Vol 38.13 - Chukat 2 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash|
(5750) Rashi: (Num. 21:1) "the route of the spies". The difference between the two comments in Rashi ("the southern route, taken by the spies ... The route of the great guide the ark) according to Pshat.
The war of Amalek in spiritual Avodah
1. On the verse Rashi (Num. 21:1):
"The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the south, heard that Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies, and he waged war against Yisroel”.
Rashi, on the words “the route of the Spies” (דֶּרֶךְ הָאֲתָרִים), states two explanations:
At a quick glance, Rashi’s intent is to explain the word “Atarim” (אֲתָרִים) which has no counterpart in Scripture).
The two explanations of “Atarim” is from the word “Tarim” (exploring) (except that the letter Aleph is added to the beginning of the word, as we find similarly in other places).
The difference between the two explanations is regarding who it was that travelled (toured).
(Although the verse states, “Atarim”, in the plural (as many of the commentators of Rashi ask) one could say that since Rashi adds the word “the great (pathfinder)”, indicating that it is “great”, there is a place to describe it in the plural.
This is similar to Rashi’s comment (in Parsha Vayeira) where he writes,
“In many places, words denoting G-dliness and words denoting authority are expressed in the plural”).
However, it is difficult to say that Rashi’s main intent is to explain the word “Atarim”. For plainly, this is the name of a place, that does not require explanation. This is like most of the instances where Rashi does not deem to explain the names of places in the Torah. Indeed, in this very verse, Rashi does not explain the name “Arad”, despite Rashi
(in Tractate Rosh Hashanah, where Rashi cites the verse here, in the comment under the heading: “The Canaanite heard”)
explaining it in the Talmud.
If one wants to say that Rashi’s intent is just to explain the word “Atarim” - one must examine Rashi’s wording:
2. Therefore, it appears that Rashi is not coming to explain the word “Atarim”.
(For according to the simple explanation, it is the name of a place that does not require explanation, as aforementioned).
Rather he is coming to answer why there is a change in the wording of the verse. For in the beginning it states, “The Canaanite . . who lived in the south, heard”, and afterward it concludes “that Yisroel had come by the route of the Atarim/Spies”.
For seemingly, the simple intent of the verse is that Bnei Yisroel came through the route of his land, and therefore, the Canaanite (who is Amalek, as Rashi explains) came out to fight with Yisroel.
According to this, it is not understood. What is the reason that it begins with the words “who lived in the south” and concludes with “the route of the Atarim/Spies”?
On this Rashi brings two explanations in, “the route of the Atarim” – what path was this?
Rather, through “the great pathfinder which traveled ahead of them . . a three days' journey”, news reached Amalek (that Yisroel is coming near to him) from afar, and he went out to wage war.
(Similar to his first war with Yisroel in Rephidim, where he attacked them from afar).
According to this, Rashi’s words are precise:
According to this, one can also resolve the question of the Rom (R’ Eliyahu Mizrachi) on the second explanation.
Namely, what is the reason,
“The Canaanite king . . heard that Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies, and he waged war against Yisroel”.
(The Rom writes:
“Did Amalek wage war with them just because Yisroel travelled after the Ark? Indeed, the entire forty years that they were in the desert, Yisroel followed the Ark”).
(On the contrary, this is the very reason that they did not fight with Yisroel, since there was the protection of the Ark).
(The Rom answers that this comes in continuation to Rashi’s comment on, “The Canaanite . . heard” – “He heard that Aharon had died and that the Clouds of Glory had departed”.
This is what is meant by ‘the route of the Atarim’. Amalek heard that “Yisroel is travelling now, solely after the Ark. For only the Ark remained with them among all that travelled with them”
However, seemingly, this explanation is problematic. For according to this, Rashi should have expressly written the word “Ark” and not obliquely state, “the great pathfinder”).
Yet, according to the aforementioned, it is plainly understood:
Since Bnei Yisroel were, at that time, not close to Amalek‘s land, Scripture needs to inform us how they came to attack Bnei Yisroel. For this, it explains that that Amalek heard from afar regarding Yisroel‘s travelling through news of “the great pathfinder which went ahead of them . . a three days' journey’, as aforementioned.
3. However, it still requires explanation:
According to the first explanation – the question remains: Why does the verse begin with “the southern” and end with “Atarim” route?
Moreover (as the commentators ask),
“Just because the Spies travelled on ‘the southern route’ is that a reason for the route to be called after them (“the route of the Spies”)?”
What relevance does the travelling of the Spies have here?
There are those that explain that the entire time that Yisroel was in the desert, Amalek did not care. However, once they travelled on the route of the Spies, this was the beginning of their entering Eretz Yisroel, and coming to inherit his land. Therefore, he came out to wage war. However, it is difficult to explain Rashi so. For he writes,
“Amalek was always a chastising whip for Yisroel, ready at any time to mete out punishment.”
As we find, he came to wage war with Yisroel in Rephidim, when they were far from his land. How much more so, when they came on the path of his land. Indeed, even the kings of Edom, Emor, and Bashan went out to wage war with Yisroel, even though it expressly states that Yisroel was not coming to conquer their land.
One could say that this comes in continuation to Rashi’s comment of, “The Canaanite heard” – “He heard that Aharon had died and that the Clouds of Glory had departed”.
For seemingly, how does this fit with what is expressly stated in the continuation of the verse. “(The Canaanite heard . .) that Yisroel came by the route of the Spies”?
Plainly, one could say (and so write many commentators) that the words,
“that Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies”
does not refer to the news that Amalek heard. Rather it is as if it states,
“when Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies“.
In other words, that the verse is coming to explain why just the Canaanites were awakened by this news
(that Aharon died and the Clouds of Glory departed)
to fight with Yisroel,
“for Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies“ (the path of his land).
However, one could say that by Scripture describing, “the southern route” with the term, “the route of the Spies” (that path “that the Spies travelled on”), it also alludes to the news that “the Clouds of Glory departed”.
For until then, the travel of Bnei Yisroel was according to the clouds that went before them “to lead them on the way”. However, now that the clouds departed, how did Yisroel know where to go? On this, Scripture states that they went on, “the route of the Spies”. Namely, that that they went on the “proven path” (בדרך סלולה) that the Spies paved.
This is what the Canaanites heard, namely, that Bnei Yisroel no longer have the Clouds of Glory to lead their way (which is why they are travelling on the route of the Spies). And since the Clouds of Glory departed (which protected Yisroel) - “they waged war with Yisroel”).
4. One can additionally say:
Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel explains on the words, “the route of the Spies”:
“(Yisroel was coming) by the way of the Spies to the place where they had rebelled against the L-rd of the world“ (the path of the Spies, that place that they rebelled against G-d).
For since Amalek heard that this is the place that they rebelled against G-d, they went to wage war against Yisroel thinking that it is a “place ready for retribution” (מקום מוכן לפורענות).
One could say that this emphasis (that it is the “route that the Spies travelled, a place ready for retribution”) comes in continuation to Rashi’s comment on “The Canaanite heard” where he writes,
“Amalek was always a chastising whip for Yisroel, ready at any time to mete out punishment”.
For seemingly what is the reason for Rashi’s repetition?
However, there are two aspects:
We find these two aspects in their war, the first time, where:
“the quarrel of Bnei Yisroel . . testing the L-rd, saying, Is the L-rd in our midst or not?”
The same is in our case. The reason that Amalek came, at that time, to attack Yisroel (with Aharon‘s death) was due to two reasons:
“because they associated themselves in a close relationship with the wicked Esau, a breach was made in their accomplishments, and they lost this righteous man”.
This is the continuation of Rashi’s explanation, that the reason that Amalek warred against Yisroel, now, was because of two reasons:
5. According to this explanation, one could say that the two explanations of Rashi in, “the route of the Atarim/Spies”, are different also in the general intent of the verse,
“that (כי) Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies” (which is the reason for Amalek‘s waging war with Yisroel).
According to the first explanation – the intent of the verse is to emphasize that although “Amalek was always a chastising whip”, nevertheless, at this time, they were careful in attacking Yisroel. as Rashi writes in the comment before this, that the reason that they were called Canaanites here is because,
“They changed their language to speak in the language of Canaan so that the Israelites would pray to the Holy One, blessed is He, to deliver the Canaanites into their hands, and (since) they were not Canaanites (their prayers would have no effect)”.
Thus, Amalek was afraid of Yisroel’s prayers and they sought schemes etc.
In continuation to this, Scripture states that they heard “that Yisroel had come by the route of the Spies”. Namely, that the reason that they now came to wage war was (not only because it was a time of retribution, but also) because it was a place of retribution.
Whereas, according to the second explanation – Scripture’s emphasis of “Yisroel had come by the route of the Atarim” is the opposite. Namely, it is to depict Amalek‘s tremendous Chutzpah (audacity). For even though “the great pathfinder” - “sought for them a place to settle at Hor HaHar”, nevertheless Amalek came from afar, to wage war against Yisroel there.
(According to this, it comes out nicely, that which Rashi also cites the words
“a resting place for them” (להם מנוחה),
and not just the word
“to seek (לתור)”.
For this magnifies the emphasis of Amalek’s chutzpah)
6. From the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi's commentary (”Yayina shel Torah”) one could say:
The two explanations of, “the route of the Atarim/Spies” depict the two manners which Yisroel face and stand up against Amalek (the powers of the opposing forces (לעו״ז)) – that oppose holiness. These are two paths in which it is possible to conquer Amalek:
“So it was, whenever the Ark set out, Moshe would say, Arise, O L-rd, may Your enemies be scattered and may those who hate You flee from You.”
These two manners correspond to the condition of the opposer (Amalek):
According to the first explanation, Amalek is in a state of fear of Bnei Yisroel. Therefore, they come with tactics and schemes. In order to be victorious in this war, it is sufficient that Yisroel go on, “The route . . that the Spies travelled on” - Avodah that is according to reason and knowledge.
However, when Amalek comes in a state of revealed chutzpah, where he is not fazed by anything and wages war against Yisroel, even when it is against logic – then the way to subdue him is solely through the Avodah of Mesirat Nefesh, and Bitul which is above reason and comprehension – “the route of the Atarim- the route of the great pathfinder”.
M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Ma’asei 5727
Motzai Shabbat Parshat Chukat 5739
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