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The Sorcerers Fell To The Ground

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Matos

Jul 5, 2013

The Sorcerers Fell To The Ground

Parshas Matos 5773

The parshah begins with the laws of oaths and vows.[1]

The discussion of vows is directly followed by revenge. [2]

The time of retribution has come for the people of Midian. This is to be the very last act of Moshe Rabeinu on this earth.  

The Medrash tells us that Moshe Rabeinu did not tarry. Even being aware that with the completion of this act, his life would come to an end, Moshe looked forward to wreaking vengeance upon Midian with a ta’avah – a passion.[3]

Moshe ordered the tribes to send out one thousand men from each tribe. He placed Pinchos ben Elazar ben Aharon HaKohen in charge of the battle. He entrusted Pinchos with the holy tzitz hazahav of the Kohen Gadol.[4]

Bil’am, the Midianite prophet was among them. Utilizing the forces of kishuf, he enabled the five rulers of Midian to fly. Pinchos displayed the tzitz hazahav, and they fell from the sky, ultimately to be killed by the sword.[5]

Questions

Why does the revenge against Midian take precedence over Moshe Rabeinu’s life?

If it occupied such a position of great importance, why didn’t Moshe Rabeinu participate personally in the war?

Of all the vessels, why was it that Moshe Rabeinu sent specifically the tzitz with Pinchos?

Why are the laws of vows a fitting introduction to the war against Midian?

Analysis

What is an oath? It is an affirmation to perform an act or to forbid one, or it can be an attestation to the truth.

What is the function of an oath? Why can’t one just express his intentions without the benefit of an oath?

An oath bonds one’s words to the words of the Torah, just as the words of the Torah are true, so too, are the words of the oath. This is especially true in the case of a sh’vua, when one attaches G-d’s name to his oath, stating that the words of the oath possess the same truth as G-d’s name.

This is the reason why the penalty for breaking one’s vow is so grave. The gemora tells us that the world trembled when Hashem uttered the words, “Lo sisa es shem Elokecha lashav”. If one violates his sh’vua, that is tantamount to saying, chas veshalom, that just as his word can be found to be untrue, so too can the name of G-d.[6]

Oaths are formed with words.

The gemara speaks of the seven Noahide laws and their origins. The origin for the sin of giluy arayos, immorality, is to be found in Parshas Breishis. The Torah says, “Vayetzav Hashem Elokim al ha’Adam laymor” – and the Lord G-d commanded upon Adam concerning saying. The word “laymor”, meaning speech, refers to giluy arayos.[7]

Speech is the basis of all relationships.[8] It is the way we interact. Giluy arayus is the culmination of a process of communication. The term that the mishna uses to describe giluy arayos is medaberes, conversing.[9]

Of all the nations, the Midianites understood the “secret” of the relationship between Klal Yisroel and the Creator. Moshe Rabeinu grew up among them and they saw, Ein kocho ela bapeh – His power lies only in his mouth.[10] He is so inextricably bound with Hashem, that his power of speech is totally dedicated to communicating His will. The power of speech is an expression of the mind. His mind is one with Hashem.

The Midianites sought to destroy this relationship by enticing the Bnei Yisroel, enticing them with an alternative relationship, the relationship of giluy arayos.

Answers

Moshe Rabeinu did participate in the war. He participated in the realm of thought. He was active in the world of speech. He devised the plan of war. He ensured that those chosen to defeat the Midianites would be worthy. They would be those who did not succumb to improper thoughts, words, and relationships. They numbered only 12,000. This is not an army that wins by virtue of its actions. It emerges victorious by virtue of its purity of speech and thought. They were volunteers. Only those who knew in the deep recesses of their hearts that they were virtuous came forward. He impressed upon them that they are fighting to avenge the honor of G-d, not to whet their own personal thirst for revenge.[11]

The tzitz is worn on the forehead of the Kohen Gadol. It has the name of G-d inscribed upon it. The gemara says that the tzitz worn by the Kohen Gadol atones for the “brazenness of an isha zonah”, an illicit woman.[12]

 It represents the faithfulness between the Jewish nation and G-d. Thus, our relationships are defined by the name of G-d.

When the holy tzitz is borne by those worthy to bear it, all other false relationships lose their power. The power of kishuf only has a hold over those who grant it that power, by forming a relationship with kishuf.

This cause was not only important to Moshe Rabeinu, it was Moshe Rabeinu. Moshe is the shadchan between Hashem and Klal Yisroel. It is through Toras Moshe that we relate to HaKodesh Baruch Hu. This is Moshe’s life.

It emerges that the laws of vows are an integral part of the war against Midian. In order to wage war against the Midianites, our power of speech, our relationships, have to be bound to the holy words of the Torah.

 


[1] Parshas Matos, perek 30, posuk 3

[2] Parshas Matos, perek 31, posuk 2

[3] Medrash Rabi Tanchuma, paragraphs 2 - 4

[4] Rashi, Parshas Matos, perek 31, posuk 6

[5] Rashi, Parshas Matos, perek 31, posuk 6

[6] Rav Mordechai Gifter, z”l

[7] Meseches Sanhedrin, daf 56b

[8] Rav Moshe Shapiro, shlita

[9] Meseches Kesubos, daf 13a

[10] Rashi, Parshas Balak, perek 22, posuk 4

[11] Ohr HaChaim, Parshas Matos, perek 31, posuk 2

[12] Meseches Erchin, daf 16a

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