Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parsha Matos Masei 5770: Question

Parsha Questions: 1) In this weeks parsha G-d commands Moshe to gather the army to fight Midian as a last?
act prior to his death. How do we know the tribes were reluctant to go to war knowing it would lead to Moshe leaving to his death?

2)Eleazar states that items should be purified according to its use- i.e. items used with fire are cleansed with fires, items normally cleaned with water are cleansed with water. This seems immenently logical, yet Elazar calls these laws a “chok”- a category of law that implies there is not a logical reason for them. Why is the term chok used here?

This weeks Parsha; The double portion of Matos Masei Bamidbar (Numbers) 30:2-36:13

The answer for the first question is from Midrash Tanchuma on this parsha. The midrash states that Moshe could have extended his life by postphoning the battle with Midian. Moshe was always zealous to carry out the commandments and will of G-d thus he immediately gave the order for the tribes to send 1000 men each to go to war. However, the men did not wish to go as they did nto want Moshe to die- thus first it states that a thousand were given from each tribe and then in Chapter 31 6. Moses sent them the thousand from each tribe to the army, them (…) ו. וַיִּשְׁלַח אֹתָם מֹשֶׁה אֶלֶף לַמַּטֶּה לַצָּבָא אֹתָם(…)

Why did Moshe have to send them even though it had been recorded that he had already ordered them to war? Because the army delayed to try and extend Moshe’s life!
Question 2’s answer is from” Darash Moshe “- commentary on the Torah by HaRav Moshe Feinstein zs”l on Parshas Chukas. there he makes an interesting observation: it does not say “This is the chok (decree) of the red heffer” but rather “This is the chok (decree) of the Torah”. Now, a chok is a specific category of law that is seen to not have a rational explanation, but is rather something that is decreed by G-d and thus we do it regardless of whether or not we understand it. This is the epitomy of the statement that Bnei Yisrael made when they stood at mount Sinai when they received the Torah “We will do, and we will understand”- in other words, we will do the entire Torah regardless of out undertsanding. HRav Feinstein points out that this statement encompasses the entire Torah, not just the parts referred to in chukim- thus at the parah adumah (red heffer), the Torah reminds us that we dedicated ourselves to follow the ENTIRE TORAH as a decree from hashem regardless of our understanding! every law, every commandment in the Torah is as much a chok, a decree, from G-d that we have undertaken to perform regardless of out level of undertsanding.

Now this explains why the Torah explictly calls the Parah adumah a chok- it is an example of a decree we cannot understand but perform since the entire Torah is a chok we agreed to uphold, and why the Torah calls the purification of utensils a chok even though it appears to be sological, because it, too, is part of the chol fo the Tprah and thus something we do regardless of whether or nto we understand or agree with the understanding of the law.

At a more esoteric level, the association of a seemingly logical law with the term chok serves to remind us of something else: the law seems logical to us, but do we truly understand it? Can we understand a law that was given to us by G-d/ Does our understanding truly reflect every aspect of the law as understood by G-d? Can us, as finite beings, understand what G-d intends from the law? Do we have a full understanding of the ramifications and every nuance of this law? Obviously these questions have to eb answered: NO, we cannot understand G-d, his thought processes, his intentions etc. Thus we have to treat each and every law as a chok regardless of how logical it seems! Why? Imagine if we decided that some laws can be fully and completely understood and that nothing was lacking in our understanding. So, with our complete understanding we look around and decide that the reason for the law is gone and thus we can ignore it- after all, we have fully understood it and every nuance, why do something not necessary? Thus the Torah calls a logical law a chok, why it calls iteself a chok- our understanding can never be perfect- and thus we have to continue to do each and every law regardless of whether or not it makes sense to us!


July 6, 2010 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Okay, I’ve looked in Mikraot Gedolot (Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ramban, Ba’al HaTurim, Kli Yakar, Rashbam, and more), Midrash Rabbah Im Kol HaMefarshim, Midrash Tanhuma, Artscrol Rashi, Perush Ramban (Mosad HaRav Kook).
    Didn’t find the answer.
    Should I go to the Zohar?

    Comment by Gavriel | July 6, 2010 | Reply

    • You evidently didn’t read the sources you looked in very well! The answers are in there, but it isn’t going to be found merely skim reading or naming sources without reading them properly! And nope, it is not in the Zohar, I won’t be asking questions that reference Kabbalistic sources.

      Comment by marcl1969 | July 6, 2010 | Reply

  2. Fine, fine- I’ll look harder! I bet it’s in Tanh`uma. Alright, keep the q for a little extra time.
    Are you at the Uruguay vs. Holland game?

    Comment by Gavriel | July 6, 2010 | Reply

    • Hmm, one is from Tanhuma- the other I need to actually find the source for as it was from a shiur I heard a while back….

      Nope, not at the soccer- it was down in Cape Town, a mere 1200 KMs away. The final is up here though. sadly, I do not have tickets for it.

      Comment by marcl1969 | July 7, 2010 | Reply

  3. זה לא פאיר אתה לא יכול לקחת משו משיור

    איך אני יכול לדעת משה למדדת בשיור


    Comment by Gavriel | July 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Ah, the answer is from a shiur, but is actually very logical when stated. Heh, its why I asked two questions- one is relatively easy and the answer can be found by looking ion the right place, the other requires a thorough knowledge of Torah. As a hint- consider what the prototype of a chok is, why that is a chok and then consider what we say about the entire Torah!

      Comment by marcl1969 | July 7, 2010 | Reply


    Comment by Gavriel | July 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Don’t give up yet! The one from Midrash Tanhuma is on the first question.

      Comment by marcl1969 | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  5. Oh really?… Which paragraph?

    Comment by Gavriel | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  6. 3!

    Comment by Gavriel | July 8, 2010 | Reply

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