Friday, July 14, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Pinchas

       With the plague at the end of the previous parsha killing 24,000 people, Hashem commands Moshe and Elazar to conduct a new census of the Bnei Yisrael at the beginning of this week’s parsha, Parshas Pinchas. This census also informs us that the Bnei Yisrael were now ready to enter the Land as an important requirement had been fulfilled. “וּבְאֵ֨לֶּה֙ לֹא־הָ֣יָה אִ֔ישׁ מִפְּקוּדֵ֣י משֶׁ֔ה וְאַֽהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּהֵ֑ן אֲשֶׁ֥ר פָּֽקְד֛וּ אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר סִינָֽי“Among these there was no man who had been in the census of Moshe and Aharon when they counted the children of Yisrael in the Sinai desert.” (Bamidbar 26:64).
       After the sin with the Spies, Hashem decreed that all men alive at the time over the age of twenty, excluding Calev and Yehoshua, were to die in the desert. The pasuk tells us that this had now occurred. But Rashi quotes a medrash that explains that there were still people alive from that time, just not men. The women had not been included in the punishment, and even the ones who were over twenty at the time of the Spies were still alive and would enter Eretz Yisrael. The medrash explains “לפי שהן היו מחבבות את הארץ”, women love Eretz Yisrael. What is it about Eretz Yisrael that women connect to it more than men?
       The Kli Yakar gives two reasons; I would like to focus on the second. When it comes to rain in Eretz Yisrael, every year is an adventure. Will it be a drought or will there be plenty? One thing is for certain, it’s completely up to Hashem. Either the rains will come or they won’t. In Chutz La’aretz, the reality is different. Their rains are generally consistent, but they are not always the precise amount, and they don’t always fall in the proper location. Therefore, irrigation systems are put in place to bring the precise amount of water to the area where it is needed. These systems can be complex and difficult to build and maintain. Since there is more physical labor involved, it requires a lot more work for field hands, and a lot less reliance on Hashem.
       Eretz Yisrael is the opposite; the rain is entirely dependent on Hashem in the first place, so when the rains fall, they fall exactly where they are needed and with the exact amount. Even though there is still a lot of work needed to plow and plant the crops, the irrigation is taken care of, resulting in much less physical labor. In response to this, Hashem instituted Terumah and Maaser in Eretz Yisrael but not in Chutz La’aretz. In Eretz Yisrael, Hashem feels the farmers owe Him for providing a convenient irrigation system; therefore, He requires them to share their crops with His private employees, the Kohanim and Levi’im. Because they need to work harder, Hashem didn’t obligate the Chutz La’aretz farmers in these extra gifts.
       The women of that generation and today as well, have a special affinity towards the mitzvah of tzedakah that men do not share. They pined to enter a land that allowed them to fulfill their natural tendencies of sharing crops and bread with the needy; in fact, they were excited to go to a place that obligated them in tzedakah so they would be able to share this great mitzvah with their (hesitant) husbands! The report of the Spies could not influence them; they were too set on fulfilling this great mitzvah to believe any lashon hara that could be said about Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom!

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