Studying Tora Evens the Playing Field

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In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2019 Devar Tora for Parashat Pinchos, “The Crown All Can Wear”, he notes that Moshe fully expected that HaShem would Appoint Moshe’s sons as leaders of the Jews in his stead, and was brought up short when God Informed him that Yehoshua would take over the reigns. He cites a Midrash that distinguished between Gershom and Eliezer on the one hand, and Yehoshua on the other:

BeMidbar Rabba 21:14

The Holy One, Blessed Be He, Said to him (Moshe): (Mishlei 27:18) “He who keeps the fig tree shall eat its fruit.” Your sons (Gershom and Eliezer) sat idly by and did not study the Tora. Yehoshua served you faithfully and showed you great honor. It was he who rose early in the morning and remained late at night at your House of Assembly. He used to arrange the benches and spread the mats. Seeing that he has served you with all his might, he is worthy to serve Israel, for he shall not lose his reward.

This leads R. Sacks to engage in a lengthy reflection upon how becoming familiar with the contents and methodology of Tora was a great “equalizer” in terms of social status within Judaism. He states that while Jewish tradition certainly  has its “dynasties”—the Kingship and the Priesthood, where a son inherits from his father– it also has a strong streak of egalitarianism—Tora scholarship, that is open to all.

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Moshe Begs for Assistance

Moshe Begs for Assistance 7 9 20

In R. Amnon Bazak’s second short essay for Parashat Pinchos, “VeLifnai Eleazar HaKohen Ya’amod” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, Machon Tzomet, Alon Shevut, 5766, pp. 174-5), he contrasts the two times in the Tora that Moshe becomes involved in determining the leadership structure of the Jewish people that he is leading:

a. Moshe feels overwhelmed by the complaints of the people who are desiring food in place of the Manna, and doesn’t know what to do. HaShem Answers by Instructing Moshe to expand the leadership cadre by adding seventy men to his “team”:

BeMidbar 11:14, 16-7, 24-5.

14 I am not able to bear all this people myself alone, because it is too heavy for me…  

16 And the LORD Said unto Moshe: Gather unto Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with thee. 17 And I will Come down and Speak with thee there; and I will Take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will Put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone…

24 And Moshe went out, and told the people the Words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the Tent. 25 And the LORD Came down in the cloud, and Spoke unto him, and Took of the Spirit that was upon him, and Put it upon the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did so no more.

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Women and the Land of Israel

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An  explanation for a strange juxtaposition of verses in the Parashat HaShavua:

In Sivan Rahav-Meir’s third short essay on Parashat Pinchos, “Men Are from Sinai; Women Are from the Land of Israel” (#Parasha: Weekly Insights for a Leading Israeli Journalist, trans. Chava Wilschanski, Menorah Books, Jerusalem, 2017, pp. 247-8), she begins with a Midrash’s comment regarding a verse in the Parashat HaShavua:

BeMidbar 26:64-5; 27:1

64 But among these there was not a man of them that were counted by Moshe and Aharon the priest, who counted the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. 65 For the LORD had Said of them: They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Calev the son of Yefuneh, and Yehoshua the son of Nun. {S}

1 Then drew near the daughters of Tzelofchad, the son of Cheifer, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasheh, of the families of Manasheh the son of Yosef; and these are the names of his daughters: Machla, Noa, and Chogla, and Milca, and Tirza.  

RaShI on BeMidbar 26:64 s.v. U’B’Eileh Lo Haya Ish VeGomer

But with regards to the women (in general, and not only the daughters of Tzelofchad,) the Decree of the spies did not pertain,

(BeMidbar 14:32-3

But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your strayings, until your carcasses be consumed in the wilderness.)

because (unlike the men) they loved the land of Israel. The men said (Ibid. 14:4) “…Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt,” while the women said: (Ibid. 27:4) “…Give unto us a possession among the brethren of our father.” For this reason the Parashat of the daughters of Tzelofchad was juxtaposed at this point.

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The Qualities of the Leader to Replace Moshe

The Qualities of the Leader to Replace Moshe 7 7 20

A Rabbinic interpretation of the implications of how Moshe addresses HaShem in an instance within the Parashat HaShavua.

In R. Binyamin Lau’s 2014 Devar Tora for Parashat Pinchos, he concerns himself with an introductory verse that is the single example of the reverse of what we typically find over 100 times in the Tora in the Tora, as well as within the body of this particular discussion between Moshe and HaShem:

BeMidbar 27:15-23

15 And Moshe spoke unto the LORD, saying:

16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, Set a man over the congregation, 17 Who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

18 And the LORD Said unto Moshe: Take thee Yehoshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay thy hand upon him; 19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. 20 And thou shalt put of thy honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hearken. 21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the LORD; at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.

22 And Moshe did as the LORD Commanded him; and he took Yehoshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation. 23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD Spoke by the hand of Moshe. {P} 

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Extrapolating from a Specific Case to a General One

Extrapolating from a Specific Case to a General One 7 6 20

In R. David Silverberg’s Monday 2016 Devar Tora for Parashat Pinchos, he notes a possible fundamental argument between RaMBaM and RaMBaN concerning the requirement that the Korban Tamid of the morning be the first sacrifice of the day, and the Korban Tamid of the afternoon be the last sacrifice of the day.

A Talmudic passage suggests that this Halacha is inherent within verses describing the Tamid sacrifice:

Pesachim 59b

The Sages taught: From where is it derived that no sacrifice shall precede the daily morning Offering? The verse states: )VaYikra 6:5) “And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, it shall not be extinguished; and the priest shall kindle wood upon it every morning, and he shall prepare the Burnt-offering upon it and shall cause the fats of the Peace-offerings to go up in smoke upon it.” The Gemara asks: What is the biblical derivation? In other words, how is it derived that the Burnt-offering in this verse is referring to the daily morning Offering? Rava said: “HaOla” (the Burnt-offering,) with the definite article, is referring to the first Burnt-offering, i.e., the daily morning Offering, which is first both chronologically and in terms of importance.

And from where is it derived that nothing is sacrificed after the daily afternoon offering? The verse states: “…And shall cause the fats of the peace-offerings to go up in smoke upon it.” The Gemara again asks: What is the derivation? Abaye said: “Upon it.” “Upon,” i.e., after, the first Burnt-offering, that is, the daily morning Offering, may the Peace-offerings, i.e., the voluntary Vow and Free-will offerings, be sacrificed throughout the day. But Peace-offerings may not be sacrificed “upon,” i.e., after, its counterpart, which is the daily afternoon Offering.

R. Silverberg points out that RaMBaM omitted the rule of the morning Tamid being the first sacrifice and the afternoon Tamid being the last, from the positive Commandments in his Sefer HaMitzvot, while RaMBaN saw fit to critique RaMBaM concerning this omission and maintained that he should have included it:

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Haftora Pinchos (Yirmiyahu 1:1-2:3)

This Haftora is the first of the three that constitute the “run-up to Tisha B’Av,” and are known as the “Telat D’Paranuta” (lit. the three of punishment.) Consequently, they, and the “Shiva D’Nechamta” (the seven of comfort) following Tisha BeAv, do not have that much to do with the Parashat HaShavua, but rather “Inyana D’Yoma” (the theme of the day.)

The beginning of Yirmiyahu contains tropes that appear with respect to other prophets as well: the insecurity regarding public speaking, the sense of impurity that makes the individual wonder if he is worthy of such an exalted mission, and the expectation of the Jewish people’s animosity when he tells them of their impending punishment. But like the others recorded in TaNaCh, Yirmiyahu is successfully recruited and shown visions, in this case, a branch of an almond tree and a steaming pot, that portend God’s Determination to Respond harshly and quickly to the people’s sinfulness.

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Parashat Pinchos (BeMidbar 25:11-30:1): Questions for discussion and consideration


Rishon: Given that Pinchos engaged in such an act of violence (BeMidbar 25:7-8), why is he given a “Convenant of Peace” (ibid. 12)?

Hint:  See Da’at Zekeinim MiBa’alei HaTosafot on v. 12 s.v. LaChein for a possible answer. 

Sheini:  While most of the names mentioned in the census of the Jewish people have no personal details attached to them, this is not the case with regard to Datan and Aviram (Ibid. 26:9-10). Why does the Tora make an exception in their case?

Hint:  See RaMBaN on v. 9 for two possible answers.

Shelishi: If according to Ibid. 26:54, the land of Israel is going to be distributed in accordance with the number of people in each tribe, how can v. 55 say that the land will be apportioned via a lottery, which ostensibly should be random?

Hint: See RaShI on v. 54, s.v. LeRav Tarbeh Nachalato for a possible answer. 

Revi’i: In Ibid. 27:16-7, Moshe, after being told that the time had come for him to die, pleads with HaShem to Replace him and Appoint a new leader for the Jewish people. Why did HaShem Choose Yehoshua to be Moshe’s replacement?

Hint:  See MaLBIM on v. 18  s.v. VaYomar VeGomer Kach Lecha Et Yehoshua Ben Nun for a possible answer. 

Chamishi: There is a source cited in MaHaRaL of Prague to the effect that the verses dealing with Korban Tamid (BeMidbar 28:4-8 and Shemot 29:39-42) are the most important verses in the Tora! Why might this be?

Hint: See for a possible answer. 

Shishi: How can Ibid. 28:16 state that Pesach begins on the 14th of Nissan, when the very next verse (v. 17,) says that the first day of Pesach is the 15th of Nissan?

Hint: See VaYikra 23:5 together with HaEmek Davar on BeMidbar 28:16 s.v. Pesach LaShem  for a possible answer.  

Shevi’i: Why does the Tora in ibid. 30:1 have to mention that Moshe conveyed to the Jewish people everything that HaShem had Commanded him?

Hint: See R. S.R. Hirsch on Ibid. 30:1 s.v. VaYomer HaShem for a possible answer.

The Relationship between Chidush and Masoret

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Two explanations for why the Tora goes back an additional generation when referencing Pinchos’ genealogy.

In R. Aharon Lichtenstein’s 1997 Sicha for Parashat Pinchas, “Earning the Crown”, he first cites RaShI’s view for explaining why atypically Pinchas’ grandfather is mentioned in the biblical verse, based upon a passage in the Talmud,

RaShI s.v. Pinchas Ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen on BeMidbar 25:11 (Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aharon the priest, hath turned My Wrath away from the children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My Sake among them, so that I Consumed not the children of Israel in My Jealousy.”)

Because the tribes disparaged him, i.e., “Have you seen this ‘Ben Puti’ (‘the son of a ‘fattener,’) that the father of his mother fattened calves for idolatry, and he has killed a prince of a tribe in Israel.

(Ibid. 8, 14

8 And he [Pinchas] went after the man of Israel into the chamber, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel…  14 Now the name of the man of Israel that was slain, who was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a fathers’ house among the Shimonites.)

Therefore, the text states his genealogy back to that of his grandfather.

Sanhedrin 82b

The tribes began to demean Pinchas: Did you see this “son of Puti,” so-called because his mother was one of the daughters of Putiel (see Shemot 6:25), and they interpreted homiletically: As Yitro, the father of his mother, according to one rabbinic tradition, fattened (ShePittem) calves for idol worship, and he impudently killed the prince of a tribe of Israel without a trial. In response, the verse comes and provides his lineage as “Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the priest.”  It is due to that lineage that he zealously executed Zimri.

and then an interpretation of his own in order to explain why the Tora should mention Aharon.

R. Lichtenstein claims that based upon a different passage in the Gemora, Pinchos didn’t inherit the priesthood, as did the other children of Aharon, but rather he had to earn it:

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Interpreting Moshe’s and Aharon’s Sin Yet Again

Interpreting Moshe’s and Aharon’s Sin Yet Again 7 3 20

Understanding God’s Reaction to Moshe and Aharon at Mei Meriva.

In R. Jonathan Sacks’ 2013 Devar Tora for Parashat Chukat (Balak,) “Why Was Moses Not Destined to Enter the Land?”, after noting that there are ever-so-many hypotheses regarding explaining the events recorded in the @first half of  BeMidbar 20:

1 And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Tzin in the first month; and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there. 2 And there was no water for the congregation; and they assembled themselves together against Moshe and against Aharon. 3 And the people strove with Moshe, and spoke, saying: Would that we had perished when our brethren perished before the LORD! 4 And why have ye brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, to die there, we and our cattle? 5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. 6 And Moshe and Aharon went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the Tent of Meeting, and fell upon their faces; and the Glory of the LORD Appeared unto them. {P}

7 And the LORD Spoke unto Moshe, Saying: 8 Take the rod, and assemble the congregation, thou, and Aharon thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it give forth its water; and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their cattle drink. 9 And Moshe took the rod from before the LORD, as He Commanded him. 10 And Moshe and Aharon gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said unto them: Hear now, ye rebels; are we to bring you forth water out of this rock? 11 And Moshe lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their cattle. {S}

12 And the LORD Said unto Moshe and Aharon: Because ye believed not in Me, to Sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have Given them. 13 These are the waters of Meriva, where the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and He Was Sanctified in them. {S}

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The Sin that Led to the Downfall of Two Important Leaders

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Determining the sin that led to the downfalls of both Moshe and his brother Aharon.

In R. Amnon Bazak’s third essay for Parashat Chukat (–Balak,) “Mokeid Chetam Shel Moshe VeAharon” (Nekudat Peticha: Iyunim Ketzarim BePeshuta Shel Parashat HaShavua, [revised and expanded], Yediot Acharonot, Rishon LeTziyon, 2018, pp. 340-1,) he sets out with the premise that since Moshe and Aharon were punished in the same manner:

BeMidbar 20:12

And the LORD Said unto Moshe and Aharon: Because “Lo He’emantem” (ye [pl.] believed not) in Me, to Sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore “Lo Tavi’u” (ye [pl.] shall not bring) this assembly into the land which I have Given them.

they had to have been guilty of the same sin.

When a careful reading of the verses describing the incident known as “Mei Meriva” (the waters of dispute) is undertaken, while some verbs are in the singular, pointing to the shortcoming of only one individual, relatively few are in the plural, or are addressed to both brothers, thereby suggesting that they were not both involved in the particular action that Offended God:

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