Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chukas

The following is a brief summary of some of the thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Parshas Chukas the Torah recounts a conversation between the Jews and the King of Edom in connection with their request to travel through the land of Edom to reach the land of Israel. (Bamidbar 20:14-21). The Jews asked for permission to travel through the land and are turned down. The Jews then offered to pay for whatever they drank, but again are turned down.

R' Frand quoted the Sefer Birchas Ish  - who writes that when Edom refused the Jews' request to travel through the land the Torah writes "Vayima'en Edom" and the cantillation marks (trup) are a munach and revi'i. However, the munach has a pesik after it, which indicates a stop. This is odd since the concept of Vayima'en Edom is one thought and the munach and revi'i are often together. 

The Birchas Ish explains that the reason for the pesik is to show that Edom was not making the decision to turn down the Jews' request. He stated that when the Jews make a request to the other nations for a favor, Hashem takes the decision whether to grant or deny the request out of the hands of the nation and He makes the decision himself.

R' Frand tied this into the looming deadline for the negotiations with Iran. We can believe that the United States and allies are in control and are making concessions based upon their thinking. However, the decisions are being made by Hashem and we need to appeal directly to Him for help.

R' Frand next made reference to Bamidbar 21:1 which which recounts that the Canaani King of Arad heard that the Jews were coming and attacked. Rashi on this pasuk states that the attackers were actually from Amalek. So why were they called Canaani? They spoke in the manner of Canaani as a military tactic so that the Jews would think that they were Canaani. However, they continued to dress as Amalek. They theorized that if the Jews believed they were from Canaani and prayed to Hashem that He save them from Canaani they would be unsuccessful since they really were not from Canaan.

R' Frand then asked - why would Amalek do this, did they think that this would be a successful tactic? The answer is yes, since they had tried this before in Shemos 17:8-13 which discusses the battle between the Jews and Amalek at Refi'dim. During the battle, when Moshe raised his hand the Jews would succeed and if his hands dropped they would falter. The Tosafos Yom Tov explains that when Moshe raised his hands, the Jews recognized that it was all from Hashem and they prayed to Him and received assistance. Being aware of this, Amalek tried to confuse the Jews so that there prayers would be directed towards another entity. However, the Jews did not direct their prayers against Canaan and instead asked for help from "this nation."

At the end of the parsha (Bamidbar 21:21-35) there is a discussion of the Jews' request to Sichon to travel through his land. Unlike the situation with Edom, this turns into a battle and the Jews captured the land. The gemara in Bava Basra comments on the words Bo'u Cheshbon (21:27) - that this refers not to the conquerors, but to those who have control over their urges and who weigh the financial loss vs reward for a mitzva and similarly weigh the loss/gain for an aveirah. The Rashbam explains that a person may think he is losing money for doing a mitzva or gaining financially for an aveirah, but the person needs to weigh what the loss/gain would be in the World to Come.

But the question needs to be asked - why is this taught here? R' Frand explained that Sichon hired Bila'am to help defeat Moab. Bila'am was handsomely paid for the job and there was surely a victory celebration. However, this was part of Hashem's plan. The Jews were not allowed to attack Moab, but because Sichon took the land by force, the Jews were able to attack and conquer. If not for Sichon's victory, the Jews could not capture the land. This is the message of Bo'u Cheshbon - you may see this a great victory, but wait and see what the end result is in the long run.

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