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אלה מסעי בני ישראל ... ויכתב משה את מוצאיהם למסעיהם על פי ד'

These are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael… Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem. (33:1,2)

The journeys of Klal Yisrael from the time they left Egypt until their arrival in the Holy Land are significant, since the Torah underscores them. The Torah only contains events that have importance for posterity. Moshe recorded these journeys by the word of Hashem, because (according to Rambam), in this way, the nation would remember the miraculous events which occurred in the wilderness for all time. Veritably, some of these miracles were clearly evident, such as the Clouds of Glory and the manna. As we all know only too well, however, memory fades, and doubters and skeptics are likely to…

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ויאמר בני גד ובני ראובן אל משה... עבדיך יעשו כאשר אדני מצוה ... עבדיך יעברו כל חלוץ צבא לפני ד' למלחמה כאשר אדני דבר

Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven said to Moshe… Your servants shall do as my lord commands… And your servants shall cross over, every armed person of the legion, before Hashem, to do battle, as my lord speaks. (32:25,27)

Moshe Rabbeinu exhorted Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven to assume their share of the battle of conquering Eretz Yisrael, concluding, “V’nichb’shah ha’aretz lifnei Hashem, v’achar tashuvu, “And the Land; shall be conquered before Hashem, and then you shall return” (ibid 32:22).  Chazal (Midrash) comment that Moshe’s statement, V’achar tashuvu, “And then you shall return,” was fulfilled b’m’lo muvan ha’milah, to the word. Every member of Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven returned home from the war and apportioning of the Land, a total of fourteen years.  Not a single one died, not even of natural causes! Tzaddik gozeir v’Hakadosh Boruch Hu…

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נקום נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים אחר תאסף אל עמיך

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

Hashem informed Moshe Rabbeinu that he would leave this world once Klal Yisrael destroyed Midyan. Then Klal Yisrael would be avenged. Once Klal Yisrael exacted vengeance, Moshe’s “work” (so to speak) would be complete. Although Moshe was acutely aware that once he completed this mitzvah he would die, he executed the vengeance with amazing alacrity. A mitzvah is a mitzvah, even if it meant that it would hasten his own demise. The Torah writes that the Jewish People waged war with Midyan, and they succeeded in killing all males. Among them was Bilaam ben Be’or, the pagan prophet who was…

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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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