Thursday, January 24, 2019

Parshas Yisro 5779

How Many Judges did Moshe Choose?

The Torah writes (Exodus 18:24-26):
Moses heeded his father-in-law and did just as he had said. Moses chose capable men out of all Israel, and appointed them heads over the people—chiefs of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens; and they judged the people at all times: the difficult matters they would bring to Moses, and all the minor matters they would decide themselves.
The numbers work out as follows (based on the Mes. Sanhedrin):
  • Chiefs of thousands: 600,000 / 1,000 = 600
  • Chiefs of hundreds: 600,000 / 100 = 6,000
  • Chiefs of fifties: 600,000 / 50 = 12,000
  • Chiefs of tens: 600,000 / 10 = 60,000
  • Total: 600 + 6,000 + 12,000 + 60,000 = 78,600 or 13.1%
(Ibn Ezra argues with these numbers reducing the numbers to 12 princes, and 6,000 heads of 100s, see Josh Yuter's parsha blog)

Why Did Yisro Leave?

The Torah writes (Exodus 18:27):

Then Moses bade his father-in-law farewell, and he went his way to his own land.
The Torah also writes later on (Numbers 10:29-32):
Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD has said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us and we will be generous with you; for the LORD has promised to be generous to Israel.” “I will not go,” he replied to him, “but will return to my native land.” He said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness and can be our guide.So if you come with us, we will extend to you the same bounty that the LORD grants us.” 
Rashi answers (Exodus ibid):
AND HE WENT HIS WAY INTO HIS OWN LAND, for the purpose of making proselytes of the members of his family (Mekhilta d'Rabbi Yishmael 18:24:2)
Ohr Chaim explains later on in a similar fashion:
Rabbi Eliezer the Modai claimed that before he departed Yitro said to Moses: "light is effective only in a place of darkness." He meant that amongst the Israelites he was not needed to provide enlightenment seeing Israel basked in the light of G'd. In his own country, however, his new found enlightenment could be of benefit to his countrymen. There he might succeed in converting his countrymen to monotheism and then he would bring them to study Torah. 

Sifsei Chachamim later on (Numbers) explains further:
Nonetheless it was his intention to return there but not to settle. I have found this said in the name of the Maharal of Prague.

Sforno answers differently (Exodus ibid):
Perhaps this was due to his being of advanced age; we encounter such reticence to move to a better place when David offered Barzilai a home in Jerusalem and he declined, citing that at his age he would not enjoy what Jerusalem had to offer anyway. (Samuel II 19,38) He preferred to be buried with his father and mother. Yitro’s sons (and daughters?) however definitely joined the Jewish people in their journey to the Holy Land, as we know from Judges 1,16 where they are described as the children of the Keyni, the father-in-law of Moses. Bileam also prophesied concerning their future in Numbers 24,21.
Similarly the Sforno writes later on (Numbers ibid):
so that in his old age he would not have to adjust to the different climate and food in a country he had not grown up in.
Chizkuni and Bechor Shor answer later on (Numbers ibid) in a different fashion:
Yisro preferred the known [of Midian] vs. the unknown [of Canaan]
Ramban later on answers differently:
Moshe said to Chovav. I already explained that Chovav was the new name given to Yisro when he accepted Torah, as every proselyte does. This is because Hashem gives a new name to His servants. Moshe asked him to go with them, and mentioned, “We will treat you well” without specifying what it would be. Yisro thought he would receive a portion of the spoils — gold and silver, garments, flocks and cattle — but he would not have an inheritance among the Bnei Yisroel. Therefore, Yisro was not interested, and he answered: But rather to my land and to my birthplace will I go — for there I have an estate, property and honor. Moshe replied: Please do not forsake us, for, because you know of our encampment in the desert and you will be our eyes — that is, since you are familiar with the Wilderness you will be our eyes in conquering the lands, and you will show us the way to go. And it will be, that when you go with us, it shall be that the very good which Hashem will bestow on us we will bestow on you — With this Moshe hinted that he would be given an inheritance in the good land, as reward for his efforts and assistance in conquering the Land.
Chiznuki disagrees with the fact that Yisro would inherit:
He meant that Yitro would be allowed to share in the loot the Israelites would secure from the Canaanites. He had not been authorized by G-d to promise him an ancestral piece of land in the Holy Land.

Did Yisro and His Sons Leave?

Ramban continues:
In my opinion Chovav agreed to Moshe’s request because of this promise, as I mentioned (Shemos 18:1). And thus we find in the Yerushalmi as well (Bikurim 1,4): “The sons of Chovav, Moshe’s father-in-law, bring [first fruits] and read [the parshah], as it says, ‘Come along with us and we will treat you well’”.
Ohr Chayim agrees:
Our sages say that the Israelites gave Yitro and family the most fertile land around Jericho  
Kli Yakar agrees:
Come along with us. First, Moshe promised a material benefit to Chovav, when he said: We will treat you well. Moshe did not mention Hashem in this offer and Chovav did not want to accept. Then, Moshe promised him a spiritual benefit — that he would be included in the Sanhedrin, which is called the eyes of the congregation, as it says: And you will be our eyes. In the context of this spiritual benefit, Moshe mentioned Hashem: It shall be that the very good which Hashem will bestow. Hashem will give of His Spirit upon him. To this, Yisro agreed.
Sforno disagrees:
If your children depart also you will be desecrating the name of the Lord among the nations as they will say: “if Yitro would have seen any merit in this religion surely he and his sons would not have abandoned them!” Both Yitro and his sons agreed with this argument of Moses so that in the end only Yitro returned to his country, as we know from Exodus 18,27 “Moses saw his father-in-law Yitro off, and he went by himself back to his own country.” There is no question that his children remained with the Jewish people, as the Book of Judges testifies when writing about “the children of the Keyni, the father-in-law of Moses, having previously ascended from the city of palms with the tribe of Yehudah.” (Judges 1,16).

When Did Yisro Leave?

Chizkuni here (Exodus ibid) points out when Yisro leave, and whether Moshe's children experience Matan Torah:
Whether Yitro had arrived at the camp of the Israelites prior to the revelation or subsequently, there is unanimity amongst the sages that he did not return to his homeland before the second year in the month of lyar when the people made ready to proceed to the Holy Land, having been encamped around Mount Sinai for almost an entire year. If the line reporting Moses accompanying Yitro on his departure occurred in the chronological sequence reported by the Torah, then both he, Tzipporah, Moses’ wife, and his two sons would have belonged to the only generation that ever experienced such a revelation. If the Torah did not report events in their chronological sequence, we have to make peace with the fact that Tzipporah and her sons did not experience this event.  The fact that neither of Moses’ sons are ever mentioned again by name in the Torah lends some support to the opinion that they had not stood at Mount Sinai.

Other interesting points:

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Parshas Beshalach 5779

The Quail and the Manna

The Torah writes (Exodus 16:11-15) [emphasis added]:
The LORD spoke to Moses: “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Speak to them and say: By evening you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; and you shall know that I the LORD am your God.” In the evening quail appeared and covered the camp; in the morning there was a fall of dew about the camp. When the fall of dew lifted, there, over the surface of the wilderness, lay a fine and flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”—for they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “That is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.
However, the Torah doesn't mention the quail again until much later where there are complaints for more meat (Numbers 11:4-7):
The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!” Now the manna was like coriander seed, and in color it was like bdellium.

Rabbeinu Bachya writes (Exodus ibid):
Both the quail and the manna appeared for the first time on a Sunday (compare our comment on verse 1 and 5). The quails formed a daily diet of the Israelites for 40 years (based on Tossaphot Erchin 15 on the word התאוו). As long as the Israelites had the manna they also had the quails. Concerning verse 38: “the Israelites ate the manna for 40 years,” (where no such particulars are given for the quails), we must assume that the same applied to the supply of quails which became available every evening. The reason the Torah only refers to the continued supply of the manna for 40 years is that seeing it was heavenly food it required a daily supernatural miracle during all those years. The availability of the quails by comparison, was a much less impressive miracle, not having required that something out of the ordinary be “manufactured” in the celestial regions. Making the quails available is described by the Torah as a more or less natural phenomenon in Numbers 11,31when the Torah reported: “a wind went out from Hashem and blew quails from the sea and spread them over the camp.” ...
Tosfos (Arakhin 15b) cites a different opinion:
Rashi explains that they wanted more which implies that the quail did not stop for them. However, R' Yosef Kara explains that the original quail stopped for them and the rabble among them had a desire for more since they did not have it, and therefore it rained the quail for a second time
(see Sefer Pesach Einayim in Arakhin for additional opinions)

Bechor Shor (Exodus ibid) explains:
The quail here is the one from [Parshas] Behaaloscha only since the manna was mentioned here, it also mentioned the quail, for you should know if Moshe saw the quail come to them once and stop, why would he say "Would enough sheep and cattle be slaughtered and found for them"?
Chizkuni writes (ibid):
the gift of quails was a one time occurrence, which explains the people’s complaint in Numbers 11,4 where they craved meat. On that occasion G-d provided them with meat a second time as stated in the Talmud Erchin folio 15. Rashi writes that the demand by the people for meat in their diet described in Numbers was more insistent. The manna was provided by G-d daily for forty years. [After the disastrous results of many people dying from overeating on meat in the second year of their wanderings, and dying as a result, we never hear of such a request again. Ed.]
Ramban (ibid 16:12) writes:
... for the quail was with them from this day going forward just like the manna .. and the Torah spends more time discussing the manna and less time on the quail because the manna was miraculous ... and the reason why they complained at Krias Tarbeh for it was not not given to them for satiety ... perhaps only the great ones gathered it, or the pious among them, and the lesser ones desired it and hungered for it...
Riva (ibid 16:13) writes that the they did not complain about lack of meat, rather they were upset about the ban of marrying certain relatives that were permitted before the Torah was given