Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Of Kings and Wells (Parshas Chukas 5775)

Who was the King of Edom that the Jews exchanged messages with?

"And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom" (Numbers 20:14)

His name was not mentioned on purpose according to the Ramban (Numbers 20:14):
The Torah did not write his name for there is no purpose for that, but then it does mention Sichon and Og, kings of the Emorites, with their names because they were known for their might and had a name among the nations, and this was done to thank the Blessed One for what He did for us
The Ramban also adds later on (Numbers 20:17) that:
And the Torah writes 'And Edom answered', for all the officials agreed with him [i.e. the king of Edom] in this refusal
The Meshech Chochma writes in a similar fashion (Numbers 20:17):
It is not written here "king of Edom" unlike regarding Sichon, because they had a legislature / parliament. And it also says (Obadiah 1:2) "small I made you among the nations and very despised" - for they don't have a king son of a king (i.e. a hereditary monarchy) [based on the Talmud Avodah Zarah 10a). Therefore, in a place that kingship is not inherited, the main thing is the agreement of the people, which is why it says "and Edom answered", "and Edom refused".
There is another opinion that his name was Haddad (see Genesis 36:35), as the Vilna Gaon writes in his commentary on Chronicles (I Chronicles 1:43):
"before there was a king in Israel" - this is Moses as it is written "and there was in Jeshurun a king". Therefore, the Torah does not mention the death of Hadad because he was still alive in the days of Moses (and died 5 years later as it is written in Sefer haYashar), only that his kingdom began before Moses. But in the days of Ezra he was already dead, and therefore it is written here "and Haddad died"
See also Sefer haYashar (Chukas), Rashbam (Genesis 36:1) and Ibn Ezra (Genesis 36:31)


Who was the Canaanite, king of Arad?

"And the Canaanite, king of Arad, who lived in the south, heard that the Jews came through Atharim, and he fought them, and captured some captive" (Numbers 21:1)
This was Amalek according to Rashi (Numbers 21:1):
This was Amalek, as it says "Amalek lived in the land of the south" (Numbers 13:29)
Rashi's source appears to be a Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 19:20 and Tanchuma 4:6)

However, the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 3a) tells us that this was Sichon (also see Tosfot there):

Sichon, Arad and Canaan are the same. Sichon because he was similar to a young donkey of the desert, Canaan because of his kingdom, and this real name was Arad. According to others, he was called Arad because he was similar to a wild donkey of the wilderness, Canaan after this kingdom, and his real name was Sichon.

Ibn Ezra (Numbers 21:1) and Ramban (Numbers 21:1) cite an opinion connecting this verse to a place called "Arad", later on (Judges 1:16):
And the children of Kenite, Moses's father-in-law, went up from the city of palms together with the Children of Judah into the desert of Judah, which is in the south of Arad, and they went and lived there.
(See both Ibn Ezra and Ramban for further discussion)

What happened to the Miriam's Well after the Land was conquered?

"And the Jews arrived, the entire congregation, in the Zin desert, in the first of the month, and the people lived there in Kadesh. And Miriam died there, and was buried there" (Numbers 20:1)
We know that the Well of Miriam stopped giving water after her death and restarted shortly after from the Talmud (Taanit 9a):
When Miriam died, the well stopped as it is written: "and Miriam died there and was buried there" and right after it is written: "and there was no water for the congregation". And it returned in the merit of both of them (i. e. Moses and Aaron).
We also know that the water stopped all together once Moses died from the Tosefta (Sotah 11:4):
Once Miriam died, the well stopped and it came back in the merit of both Moses and Aaron. Once Aaron died, the cloud stopped, and both [the well and the cloud] came back in the merit of Moses. Once Moses died, all three stopped and did not come back.
The Talmud (Shabbat 35a) writes that the Well of Miriam is in the sea opposite Carmel:
Rav Chiya says: One who wants to see the Well of Miriam should ascend to the top of Carmel, and gaze and see something like a sieve and that is the Well of Miriam
Rashi (ibid) tells us about Carmel:
Carmel - a mountain on the shore of the sea
We are not told what sea this mountain is near.

The Midrash tells us that the Well of Miriam is in the sea of Galilee (also called the sea of Tiberias), as written in Bamidbar Rabbah (19:26) and Midrash Tanchuma (1:39 and 4:6) - also cited by Rashi (Numbers 21:20):

"and it looks on the face of the wilderness" (Numbers 21:20) - this is the Well that came with them until it entered the sea of Tiberias. One who stands in the wilderness can look inside the sea and see something like an oven and this is the well that "looks on the face of the wilderness".

There is also a story cited in several Midrashim about an ill man getting healed from the Well of Miriam (Bamidbar Rabbah 18:22, Midrash Tanchuma 4:6 and 1:39):

There was once a blind man with boils who went down to immerse himself in water [some add "in a cave"] and the Well of Miriam appeared to him. He immersed himself and was healed.
The same story is cited in Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra Rabbah 22:4 and Kohelet Rabbah 5:8) with some additions, which connect the discussion from the Talmud above with the story of this blind man:

There was once a man with a skin disease, who went down to immerse himself in the sea of Tiberias. The Well of Miriam appeared to him and he was healed. Where can it found? Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said: it is written "and it looks on the face of the Yeshimon (literally wilderness)" (Numbers 21:20). For anyone who goes up to the mountain Yeshimon, he will see something like a small sieve in the Sea of Tiberias, and that is the Well of Miriam.
This is also cited in the Jerusalem Talmud (Kelayim 9:4 and Kesuvos 12:3)

In Sefer Shaar haGilgulim, the location of the well is narrowed down further:
When one goes on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias towards the hot springs of Tiberias, in the middle of the road literally, in a place where there are many pillars on the sea shore, and it is opposite a tower on the head of the mountain, that is where the Well of Miriam is.
(See further discussion by Josh Waxman in his parshablog)

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Who Shall Die and Who Shall Live (Parshas Korach 5775)

1. How did Korach Die?

According to the simple reading of the Torah, Korach seems to have perished with the rest of his associates when the earth opened up (Bamidbar 16:31-33; 26:10). The Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a), cites an anonymous Braisa that Korach was burned with the 250 men that were bringing ketores and swallowed by the earth:
במתניתא תנא קרח מן השרופין ומן הבלועין מן הבלועים דכתיב (במדבר כו, י) ותבלע אותם ואת קרח מן השרופין דכתיב (במדבר טז, לה) ואש יצאה מאת ה' ותאכל את חמשים ומאתים איש וקרח בהדייהו
As Rashi explains (Sanhedrin 110a) (see also Rabbeinu Bachaya 16:31-33), his soul was burned first with his body remaining intact, and the body then rolled until the place where the earth opened, and it was swallowed:
שנשרפה נשמתו וגוף קיים ואח"כ נתגלגל עד מקום הבלועין ונבלע

However, the same Gemara (Sanhedrin 110a) also cites another opinion, of Rabbi Yochanan, who says that Korach was not burned with the 250 men or swallowed by the earth:
וא"ר יוחנן קרח לא מן הבלועים ולא מן השרופין לא מן הבלועין דכתיב ואת כל האדם אשר לקרח ולא קרח ולא מן השרופים דכתיב באכול האש את חמשים ומאתים איש ולא קרח
The question is that if Korach wasn't burned or swallowed, how did he die? According to Rashi (Sanhedrin 110a), he lived until the next day when he died in the plague (described in Bamidbar 17:11-14):

לא מן הבלועין ולא מן השרופין - אלא במגפה מת
See also the Ralbag (as cited by Josh Waxman in his ParshaBlog) and the Maharsha that explain that Korach did not sin as greatly as Dathan and Aviram and therefore was not punished as severely.

However, the Ben Yehioda (Sanhedrin 110a) objects to this Rashi, and explains that Korach did die as the other opinion in the Gemara describes with his soul being burned first and his body rolling to the earth opening. He explains that since Korach's entire body did not get burned like the 250 men, and his body was not swallowed alive like Dathan and Aviram, he is "לא מן הבלועין ולא מן השרופין" like Rabbi Yochanan.

2. How did the Sons of Korach Survive?

While the Torah tells us that the entire households belonging to Korach and others with him were killed (Bamidbar 16:31-32; 26:10), later on we see that the sons of Korach did not die (Bamidbar 26:11). How do we explain this disrepency?

According to Rashi (Bamidbar 26:11) and Sforno (Bamidbar 16:32), they were originally together with their father, but they ended up doing teshuva and did not die.

However, the Sifsei Chachamim (26:11) asks how is it possible that they did not die since the Torah tells us that “all of their households” were swallowed up. He answers that they were indeed swallowed up, but Hashem allowed them to escape as the Gemara says (Megillah 14a and Sanhedrin 110a) that a high place was made for them so they were not lost. Rabbeinu Bachaya (Bamidbar 16:32) adds that other people were able to pull them from this high place.

3. Who were the 250 Men who Joined Korach?

The Torah (Bamidbar 16:2) tells us of 250 men, who joined Korach but their names are not mentioned. Who were they?

According to Rabbeinu Chananel (as cited by the Ramban 16:5), they were from the tribe of Levi, which is why Moshe later on addresses them as "children of Levi" (Bamidbar 16:7-8) (also see the Ramban who objects to this):
וכתב רבנו חננאל:כי אלה הנקהלים כולם היו לווים משבט קרח, וזה טעם רב לכם בני לוי (פסוק ז), שמעו נא בני לוי (פסוק ח), אולי חשבו כי כל שבטם נבחר לכהונה ומשה מעצמו חלק כבוד לאחיו, ע"כ.

However, according to the Ibn Ezra (16:1), they were bechorim who were replaced by the tribe of Levi and could no longer bring the korbanos:

אלה נשיאי העדה היו בכורים והם היו מקריבים את העולות, על כן לקחו מחתות, והראיה על זה הפירוש מופת המטה, שראו כל ישראל כי השם בחר שבט לוי תחת הבכורים, על כן כתוב: ותכל תלונתם, כי התלונה על זה היתה
 (See Sefer Shaarei Aharon for a more extensive discussion of additional opinions)

Bonus Question: Why was Korach Have the Same Name as a Rasha?

The Chasam Sofer asks why Korach's name is the same as one of the grandson's of Eisav in Parshas Vayishlach (Bereishis 36:5; 36:14; 36:16; 36:18) and says that perhaps this is what influences him to be a Rasha.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Order Among Spies (Parshas Shlach)

In the beginning of this week's parsha (Bamidbar 13:4-15), we find Moshe Rabbeinu assigning one man from each tribe to go on the mission to spy out Eretz Yisrael.

ואלה שמותם
למטה ראובן שמוע בן זכור.
למטה שמעון שפט בן חורי.
למטה יהודה כלב בן יפנה.
למטה יששכר יגאל בן יוסף.
למטה אפרים הושע בן נון.
למטה בנימן פלטי בן רפוא.
למטה זבולן גדיאל בן סודי.
למטה יוסף למטה מנשה גדי בן־סוסי.
למטה דן עמיאל בן גמלי.
למטה אשר סתור בן מיכאל.
למטה נפתלי נחבי בן ופסי.
למטה גד גאואל בן מכי.

There are several questions about this arrangement:

1. Why is Levi not mentioned?

According to the Daas Zekeinim (13:2), the tribe of Levi was excluded because they do not get to inherit any portion of the land (except the 48 cities that are allocated to them).
אך משבט לוי לא הושלח מרגל לפי שלא היה להם חלק בארץ
2. Why is Menashe singled out as “of the tribe of Yosef”?

According to Daas Zekeinim (13:11), Yosef is mentioned next to the tribe of Menashe because just like he spoke ill of his brothers, his descendent, the prince of Menashe, spoke ill of Eretz Yisrael. The other tribe that descends from Yosef, Efraim, was represented by Yehoshua, who did not speak bad about Eretz Yisrael.

כאן שקליה יוסף למטרפסיה לפי שהוציא דבה ולכך הוזכר כאן על מטה מנשה שהיה ממוציאי הדבה ולא על מטה אפרים שלא הוציא ובכל מקומות הוא נזכר על מטה אפרים

Tzror haMor (13:11), says that Menashe learned this from his father Yosef, who only wanted his bones to be brought to Eretz Yisrael and not his entire body. This is also why half of the tribe of Menashe ended up residing outside of Eretz Yisrael.

(original from here)

However, according to the Meshech Chochma (45:3), Hashem showed Moshe that the tribe of Menashe would end up being split with half living in Eretz Yisrael, and half on the other bank of the Yarden. Moshe picked the person from the half living in Eretz Yisrael, which loved Eretz Yisrael, just like their forefather, Yosef, who loved Eretz Yisrael, and asked for his bones to be buried there (see Bereishis 50:25).

פירוש, שהיה גלוי ברוה"ק למשה, שמטה מנשה חציו יהא בעבר הירדן וחציו בארץ, ולכן שלח איש מחצי השבט, שחלקם בארץ ומחבבים א"י, וזה מדת יוסף, שחיבב ארץ ישראל, וכמו שאמרו במדרש, שלא כפר בארצו, ואמר גונבתי מארץ העברים, והעליתם את עצמותי מזה כו'. וכל זה לא הועיל. ודו"ק.
 (See also later on 34:23 were Menashe is listed in a similar fashion, and Sefer Shaarei Aharon for further discussion about that)

3. What is the overall logic for the arrangement of the tribes here?

Generally speaking, there are two main orders the tribes are listed in – the order of birth and the order of encampments, but this parsha does not match either of them. In fact, the order in which the tribes are listed here does not match any other places in Tanach (see Bereishis 29:32-30:24; 35:16-18; 35:22-26; 46:8-27; 49:1-28; Shemos 1:1-5; 6:14-49; Bamidbar 1:5-15; 1:20-49; 2:3-33; 7:12-78; 10:14-27; 26:5-57; 34:19-28; Devarim 27:12-14; 33:6-25; Yehoshua 21; Yehezkel 48; Divrei haYamim I 2:1-2; 4:1-8:40; 12).

The Ramban (13:4) writes that the tribes were listed according to the personal greatness of the individual men that were sent, and the same logic was followed later on (34:17) when the princes for conquering the land were chosen.)
מנה הכתוב השבטים לא לדגליהם ולא לצבאותם ולא כתולדותם ונראה שראה למנותם הנה לפי מעלת השלוחים כי היו ראשים ונשיאים בעם כאשר ספר ואין מעלתם שוה אבל יש בהם גדול מחברו בחכמה (ובמנין) ובכבוד והקדים הנכבד הקודם במעלה כי ממעלת עצמם מנאם לא למעלת השבט וכן בנשיאים החולקים להם את ארץ כנען (להלן לד יז-כט) הזכירם כפי המעלה לא לתולדותם
The Sforno (13:4) writes that they were listed in the order of their ages.
כלם חשובים איש על שמו מצד מעלתם. והזכירם לפי זקנתם מפני שהיו אז שוים במעלה בפרט בענין השליחות לא כסדר השבטים ולא כסדר הדגלים 
Tzror HaMor (13:4) writes that they are listed in the order they normally appear (see Bereishis 35:23-26), with the children of the main wives first. However, there are several switches made:

1. Levi is omitted because that tribe did not receive any land.

2. Efraim and Benyamin, the sons of Rachel, are listed right before the end of the sons of Leah (between Issachar and Zevulun), because Yehoshua loved Eretz Yisrael and divided it among the tribes; and Benyamin owned the part of the land where the Bais haMikdash stood.

3. Gad is listed last among the sons of the lesser wives (Bilhah and Zilpah), because he originated the idea of living outside of Eretz Yisrael and managed to convince Reuven and half of the tribe of Menashe to follow him.

4. Menashe appears last in the list of the sons of the main wives (Leah and Rachel), because he listened to Gad.

5. Reuven should have been listed last also, but he remains first because he is the first born.

(Original can be viewed here:, p. 251)

(See also Sefer Shaarei Aharon who discusses several problems with all of these approaches, including the issues with the ages of Calev and Yehoshua)

Bonus question: How many spies were there?

According to the simple reading of the Torah, exactly 12, one for each tribe except Levi. However, the Yerushalami (Sotah 32b:1), (as cited by Tosafos on Sotah 34a) records the opinion of Rabbi Akiva that there were actually 24 spies.
 כתיב איש אחד לשבט על דעתיה דרבי עקיבה דו אמר לשונו' רבויים הן עשרים וארבעה היו ששה עשר באשכול ושמנה בתאנים ורמוני' ובנושא כלים.  ועל דעתיה דרבי ישמעאל דהוא אומר לשונות כפולין הן שנים עשר היו שמונה באשכול וארבעה בתאנים ורימוני' ובנושא כלים.  על דעתיה דרבי ישמעאל טורטרין על דעתיה דר' עקיבה טורטורין וטורטורי טורטורין.
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