Vol 13.18 - Matot 2                                Spanish French Audio  Video

Hebrew Text:


Page110   Page111   Page112   Page113  




(5734) (Num 31:32ff): Why does the Torah specify all the numbers and accounting of the totals of the tax ( from the spoils of the Midianite war) - According to the simple understanding of the verse


1. In our Parsha, it tells that after Bnei Yisroel vanquished the Midianites and took the captives and the plunder etc., that G-d commanded:

“Take a count of the plunder of the captive people and animals . . And you shall divide the plunder equally between the warriors who went out to battle and the entire congregation (Half for these and half for those – Rashi). And you shall levy a tax for the L-rd from the soldiers who went out to battle: one soul out of every five hundred . . and you shall take from their half and give it to Eleazar the Kohen. And from the half belonging to the children of Israel you shall take one part out of fifty and you shall give them to the Levites etc.”

And Scripture concludes: “Moses and Eleazar the Kohen did as the L-rd had commanded Moses”.

After this, Scripture details the totals of the plunder of each type – the totals of the halves of each type that is accorded to the warriors, and the accounting of the tax to G-d from it, and of each specific type in detail. And also the total of the half of Bnei Yisroel of each type.  And the verse concludes (verse 47): “(and Moses took) one part out of fifty from the half of the children of Israel (. . and gave them to the Levites)” yet does not detail their numbers.

Seemingly, this is completely not understood:

Why does Scripture elaborate to detail all these amounts? It would have been sufficient to say: “Moses and Eleazar the Kohen did as the L-rd had commanded Moses”. What difference does it make to know the numbers of the plunder in general, and of each type in detail? And even if one were to say that the Torah wants (for whatever reason) to publicize all the details of the episode, it would have been sufficient to publicize the accounting of the plunder.  For from this it would be self-understood how much the half of the warriors is and how much one part of five hundred is; and also how much is the amount of the second half?

On the other hand:

If (for whatever reason) there is a need to write all of this in detail – why does it not also specify the totals of the one part in fifty that belongs to the Levites?

Moreover – since these questions are in the study of the simple understanding of the verse, Rashi should have answered them. As has been spoken of many times, Rashi’s style in his commentary on the Torah is to explanation anything that is difficult, in the study of the simple understanding of the verses. And since Rashi does not answer these questions, it is proof that, in the study of these verses according to simple understanding of the verse, there is no room for these questions.

The Ramban answers that:

“Scripture had to enumerate (the spoil) in such detail in order to inform us that from the day that they took this spoil until they counted and halved it, set aside the tribute and gave it to Elazar the Kohen, not one of all this great herd died. This was a miracle. This is also (the reason why Scripture mentions) the half (given) to the congregation (of Israel who did not fight and the amount that they gave) to the Levites.”


(besides that which it is still problematic why Scripture does not enumerate the tax that is accorded to the Levites)

also according to simple understanding of the verse, “G-d does not perform a miracle in vain”. Therefore, why did G-d perform this miracle? And if it was in order that there not be a loss of money for Bnei Yisroel – we do not find the performance of a miracle for this purpose. In addition, there are many ways for G-d, to avert the loss of Jewish funds.

The explanation of this is:

If the Torah would have just written G-d’s command and that afterward “And Moses did etc. “, and nothing else – there is room for a great question, and specifically according to the Pshat of the matters.

According to nature, with regard to captives and plunder etc., man and animals, it is not common, at all, that the total of each type individually, be so exact that the half of each type, individually, be divided into groups of fifty and of five hundred, without there being a remainder! And in the words of the sages: “it is impossible to contract them” (אי אפשר לצמצם). Therefore, in our case, since the command was to levy the tax of one part of fifty from the portion of Bnei Yisroel and one part of five hundred from the portion of the warriors, there should have been an additional command regarding what to do with the remainder.

Therefore, Scripture specifies: “ And the plunder etc.“ (all of the totals in detail) to publicize that, in this case, there was a wondrous exactness in all these totals. Namely, that in each type individually it was an exact number, in a manner that they were able to take one part of the fifty and one part – from the five hundred, from the half, and that there was no remainder, at all.

However, do not say that this is a miracle that contracts nature (like Avraham, who was not burned in the furnace of Ur Casdim, and so forth). For nature does not force that there not be exact numbers. However, this is not common, at all.

However, it still is not sufficiently understood:

For seemingly, at the end of the matter, it is a thing that is not at all common.  Therefore, why did this occur in our case?

The explanation of this, in the words of the verse is:

After the command “And you shall levy a tax for the L-rd from the soldiers . . one soul out of every five hundred etc.“, Scripture repeats and states “You shall take from their half and give it  etc.“. Since the verse emphasizes: “You shall take from their half “, which are seemingly superfluous words – it proves that G-d wanted that the “taking” of the one part in in fifty or of the five hundred - should be from all the halves. And if there is a remainder – then from the remainder, there should be no taking, at all!

4. However, it is still not understood:

G-d commanded to halve the plunder. This means that there must be two equal halves. Seemingly, since the plunder was of such a great number, as it states in the verse, then certainly, much time passed from the beginning of the counting until its conclusion. And after this – as the verse states – they halved the plunder and after this, they  levied the tax from the people etc.  And as is usual, it is impossible that in this period, of such a great number as of forty thousand and eight hundred – that not one died, of all the people or animals. For if even one of them died – the halves would not be equal. There would be a remainder that the tax would not be taken from etc.

Therefore, Scripture specifies the number of the half of Bnei Yisroel, to make known that the amount of the second half was exact like the first half. For another wondrous thing that is entirely uncommon occurred, namely that, of all the people and animals, not one of them died. And even in this, as aforementioned, it is not entirely contrary to nature.  The reason was to enable Bnei Yisroel to fulfill G-d’s command. For in order to do this, there had to be two equal halves of Bnei Yisroel, and halves of the warriors, and that there not be any remainder.

After the verse tells us all of the aforementioned, there is no need to enumerate the one part in of the fifty (for as aforementioned, it is self-understood), and just informs us in general: “Moshe took from Bnei Yisroel’s half, one part out of the fifty etc. “

5. According to Halacha, one can answer this aforementioned difference, (namely that the verse specifies the amount of the tax of the half that is due to the warriors, and that is not for Bnei Yisroel):

The view of the Baal Halachot Gedolot (BaHaG – R’ Shimon Kayyara) is that the obligation to levy the tax etc. from the plunder at Midian is counted as one of the Mitzvot. Rambam, however, disagrees with him, for according to Rambam’s view, since it is not a Mitzvah that is binding for all times (מצוה הנוהגת לדורות) it is not counted among the number of Mitzvot.

The Ramban in his glosses (Hasagot – on Sefer ha-Mitzvot) resolves the view of the BaHaG and explains that the BaHaG holds that the Terumah (plunder) at Midian is a Mitzvah that is binding for all times. And the Zohar Harakiya (of the Rashbatz) questions this for it is written expressly in the Talmud that the Terumah at Midian is “not binding for all times”. The Noda B’Yehuda (R’ Yechezkel Landau) resolves this and answers that just the Terumah from the portion of the Bnei Yisroel is not binding at all times (for at all times – we do not give a portion of the captives and plunder, to the people that sit in their homes). Whereas the Terumah from the half of the warriors, is binding at all times (according to the view of the BaHaG etc.). Refer there for elaboration.

According to this, one can explain the lengthiness of the verse in the Terumah, that was taken from the portion of the military – for this is binding at all times. Whereas, since the Terumah that was taken from Bnei Yisroel’s half, is not binding at all times, the verse is concise.

6. The lesson from the aforementioned matter is (according to simple understanding of the verse):

One sees how dear the fulfillment of Mitzvot are by Bnei Yisroel. For many aspects that are entirely uncommon, occurred and were done just in order for Bnei Yisroel to perform a Mitzvah with completeness!

And not just at the time of the performance of the Mitzvah, does G-d cause that there not be any hindrances and obstacles. But even before the time comes to actually perform the Mitzvah – G-d arranges causes etc. to enable a Mitzvah to be performed with completeness - even after a lengthy period. And like in our case, where all the people and animals of Midian were an exact number, and that during this lengthy period not one of the people or animals died etc.

It is understood that in order that, during the time of the war of Bnei Yisroel with Midian, the people and the animals should be an exact number of thousands – there must be the commerce of the Midianite people, raising their herds etc. for a lengthy period before this, in a manner that befits it!

To explain this differently:

For a lengthy period before the war, G-d precipitated many causes to enable the Midianites to engage in commerce and to raise their cattle in such a manner, that when the time came, that Bnei Yisroel would need to fulfill G-d’s command, that they would be able to completely fulfill the command with the captives and plunder of Midian.

And from this there is a lesson to each and every one:

One should not be affected from any confusion, obstacle or hindrance. And if, at times, it appears as if one is not able to fulfill a Mitzvah etc., one should not worry. One’s heart certainly should trust that G-d causes and precipitates measures just to enable one to fulfill the Mitzvot, with completeness.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Matot-Masei 5732

 Date Delivered:   Reviewer:       
Date Modified:    Date Reviewed: