41. PINCHAS 5781

FROM THE TORAH

Numbers 25:10-30:1

As last week’s Sedra Balak concluded with the zealotry of Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen, this week’s Sedra Pinchas opens with the reward he has earned: the secure covenant of Kehunah (Priesthood) for him and for his offspring after him in perpetuity.  Symmetrically, the last narrative passage relates the proximity of the demise of Moses and the ordination of his successor Joshua son of Nun.  Between those milestones lie vigilance for the offending nation of Midian, results of the census taken of the new generation after Egypt, and rules of the attendant apportionment of the Land, including consanguineous inheritance of those portions when the decedent lacks male children.  The Sedra concludes with a concise summary of fire offerings expected by the Eternal on various types of days throughout the year.

Aftermath

KEHUNAH THROUGH PINCHAS
25:10-13

The Eternal declares to Moses:  Pinchas (Pinchas) son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen has turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel by exemplifying My zeal in their midst (cf. Numbers 25:6-9).  Therefore I have not put an end to the Children of Israel in My zeal!  So make the following announcement:  I hereby grant him My promise of security (shalom) in the Kehunah (Priesthood), in perpetuity for him and for his offspring after him, because he was zealous for his God and thereby atoned for the Children of Israel.

REPORT OF THE PE’OR AFFAIR
25:14-18

The name of the Israelite man (cf. Numbers 25:8) who was struck down with the Midianite woman was Zimri son of Salu, chieftain of an ancestral house of the Simeonites.  The name of the Midianite woman (cf. ibid.) was Cozbi daughter of Tsur, tribal head of an ancestral house in Midian.

The Eternal declares further to Moses:  Consider the Midianites your adversary and strike them down!  For they have made themselves your adversaries by deceiving you in the Pe’or affair (cf. Numbers 25:1 ff.), and in the matter of their sister Cozbi, daughter of a Midianite chieftain, who was struck down on the day of the plague due to the Pe’or affair.

CENSUS AFTER THE PLAGUE
25:19-26:51

After the plague (cf. Numbers 25:9), the Eternal instructs Moses and Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen to take a census of all of the congregation of the Children of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from the age of 20 years and older, all eligible for military service in Israel.  Moses and Elazar the Kohen impart these instructions to them in the plains of Moab at the Jordan by Jericho.

From the age of 20 years and older, as the Eternal had commanded Moses and the Children of Israel who came out of the land of Egypt (cf. Exodus 30:11-16; Numbers 1:1ff.):

Reuben, firstborn of Israel.  His sons were Chanoch, Pallu, Chetzron, and Carmi, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 43,730.

Son of Pallu:  Eliav

   Sons of Eliav:  Nemuel, and the chosen of the assembly Dathan and Aviram who joined Korach against Moses and Aaron and against the Eternal and were swallowed by the earth when fire consumed 250 men and they became a warning (cf. Numbers 16:1ff.); however, the sons of Korach did not die.

Simeon.  His sons were Nemuel, Yamin, Yachin, Zerach, and Shaul, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 22,200.

Gad.  His sons were Tsephon, Chaggi, Shuni, Ozni, Eri, Arod, and Areli, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 40,500.

Judah.  His sons were Shelah, Peretz, and Zerach, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 76,500.

Sons of Peretz:  Chetzron and Chamul, from each of whom descended a clan.

Issachar.  His sons were Tola, Puvah, Yashuv, and Shimron, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 64,300.

Zebulun.  His sons were Sered, Elon, and Yachle’el, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 60,500.

Joseph.  His sons were Manasseh and Ephraim.

Manasseh.  His son was Machir, from whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 52,700.

   Son of Machir:  Gilead, from whom descended a clan.

      Sons of Gilead:  Iezer, Chelek, Asriel, Shechem, Shemida, and Chepher, from each of whom descended a clan.

         Son of Chepher:  Tselophechad, who had no sons.

               Daughters of Tselophechad:  Machlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirtzah

Ephraim.  His sons were Shutelach, Becher, and Tachan, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 32,500.

   Son of Shutelach: Eran, from whom descended a clan.

Benjamin.  His sons were Bela, Ashbel, Achiram, Shephupham, and Chupham, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 45,600.

Sons of Bela:  Ard and Naaman, from each of whom descended a clan.

Dan.  His son was Shucham, from whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 64,400.

Asher.  His sons were Yimnah, Yishvi, and Beriah, from each of whom descended a clan.  His daughter was Serach.  The number of their enrolled was 53,400.

Sons of Beriah:  Chever and Malkiel, from each of whom descended a clan.

Naphtali.  His sons were Yachtze’el, Guni, Yetzer, and Shillem, from each of whom descended a clan.  The number of their enrolled was 45,400.

The number of enrolled of the Children of Israel was 601,730.

APPORTIONMENT OF THE LAND
26:52-56

The Eternal explains to Moses that the Land shall be apportioned based upon the numerical enrollments of the census: to the larger give more of a portion, to the smaller give less.  The portions themselves shall be allotted to the groups, whether large or small, by lot.

SEPARATE CENSUS OF THE LEVITES
26:57-62

These are the enrollments of the Levites by their clans descended from Gershon, Kehat, and Merari (cf. Numbers 3:17): the Livni clan, the Chevroni clan, the Machli clan, the Mushi clan, and the Korchi clan (cf. Numbers 3:18-20).

Kehat begat Amram.  The wife of Amram was Yocheved, who was born to Levi in Egypt.  She bore to Amram:  Aaron, Moses, and Miriam their sister.

There were born to Aaron:  Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Ithamar.  Nadav and Avihu died when they offered unauthorized fire before the Eternal.

The number of their enrolled was 23,000, every male from the age of one month and older.  They were not enrolled together with the Children of Israel because portions of the Land were not assigned to them together with the Children of Israel.

REVIEW OF CENSUS TERMS
26:63-65

These, then, are the enrollments which Moses and Elazar the Kohen took of the Children of Israel in the plains of Moab on the Jordan at Jericho.  There was not included in this census any man whom Moses and Aaron the Kohen enrolled of the Children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, as the Eternal had sentenced them to death in the wilderness, except for Caleb son of Yephunnehand Joshua son of Nun.

Succession

INHERITANCE
27:1-11

The daughters of Tselophechad son of Chepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh son of Joseph—Machlah, Noa, Choglah, Milcah, and Tirtzah—stand before Moses and Elazar the Kohen and the chieftains and all the congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting:  Our father died in the wilderness of his own sin, not as part of the congregation which assembled against the Eternal in the company of Korach, and he had no sons.  Give us a holding among his kinsmen (cf. Numbers 26:29-34) so that our father’s name is not lost from within his family! 

Moses brings their case before the Eternal, who finds in favor of the daughters of Tselophechad and orders the inheritance of their father to be transferred to them.  He further orders Moses to tell the Children of Israel:  If a man dies without a son, you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.  If he does not have a daughter, you shall transfer his inheritance to his brothers.  If he does not have brothers, you shall transfer his inheritance to the brothers of his father.  If his father has no brothers, you shall transfer his inheritance to his nearest blood relative in his clan as heir.  This shall become an established law for the Children of Israel as the Eternal commanded Moses.

CONTEMPLATION OF THE DEATH OF MOSES
27:12-14

The Eternal instructs Moses to ascend Mount Avarim “and see the Land which I am giving to the Children of Israel” (Numbers 27:12)!  You, like Aaron your brother, will be gathered to your people, as you opposed My word in the wilderness of Zin at the quarrel of the congregation about sanctifying Me by means of water in their sight.  They are the Waters of Merivath (Quarrel of) Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin (cf. Numbers 20:12-13).

ORDINATION OF JOSHUA
27:15-23

Now Moses requests the Eternal, “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 27:16), to appoint a man over the congregation to lead it in its going out and its coming in, that the Eternal’s congregation be not like sheep without a shepherd.  The Eternal directs Moses to take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom there is spirit, “and place your hand upon him” (Numbers 27:18).   Have him stand before Elazar the Kohen and all of the congregation, and ordain him in their sight, drawing from your authority upon him, so that all of the congregation of the Children of Israel will heed.

He shall stand before Elazar the Kohen, who shall seek on his behalf a decision of the Urim before the Eternal (cf. Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8).  By such decision shall he and all of the Children of Israel, all of the congregation, go out and come in.

Thus Moses takes Joshua.  He places his hands upon him and ordains him.  All is in accordance with the instructions of the Eternal by the hand of Moses.

Order

CALENDAR OF OFFERINGS

Introduction
28:1-3a

The Eternal orders Moses to command the Children of Israel: Present to Me My offering of food, fire offerings of a pleasing aroma, at its appointed time.

Tamid
28:3b-8

Two year-old lambs without blemish each day, the regular (Tamid) burnt offering (Olah), one in the morning, the other at dusk.  For the meal offering (Mincha), at both morning and dusk, a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil.  This is what was done at Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 29:38-42).  Its libation (Nesech), for both morning and dusk, shall be a quarter of a hin of shaychar: pour it in the Sanctuary for the Eternal.

Sabbath
28:9-10

On the Sabbath day, along with the regular burnt offering and its libation, a burnt offering of two year-old lambs without blemish, two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil as a meal offering, and its libation.

New Moons
28:11-15

On your New Moons, a burnt offering of two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish.  For the meal offering, three-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull, two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for the ram, and a tenth of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb.  Their libations shall be of wine, a half-hin for each bull, a third of a hin for the ram, and quarter of a hin for each lamb.  In addition there shall be a sin offering of a goat and its libation along with the regular burnt offering.

Pesach and Matzot
28:16-25

On the fourteenth day of the first month is Pesach for the Eternal, and beginning on the fifteenth day there is a festival for seven days on which Matzot (Unleavened Bread) is eaten.  The first of the seven days is a holy convocation; do not perform work of service.  Bring a burnt offering for the Eternal: two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs without blemish, and their meal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three-tenths of a measure for the bull and two-tenths of a measure for the ram and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  Bring also one goat as a sin offering to seek atonement for you.  Bring these on each of the seven days, in addition to the regular burnt offering which is brought every morning and its libation.  The seventh day shall be a holy convocation for you: do not perform work of service.

Day of Bikkurim
28:26-31

On the Day of Bikkurim (First Fruits), when you bring an offering of new grain to the Eternal, upon the conclusion of your counting of weeks, there shall be a holy convocation for you.  Do not perform work of service.  You shall present a burnt offering to the Eternal: two bulls of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, and their meal offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three-tenths of a measure for the bull and two-tenths of a measure for the ram and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  Bring also one goat to seek atonement for you.  You shall perform these in addition to the regular burnt offering and its meal offering and their libations.  You shall see that they are unblemished.

Day of Teruah
29:1-6

On the first day of the seventh month there shall be a holy convocation for you; do not perform work of service.  A Day of Teruah (Joyful Blast) shall it be for you.  Make a burnt offering for the Eternal: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish; and their meal offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for the bull, two-tenths of a measure for the ram, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs; and one goat for a sin offering to seek atonement for you; along with the burnt offering of the New Moon and its meal offering, and the regular burnt offering and its meal offering, and their libations as prescribed.

Afflict Your Souls
29:7-11

On the tenth day of the seventh month there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall Afflict Your Souls; do not perform any work.  Offer a burnt offering to the Eternal: one bull of the herd, one ram, and seven year-old lambs.  You shall see that they are unblemished.  Their meal offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for the bull, two-tenths of a measure for the ram, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the seven lambs.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement and the regular burnt offering and its meal offering and their libations.

Chag to the Eternal
29:12-34

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month there shall be a holy convocation for you; do not perform work of service; celebrate a Chag (Festival) to the Eternal for seven days.

On the first day, offer a burnt offering to the Eternal: thirteen bulls of the herd, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs; see that they are without blemish.  Their meal offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for each of the thirteen bulls, two-tenths of a measure for each of the two rams, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the fourteen lambs.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the second day, twelve bulls of the herd, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and their libations.

On the third day, eleven bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the fourth day, ten bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the fifth day, nine bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the sixth day, eight bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libations.

On the seventh day, seven bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, respectively, shall be in like number.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

Atzeret
29:35-38

On the eighth day, there shall be Atzeret (Assembly of Conclusion) for you; do not perform work of service.  You shall offer a burnt offering of one bull, one ram, and seven year-old lambs, without blemish, and their meal offering and their libations, for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, respectively, in like number, and one goat for a sin offering, besides the regular burnt offering and its meal offering and its libation.

Summary
29:39-30:1

These, then, shall you make for the Eternal at your appointed times, besides your votive and freewill offerings, be they burnt offerings or meal offerings or libations or peace offerings.  Moses teaches the Children of Israel in accordance with what the Eternal commanded Moses.

FROM THE PROPHETS

First Haftarah of Rebuke
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3

The Prophet’s Burden

SETTING
1:1-3

Here follow the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiyahu, of the Kohanim who were in Anathoth in the Land of Benjamin.  He received the word of the Eternal beginning in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, throughout the reign of his son Jehoiakim, and through the eleventh year of the reign of Josiah’s son Zedekiah, until the fifth month, the month of the exile of Jerusalem.

CALL
1:4-10

The word of the Eternal comes to me:
Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you,
and before you went out from the womb, I sanctified you.
I have appointed you a Prophet to the nations!

But I protest:
Ah, Lord God,
I do not know how to speak,
for I am so young.

And the Eternal says to me:
Do not say, “I am so young,”
rather,
wherever I send you shall you go,
and whatever I command you,
you shall speak!

Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to rescue you,
says the Eternal.

The Eternal extends His hand
and touches me on my mouth:
Now have I put My words in your mouth!
See, I set you this day over nations
to tear down—
and to build up.

ORIENTATION
1:11-19

The Eternal shows me
the branch of an almond tree [shakeyd],
which I recognize:
Well have you done, He says,
for as the almond tree wakens early
from winter’s sleep,
so am I ever watchful [shokeyd]
to fulfill My word.

The Eternal then shows me
a boiling pot facing from the north:
He explains to me
that evil will break forth from the north
upon all the inhabitants of the Land:
I am calling all the kingdoms of the north
to set up their thrones
at the gates of Jerusalem
and against all the cities of Judah!

I shall pronounce My judgments against them
for abandoning Me
and worshipping other gods,
for bowing down to the work of their hands.
So, you, gird up your loins,
say to them all that I command you;
do not be dismayed before them,
lest I dismay you before them!

I make you this day
a fortified city, an iron pillar,
against the entire country:
against the kings of Judah,
against its princes and priests,
against the common folk of the Land.
Yes, they will fight you,
but they will not prevail,
for I am with you,
declares the Eternal,
to rescue you!

MESSAGE TO ISRAEL
2:1-3

Cry out in the hearing of Jerusalem:

Thus says the Eternal:
I remember of you
the affection of your youth,
the love of your espousals,
how you followed Me in the wilderness,
in a land yet unsown.

Israel is holy to the Eternal,
the first fruits of His produce:
all who would devour him
shall be held guilty,
punishment shall come upon them,
declares the Eternal.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Talmud Sanhedrin 62b
The Atoning Zealotry of Pinchas

At the end of last week’s Sedra Balak, as the Israelites engage in debauchery with the daughters of Moab, an Israelite man and a Midianite woman commit an immoral act in the sight of Moses and the Children of Israel.  Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen takes a spear in his hand and stabs both of them.  The plague against Israel is stopped, but 24,000 have already died.

“Pinchas stood up and intervened [vayepalel],
whereupon the plague was stopped.”
(Psalms 106:30)

Rabbi Elazar noted that even though it might be understood that “Pinchas stood up and prayed [vayitpalel]…”—and prayer is intervention with words—nonetheless the verse says, “Pinchas stood up and intervened [vayepalel]….” How did he intervene? He intervened with judgments against His Creator: Master of the universe, shall 24,000 of Israel be stricken because of these two?!  Having thus issued his judgment, as it were, he proceeded to strike down those two!

The ministering angels sought to deflect his thrust.  But his Creator [Kono] said to them: Let him be, for he is a zealot [kanai] “son” of a zealot (Rashi: His great grandfather Levi was a zealot for the honor of his sister Dinah, cf. Genesis 34:25), deflector of My wrath “son” of deflector of My wrath (Rashi: His grandfather Aaron deflected a plague from the Eternal that followed the rebellion of Korach, cf. Numbers 17:11-15).

“Elazar son of Aaron married one of the daughters of Putiel
(i.e. Jethro, idolatrous priest of Midian, cf. Exodus 3:1 and Talmud Sotah 43a),
and she bore him Pinchas.”
(Exodus 6:25)

“The Israelite man who was struck down with the Midianite woman
was the son of a chieftain of an ancestral house of the Simeonites.”
(Numbers 25:14)

Then the tribes began to ridicule Pinchas: Do you see how this grandson of an idolator presumes to kill the prince of a tribe of Israel!  Therefore comes the verse (at the beginning of our Sedra) to clarify his genealogy:

Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aaron the Kohen
has turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel
by exemplifying My zeal in their midst…!”
(Numbers 25:11)

“The Eternal further tells Moses to make the following announcement:
I hereby grant Pinchas My promise of security (shalom) in the Kehunah (Priesthood),
in perpetuity for him and for his offspring after him,
because he was zealous for his God,
and thereby atoned for the Children of Israel.”
(Numbers 25:12-13)

Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: Initiate My greeting of Shalom (Peace!) to him, and announce that in perpetuity shall be his atoning for the Children of Israel because he was zealous for his God!

Avot of Rabbi Nathan 41:1
The Priceless Crown

“I hereby grant Pinchas My promise of security in the Kehunah (Priesthood),
for him and for his offspring after him, a covenant in perpetuity …”
(Numbers 25:13)

“I shall take the Children of Israel from among the nations
and bring them to their Land…
and David My servant shall be their king forever.”
(Ezekiel 37:21-25)

Rabbi Shimon taught that there are three crowns:
the crown of Kehunah,
the crown of Kingship,
and the crown of Torah.

For the first two of them, even if you gave all the silver and gold that there is in the world, you could not acquire them: the crown of Kehunah, as was said, “The covenant of Kehunah shall be for Pinchas and for his offspring after him, an exclusive covenant” (Numbers 25:13), and the crown of Kingship, as was said, “David My servant (and his descendants) shall be their king exclusively” (Ezekiel 37:25).

But the crown of Torah is different from the other two.  Labor in the Torah is open to all: whoever wishes may come and engage in it.  Thus spoke the prophet:

“Ho, everyone who thirsts it,
come to the waters!
Lacking silver,
come, acquire and eat!
Come, acquire wine and milk
for no silver, for no price!”
(Isaiah 55:1)

That is to say:
Labor in priceless words of Torah,
and refrain from engaging
in pointless endeavors
which cannot be achieved at any price.

It happened to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, when he was visiting the sick, that he came upon one afflicted with a painful bowel disease for which he was reviling the Holy One, blessed be He.  O foolish one, said Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, you should be asking Him for mercy rather than reproaching Him!  The sufferer responded: May the Holy One, blessed be He, remove the affliction from me and put it upon you!  Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai saw in this the favor of the Holy One, blessed be He, upon him for having neglected Torah study for pointless words.

Another experience may be related: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar was journeying along the coast of the sea when he saw a man whose appearance displeased him.  He addressed him: Are there many others in your town as ugly as you?  The man answered: What can I do? Go to the Artisan who made me, and take it up with Him: How ugly is this vessel that You have made!  Recognizing his sin, Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar fell upon the ground, asking the man’s forgiveness.  I won’t forgive you, said the man, until you say to the Artisan who made me: How ugly is this vessel that You have made!

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar followed after the man for three miles, asking his forgiveness.  Arriving at a town, the townspeople came out to greet the Rabbi.  Shalom, Rabbi! they shouted.  Whom are you calling “Rabbi?” the man shouted back!  The one who is following after you! they replied.  If he is a Rabbi, said the man, may there not be many like him in Israel!  God forbid, exclaimed the townspeople, what did he do to you?  The man related to them the Rabbi’s offence against him.  Nonetheless, they responded, forgive him!  I hereby forgive him, said the man, as long as he does not make it a habit of so offending others.

That same day Rabbi Shimon entered his Beit Midrash and offered the following D’var Torah:  A man should at all times be pliant as a reed and not rigid like the cedar.  As the reed endures all of the strongest winds by bending with them and remains standing when they diminish, it survives to yield a pen for the writing of a Torah scroll.  Not so the cedar, which rigidly resists the strong southern winds but cannot withstand them and instead is uprooted and toppled upon the ground.  Then the woodcutters come and carve them up into boards, from which houses are made.  The remains are then cast into the fire!

A man should at all times be pliant as a reed and not rigid like the cedar.

Numbers Rabbah 21:2
Mutual Ethical Wills

“The Eternal says to Moses…
‘You, like Aaron your brother,
shall be gathered to your people…’
whereupon Moses speaks to the Eternal:
‘Let the Eternal,
God of the spirits of all flesh,
appoint a man over the congregation…’”
(Numbers 27:12-16)

Halacha:  If one sees a very large gathering of people, he says, “Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, Knower of secrets.”  Just as their faces are not identical, so their minds are not identical, but everyone has his own mind and opinion.

“He fixes the weight of every spirit…” (Job 28:25): the spirits of each and every person.  So it was apparent in the prayer of Moses to the Holy One, blessed be He, when he contemplated his death.  Moses said to Him:  Master of the universe, the mind of every individual is revealed and known to You, as different from each other as the minds of your children are.  So, when I depart from them, it is my request of You that You appoint over them a leader who can bear every one of them in their diversity of minds, as was said, “’Let the Eternal, God of the spirits of all flesh…’”: not “spirit” but “spirits!”

How did the Eternal respond to the request of Moses?

“Request of Me concerning the future;
command Me concerning My children…”
(Isaiah 45:11)

To what may this be compared?  To a king who marries a woman and who has a confidential advisor.  Whenever the king becomes angry with his wife, the advisor appeases him and the king is reconciled with his wife.  When the advisor is close to dying, he implores the king, “I beg of you, be considerate of your wife.”  The king responds to him, “If you would charge me concerning my wife, then go and command my wife concerning me, that she be respectful of my honor!”

It is as if the Holy One, blessed be He, said to His advisor Moses: If you are charging Me concerning them, “’Let the Eternal, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man…,’” then you go and command them that they should act diligently in My honor!  “Request of Me concerning the future? [Then go and] command [for] Me concerning My children” (ibid.)!  For what is written directly after the ordination of Joshua?  “Command the Children of Israel…: ’Present to Me My offering of food, fire offerings of a pleasing aroma, at its appointed time’” (Numbers 28:2)!

Numbers Rabbah 21:10
The Women Remain Separate

“The daughters of Tselophechad draw near…
and stand before Moses and Elazar the Kohen
and the chieftains and all the congregation…”
(Numbers 27:1-2)

In that generation, the women were more prudent and self-controlled, while the men acted without restraint.  This becomes apparent when Aaron says to the men, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives…” (Exodus 32:2) in order to make the golden calf.  The men lacked restraint, as they took off the gold rings and brought them to Aaron (cf. Exodus 32:3), but the women, prudently, did not participate with them in the making of the calf.

Similarly in the episode of the “men whom Moses sent to reconnoiter the Land…they defamed the Land” (Numbers 14:36) by advising, “We will not be able to go up” (Numbers 13:31)!  But not the women, who did not join with them in their bad advice.  Immediately preceding the account of the daughters of Tselophechad, the Eternal says, “They shall surely die in the wilderness, not a man among them shall remain…” (Numbers 26:65).  “Man,” not woman, because those men did not want to enter the Land.  But the women drew near to request an inheritance in the Land!  Thus, the episode of the daughters of Tselophechad was juxtaposed to the death of the wilderness generation to show how the men lost control while the women remained firm in their convictions.

Numbers Rabbah 21:14
The Affinity of Virtue

“The one who tends to the fig tree
shall eat its fruit.”
(Proverbs 27:18)

What prompted Moses to speak so forcefully to God when he said, “Let the Eternal…appoint a man over the congregation” (Numbers 27:16)!  Since the daughters of Tselophechad succeeded in inheriting their father (cf. Numbers 27:7), Moses thought: This is the moment for me to advocate for myself; if the women can inherit, then it follows that my sons should succeed to my honor!  That is what he meant by: “Let the Eternal…appoint a man over the congregation!”

But the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “The one who tends to the fig tree shall eat its fruit.”  Your sons kept to themselves and did not engage in Torah, while Joshua served you in all possible ways and showed you great honor.  He attended your place of study early in the morning until late at night, he arranged the benches and spread out the mats.  Because he served you with all his strength, he is worthy to serve Israel and not be deprived of his reward: “Take for yourself Joshua” (Numbers 27:18) in order to uphold what was said, “The one who tends to the fig tree shall eat its fruit!”

Numbers Rabbah 21:15
The Selflessness of Moses

“Let the Eternal…
appoint a man over the congregation!”
(Numbers 27:16)

This may be likened to a king who saw an orphan girl and sought to take her as his wife.  But she rejected his proposal: I am not worthy of marrying a king.  Again and again he proposed to her, seven times in all, and always her response was the same.  But finally she married him.

Sometime later the king became displeased with her and sought to divorce her.  She said to him: I didn’t ask to be married to you, you asked me; since you have decided to divorce me and marry another, don’t do to her what you did to me!

It is the same with the Holy One, blessed be He.  Said Rabbi Samuel bar Nachmani:  For seven days the Holy One, blessed be He, tried to persuade Moses to accept His charge.  But his responses were:  “They will not believe me!” (Exodus 4:1)  “They will not obey me!” (Ibid.)  “They will say, ‘The Eternal did not appear to you!’” (Ibid.)  “I am not a man of words!” (Ibid., 10)  “I am slow of speech!” (Ibid.)  “I am slow of tongue!” (Ibid.)  “Just send someone else!” (Ibid., 13)  Eventually the Holy One, blessed be He, persuaded him, and Moses accepted His charge and God performed all of those miracles by the hand of Moses!

But sometime later, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, “You shall not bring this congregation to the Land…” (Numbers 20:12).  Moses responded: Master of the universe, I didn’t ask to go; “You started to show Your servant Your greatness” (Deuteronomy 3:24)!  Since You have imposed this decree upon me, don’t do to the one who succeeds me what you did to me, “but let him go out before them and let him come back before them” (Numbers 27:17)!  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Take for yourself Joshua son of Nun” (Numbers 27:18), and so did Moses, selflessly, as was said, “The one who acted selflessly—may he be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9)!

The behavior of Moses at the ordination of Joshua may be compared to the situation of a king who instructs his intimate associate to give someone a seah of wheat.  The associate goes and gives him two seahs instead of one and says to him: Here is a seah from the king, and here is a seah from me.  Similarly, the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, “Place your hand upon him” (Numbers 27:18): one “hand.”  But what does Moses actually do?  “He places his hands upon him and ordains him” (Numbers 27:23), in order to fulfill that which was said, “The one who acts selflessly—may he be blessed” (Proverbs 22:9), and thereby, “The one who tends to the fig tree shall eat its fruit” (Proverbs 27:18; cf. Numbers Rabbah 21:14 above)!

Now, in this verse from Proverbs, why is the Torah compared to a fig tree?  The answer is that most other trees—the olive, the vine, the date palm—are harvested at one time, while the fig tree is harvested little by little.  Likewise Torah: Today one learns a little, tomorrow a little more, because the Torah is not completely learned, not in one year or even in two!

“The Eternal says to Moses:
‘Take for yourself Joshua son of Nun,
a man in whom there is a spirit…’”
(Numbers 27:18)

This is just as Moses said:
“‘Let the Eternal,
God of the spirits of all flesh,
appoint a man over the congregation…’”
(Numbers 27:16)

For You know the spirit
of every one of them
according to the unique mind of each!

“Place your hand upon him” (Numbers 27:18)—
as one who kindles one light from another;
“and draw from your authority upon him” (Numbers 27:20),
as one who pours from one vessel into another;
and as you say,
“No inheritance within the Children of Israel
may pass from one tribe to another” (Numbers 36:9),
the honor is not removed from your father’s house (Tribe of Levi),
for Joshua (of the Tribe of Ephraim), also, who now stands in your place,
“shall stand before Elazar the Kohen” (Numbers 27:21) (of the Tribe of Levi)!

Numbers Rabbah 21:19
True Purpose of the Fire Offerings

“The Eternal orders Moses
to command the Children of Israel:
Present to Me My offering of food,
fire offerings of a pleasing aroma…”
 (Numbers 28:2)

Said the Holy One, blessed be He:
Not because I need to eat or drink
do I order My fire offerings of food,
but because of the aroma,
that you should feel
pleasant and comfortable before Me,
like a pleasant aroma.

Pesikta Rabbati 26:4
The Agony of a Prophet

“The word of the Eternal comes to me:
Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you,
and before you went out from the womb, I sanctified you.
I have appointed you a Prophet to the nations!”
(Jeremiah 1:4-5)

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:  Before I formed you in the belly of your mother, I designated you to prophesy concerning My people.  Jeremiah protested: I cannot prophesy over them, for what prophet is there who went out to them whom they did not try to kill?

Consider Moses and Aaron:  Did the people not try to stone them to death in the incident of the scouts?  “All of the congregation thought to stone them to death” (Numbers 14:10)!

When You raised up to them Elijah with flowing locks, they ridiculed him as one who is proud of his hair, as they called him, “a hairy man” (II Kings 1:8)!

Then, when You raised up Elisha, little children came up from the city and mocked him, “Get out, you bald head; get out, you bald head” (II Kings 2:23)!

Besides, “I do not know how to speak, for I am a child” (Jeremiah 1:6)!  The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: But I love children! as was said, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him” (Hosea 11:1a), because he had not yet tasted sin!  And when I redeemed Israel from Egypt, I called them “a child,” as was said, “When Israel was a child…from Egypt I called him ‘my son’” (Ibid. 1b)!  And Israel My bride remembers Me through My love for her when she was a child, as the prophet wrote, “I remember of you the affection of your youth” (Jeremiah 2:2)!

Moreover, “Do not object, ‘For I am a child’; rather, wherever I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jeremiah 1:7), as “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5), so take this cup of indignation and make the nations drink (cf. Jeremiah 25:15)!

Jeremiah accepted the cup and asked the Holy One which nation he should make drink from it first.  The Holy One answered: Make Jerusalem and the cities of Judah drink first because they are the first of all domains (cf. Jeremiah 25:17ff.).  Upon hearing that, Jeremiah turned to cursing his day, as he wrote, “Cursed be the day I was born; let the day on which my mother bore me not be blessed” (Jeremiah 20:14)!

Jeremiah compared himself thereby to the Kohen Gadol who was required to administer the ordeal of bitter water to a woman accused by her husband of adultery (cf. Numbers 5:11ff.).  He brings the woman near and exposes her hair.  He takes the cup to give her the bitter water to drink, and then he sees that the woman is his mother!  Immediately he cries out: Woe is me, my mother, whom I endeavored to honor (cf. Exodus 20:12), instead I am disgracing her!  Thus did Jeremiah lament: Woe is me over you, my mother, O Zion, as I thought to prophesy words of comfort to you, but alas I must prophesy words of condemnation.

I thought to prophecy to you words of comfort.

SHABBAT SHALOM!

Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman

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