat ham and instead ended up eating kosher meat. Technically, he did not sin, but his intention was…

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וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות... לא יחל דברו בכל היוצא מפיו יעשה

Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes… He shall not desecrate his words; according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do. (30:2,3)

The Tiferes Shlomo suggests that the root of matos is yateh, to turn. The roshei ha’mattos are the leaders of the people who have the ability to turn the hearts of the people toward a positive trajectory. The Torah commands them to guard and commit to whatever exits their mouths. In other words, they should not speak from “both sides of their mouths,” saying one thing and personally doing another. They must be consistent in personally adhering to what they expect of the people. Only then will they earn the respect to have the ability to be mateh, turn, the…

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