Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for this week. (Next week we will be all caught up!) I have been following the schedule in Eretz Yisrael. Click here for a Dvar Torah for this week's parsha in CHUL, Parshas Pinchas.
Parshas Matos opens with a discussion on Nedarim, vows. I once heard that Matos is the only parsha which contains the entire Torah within it; since I have the ability to make a vow on any aspect of the Torah, the subject of vows contains the entire Torah! Just something to think about.
While telling over the laws of vows, Moshe uses a unique choice of words. “זֶ֣ה הַדָּבָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָֽה” “This is the thing that Hashem has commanded” (Bamidbar 30:3). This is the only time we see Moshe using this language to describe his receiving a mitzvah from Hashem. Usually to introduce mitzvos, he would say “’כה אמר ה” “So says Hashem”. The Sifsei Chachamim, based on Rashi, explains that this statement is being used to place Moshe above all other prophets who would also prophesize with the phrase “’כה אמר ה”. When a Navi receives prophecy, he doesn’t get a clear message telling him exactly what to say; he gets clues or has a dream, and determines the proper message he needs to give over. By saying “זֶה הַדָּבָר”, Moshe is declaring that he is giving over the commandment in exactly the way Hashem told it over to him. He wasn’t given clues, he had no dreams; he, unlike any other Navi, was given a clear message of what he was supposed to say.
Moshe had this unique style of prophecy every time he received one, how come the Torah chose to make this distinction specifically by Nedarim? Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky explains that since every Navi had a different personality and different life experiences, even when they received the same message, they wouldn’t give it over the same way as another Navi. It’s simply impossible for two totally different people to give over a message in the exact same way without rehearsing beforehand. (This was actually one of the methods to determine false prophets. If they used the exact same words to give over the same “prophecy”, you would know it wasn’t true and that they had scripted it on their own.)
The concept of making a vow is extraordinary. It’s possible to make binding obligations on yourself that have no foundation other than your word. For example, if you vow to either eat or not eat this loaf of bread, you’ve created an obligation where none existed. In essence, you are adding to the Torah as you are adding mitzvos and aveiros on top of what Hashem previously gave us. What an unbelievable concept! (It’s not a great idea to put yourself in this situation, but the idea is that you are able to do so.)
Now that the Torah is introducing this concept of adding on your own ideas, some people may begin to think this doesn’t start with vows; perhaps those giving over the Torah have been adding things on their own the entire time! Perhaps some of our mitzvos are simply their own ideas that they wanted to obligate us in and have nothing to do with Hashem. Therefore, the Torah makes a point of telling me by this mitzvah that Moshe received the Torah with “זֶה הַדָּבָר”. Even though we can now add on to the Torah through Nedarim, Moshe always received his nevuah with the exact meaning and intention of Hashem and gave it over as such. Nothing was the result of his own thoughts or notions.
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