by Fred Toczek
A survey of parsha thoughts from Gedolei
Yisroel compiled by Fred Toczek. Perfect for printing and
use at your Shabbos tisch.
A. Vows to Hashem. A vow (either positive [e.g., to give
charity] or negative [e.g., to abstain from a certain
act]) was binding. A vow could be annulled in certain
B. Attack on the Midianites. 12,000 Israelite warriors
(i.e., 1,000 from each tribe), accompanied by Pinchas,
attacked the Midianites, slaying every male Midianite
(including Bilam and the five kings of Midian). The
women, children, cattle and other possessions of the
Midianites were taken as spoils, although Moshe
reprimanded them for keeping the women (who were the
cause of the plague on the Jews) alive. The soldiers,
unclean by contact with the dead, were required to stay
outside the camp for seven days to undergo a purification
ceremony. All of their garments and utensils were
cleansed per Elazar's instructions. Spoils were divided
equally between the warriors on the one hand, and entire
congregation on the other hand. The soldiers contributed
1/50th of their spoils to the Levi'im and, thankful that
they didn't suffer even one casualty, made an additional
free-will offering to the Mishkon.
C. Reuven and Gad's Request. The tribes of Reuven and
Gad, who had large herds of cattle, asked permission to
settle in the pasture land of Gilad (on the east of the
Jordan). Moshe at first disapproved of this plan, fearing
that the other tribes might lose heart if these two
tribes stayed behind during the conquest of Canaan.
However, when Reuven and Gad promised that they intended
to join the fight while their families remained in Gilad,
Moshe agreed (charging Yehoshua with making sure that
they kept their promise, failing which they would forfeit
any claim to settle in Gilad).
II. Divrei Torah
A. Lil'Mode Ulilamed (Rabbi Mordechai Katz)
1. Keeping your word.
The Parsha discusses the laws of
vows respecting voluntary service to Hashem or one's
fellow man. Koheles teaches that "it is better for
one not to vow at all than for him to vow and then not
fulfill". This certainly has practical application
-- if we make a promise to Hashem or to another person,
we must be careful not to go back on our own word. The
same is equally true of pledges we make to ourselves.
2. Priorities. When Reuven and Gad assured Moshe that
they would join the battle to conquer Canaan, they told
him "we'll build sheepfolds for our cattle and
cities for our children here, but we will be armed to go
before the Children of Israel until we have brought them
to their place". While Moshe was pleased with their
intention to join the other tribes in battle, he saw
disturbing signs in their priorities -- they mentioned
the building of homes for their cattle before homes for
their children. Thus, Moshe instructed them to
"build your cities for your little ones, and [then]
folds for your sheep", reminding them that the
well-being of one's children must come before the
well-being of one's material possessions.
B. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A.L. Scheinbaum)
Priorities. As noted above, the material desires of
the tribes of Reuven and Gad (i.e., to reside in the
pasture land of Gilad) led them to be the first tribes to
be exiled. We must be careful not to place our material
pursuits above Torah, Torah education and our families.
C. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
Your good deeds are an everlasting spiritual monument.
"And Novach captured Kenas and its surrounding
villages and he called it Novach after his name".
Rashi cites Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan that this means that
Novach's name didn't last. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh
said that this teaches us an important principle --
monuments of statutes and buildings named after a person
can be modified or destroyed; however, good deeds and
spiritual attainments are true everlasting monuments. (It
is interesting to note that the souls of the deceased
still come before the "Beis Din" to be judged.
On what basis can souls be subject to judgment?! They are
judged for and by the mitzvos and good deeds done by
their descendants -- this is one's true
D. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)
The Importance of Speech.
Although this Parsha
specifically addresses vows, the Torah commentaries have
broadened this concept to apply to everything that one
says. Torah places great emphasis on words. Verbal
blessings are considered important, and the Talmud states
that not only is there great value to a Tzaddik's
blessing, but also to an ordinary person's blessing. One
should not utter curses, and be careful not to say
ominous words about oneself. Verbal communication is a
prominent difference between man and lower forms of life.
This special gift to mankind should not be treated
lightly. Many volumes have been written about shmiras
halashon (guarding one's tongue). In our daily prayers,
we say "My G-d, prevent my tongue from speaking evil
and my lips from uttering deceit. As with all other
prayers for Divine assistance, we must first exert our
own efforts (in this case, to guard our tongues).
E. Reflections on the Sedra (Rabbi Zalman Posner)
Caring for others. When several tribes approached
Moshe for permission to stay in trans-Jordan, he
retorted, "Your brothers go into battle and you will
sit here?" Here a familiar integral theme of Torah
recurs. Anyone living in comfort and security finds it
difficult to realize the situation of those in want and
peril. We may read of famines in Africa and
sympathetically nod, but undismayed we turn to the next
item in the newspaper and with little appreciable loss of
appetite sit down for dinner. Only a person of
responsibility to mankind and with rare compassion will
be moved enough to share the troubles of the unfortunate.
With Israel especially, one Jew's peril is every Jew's
concern. No Jew anywhere in the world can hide from
problems plaguing other Jews.
NEXT PARSHA: MAASEI