Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ask Your Elders (Parshas Vaeschanan 5775)

Who were the Elders?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 5:20):
And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain did burn with fire, that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders
Based on an analysis of the term "elders" appearing in the Torah, it appears that it may refer to four different things:

1 - The elders of the Jewish people in Egypt and shortly after the Exodus (Exodus 3:16, 3:18, 4:29, 12:21, 17:5-6, 18:12, 19:7). 

2 - The elders of the Jewish people that served on the Sanhedrin with Moses (Exodus 24:1, 24:9, 24:14, Leviticus 9:1, Numbers 11:16, 11:24-25, 11:30, 16:25, Deuteronomy 5:20, 27:1, 29:9, 31:9, 31:28).

3 - The elders referred in the description of various commandments (Leviticus 4:15, Deuteronomy 19:12, 21:2-6, 21:19-20, 22:15-18, 25:7-9)

4 - The elders of other nations (Egypt - Genesis 50:7, Midian - Numbers 22:4, Moab - Numbers 22:7).

It appears that our verse refers to either #1 or #2.

Rabbeinu Bachya (Numbers 11:16) explains who they were:
... already with the Jews in Egypt there were 70 elders, for from the day they descended to Egypt with 70 souls and the blessing was applied to their children, they appointed over themselves 70 elders to lead and to teach ordinances and judgements of the righteous for they were great sages from the ones accepted by our forefathers ... And that which is written "and gather the elders of Israel together" (Exodus 3:16) - there were 70 of them, and this happened at the Giving of the Torah as it is written (Exodus 24:9) "Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel". 

And that which is mentioned here (Numbers 11:16) "Gather unto Me seventy men", these were others that were now chosen anew for those 70 elders of the Giving of the Torah died at Taberah (see Numbers 11:1-3) for they were supposed have been killed for what they did at Mt. Sinai, and therefore it needed to say that they were chosen anew, and they were chosen through lots as our Sages told us...
They were among those who were appointed taskmasters in Egypt, in charge of punishing the people...
(see also Rashi [Numbers 11:16])

The elders are also mentioned as the generation immediately following Joshua and before the Prophets, but it is unclear if they were the same ones (Joshua 24:31, Judges 2:7):
And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and had known all the work of the LORD, that He had wrought for Israel.
[This is also mentioned in the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 1:1)]

Rav Obadiah miBartenura (ibid) explains:
For their days extended after Joshua, and those elders gave it over to other elders until it reached the beginning of the Prophets, which were Eli the Priest and Samuel Ramati
(see also Tiferes Yisrael (ibid) who explains that the elders here refer to the Judges in the Book of Judges)

(Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (Sefer leMakesi Atik Joshua 24:31) explains that these elders were either Eldad and Meidad, or the Tribe of Levi)

(Tisha Bav) Who were Kamtza and Bar Kamtza?

The Maharsha (ibid) suggest they were related:
It is possible that they were father and son, and the messenger got mistaken between them. And also Bar Kamtza, once he knew that the host was looking for his father, who was his friend, also wanted his friendship and make peace with the one who send the invitation
Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt"l explains that the host of the party was a Pharisee, and Bar Kamtza was a well known Sadducee, which is why there was enmity between them.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

There Were Giants In Those Days (Parshas Devarim 5775)

Who was Sihon?

The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 1:3-4):

And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them; after he had smitten Sihon the king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtaroth, at Edrei.
The Talmud (Nidah 61a) writes that Sihon and Og were brothers, descendants of fallen angels from before the Flood:

Sihon and Og were brothers as the master said - Sihon and Og were sons of Achia son of Shamhazai 
Rashi explains (ibid):
They descend from Shamhazi and Azael, the two angels that came down during the generation of Enosh
The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 3a) tells us that Sihon was the same person as king of Arad and Canaan (see earlier post):
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.
Rabbeinu Bachya (end of Chukas) says that Sihon's mother was the wife of Ham (see also Sefer Mayim Rabim by Rabbi Mordechai Frankel [Parshas Noach, #4] for further discussion on how Canaan and Sihon are the same person)

Baalei Tosfos (Moshav Zekeinim, end of Chukas) writes that Sihon was the son of Noah:
Noah's wife died before the Flood, and Noah married the mother of Og. Og was already born when her first husband was alive, and she married Noah once Og's father died. And she conceived Sihon from Noah before the flood and he was born in the Ark
(see also the second answer given by Baalei Tosfos that Sihon was the son of Noah's wife, but not Noah's son)

Who was Og?

According to the Talmud, he was a brother of Sihon, descendent from fallen angels (see above)

The Talmud (Nidah 61a) also explains that Og was the survivor who told Abraham about Lot's capture:
It is written "And a survivor came and told Abraham the Ivri" (Genesis 14:13) and Rabbi Yochanan said: this is Og who survived the generation of the Flood
(see also Rabbeinu Bachya [end of Chukas] where he discusses whether Og the king was the same person or a descendent of Og in the time of Abraham)

Midrash Shocher Tov (chapter 106) explains that his name is from the term "Ugos":
Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said in the name of Bar Kapra: "Palit" was his name as it says "And the Palit / survivor came" (Genesis 14:13). And why is he called "Og"? Because he came and found Abraham busy with baking of Pesach matzos (called Ugos).
Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (chapter 16) says that Og was Eliezer, the servant of Abraham:
"The elder of the house of Abraham" was Eliezer, his servant. How did he become his servant? When he (i.e. Abraham) was leaving Ur Kasdim, all the great people of the generation gave him gifts. Nimrod signed over his servant Eliezer to Abraham. When he did kindness with Isaac, his son, Abraham freed him and G-d have him rewards in this world and he became king - he was Og, the king of Bashan.
(See also Biur Hardal (ibid) who explains that Og was a slave to Noah when Noah saved him from the flood (see Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer [chapter 23]), and Ham inherited him, then Cush then Nimrod. An alternate explanation is that he was captured by Nimrod from the Rephaim.)

(see also Targum Jonathan [Genesis 14:13] who identifies Eliezer as Nimrod's son)

According to some, Og was a stepson of Noah (see above)

Who were the Anakim / Giants?

 The Torah writes (Deuteronomy 2:20-21):
That also is accounted a land of Rephaim: Rephaim dwelt therein aforetime; but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakim; but the LORD destroyed them before them; and they succeeded them, and dwelt in their stead;
Genesis Rabbah (26:7) explains that they are identified with seven names:
"And Nephilim were on earth in those days" - they are called seven names: Eimim, Rephaim, Giborim, Zamzumim, Anakim, Avim, Nephilim.
The Torah (Numbers 13:33) identifies Anakim as descendants of Nephilim, which are fallen angels, (see Genesis 6:4, see also Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer [chapter 22]):
And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.’
The Torah identifies them as dwelling in Hebron (Numbers 13:22):
And they went up into the South, and came unto Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were there.
Tanach states (Joshua 11:22) that after the land was conquered they only remained in certain cities:
There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the children of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, did some remain.
The Rashbam (Genesis 23:2) identifies their father, with the name "Arba":
The name of the person who founded or owned this town was Arba. We know this from Joshua (15:13) where he is described as the father of a giant. The reference to a town by mentioning an outstanding citizen is familiar to us from Numbers (21:27-29) where the capital of the Emorites is described as Krias Sichon - the city of Sichon
Targum Jonathan (Deuteronomy 1:28) identifies them as the sons of Ephron (see Genesis 23). Tosefta deTargum (Joshua 15:13) identifies  the father of the "Anak" as Tzohar, the father of Ephron, and "Anak" as Ephron.

The Baal Haturim (Genesis 6:4) identifies the Anakim as Og and Sichon based on the Talmud (Nidah 61a)

Midrash Agada (Deutoronomy 3:11) defines an "Anak" as someone more than 9 cubits tall:
And therefore Goliath is called an "average man", because a giant is defined as someone greater than 9 cubits and Goliath was average for he was only 6 cubits and a zeres.
(see also R' Natan Slifkin, "Sacred Monsters", chapter 3, "Gigantic Giants", for further discussion about giants)

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Monday, July 13, 2015

The Flying Balaam Who Wouldn't Die (Parshas Matos-Masei 5775)

Was Midian Completely Destroyed?

The Torah seems to imply that all of Midian was destroyed (Numbers 31:7-11):
And they warred against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew every male. And they slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword. And the children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods, they took for a prey. And all their cities in the places wherein they dwelt, and all their encampments, they burnt with fire. And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of man and of beast.
However, we find later on in Tanach, that Midian was very much alive and subjugated the Jews (Judges 6:1):
And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years
Ha-emek Davar explains that they did not surround Midian from all four sides but left them room to flee (Numbers 31:7) [see also Sefer haChinuch 527 and Sifri 157). This is also explicit in the Rambam (Melachim 6:7):
When a city is besieged, we do not surround it from four sides but only from three, and leave a place for the inhabitants to flee, so anyone who wishes to escape can do so. And this is written: 'And they besieged Midian as G-d commanded Moses' - from G-d they were commanded to do it this way.
[See Sefer Shaarei Aharon who cites many opinions explaining how the entire Midian was not destroyed but only some of them, see also Ibn Ezra who explains that they only killed adult men]

Why Did Balaam Come Back?

The Torah writes (Numbers 31:8):
And they slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
However, earlier the Torah tells us that Balaam went home (Numbers 24:25):
And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place; and Balak also went his way.
We know that Balaam lived in Pethor (see Numbers 22:5) which was located in Aram Naharaim (see Deuteronomy 23:5). Aram Nahariim was the city where Rebecca, the wife of Isaac, was originally from (see Genesis 24:10). Targum Onkelos (ibid) identifies this as being located near the Euphrates river, which is no where near Midian (which was on the east bank of the Jordan opposite the Land of Israel).

Rashi (Numbers 31:8) explains why Balaam came back but it is not immediately apparent that Rashi is combining two different opinions to answer this question. The first opinion is based on the Talmud (Sanhedrin 106a):
Balaam returned there to get his rewards for the twenty-four thousand Jews who died as the result of his advice
Rashi also cites a second opinion (based on Sifri 157):
He left Midian to greet the Jews and give them advice: If earlier when you came with 600 thousand, you could not conquer, now that you come only with 12 thousand, you think you can conquer? The Jews gave him a just reward (i.e. they killed him)
[See also the discussion in Josh Waxman's parshablog and other opinions cited there]

How Did Balaam Die?

The Torah writes (Numbers 31:8):
And they slew the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian; Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
The Sifri (Matos 157) writes that he was killed by a Jewish court:
He was killed by a Jewish court as it is written (Joshua 13:22): And Balaam son of Beor, the sorcerer, they killed by sword
[See Sefer Shaarei Aharon and Sefer Torah Sheleimah why he had to be killed through a court]

Rashi (Numbers 31:6) writes (based on Midrash Tanchuma, see also Targum Jonathan) that Balaam knew how to fly through sorcery and was killed by falling from the sky:
For Balaam was with them and he made the kings of Midian fly with magic, and he himself flew with them. When the Tzitz was shown to them [by Pinchas], the Divine Name etched on it, they fall. And that is why it says "upon their dead" by the kings of Midian for they fell on their dead from the air,  and so by Balaam (see Joshua 13:22)
[See Shach al haTorah who writes that Balaam flew with stone wings, was brought down to the ground but did not die and was instead brought to a Jewish court to be judged. See also further discussion in Josh Waxman's parshablog here and here]

Daas Zekeinim (Genesis 31:52) writes that this sword was part of the monument put up by Jacob and Laban:
They attached a sword in this stone heap also as a witness, and Balaam was struck by it twice [once when the donkey squeezed his leg against it, and the second time when he was killed with it]
Tosfos haShalem (Exodus 1:10 and here) cites opinions that Balaam was never killed (based on Talmud [Sanhedrin 105a] that Balaam was the same as Cushan Rishasaim, a king in the days of Judges):
And if he was Balaam, wasn't he killed in the days of Moses and did not live until the days of the Judges? The Riva answers ... that there are those that explain that they made him poor and took all his money and a poor person is like a dead one. And that which it is written "And Balaam the son of Beor they killed by a sword" we must explain that they removed his eyes and a blind person is like a dead one, and either way he had a long life and was very old

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Of Prince and Princess (Parshas Pinchas 5775)

Who was Zimri, prince of the tribe of Simeon?

The Torah writes (Numbers 25:14):
And the name of the Jewish man who was killed together with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Salu, prince of a tribal house in the tribe of Simeon
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b) tell us that Zimri had several other names:
Rabbi Jochanan says: Zimri had five names - Zimri, son of Salu, Saul (see Genesis 46:10), son of Canaanite woman, and Shelumiel son of Zurishadai (see Numbers 1:6 and 7:36), ...and his real name was Shelumiel son of Zuri-Shadai
[See Sefer Lemekasei Atik and notes there for discussion about how Zimri lived so long if he was Saul. See also Midrash Rabbah (Genesis 80) that writes that Saul was the son of Dinah, and the Radak (Genesis 46:10) that writes that this Saul was a son of the second wife of Simeon]

The Baal HaTurim (Numbers 25:15) connects the names Zimri and Shelumiel:
The numerical value (gematria) of Shelumiel is the same as "Zimri son of Salu"

Who was Cozbi, daughter of Zur?

The Torah writes (Numbers 25:15):
And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed, was Cozbi daughter of Zur, the head of a house in Midian
The Torah refers to Zur later on (Numbers 31:8) as a king of Midian, making Cozbi a princess of Midian.

Midrash Aggada (Numbers 25:2) writes that Cozbi was the daughter of Balak (who was a king of Moab - see Numbers 22:4), also making her a princess of Moab instead of Midian:
And Cozbi was the daughter of Balak
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b) tells us that her real name was Shelonai:
Rav Sheshes says: Her name was not Cozbi but Shelonai daughter of Zur. Why was she called Cozbi? Because she falsified against her father. Another explanation: She told her father "let this nation be slaughtered through me".
Rashi (ibid) explains that she rebelled by going with Zimri:
Her father commanded her to listen only to the greatest among them [but she went with Zimri instead]

How many people in Tanach are named Zimri? 

Five, possibly six.

1. Prince of Simeon in our parsha (Numbers 25:14):
And the name of the Jewish man who was killed together with the Midianite woman, was Zimri son of Salu, prince of a tribal house in the tribe of Simeon
2. Zimri, king of Israel who reigned for seven days (Kings I 16:9-20):
During the twenty-seventh year of Asa, the king of Judah, Zimri reigned for seven days in Tirzah while the people were encamped around Gibbethon, of the Philistines.
[see also Kings II 9:31 where Jezebel addresses Jehu as "Zimri", see Rashi there. Incidentally the name Cozbi means "traitor" according to the Talmud Sanhedrin 82b (see above)]  

3. Grandson of Judah, son of Jacob (Chronicles I 2:6): 
And the sons of Zerah: Zimri, and Ethan, and Heman, and Calcol, and Dara; all of them five.
4. Descendent of King Saul (Chronicles I 8:33-36, see also Chronicles I 8:39-42):
And Ner begot Kish, and Kish begot Saul, and Saul begot Jonathan, and Malcishua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal. And Jonathan's son was Merib-Baal, and Merib-baal begot Micah. And the sons of Micah: Pithon, and Melech, and Tarea, and Ahaz. And Ahaz begot Jehoaddah, and Jehoaddah begot Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri, and Zimri begot Moza.
5. Achan, who took spoils from the ruins of Jericho (see Joshua 7:1) as per Talmud (Sanhedrin 44b) that identifies Achan as having the name Zimri:
Here he is called "Zimri", but elsewhere, "Achan". Rav and Samuel disagreed about this: one maintains his real name was Achan; and why was he called Zimri? - Because he acted like Zimri. The other maintains, His real name was Zimri; and why was he called Achan? - Because he wound the sins of Israel about them like a serpent.
(see also another place in Jeremiah 25:25 regarding a country, and Radak there that it refers to Zimran, son of Keturah)

It is interesting to note that many of these are related to either a rebellion or kingship, or both. Zimri in our parsha (#1), Zimri, king of Israel (#2) and Achan (#5), were rebels. Zimri in our parsha was a prince (#1), Zimri, king of Israel was a king (#2), the grandson of Judah (#3) was of a kingly tribe, the descendent of Saul, was from a king (#4), and the possible #6 refers to kings. I have not found an explanation for this.

Bonus #1 - How many people in Tanach are named Saul?

1. Saul, son of Simeon, grandson of Jacob (Genesis 46:10):
And the sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, and Zohar, and Saul the son of the Canaanitess.
2. Saul, a king of Edom (Genesis 36:37-38):
Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river became king in his place. Saul died, and Baal Hanan, son of Achbor, became king in his place.
3. King Saul (Samuel I 9:1-2):
Now there was a man of Benjamin, and his name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite man, a mighty man of power. And he had a son whose name was Saul. He was young and handsome, there was no one among the Jews better looking than him; from his shoulders and up he was taller than anyone else.
4. Zimri in this week's parsha, as per the Talmud (Sanhedrin 82b):
 Rabbi Yochanan says: Zimri had five names - Zimri, son of Salu, Saul, son of Canaanite woman (see Genesis 46:10), and Shelumiel son of Zurishadai, ...and his real name was Shelumiel son of Zuri-Shadai
Incidentally,  #2, #3, and #4 are all related to kingship. There is also a tradition, that #1 was a son of Schechem, son of Hamor, who was a prince. However, I have not found any source tying these together.

Bonus #2: The Rule of Fives

There are five chieftains of Midian (one is Zur, is Cozbi's father) (Numbers 31:8):
And they killed the kings of Midian upon their corpses: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, and Balaam the son of Beor they killed through the sword
There are five houses in the tribe of Simeon (one is headed by Zimri) (Numbers 26:12-13):
The descendants of Simeon according to their families: the family of the Nemuelites from Nemuel, the family of the Jaminites from Jamin, the family of the Jachinites from Jachin, the family of the Zerahites from Zerah, the family of the Shaulites from Shaul.
There are five daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1):
The daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came forward, and his daughters' names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
 (I was not able to find any sources that explain the connection)

[Written by Yakov Shafranovich /]

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Balak, Balaam, Bird (Parshas Balak 5775)

Who was Balaam?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) tells us that Balaam was the son of Laban the Aramean:
We learned in a Braisa that Beor was the same person as Cushan-Rishasaim and the same person as Laban the Aramean
(There are other sources that state that Balaam was Laban himself, or his son, or grandson, or other descendent, or perhaps his reincarnation)

Yalkut Shemoni (Numbers 23, 5766) writes that Balaam was Kemuel (Abraham's nephew see Genesis 22:21):
Kemuel is Bilaam, and why is his name called Kemuel? For he stood against the nation of G-d
(There are other sources that say that Balaam was Kemuel's descendent, see also Sefer Lemekesi Atik for sources that Balaam was Nahor, Abraham's brother)

Sefer Tziuni (Genesis 36:32) writes that Balaam was Bela son of Beor, one of the kings of Edom (see Ibn Ezra [Genesis 36:32] who argues against this opinion).

The Jerusalem Talmud (Sotah 5:6) identifies Bilaam as Eliakum son of Barakiel, one of the friends of Job (see Job 32:2).

The Hizkuni (Exodus 1:9) identifies Balaam as the grandson of the Balaam who was the advisor to Pharoh.

Who was Balak?

According to the Zohar (Balak 227), Balak was from the descendants of Yisro

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:24) writes that Balak was Tzur (Numbers 31:8), father of Cozbi (Numbers 25:15):
And Cozbi said to him (i.e. Zimri): "I will not listen to anyone but Moshe, for this is what my father, Balak, commanded me"
Another opinion (Bamidbar Rabbah 20:19) writes that Balak was a descendent of Lot:
If it were not for Abraham, Lot would not have been saved from Sodom, and you (i.e. Balak) is from the descendants of Lot
According to the Talmud (Sotah 47a), Balak was an ancestor of Ruth:
And Rabbi Yosi ben Choni said: Ruth was the daughter of Eglon, who was the son of Balak
According to Sefer Moshav Zekeinim (Numbers 22:2), Balak was one of the officers of Sihon:
"And Balak ben Zipor saw": Balak was one of the officers of Sihon, and then he saw (the might of the Jews)

Why was Balak called "Ben Tzipor" / "Son of a Bird"?

According to the Zohar (Balak 227), Balak was from the sons of Yisro, who was called a "bird".

The Ohr haChaim (Numbers 22:2) says that Balak had a magic bird (based on Zohar):
For Balak was a magician greater than Balaam, and he did magic with a certain bird, and its name was Yadua. And that is what it says "and Balak saw", and how did he see, through the bird.
The Baal haTurim (Numbers 22:2) writes that he (figuratively) flew a like a bird against the Jews:
Son of Tzipor for he flew on them like a bird to curse them
(It is also possible that he is called "ben Tzipor" because he flew in the air as per Rashi [Numbers 31:8], however I haven't see any source confirming that)

(There also seems to be a similarity between the name "Tzipor" here and the name of Moshe's wife "Tziporah". This maybe explained by the fact that Balak was a grandson of Yisro, and thus that would make his father "Tzipor" the brother of Tziporah)

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