Illuminations #216, Av, 5779, Parshat Matot-Masai

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Illuminations #216, Av, 5779, Parshat Matot-Masai

Torah Gems

In this week’s parsha, Elazar explained to the Jewish People how to kasher the vessels which they had taken as spoils from their war with the people of Midyan. It was imperative to remove any non kosher food that was absorbed in the vessels before using them for kosher food. First, it was necessary to clean out the vessels very well and to remove any rust. Then the vessels were kashered by the same method as they were previously used. If they were used directly on the fire, they needed to be kashered in direct contact with fire to render them fit to be used. If non kosher food was cooked in them with boiling water, they now needed to be immersed in boiling water to remove what was absorbed. The Chafetz Chayim commented that the same applies to a person who wants to purify himself from his spiritual defects. First, the person must remove the “rust” of his transgressions by doing teshuva, regretting what he has done wrong and accepting upon himself not to continue doing those things in the future. Afterwards, he should make sure to correct his ways and whatever means or traits he has used to sin he should use those same traits for mitzvot. If he has used his ability to speak to say lashon hara, he should now utilize his speech for studying Torah or praying. If he used his power or wealth to harm people he should now use it to help others. Also he needs to be careful that the positive actions he does to replace the negative behavior will be on the same level as the negative things he has done. So if he was enthusiastic and energetic in doing aveirot, he should now have similar enthusiasm and energy when doing mitzvot. If he has done much wrong in his life, he should presently make a special effort to engage in a large amount of mitzvot. (Growth through Torah)

Parsha Pearls

After the B’ney Yisrael were drawn into sin by the women of Midyan, Hashem declared war on Midyan. The Torah states that one thousand soldiers were given from each Shevet. Rashi comments that the wording “were given” implies that the Jewish soldiers did not really want to go but had to be coerced into going to war. This is actually to their credit, because they knew that Moshe would die when the war was over and therefore they did not wish to go, so that their victory would not be at the cost of their leader’s life. For much of the forty years in the Midbar they complained to and about him, but now they showed their love for him and had to be given over against their will. The hate that was shown to Moshe was only on the surface, but deep down they really loved Moshe. We learn from this episode that there is a natural love between the Jewish People and its leaders. Therefore, the leaders should not be discouraged from actively leading the people and should not be overly sensitive to their comments. To be a leader one must give up the desire to be popular. The leader must truly love his people and must be sensitive to their needs and must listen to their complaints. After weighing all of this the leader can make his decision and feel confident that the people love him.

Glimpses of Greatness

Once when the Sefat Emet was a young boy, he stayed up all night to learn Torah, and when it came time for shacharit he dozed off for a few minutes and he ended up coming a little late to the minyan. His grandfather, who was a great Rebbe and was in charge of bringing him up, began to rebuke him for being late to shul. He said to him, “If this is your attitude now, what will happen when you get on in life; if you want to succeed you can’t be lazy, etc.” The young boy took the rebuke and didn’t try to defend himself. Afterwards, the boy’s chavruta, who had learned with him all night, exclaimed, “Why didn’t you defend yourself and tell him that you were up all night and that’s why you were late?” The youngster told his friend, “I learned this from the parshah of Matot. When Moshe rebuked the tribes of Gad and Reuben for wanting to inherit the land on the east of the Jordan, he suspected them of wanting to shirk their responsibilities and of not wanting to fight with the rest of the Jewish People. After Moshe finished his speech, they answered that they were not intending to abandon the Jewish People, but were planning to fight with their brothers. We see from here that they did not interrupt Moshe while he was rebuking them because when someone points out our faults, especially someone who cares for us, we should listen rather than object and defend ourselves. This way even if we were right this time, we would have learned something for the future.”

Halacha Weekly

Q. Is mention of the Christian Deity prohibited? [I-YD 9-243]

A. Haghaot Maimoniyot (Avodah Zarah 5-3, R. Meir Hakohen of Rothenberg Z”L) writes in the name of Yireim (75, R. Eliezer Ben Shmuel of Metz Z”L)  that there is no prohibition to mention Avodah Zarah except if one mentions the name that is given for the sake of G-dliness that they call him, when they  use that name as a reference to G-d.

Chavot Yair (1-Hashanah 11, R. Yair Chaim Bachrach Z”L) writes that it is permitted to mention the name of the mother of that man in the name that others call [her] for several reasons: One the matter depends on a controversy of Rishonim whether Christians are considered idol worshipers, and furthermore, there the name mentioned is not the true name but rather the name which has been given in error [which is] in their mouths and … the natural name is not given [to them] at all. Even though the masses are strengthened in sin … mentioning the name that is worshipped like that which he is called naturally and worshipping it, and likewise in regards to the name of his mother it is proper to leave them to follow their custom. In any event, really there is no prohibition at all since there it is not the true name. Furthermore, even if the name of the Avodah Zarah actually is as the name of a man there is no prohibition to mention the name,  because  also the names of other people are called by that name. There we learn according to Yereim (mentioned) that all that do not mention the name that is given in reference to G-d, rather the simple name instead, then there is no prohibition of vshemelohim acherim lo tizkeru (‘ the names of other gods you shall not mention’) involved in this case.