"When you kindle the lamps...." (8:2)
QUESTION: Rashi explains that the word "beha'alotecha" (literally "when you step up") is used because there was a ma'aleh — step — in front of the menorah on which the Kohen stood as he prepared the wicks and oil of the menorah.
The height of the menorah was only three amot, approximately five feet; why did Aharon need to stand on a step in order to reach the top of the menorah?
Aharon, as Kohen Gadol
, wore the tzitz
— head-plate — and according to halachah
it was forbidden for the Kohen Gadol
to raise his hands above it (Rambam, Nesi'at Kapayim
14:9). It was therefore necessary to have steps in front of the menorah
so that when the Kohen Gadol
would kindle the lights he would be able to do so without lifting his hands above the permitted height.
"When you kindle the lamps...." (8:2)
QUESTION: Rashi writes that the Kohen stood on a step "u'meitiv" — cleaned out the ashes and prepared wicks and oil for the kindling of the menorah. Why doesn't he say "u'madlik" — "and kindled"?
According to halachah, "Hadlakah kesheirah bezar"
— "even a non-Kohen
, may kindle the lamps, if the menorah
was brought outside" (Rambam, Be'at Hamikdash
9:7). However, preparing the wicks of the menorah
must be performed only by a Kohen
. Thus, Rashi uses the expression "meitiv"
— "prepared" — without saying that the Kohen
kindled the lamps.
King Shlomo says, "The soul of man is a candle of G-d (Proverbs 20:27). Every Jew must see to it that his candle shines brightly and also assure that another Jew's candle is lit. This is accomplished by studying Torah, doing mitzvot, and inspiring others to do likewise.
"Hadlakah kesheirah bezar" — every Jew must kindle the flame of his neshamah as well as the neshamah of another Jew but only a "kohen" — a true Jewish leader — is qualified to do "hatavah" — determine the authentic path of the Torah.
"Toward the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light." (8:2)
QUESTION: There is a "wondrous Midrash" that states in connection to this pasuk "Peitach devarecha ya'ir" — "Your opening words illuminate" (Psalms 119:130).
What is the meaning of this Midrash?
had seven branches, nine flowers, eleven knobs, and twenty-two cups, and according to the Gemara (Menachot
28b) it was eighteen tefachim
The Midrash by quoting the pasuk "your opening words illuminate" is alluding that the "opening words," i.e. the first pasuk of each of the five chumashim, have a connection to a part of the menorah.
The first pasuk of Bereishit contains seven words, corresponding to the seven branches of the menorah. The first pasuk of Shemot contains eleven words, which correspond to the eleven knobs of the menorah. The first pasuk of Vayikra has nine words, corresponding to the nine flowers. The first pasuk of Bamidbar has seventeen words, and counting the entire pasuk as one (known in gematria as "im hakolel"), corresponds to the height of the menorah. The first pasuk of Devarim has twenty-two words for the twenty-two cups of the menorah.
Alternatively, though the Gemara (Menachot 28b) says that the menorah was eighteen tefachim tall, it was actually only somewhat over seventeen. Thus the first pasuk of Bamidbar has one word for each full tefach of the menorah's height.
Alternatively, the first letters of the opening pasuk of each of the five chumashim (Bereishit, V'eileh, Vayikra, Vayedabeir, Eileh) add up to 21, which is also the numerical value of Hashem's holy name "Eheyeh" — "I shall be" (see Shemot 3:14).
This alludes that Torah, which is His divine and infinite wisdom, "shall be" the Eternal illuminating power.
"And Aharon did so; toward the face of the menorah he kindled its lamps, as G-d had commanded Moshe." (8:3)
QUESTION: Rashi explains that the Torah emphasizes that "Aharon did so" to declare Aharon's praise — "shelo shinah" — that he did not act differently.
Would anyone suspect that Aharon would deviate from Hashem's command?
Aharon, as Kohen Gadol
, kindled the menorah
the entire 40 years that the Mishkan
was in the wilderness. A person naturally does something the first time with more dedication and excitement than after he has done it for several years. In his praise, the Torah says that Aharon did not change: Even after kindling the menorah
for many years, he continued to do so with the same dedication, fervor, and excitement as the first time.
Alternatively, Aharon was an "oheiv shalom verodeif shalom" — "lover of peace and pursuer of peace" (Pirkei Avot 1:12) — and was therefore loved by every Jew. An ordinary citizen is often affable and involved with people and their needs. However, a person who is appointed to a high office may become conceited and distant.
Aharon's greatness is that even when he became Kohen Gadol, holding the second highest position in the Jewish community, "lo shinah" — he did not change toward his fellow man — he still remained the same "oheiv shalom verodeif shalom" — "lover and pursuer of peace."
"The Children of Israel shall make the Pesach-offering in its appointed time." (9:2)
QUESTION: Rashi writes that this chapter should have been placed at the beginning of Chumash Bamidbar. However, it was put here because it is a disgrace for the Jewish people that throughout the 40 years in the wilderness they offered only one Pesach-offering.
The bringing of Pesach-offering is contingent upon entering Eretz Yisrael (see Shemot 12:25, Rashi), and the one offered in the wilderness was by special command of Hashem. How was it a disgrace to not offer additional ones?
When Hashem commanded the Jews to prepare a Pesach-
offering, some people were defiled and unable to participate. They were eager to be included and came to Moshe complaining: "Lamah nigara"
— "Why should we be withheld" (lit. "diminished")" from participating in the sacrifice? (9:7) Moshe brought their plea before Hashem, and He gave a special dispensation. A second opportunity one month later would be given to those unable to participate in the first Pesach-
The Jews of Egypt were spared thanks to the blood of the Pesach-offering, which they smeared on their doorposts. Moreover, the Pesach-offering was instituted to commemorate the redemption from Egyptian bondage (Shemot 12:13, 27). Consequently, though Hashem only ordered one Pesach-offering to be prepared during the 40 years, it is a disgrace that the Jewish people did not come on their own with a heart-rending plea, "Though we are not yet in Eretz Yisrael, we want to offer the Pesach-offering to Hashem; why should we be withheld?!"
Alternatively, when the Jews left Egypt, they were slated to arrive in Eretz Yisrael after only a brief sojourn in the wilderness. Unfortunately, they were punished with 40 years in the wilderness for the incident of the spies. So it is true that except for this one Pesach-offering which Hashem commanded, the mitzvah was to commence after their entry into Eretz Yisrael. The parshah, however, brings out the disgrace of the Jewish people that their behavior prevented them from bringing a Pesach-offering for forty years until arriving in Eretz Yisrael.
"Speak to the Children of Israel, saying; 'If any man will become defiled by a corpse or on a distant journey... he shall make the Pesach-offering to G-d [on Pesach Sheini].' " (9:10)
QUESTION: To define "distant," the Gemara (Pesachim 93b) offers two opinions. Rabbi Akiva maintains that it refers to being from Modi'im and beyond (a suburb fifteen mil, approximately nine miles from Jerusalem, less than half-a-day's walk). Rabbi Eliezer says even if a person is from the threshold of the Sanctuary and beyond, he is considered as being distantly removed.
Why would being outside Modi'im, not to mention being near the Beit Hamikdash and just outside the threshold, place a person in the category of "far away"?
Our sages are talking of spiritual, not geographic distance.
The name "Modi'im" comes from the word "madah" — knowledge and learning. Rabbi Akiva felt that as long as a Jew is outside of "Modi'im" — lacking knowledge of Torah and the principles of Judaism — he is far removed from Hashem and his brethren, the Jewish people. Knowledge has always been the cornerstone of our religion, and learning is essential to our way of life. Bitter experience has taught us that wherever ignorance abides, Jewish loyalties and values decline.
Rabbi Eliezer does not disagree with Rabbi Akiva, but speaks of another Jew who is distant despite his knowledge. He has learned and knows much, but has become complacent and indifferent. While he may be a Yeshivah graduate, unfortunately, he is currently unobservant and does not attend a synagogue or arrange a Jewish education for his children. This person, thus, knows of the holiness of the Beit Hamikdash, but he is "outside the threshold" — he keeps his distance and refuses to come in.
The two cases are both "distant," but neither is without hope. Pesach Sheini teaches that even one who is outside of "Modi'im" — who lacks knowledge of our golden heritage, or who has become alienated and refuses to step over the threshold and come in — is welcome to start studying or return to Yiddishkeit and will happily be received as an honored and full-fledged member of our people.
"If a man will become defiled by a corpse or on a distant journey ... he shall make a Pesach-offering to G-d in the second month, on the fourteenth day." (9:10-11)
QUESTION: What is the message of Pesach Sheini for all generations?
The lesson derived from the second opportunity given to those who were unable to participate in the first Pesach-
offering is as follows: Each and every Jew, young and old, should always strive to perform Hashem's will. If there is some impediment to performing a mitzvah
at the first opportunity, we are always given a second chance. It is, in fact, never too late to make up something missed.
Pesach Sheini, thus, teaches "Es iz nita kein farfalen" — "Nothing is ever lost" — i.e. if one misses the first opportunity, it is not lost forever; there is always another chance. Even if one was "tamei" — "ritually impure" — or "bederech rechoka" — "far away" — and even in a case of lachem — deliberate impurity or alienation — nonetheless one can correct it.
QUESTION: Teshuvah is one of the fundamental mitzvot of the Torah. Why is it emphasized specifically in the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini?
The prophet (see Ezekiel 16) considers the emancipation from Egypt as the birth
of the Jewish people. When a Jew fails to properly observe Pesach
, he is lacking in his individual birth as a Jew and thus in his entire essence. Hence, the mitzvah
is alluded to in connection with Pesach Sheini
, for it gives a Jew the opportunity to restore himself to his original state as part of Hashem's people.
"According to the word of G-d the Children of Israel would journey, and according to the word of the G-d they would encamp." (9:18)
QUESTION: Why are the words "al pi Hashem" — "according to the word of G-d" — repeated six times over a span of five pesukim which discuss the journeying and encampment of the Jewish people?
This teaches us that it is imperative for a Jew to constantly state that his planned activities will take place "im yirtzeh Hashem"
— "G-d willing" — or "be'ezrat Hashem"
— "with G-d's help."
For instance, a traveler should say, "I am traveling be'ezrat Hashem on such and such a day and I hope to arrive there, im yirtzeh Hashem, on such and such a day." When he arrives he should say, "I arrived be'ezrat Hashem and hope to leave, im yirtzeh Hashem on such and such a day."
"Make for yourself two silver trumpets — make them hammered out." (10:2)
QUESTION: Why were the trumpets, the cheruvim on top of the Ark (Shemot 25:18), and the menorah (Shemot 25:31) all made "mikshah" — hammered out of one piece?
The word "mikshah"
stems from the word "kashah"
— "difficult." Hammering something out from one piece is quite difficult and laborious.
The cheruvim were images of children (see Shemot 25:18, Rashi). The menorah represents Torah and mitzvot, as stated: "For a mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). The trumpets were used to gather together and unite K'lal Yisrael.
Raising children successfully, progressing in Torah and mitzvot, and uniting K'lal Yisrael are all not easy tasks. On the contrary, each one is "kashah" — "very difficult" — and each requires "mikshah" — "hammering" — much laborious effort.
"If they sound a long blast with one, the leaders shall assemble to you, the heads of Israel's thousands." (10:4)
QUESTION: Why was one trumpet blast a signal to summon the heads of the tribes?
Though everybody agrees on the importance of achdut
— unity among the Jewish people — the means to accomplish it are often elusive. Unfortunately, many people preach unity, but every one wants it on his own terms. Therefore, the Torah advises "Ve'im be'achat yitka'u
— If the call of the hour will be achat
— to achieve unity — veno'adu eilecha hanesi'im
— the heads and leaders of the community should first work out their differences and achieve unity; automatically the rest of the community will follow suit."
"If they sound a long blast with one, the leaders shall assemble to you, the heads of Israel's thousands." (10:4)
QUESTION: Why were the leaders summoned with a trumpet?
Among the most difficult aspects of arranging a conference between leaders are the formalities as to who should be invited, who should be called first, the seating arrangement, etc. In order to avoid problems, the heads of the tribes were summoned together through the sounding of the trumpet. Thus, potential jealousy as to why one was called second and not first was eliminated.
"He said, 'Please do not forsake us... and you will be to us for eyes.' " (10:31)
QUESTION: How would Yitro become "eyes" to all the Jews?
Yitro was the High Priest of Midian, but he gave up all his glory and attached himself to Hashem and His Torah. After converting to Judaism, he considered returning to his homeland. His son-in-law, Moshe, urged him to travel together with the Jewish people and told him that he would be "le'einayim"
— "for eyes" — i.e. an eye opener and a living example for the Jews.
Thanks to him, the Jewish people would see the truth and learn a very important lesson: "If Yitro gave up everything for the sake of Hashem, all the more so should we who benefited immensely from Hashem be dedicated to Him and His Torah."
"And it came to pass when the Ark set forward... Return, O G-d, to the myriad of thousands of Israel" (10:35-36)
QUESTION: Why are there nunin hakufin — inverted "nuns" — setting off the two verses of "vayehi binso'a"?
In Aramaic the word "nun"
means fish (see Onkelos 11:5). The life of a fish depends in a large measure on its ability to swim upstream. If it permits itself to be swept along by the current of the rapids or the tide, it will be scuttled and squashed. It is only because Hashem has endowed the fish with the precious instinct of self-preservation, whereby it is able to swim upstream against the current, that it can survive and increase.
Jews have been compared to fish. Our forefather Yaakov blessed his children that "veyidgu larov bekerev ha'aretz" — "and may they increase abundantly like fish in the midst of the earth." His intent was that just as live fish swim against the tide, so his children should swim upstream and resist the temptation to take the easy way of going with the tide of fads and crazes which lead to the dissolution of our teachings and the scuttling of our people.
The message of the nunin hakufin — "inverted nuns" — in connection with "vayehi binso'a ha'Aron" is that to travel with the holy Ark a Jew must be ready to go against the tide and proudly stand resolute in his convictions.
"When the Ark would journey... Return, O G-d, to the myriad of thousand of Israel." (10:35-36)
QUESTION: In the Torah these two pesukim are set off by inverted nunim before and after. Why is the top of the nun written facing forward and the bottom reversed ()?
4b) says that the reason the prayer of Ashrei
contains a pasuk
starting with each letter of the alef-beit
except for the letter nun
is that the letter nun
— "falling down." In order not to allude to the Jewish people, G-d forbid, falling down, there is no pasuk
starting with the letter nun
King Shlomo says, "My Beloved is like a gazelle" (Song of Songs 2:9). The Targum (8:2), explains that Hashem is compared to a deer, which sleeps with one eye open and always looks backwards when it is running. Likewise, even when it appears that Hashem is, G-d forbid, "sleeping" and not attending to the needs of the Jewish people, or when it seems that, G-d forbid, He is "running away" from the Jewish people, He (like a deer), does not turn his back entirely on them.
According to the Gemara (Shabbat 115b) the pesukim of "vayehi binso'a" should really have been at in the beginning of Chumash Bamidbar, where the Torah discusses the formation of the tribes when they encamped and traveled. However, it was placed here to make an interruption, so that the iniquities committed by the Jewish people should not be recorded in succession.
The "nun" with the top facing forward, and the bottom backward at the end of the recording of one misconduct of the Jewish people and the same type of "nun" at the beginning of the recording of another misconduct of the Jewish people indicates that even when the Jews have fallen from their heights and Hashem, G-d forbid, "turns His back on them" it is not a full turn around; He still "looks back" protectively at His beloved Jewish people.
"And it came to pass when the Ark set forward... Return, O G-d, to the myriad of thousands of Israel" (10:35-36)
QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Shabbat 115b) these pesukim really belong with the discussion of the tribal formation in the beginning of Bamidbar. They were placed here to make an interruption in order not record the sins of the Jewish people in succession.
Why in addition, are they marked off by nunin hakufin — inverted "nuns"?
When Hashem offered the Torah to the Jewish people they immediately responded with two words each starting with a nun
: "Na'aseh venishma"
— "We will do and we listen (study)." Though logically they should have said "N
a'aseh" — "We will study and afterwards when we understand it we will do" — they reversed the order of the "nunin" ("nunin hakufin")
to emphasize that preeminent in their relationship with Hashem was "Kabbalat ol malchut shamayim"
— absolute submission to the yoke of Hashem.
The pesukim before "Vayehi binso'a" relate how the Jews rebelled against Hashem and left the mountain of Hashem disrespectfully. The pesukim afterwards relate how they began murmuring against Hashem. How was such behavior possible? Obviously they had forgotten about the nunin hakufin — the reverse nunin of "Na'aseh venishma" — with which they themselves stressed the importance of kabbalat ol — acceptance of the Heavenly yoke.
"We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt gratis, the cucumbers and the melons." (11:5)
QUESTION: The Egyptians were very unsympathetic to their Jewish slaves and did not even give them straw required to make the bricks (Shemot 5:7). Did they give them free fish?
In Egypt it rained very little and the country would rely on the Nile river for irrigation. When the water would rise and flow into the fields, it would contain fish, and when the water would subside, the fish remained on the ground. Thus, the Jewish slaves who worked the fields for their masters would take home fish together with vegetables from the fields.
"But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all; we have nothing but the manna to look to." (11:6)
QUESTION: The manna tasted like cake fried in honey (Shemot 16:31), and one could experience any taste his palate desired (Yoma 75a). Why did they complain?
(ibid.) says that the manna was delivered to three different places, and in three different forms. A righteous person (tzaddik)
would open his door and find it at the entrance to his tent. An intermediate person (beinoni)
would have to leave the camp to find his portion, and a wicked person (rasha)
would have to go a great distance.
Additionally, the tzaddik's portion was in the form of a finished loaf of bread. The beinoni's was prepared dough but not baked, and the rasha's was raw matter which had to be ground in the mill, and afterwards cooked or baked.
Thus, every morning when the people went out for their portions of manna, it was obvious who was a tzaddik, beinoni or rasha. The people who complained against the manna were the wicked (see Rashi 11:1). They pretended to be dissatisfied with its taste although they were really disgruntled at having their true identity revealed. They thus wanted to "have their cake and eat it" — to have a tzaddik's portion and thus appear to be tzaddikim while still living frivolous and sinful lives.
"Two men remained behind in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the second was Meidad." (11:26)
QUESTION: Who were Eldad and Meidad?
According to one opinion they were maternal brothers of Moshe and Aharon. When Pharaoh decreed that the Jewish children be drowned, Amram saw no purpose in remaining married and divorced Yocheved. She then married Elitzafan, son of Parnach, and gave birth to Eldad and Meidad. Encouraged by Miriam, Amram afterwards remarried Yocheved, and she bore Moshe (see Sotah
According to another opinion, Eldad was really Avidan ben Gidoni, the nasi of the tribe of Binyamin, and Meidad was Kemu'el ben Shiftan, the nasi of the tribe of Ephraim (34:21-24). They were among the 72 people from whom Moshe was to select a Sanhedrin. The 70 members of the Sanhedrin died in the wilderness, but Eldad and Meidad merited to enter Eretz Yisrael.
There is an opinion that they were paternal brothers of Moshe. Included in the relationships the Torah forbids is a nephew marrying an aunt (Vayikra 18:12). Thus, when the Torah was given, Amram divorced Yocheved since she was his father's sister (Shemot 6:20), and he married another woman who gave birth to two sons, Eldad and Meidad.
A difficulty some raise with this opinion is that the Torah was given in the third month after the exodus from Egypt and the episode of Eldad and Meidad took place in the second year after the exodus; consequently, they were less that one year old?!
To answer this difficulty we must say that Amram's separation from Yocheved was indeed due to the prohibition against marrying an aunt, however; it took place long before the actual giving of Torah. He did it upon learning prophetically that Torah would eventually forbid marriage to an aunt, or when Moshe told him that Torah would forbid such marriages.
"Two men remained behind in the camp; the name of one was "Eldad" and the name of the second was "Meidad," and the spirit rested upon them; they had been among the recorded ones, but they had not come out to the Tent, and they prophesied in the camp." (11:26)
QUESTION: Rashi writes that their prophesy was that, "Moshe meit veYehoshua machnis" — "Moshe will die and Yehoshua will bring the Jewish people into the land of Israel."
The Torah does not say specifically what their prophecy was; how does Rashi derive it?
Moshe, as a little baby, was rescued from the waters by Batya the daughter of Pharaoh. Not knowing what his name was, she called him "Moshe" saying, "Ki min hamayim meshitihu"
— "For I drew him from the water" (Shemot
2:10). Superficially, instead of saying, "min hamayim"
— "from the water" she could have eliminated two letters (nun
) by saying "mimayim meshitihu."
However, because the word "mimayim"
is an acronym for Moshe meit Yehoshua machnit
and she did not want this to happen, she intentionally said "min hamayin"
instead of "mimayim."
In describing the activities of Eldad and Meidad, the final word of the pasuk — "bamachaneh" — "in the camp" — is superfluous, since it already says in the beginning of the pasuk, "Two men remained behind — 'bamachaneh' — 'in the camp.' "
The word "machaneh" — "camp" — can be divided into two words, mach and neh. The word mach is an abbreviation for the word "mechikah," which means "erase," and the nun and hei are the two extra letters in Batya's expression "min hamayim" (compared to "mimayim"). Thus, the Torah is saying, "vayitnabu" — "they prophesied — 'bamachaneh' — regarding the erasing of the letters 'nun' and 'hay' from Batya's statement — leaving just 'mimayim,' which indicates that 'Moshe meit veYehoshua machnis' — 'Moshe will die and Yehoshua will bring the people into the land of Israel.' "
"Eldad and Meidad are prophesying in the camp." (11:27)
QUESTION: The Gemara (Megillah 18a) states that in Eretz Yisrael there was a saying "Mila besela, mishtoka betrein" — "A word is worth a sela (a Talmudic currency), and silence is worth two."
What is the connection between this saying and the prophesy of Eldad and Meidad?
Eldad and Meidad were prophesying that Moshe would die and Yehoshua would bring the Jewish people into Eretz Yisrael
. Moshe did not merit to enter Eretz Yisrael
because when there was need for water and he was commanded by Hashem "Vedibartem el hasela"
— "Speak to the rock that it shall give its waters" (20:8) — he hit it with his staff instead, thereby preventing a sanctification of Hashem.
Now, the word "sela" is not just a name of currency, but also the Hebrew word for "rock." Thus, "Mila besela" — if Moshe would have spoken to the rock — "mishtoka betrein" — the two people, Eldad and Meidad, would have been silent.
Alternatively, Hashem instructed Moshe to speak to the rock that it should give its waters. He merely had to approach the rock and pronounce to it the word "mayim" — "water" — and there would have been abundant water for the entire community. However, he disobeyed and struck the rock twice.
Hence, "mila besela" — had he only spoken one word to the rock — "mishtoka betrein" — the double striking would have been silenced, i.e. avoided.
"And [Yehoshua] said, 'My lord Moshe, imprison them!' " (11:28)
QUESTION: It is forbidden for a student to address his Rebbe by name. Some permit it when not in the presence of the Rebbe if it is preceded by a title such as "Rebbe" or "Mori." In his presence, however, it is absolutely forbidden (Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Dei'ah 242:15, Shach). Why did Yehoshua violate this halachah?
There are different opinions in the Gemara (Megillah
13a) and Yalkut Shimoni (Shemot
146) as to what name Amram and Yocheved gave to their newborn child. All agree that it was not "Moshe." The name "Moshe" was given to him by Pharaoh's daughter when she drew him out of the water. Since it was not his true name, Yehoshua was permitted to use it to address his Rebbe.
There is an opinion (see Yalkut Mei'am Lo'eiz, Shemot 2:10) that it was actually Yocheved who called him "Moshe." Nevertheless, Yehoshua did not violate halachah for the following reason:
Grammatically she should have named him "Mashui" — "drawn out" — instead of "Moshe." She named him "Moshe" because of the special connotations of the name: The numerical value of this name (Moshe = 345) was the same as "Keil Sha-dai" to indicate that A.lmighty G-d would speak to him and Moshe would be His messenger to "draw" the Jews out of Egypt.
Also, the letters of the name (Moshe) when fully spelled out — mem-shin-hei — have the numerical value of 450, the same as the word "luchot" — "Tablets" — referring, of course, to the Tablets of the Ten Commandments that Moshe would be given on Mt. Sinai to convey to the Jewish people.
According to Tosafot Yeshanim (Yoma 87a) a student may address his Rebbe by a name which is not his real one but rather a title of distinction. Consequently, since he should have been called "Mashui" and she called him "Moshe" merely as an allusion to the spiritual heights he would achieve, it was permissible for his student to address him by it, particularly when he prefaced it with the title "Adoni" — "my lord."
"The people rose up all that day and all the night and all the next day, and gathered up the quail — the one with the least gathered in ten heaps." (11:32)
QUESTION: How did "the ones with the least" manage to acquire "ten heaps"?
The wind brought the quails from the sea, dropping them around the perimeter of the camp (11:31). The Israelite camp was three parsah
54b). A parsah
is equal to 4 mil
is approximately 3160 feet), and according to the Gemara (Pesachim
94a) an average person is able to walk ten parsah
— 40 mil
— during a twelve-hour day (approximately 126,000 feet — 24 miles).
Consequently, the amount one gathered depended on where one lived. One who lived close to the boundaries of the camp could go back and forth many times and gather a great deal. Those who lived further in could not go back and forth as many times and thus ended up with a lesser portion of quail. The ones who lived in the middle of the camp, then, were "the ones who gathered the least."
The quails were gathered for a day, a night, and the following day. Thus, for the ones who lived in the middle of the camp (1 1/2 parsah away from its boundary) each trip back and forth totaled three parsah — and in a 36-hour period the distance could be covered ten times. Consequently, they were among those who gathered the least and succeeded in bringing home only ten heaps — one heap per trip.
"The man Moshe was exceedingly humble." (12:3)
QUESTION: Why is the world "anav" spelled without a yud?
The final words respectively of the five Chumashim
are beMitzrayim, ma'aseihem, Sinai, Yericho, Yisrael
. The last letter of each of these words together add up to one hundred and twenty-six, which is also the numerical value of the word "anav"
without a yud
The Torah is telling us that though Moshe knew the entire Torah till the very last letter; nevertheless, he was not conceited, and he remained forever "the humblest of all people."
Alternatively, when there was no water and the people quarreled with Moshe, Hashem told him to gather them together and speak to the rock to give its waters. Moshe and Aharon gathered the entire congregation before the rock and said to them, "Listen now, you rebels, from this rock notzi lachem mayim — shall we bring forth water for you?" (20:10) Water from a rock is an exceptional miracle; thus, instead of taking the credit for themselves and saying "notzi" — "shall we bring forth" — they should have said "yotzi" — "He [Hashem] will bring forth."
Hashem conducts Himself with man "middah keneged middah" — "measure for measure" — and punishes in a way that resembles the offense. Since Moshe omitted the yud, which would have alluded to Hashem; in describing his humility, Hashem also omitted the yud.
When Moshe struck the rock instead of speaking to it, the Torah says, "Vayarem Moshe et yado vayach et hasela benateihu" — "Moshe lifted his hand and struck the rock with his staff." (20:11) Superficially, instead of saying, "he lifted yado — his hand" — it should have said, "he lifted mateihu — his staff."
Possibly, the Torah is alluding to the abovementioned that Moshe instead of saying "notzi" — "we" — i.e. himself and Aharon, should have said "yotzi" with a "yud" which would mean "He" — i.e. Hashem. Since he did not do so, "vayerem Moshe et yado" — Moshe caused "yado" — his yud — to be "lifted" — i.e. omitted — when Hashem described his humility.
"The man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." (12:3)
QUESTION: The words "mikol ha'adam asher al penei ha'adamah" — "more than any person on the face of the earth" — seem superfluous. It would be sufficient to say that he was the most humble of all men?
Moshe was the only mortal who went up to Heaven and spoke directly to Hashem. However, comparing himself to all men upon the face of the earth, he concluded that he had absolutely no reason to be conceited.
Moshe said to himself, "Although there are many people upon the earth living as righteously as I do, none of them have had my unique advantage of going up to Heaven and speaking to G-d 'face to face.' Therefore, it is likely that among the tzaddikim I am the least intrinsically righteous and that the others are all holier than I am."
Thus, in addition to telling us of Moshe's humility, the Torah is also explaining how he attained it. He derived it "mikol ha'adam asher al penei ha'adama" — by comparing himself to all people on the face of the earth.
"The man Moshe was exceedingly humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." (12:3)
QUESTION: The word "ha'adam" — "person" — seems superfluous?
In the Torah there were three people who excelled in humility. Avraham said: "ve'anochi afar va'eifer"
— "I am but dust and ashes" (Bereishit
18:27). King David said: "ve'anochi tola'at velo ish"
— "I am only a worm and not a man" (Psalms 22:7). Moshe said of himself: "venachnu mah"
— "What are we [we are nothing]" (Shemot
The first letters of the names "Avraham," "David" and "Moshe" spell the word "Adam." Thus, the Torah is telling us that Moshe was the humblest of the three.
"Not so is My servant Moshe; in My entire house he is trusted." (12:7)
QUESTION: Obviously this does not mean that Moshe was an honest servant who did not steal any valuables from his master's house. What then was his unique trustworthiness?
King Shlomo says: "Vene'eman ruach mechaseh davar"
— "A trustworthy person does not disclose secrets" (Proverbs 11:13). Moshe had a close relationship to Hashem and through his prophetic ability he had future knowledge about many Jews. However, Moshe was trustworthy and did not disclose anything without Hashem's permission.
"The cloud had departed from atop the Tent, and behold Miriam was leprous, as white as snow." (12:10)
QUESTION: What is the connection between the removal of the cloud and Miriam's leprosy?
There are certain conditions that must be met before a person can be declared a leper. Since it is necessary to ascertain the precise color of the leprosy, the Mishnah (Nega'im
2:2) says: "Ein ro'im hanega'im beyom hame'unan"
— "The decision regarding leprosy cannot be made on a cloudy day" — because it is difficult to distinguish between different shades of the color white, not all of which are impure.
It was therefore necessary to remove the hovering cloud, and only then, in plain daylight, were they able to see that Miriam was stricken with leprosy.
"And behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow." (12:10)
QUESTION: The Gemara (Zevachim 101b) asks who declared Miriam a leper since Moshe was disqualified as a non-Kohen and Aharon as a relative.
Why does the Gemara not disqualify both Moshe and Aharon as relatives?
After the Jews received the Torah at Sinai, there was a movement of "complainers." The Torah relates, "Moshe heard the people weeping in their family groups," which Rashi explains to mean that they wept because they were frustrated by the family laws that forbade marriages among relatives (11:10).
At the time of the giving of the Torah, the people were considered new converts to the Jewish religion (see Yevamot 46a), and a convert is like a newborn child (ibid. 22a). Thus, there no longer existed any past relationships, and the Torah regulation forbidding certain relatives to marry did not affect them, so why were they upset?
The rule that a convert is considered like a newborn child only applies to a voluntary conversion and not when one is converted by force. Hence, while it is true that at Sinai Hashem converted the Jews to become His people, He first lifted the mountain over them, forcing them to accept it. Consequently, though all the people became converts, they were not considered as newly born, and their previous relationships were not canceled.
The only exception was Moshe, who was on the mountain together with Hashem. Since he was not forced, he was considered a newborn, and all previous relationships no longer existed. Therefore, the Gemara says that Moshe was disqualified because he was not a Kohen, and not because he was related to Miriam.
"Let her not be like a corpse, like one who leaves his mother's womb with half his flesh consumed!" (12:12)
QUESTION: How was Miriam comparable to a corpse and in what sense was half her flesh consumed?
When Pharaoh issued the decree to drown the Jewish children, Amram divorced his wife Yocheved and she married Elitzafan, the son of Parnach. Through this marriage Eldad and Meidad were born, making them maternal brothers of Aharon and Moshe (see Targum Yonathan ben Uziel
Eldad and Meidad prophesied in the camp that, "Moshe meit — Moshe will die — and Yehoshua will lead the people into Eretz Yisrael." Yehoshua heard it and said, "My lord Moshe, imprison them" (11:28). Moshe, however, remained calm and did not take any offense. On the contrary, he forgave them and expressed the wish that the entire people be prophets.
Aharon said to Moshe, "Al na tehi — let our sister Miriam not be worse than Eldad and Meidad who prophesied kameit — your death — and yet merited your forgiveness. Asher betzeito meirechem imo' — each of them emerged from your mother's womb — and had they been punished, vayei'acheil chatzi besaro — only half of your flesh would have been consumed — since they are only your half-brothers. How much more should you have compassion upon Miriam, who is your full sister, and pray that Hashem heal her."
"Moshe cried out to G-d, saying, 'Please, G-d, heal her now.' " (12:13)
QUESTION: Why didn't Moshe mention the name of the stricken person (Miriam) and her mother (Yocheved), as is customary when praying for a sick person?
The words "refa na"
have the numerical value of 332, which is exactly the same numerical value as the names "Miriam" and "Yocheved" combined.
Actually the Gemara (Berachot 34a) derives from here that it is not necessary to mention the name of a sick person when praying for his recovery, however the Pri Chadash (Orach Chaim 119:1) writes that this means only that it is not obligatory.
Yet, Moshe did not mention her name outright, because the Yalkut Reuveini in the beginning of Parshat Vayeira writes that the reason it says "Vayeira ailav Hashem' — "and G-d appeared to him" instead of "and G-d appeared to Abraham" is that when the sick person is in great pain, his name should not be mentioned at all. Thus, Moshe wanting to satisfy all opinions alluded to her name in his prayers without mentioning it clearly.