Long before Hollywood dreamed up the show of Two and a Half Men, the heylige Toirah retold the tale of Two and a Half Shevotim, or did it? Two of them are prominently featured in this week’s parsha of Matos. Soon we will explore their chutzpah.
Welcome to parshas Matos, a parsha you zicher never learned in yeshiva and mistama also not on your own. What the hec is a Matos? Nu, ever since sefer Bereishis, when Yakkov’s boys were destined to become the future tribes, the heylige Toirah uses the word of ‘sheyveyt’ or ‘shevotim’ when referring to them and/or their offspring. Ober this week and in this parsha, these same tribes are referred to as ‘Matos’. And vus-iz-der-chilik (what’s taka the difference) between ‘Shevotim’ and the ‘Matos’? Says the heylige medrish azoy: Matos are branches that have become detached from the tree, and have hardened to form a staff or a rod, while Shevotim refer to branches that still remain attached to their trunk, and are thus soft and flexible.
Shoin, a better descriptor would be hard to find and taka this week, the RBSO will declare a war of revenge against a nation that caused the Yiddin to more resemble Matos than Shevotim, if you chap. In fact, efsher you recall that just two weeks ago (parshas Bolok) we read that 24,000 Yiddin were eliminated on the RBSO’s orders because they were seemingly staffing the wrong girls; they abused their Matos. What are we talking about? Halt zich eyn (keep your pants on); soon this entire subject will be illuminated. Had the 24,000 Yiddin done just that, they would have efsher made it over the Jordan and into the Promised Land. We will focus on these two subjects this year. We have previously covered Matos and the Matos-Maseye combination; find them atwww.oisvorfer.com. Taka a shameless plug each week; why not?
As mentioned above, the Yiddin will be instructed to go to war and wipe out the Midianites. Of course they didn’t take orders very well, what else is new, and instead killed the males only, Midian’s 5 kings and they also killed Bilam whom the RBSO was angry at for incitement. Soon we’ll explain. Ober vus epes the Midianites? What did they do wrong?
Says the heylige Toirah (31:2) azoy: “Avenge the Children of Israel of the Midianites. Afterwards, you will be gathered unto your people” and like a good and trusted servant Moishe spoke to the People, saying “Arm men from among you for the army.” You hear this? Is this motivation or what? Go to war, win, come home and die. In other words: this was going to be Moshe’s last mission.
Some of you may be wondering why we went to war with Midian? Did they bother us? Were they in the way? Were they, as Chamas is doing today, shooting rockets towards the Yiddin? Were they hiding in underground caves? Did they have weapons of mass destruction? From what the heylige Toirah told us, with added color of course from myriad Medroshim, it epes appears that the Yiddin were the ones shooting off their rockets, if you chap. All the Midianites did was to supply loose women; is that a good reason for war? And not just any war; this war had a multipurpose. Ershtens, it was a war of revenge for the Yiddin and moreover, it was a war of revenge for the RBSO. What’s p’shat?
Says the heylige medrish: Both the Yiddin and the RBSO had bad feelings towards the Midianites. Avada you recall that the Midianites were guilty on two counts: count #1-24,000 Yiddin died following sex games with the hookers until Pinchas who speared Kosbi and Zimri, spared others from a certain death. Seemingly, they were also guilty on a second charge. The RBSO was also quite upset because it was the lowlife Midianites that epes incited the Yiddin while they were bshas myseh mamish (in heat and not of the desert variety), if you chap, to worship the idol of Baal Peor. Nu, with such a rap sheet, it’s easy to chap why the war is called a war of revenge. The RBSO hates avoido zoro, seemingly more than He hates anything else.
Mistama (likely) just about now, you’re scratching your heads and thinking….Hey…wait a minute- what gives here? Why are the Yiddin warring against the Midianites? Didn’t we learn just last week and this you zicher didn’t forget, that it was the Moabite meydlich who were busy seducing the Yiddin into the deadly combo of avoido zoro and sex acts? What’s p’shat, did we get the wrong ones?
Ober says another Medrish so gishmak azoy: The women of Moiov participated in the affair, but it was the Midianite women who were the source, the inspiration, and energizing factor behind it all. Bolok the minuvil was a Midianite who ruled over Moiav. Chazal (our Sages) tell us that Kozbi was his daughter whose mission it was to entrap Moishe Rabaynu, chas v’sholom into similar behavior, thereby attacking the heart of Klal Yisroel. Moishe didn’t fall prey ober had she been successful, who knows what would have happened next? Zicher it would not have been a happy ending, or maybe yes?
Ober we should never question the RBSO because avada He knows best and although the women of both Moiav and Midian were involved in the plot to seduce the unsuspecting men, the war of revenge is described as being against Midian alone. Taka why? Seemingly, compared to the Midianites, the Moabites were not so giferlich and mistama they threw a good party. Says the medrish: the women (of Moiaov), were driven by their sexual lust only, whereas those Midianite whores were doing the old bait and switch routine, forcing their clients to perform avoido-zoro (idolatry) for their god as well. Chap that? In other words: sex alone, as the Oisvorfer has pointed out innumerable times, is nisht-giferlech ober sex coupled with avoido-zoro is mamish like drinking and driving and is strictly verboten. The combo is a deadly cocktail, if you chap! Got all that? Let’s go veyter (further).
Shoin, the Yiddin went to war, the results a foregone conclusion: when the RBSO declares war, the other side has no chance. If only the Yiddin over in Israel had some way of contacting the RBSO today, they would know what to do. Sadly, neither Moishe nor Yihoishua are available. We could use some guidance form the Tzitz or the Urim V’tumin; they’re not here either. The Tzitz will be explained below. One thing is zicher: they cannot rely on mikuboilm to provide these answers.
We will learn that Moishe was not at all too pleased with the war’s results and even though the Yiddin killed mamish every adult male, seemingly they had a soft spot (as opposed to what they had back in parshas Bolok, if you chap) for the ladies and let all the women and children live. The troops and their general (Pinchas, he of the Peace Prize), made a cheshboin (rationalized) that since women did not participate in the battle, they were but innocent bystanders and were not deserving of death. Moreover efsher they thought that these fine women still had what to give to society and to the Yiddin, if you chap. And they figured that the young males would make good slaves. Anyway Moishe was not happy and reprimanded them mamish. His thinking was that the males would grow up and threaten the Yiddin while the women were all whores and had been the whole cause both of the immorality and the idolatry of the hapless Yiddin. Shoin! Let’s go veyter.
Moishe gives new instructions: they are to kill all the males, age notwithstanding, as well as the women who had had sexual relations. Was he so heartless? Would it have been so giferlich to let a few women live? Why did he insist on their death? Ober we must remember that the Yiddin had been tempted to sin by the Midianite and/or the Moabite women, and avada the RBSO punished them for this behavior.
Subsequently, the Yiddin, led by General Pinchas, waged war against the Midianites and captured many captives. And as we learned just above, they initially spared the women. Ober (but) we also learned that this particular war was one of retribution for the sin, and letting the women live was not on the menu; they needed to show sufficient distance from the previous sin. Therefore, Moishe commanded them to kill all the women who had “known” a man. And what does that mean? Is knowing a man a death sentence?
Says the heylige Gemora azoy: the command was not just to slay those women that had intercourse mamish, but also to kill anyone that was “fit for intercourse.” How does one get ‘fit’ for intercourse? Says the heylige Gemora: it’s a technical term within halocho (Jewish law): intercourse at a specific age is considered intercourse, whereas at an earlier age the act is not called intercourse. Avada, this is no excuse for any of you chazerrim to get involved with younger meydlich claiming an age exemption. And what is that age? Says the Gemora: three years old and a one day. Shreklich (OMG)!!
Lest you be nichshoil (fall prey) chas v’sholom), it should avada be known that the heylige Gemora is not recommending, or suggesting that it’s a good thing to have intercourse with a 3 year old girl. Rather, it is giving a technical definition of when an act is considered an act. Veyter.
And how were the Yiddin to know which girls did and who didn’t? Isn’t that an internal matter? And who did the checking? Were they dropped off at the rabbi’s house for inspection? Seemingly the checking involved some magic from the Tzitz. From the what? And what the hec is a Tzitz you ask? Nu, chazal will tell us that this was determined by passing the women before the Tzitz. Had you been paying attention back
in sefer Shemois, efsher you would recall that the koihen godol (big kihuna) wore 8 garments during his service, one of which was the heylige Tzitz.
How did the Tzitz work? Said Rav Chana bar Bizna in the name of Rebi Shimon the Tzadik: The Midianite women were passed before the Tzitz. Any woman whose face turned sickly was determined to be fit for cohabitation; any woman whose face did not turn sickly was determined to be too young for cohabitation. Said Rav Nachman: A symptom of sin is hydrokan (a bloating of the stomach). Rashi states that this was a miracle; no kidding!
Shoin, with the war over and the Yiddin victorious and the spoils of war divided as described in great detail in the parsha, it was time to go veyter. Let’s skip ahead to the end of the parsha. It’s year 40 and the Yiddin are poised mamish to enter, after valgering 40 years in the midbar, into the Promised Land. They were excited mamish or should have been, ober seemingly not all of them. And in one of the most unusual of all stories told, the heylige Toirah will tell us that 2 shevotim, namely Reuvain and Gad, had a change of heart. They did not want to enter the land. Lommer lernin what happened here and what some had to say about this last minute maneuver by them to avoid entry into the Promised Land.
Says the heylige Toirah azoy (Bamidbar 21:1) azoy: “The descendants of Reuvain and Gad had an abundance of livestock, very numerous…” … they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. The descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuvain came, and they spoke to Moishe and to Elozor the Koihen and to the princes of the community, saying, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, and Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, the land that the RBSO struck down before the congregation of Israel is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” They said, “If it pleases you, let this land be given to your servants as a heritage; do not take us across the Jordan.”
Shoin: while tens of thousands of Yiddin died trying to get in and a few million were selected to make the final cut, they wanted to stay put? We don’t want to go! Can you just imagine the chutzpah? Hundreds of years back the RBSO foretold about slavery and its redemption and for the last 40 years, the Yiddin, those that survived have been chalishing (waiting with baited breath) to enter the land and they don’t want to go?! What’s pshat here? And their rationale? Seemingly they had an abundance – so says the heylige Toirah- or, an overabundance, according to others, of animals and thought that the land in Jordan was better suited for their animals. Are these the heylige shevotim that rabbis talk about yearly?
They said (Bamidbar 32:16) ‘We will build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our children.'” And says Rashi and who chapped better, azoy: seemingly “they were more concerned about their possessions than about their sons and daughters, since they mentioned their livestock before [mentioning] their children.” Nu, as you can imagine Moishe was astounded and the heylige Toirah spent 10 holy pisukim telling us how Moishe berated them for their self-centered request. Another 17 pisukim are dedicated to the back and forth discussions, negotiations and conditional consent that Moishe finally gave the tribes of Gad and Reuvain. They are a good read. Shoin; and after peaceful negotiations between Moishe and the renegade shevotim, the heylige Toirah tells us (Bamidbar 32:33) azoy: So Moishe gave to them – to the children of Gad, and the children of Reuvain, and half the tribe of Menashe, son of Yoisef – the kingdom of Sichoin, King of the Amorite, and the kingdom of Og, King of the Bashan; the land with its cities in the boundaries, and the cities of the surrounding land.
And before we get into their rationale, lommer lernin a shtikel Novee, specifically a few pisukim found over in sefer Yihoishua (Joshua 22: 1-4) where we read azoy: Then Yihoishua summoned the Reuvainites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Menashe and said to them, “You have done all that Moishe the servant of the RBSO commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now-to this very day-you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
Menashe? Nowhere in the entire dialogue do we hear the name Menashe; didn’t the entire discussion revolve around Reuvain, Gad and Moishe and efsher you’re wondering how Menashe got into the picture? What are they doing on the other side of the Jordan and where in the heylige Toirah do we find them asking to stay outside of Israel? And the answer: nowhere! They Menashites never asked and if that’s taka emes, what compelled Moishe to force this land upon them? And the emes is that there is no answer; the heylige Toirah is silent, yet another lacuna (a groise luch) in the text. You already know what happens when the text is silent: the medrish and others fill in the blanks with their own version of what happened or may have, ver veyst. Which one is historical, ver veyst? Lommer lernin.
Says the Ibn Ezra: it’s quite simple. Menashe’s tribe was small in numbers, they had little say. How small? Seemingly they only had eight families of which only two joined the renegades. The other six moved into Israel. Are two out of eight a half, ver veyst? On the other hand, who says they asked to stay? No one and nowhere!
Says the Ramban: it’s not emes; they never asked to join the others. Moishe gave it to them; why, ver veyst. Maybe they too had an abundance of animals. Moishe asked for volunteers to join the two tribes who remained and part of the tribe of Menashe responded.
Says the Netziv (Devarim 3:16): Moishe insisted that part of Menashe move with the other two. Why? He wasn’t very confident that Reuvain and Gad would continue the traditions of the Yiddin. Maybe he recalled that Reuvain acted impetuously in the past, that he moved Yakkov’s bed, if you chap, and other such shenanigans, ver veyst. Maybe he thought that both Reuvain and Gad were weak in Toirah learning. Was
Moishe the first ever kiruv visionary? Did he initiate the move in an attempt to insure the integrity and continuity of the other two tribes? Ver veyst?
Ober the Arizal (Liquety Torah, Shaar Hapsukim, Igra D’kallah) – he of the coldest mikveh on earth fame- said azoy: the tribes of Reuvain and Gad suffered from a spiritual blemish and therefore could not enter the land. This blemish only affected 1/4 of the tribe of Yosef – half of Menashe. What was that blemish and where is this blemish mentioned? Nowhere! So, the question remains: why would Reuvain and Gad ask to stay on the other side of the Jordan, the side outside of the Promised Land? Ver veyst? On the other hand, one Medrish (Shemois Rabbah 20:14) tells us that the Promised Land only had “room” for 10 tribes. Of course it’s only a medrish; who says it has to be emes? Can they all be? Ver veyst? One day when Moshiach arrives you can ask these questions. For now just learn the heylige Toirah and enjoy the myriad midrashim that proffered theories.
A gittin Shabbis
The Oisvorfer Ruv