Vol 38.16 - Balak 2 Spanish French Audio Video
|Hebrew Text: Chumash|
(5750) Rashi (Num. 23:10) "Who can count the dust of Jacob" : The differences between the wording of Rashi to that of the Midrash (Tanchuma Balak 12). The innovation that "The number of mitzvoth they fulfill with dust are innumerable: “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together” (Deut. 22:10);“You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds” (Lev. 19:19), the ashes of the red cow (19:19), the dust used for a woman suspected of infidelity, and others similar to these" ;
Bilaam alludes to the love of HaShem for the Jews according to Rashi’s two interpretations:
“infants” - parents love to the child (G-d loves them)
“soil” - innumerable Mitzvot done with soil secures G-d’s protection by their own merits
Horaah: “Soil” alludes to humility and plainness (simple), these qualities are needed to serve G-d, that brings G-d to an inherent love to His “infants”
1. Regarding the verse (Number. 23:10):
“Who can count the dust of Jacob or the number of a fourth of (or, of the seed of) Israel?”
“Who can count the dust of Jacob: As the Targum (Onkelos) renders, “the children of the house of Jacob, (concerning whom it was stated, 'they shall be as many as the dust of the earth, or one) of the four camps” - (referring to) the four divisions”.
Another interpretation: The dust of Jacob - The number of Mitzvot they fulfill with dust are innumerable:
“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey (together)” (Deut. 22:10);
“You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds” (Lev. 19:19),
The ashes of the red cow (19:19), the dust used for a woman suspected of infidelity, and others similar to these“
Quickly glancing at this, it appears that the reason that Rashi prefaces the explanation of the Targum before the second explanation
(whose source is in the Midrash )
is because the explanation of the Targum is more fitting according to the simple understanding of the verse.
(“Who can count the dust of Jacob”),
which implies that it refers to Bnei Yisroel themselves (and not to the Mitzvot that they fulfill, of which it is not mentioned in the verse )
However, one could say that there is a superiority to the explanation of the Targum even according to the essence of the explanation, in the intent of the prophecy of Bilaam.
(and especially regarding Bilaam’s prophecy in our Parsha, Rashi endeavors to included, in his explanation, the homilies of the Sages.
The reason is understood simply. For Scripture expressly states, “He took up his parable”, which from this it is understood that even according to the style of Pshat, the explanation of these verses is not literal (לפי פשוטם ממש), but rather parables (משלים) and the aspect of a parable, plainly is according to allusion, and so forth)
Bilaam’s prophecy comes in response to Balak’s request
“Please come and curse this people for me”.
The essence of this is that he was unable to curse Yisroel, for they have great merits and virtues. These merits and virtues are divided into two general categories:
This is the difference between the two explanations of, “Who can count the dust of Jacob”
According to the Targum
“Who can count the children of the house of Jacob, concerning whom it states, 'they shall be as many as the dust of the earth, or one of the four camps of Yisroel”
מי ייכול לממני דעדקיא דבית יעקב דאמיר עליהון יסגון כעפרא דארעא או חדא מארבע משריתא דישראל
The intent of this refers to the dearness of Yisroel before G-d. Therefore, G-d blessed them that,
“‘they shall be as many as the dust of the earth”
Whereas according to the second explanation
“One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.”
it is speaking of the virtue of Yisroel themselves, due to their deeds which is the fulfillment of their Mitzvot
According to this, the reason that Rashi prefaces the explanation of the Targum- for according to the simple meaning of the verse, the main emphasis, in Bilaam‘s first prophecy was in reference to the dearness of Yisroel before G-d (which is why it is impossible to curse them). As it states in the preface to this prophecy,
“How can I curse whom G-d has not cursed, and how can I invoke wrath if the L-rd has not been angered?”
(This is the innovation of the second prophecy, where he prefaces
“I have received (an instruction) to bless, and He has blessed, and I cannot retract it.”
For this prophecy comes to add, that in add to that which it is impossible to curse them, even more so, they are deserving of blessing, as is explained, in another place, at length).
2. One may examine and note the precision in many of the details of Rashi’s words:
In general, when Rashi cites the Targum, his style is not to cite the Targum’s words. Rather he writes, “like the Targum” and so forth. According to this, one must examine in our case, where Rashi does not suffice to say “like its Targum”, but also cites the words of the Targum.
On the other hand, Rashi does not cite all the words of the Targum on “Who can count”,
(“Who can count the children of the house of Jacob, concerning whom it states, ‘they shall be as many as the dust of the earth, or one of the four camps of Yisroel”)
but just the beginning of the Targum’s words,
“The children of the house of Jacob”
(and the continuation of his words,
“Concerning whom it states, ‘they shall be as many as the dust of the earth etc.”).
Also in explaining the words,
“or the number of a fourth of (or, of the seed of) Israel”,
Rashi cites from the words of the Targum just
“or one of the four camps of Yisroel” (מארבע משריתא )
and afterword explains it,
“one of the four banners”
Plainly one could say that in our case, Rashi is forced to explain the intent of the Targum, for the words of the Targum are not clear:
In the explanation of “the dust of Jacob”, it is not clear in the Targum if its intent is to explain “dust/עפר“ from the word “children” (דעדקיא), which refers to small children who are called “dust” (“children”) since they are small and minute (קטנים ודקים), like dust. Or whether, the intent of “the dust of Jacob” is “concerning whom it states, ‘they shall be as many as the dust of the earth”
(“As if he said ‘who can count them’ for it states, ‘your seed shall be like the dust of the earth’”)
In other words, that it refers to the entire Jewish people – like the question of the Rom and the debate in the commentators, in the explanation of the words of the Targum.
Therefore, Rashi cites from the Targum, just the words “the children of the house of Jacob” and not the continuation - to teach us that the intent of the Targum is to explain that “the dust of Jacob” refers to the children (“דעדקיא”) who are called dust (for they are similar to dust).
(And the words of the Targum, “concerning whom it states, ‘they shall be as many as the dust of the earth” are an additional aspect and reason in the explanation of “the dust of Jacob”
(where do we find “Who can count the children of the house of Jacob”)
However, it is not an explanation of the words “dust”, in the verse).
Also, the reason that Rashi explains
“of the four camps” –“the four banners” (מארבע דגלים)
is since until this point, the Targum translates the word “degel” (דגל) as “arranging” (טקס); and “Mashrita” (משריתא), which is the translation of the word “camp” (מחנה). Therefore, Rashi is forced to explain that here the intent of the Targum in the word “Mashrita” (משריתא) is to “banners” (דגלים).
However, this itself requires a reason:
Why does Rashi maintain that the intent of the Targum is to explain that:
3. One must also examine the second explanation – where Rashi changes from the words of the Sages in the Midrash.
There it states (in addition to the four Mitzvot that are cited in Rashi), also
“Three years it shall be Orlah (it shall not be eaten)” (שלש שנים יהיו לכם ערלים ')
Whereas Rashi omits it.
Seemingly, one cannot say that Rashi did not deem to cite everything, for “is he like a peddler that continues counting?” (i.e. Rashi does not need to list all the cases) (דאטו כי רוכלא ליחשוב וליזול).
However, since Rashi cites the majority of them one must explain why he specifically omits Orlah.
Therefore, one must say that Rashi maintains that according to the simple meaning of the verse the Mitzvah of Orlah is not among the Mitzvot that are performed with dust. For the Mitzvah is with the fruits of the tree and not the dust.
(One could say that because of this reason, Rashi did not cite the words of the Midrash that are cited in the Yalkut,
“Even the commonest layman does not place a morsel into his mouth without doing Mitzvot. How is this?
These are ten Mitzvot . . they do not taste it until they have fulfilled ten Mitzvot that involve dust. Therefore Bilaam said of the people that do many Mitzvot with dust, ‘Who can curse them?’”
According to this homily, it very well explains Bilaam‘s words why he specifically used the aspect of dust. For each Jew, in the normal course of his day, fulfills these ten Mitzvot before he tastes bread etc.
Therefore, why didn’t Rashi cite it?
Rather it is because these Mitzvot, that are enumerated in the Midrash, are not considered Mitzvot that are performed with dust. For the majority are with fruits and produce, in the plants of the ground, and not with the dust of the ground)
However, if so, one must examine why Rashi considers, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey”. This Mitzvah is not a Mitzvah that is performed with dust, but rather a Mitzvot of Kelai Beheima (mixture of animals) (where the prohibition is also not to “leading them together, harnessed as a pair, in transporting any kind of burden”).
There are also many differences in Rashi compared to the wording of the Midrash:
(similar to the words of the verse, “who can count”/)
Whereas in Rashi, the wording is: “The number of Mitzvot they fulfill with dust are innumerable” ()
Whereas in Rashi the wording is: “that they fulfill with dust” ()
Whereas in Rashi the wording is: “and others similar to these” ()
4. One could say that the gist of the explanation of all this is:
According to the two explanations, the words “Who can count the dust of Jacob” (as a question) is just a borrowed phrase (בשם המושאל), but not that they are in the realm of counting, at all. This applies not only to the second explanation that it refers to the Mitzvot that are performed with dust. For certainly, they are a limited number (for all the Mitzvot of the Torah are just 613 Mitzvot, a limited number)
But even according to the explanation of the Targum that it refers to Bnei Yisroel. For although It states clearly in the Torah,
“I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can count the dust of the earth, then your descendants too will be countable”.
nevertheless the intent is not that it is impossible to count Bnei Yisroel (who, in the end, are limited in number). Rather, that due to their great multitude (עוצם הריבוי), they are not counted (like one does not count the dust of the ground).
One could say that, with Rashi’s precise wording,
(Both with regard to the manner of citing the words of the Targum, as well as in the change with regard to the wording of the Midrash)
Rashi is coming to tell us, that according to the simple meaning of the verse, the intent of,
“Who can count the dust of Jacob” etc.
does not refer to the aspect of a great multitude (ריבוי עצום) (of Bnei Yisroel or of Mitzvot). Rather, to portray the virtue of the quality (מעלה באיכות) of Bnei Yisroel, because of which they are not in the realm of counting (as will be e).
One could say that the necessity to explain so is because:
Plainly, Bilaam’s intent with this prophecy – is to explain why he cannot curse them. This is like his words in the preface of his prophecy,
“How can I curse whom G-d has not cursed etc.”
In other words, since they have already been blessed, that they will increase like the dust of the earth, it is impossible to curse them, to reduce them G-d forbid.
However, according to this it is not understood:
In the previous verse, Bilaam already said:
“For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks”,
And Rashi explains:
“I look at their origins and the beginning of their roots, and I see them established and powerful, like these mountains and hills, because of their patriarchs and matriarchs”
Since it is impossible to touch them due to their power, what is Bilaam adding by saying afterward,
“Who can count the dust of Jacob etc.”?
One could say that, because of this, Rashi explains that the intent is not just that they were blessed that they should increase like the dust of the earth. Rather, that in addition to their power and strength, due to the Patriarchs, they themselves possess power and strength that flows from their own importance and virtues.
Therefore, Rashi explains that the intent of this verse is not that it just refers to the multitude in quantity, but rather a virtue in quality (that they are not in the realm of counting).
In this itself, Rashi cites two explanations:
This is why in the first explanation, Rashi writes “the children of the house of Jacob”, and explains that it refers to young children. This depicts the greatness and dearness of the importance of Yisroel before G-d. That they are dear to Him like a small child to his father (as we actually see, the great dearness of small children to their fathers).
This is also the reason that Rashi explains that the word “Mashrita” (משריתא) refers to “banners” (דגלים).
For G-d commanding that Bnei Yisroel encamp, “According to his banner” shows the aspect of dearness. As Rashi explains in Parshat Haazinu on the verse,
“He encircled them” (יסובבנהו) (a verse that refers to the dearness of Yisroel) –
“He (G-d) encompassed them (Israel), surrounding them by (protective) clouds; He surrounded them with divisions in four directions”
With this Rashi is emphasizing that the intent is not that it is impossible to count them due to their multitude in quantity. Rather, that they are not in the realm of enumeration and counting – the virtue of quality. If so, there is, here, an addition to the description of the power and virtue of Yisroel – that a curse cannot touch them.
Similarly with regarding to the second explanation:
For in the three places that Rashi changes from the words of the Midrash, this emphasizes that his intent is not to a general multitude of Mitzvot. Rather, to the virtue in quality.
In other words:
The number of Mitzvot that were given to Yisroel to fulfill with dust (for in the end, it is a limited number).
Rather to specific Mitzvot, that for each one of them “there is no accounting” to its performance, as will be explained.
This is the difference between the wording of the Midrash, “that they perform with dust”, where it is speaking of the deed and act of the person, versus Rashi’s wording “that they fulfill”, that does not emphasize the deed of the person, but rather the fulfillment of the Mitzvah.
Even in this, a new and lofty virtue within Yisroel, is emphasized:
5. The explanation of the aspect is:
The four Mitzvot that Rashi cites here, are divided into two groups:
The emphasis that, “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.” is twofold:
The same is applies to each time that he sows his field and does not plant Kelayim, he fulfills the negative commandment of “You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds”.
Therefore, Rashi writes, “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.”. His intent is not that the Mitzvot that were given to be fulfilled with dust are multitudinous. Rather, that there is no accounting in the Mitzvot that a person fulfills, with regard to dust (since each one of these Mitzvot, are very regularly done).
According to this, another change is understood:
The Midrash states,
“You shall not sow your vineyard with Kelayim” “
Yet Rashi states,
“You shall not sow Kelayim”, without distinction.
Plainly, the intent refers to the verse in Parshat Kedoshim, that it refers to all plantings of Kelayim and not just to the Kelayim of the vineyard.
The reason is:
The Midrash, who counts the Mitzvot that are performed with dust, takes the most severe case of their planting - “You shall not sow your vineyard with Kelayim” - which contains many Negative Commandments. Also if one plants Kelayim, he may not derive any benefit thereof, as it states,
“lest the expansion becomes obnoxious
Whereas Rashi who comes to emphasize, “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.”, writes
“You shall not sow Kelayim”, without distinction.
For “You shall not sow your vineyard with Kelayim” is not a common and regular thing like the planting of the field which is more common and regular.
The innovation and emphasis of these Mitzvot is also in that which “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust”. Therefore even with this, Rashi changes from the Midrash.
For the Midrash cites the verses,
“A ritually clean person shall gather the Parah's ashes”
“(Regarding Sotah, “The kohen shall take) of the earth that will be on the floor of the Mishkan”
Whereas Rashi plainly writes “the ashes of the Parah, the dust of the Sotah”.
For Rashi’s intent is not regarding the deed and the singular act (החדפעמית) that
“A ritually clean person shall gather the Parah's ashes”, and in Sotah “of the earth that will be on the floor of the Mishkan”.
Rather to that which there is no accounting to these Mitzvot.
Regarding the ashes of the Parah, in addition to fulfill the Mitzvah of purification (Tahara), in the course of all the times (that it was available) –
that they sprinkle on the impure person and purify him from the defilement of a corpse. The fulfilment of the Mitzvah is the entire time that the ashes of the Parah exist that comes through the making of the Parah. This endured the entire time that they sprinkled the ashes and the entire time that the ashes were given to be watched
The same applies to the “Sotah dust”. The intent is not just to the deed of taking the dust from the ground of the Mishkan. Rather to the entire time of the existence of this dust, as being “Sotah dust” and its deed as Sotah dust includes that which the woman is purified to her husband.
Moreover, “she is cleansed and bears seed” – the entire duration of the time that follows, is included in this Mitzvah.
Therefore, “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.”
This is also the reason for Rashi’s change at the conclusion of his comment where he writes, “and others similar to these” and not “and the same for all of them” like the Midrash. For the Midrash‘s intent is plainly for all the Mitzvot whose fulfillment is related to the dust. In this, there are a multitude of Mitzvot.
(Similar to that which is stated in the Midrash that is cited in the Yalkut, as aforementioned).
Whereas Rashi’s intent is to the specific Mitzvot that are fulfilled with dust, where there is “no reckoning”. Therefore, the wording is “and others similar to these” – Mitzvot like those that are enumerated before this.
6. One must still understand what the specific relation of “One cannot reckon the” is to dust. For the fulfillment of the Mitzvot in the aforementioned manner is not specifically related to dust.
The explanation of this is Pnimiyut is:
It is known that in the observance of Mitzvot there are, in general, two manners:
One could say that the second manner is termed “dust” – for two reasons:
When the fulfillment of the Mitzvot is in this manner – this causes that the accomplishment of the Mitzvot is in a manner that is unlimited – “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot” ().
In other words, the reason that the fulfillment of the Mitzvot,
“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey” or “You shall not sow your field with a mixture of seeds”
is considered “there is no accounting” (אין חשבון), the entire time that one plows or sows – one fulfills these Mitzvot – is because their fulfillment is in a manner of dust – through bitul and Kaballat Ol. For he says,
“I can, but what can I do, since my Father in Heaven has decreed upon me (that I may not)?”
With this it is fulfilled in him,
“If one sits”
(He effects within himself restraint and withholding” (ישיבה ועכבה))
“and does not transgress a sin, he receives a reward”. It is considered as if he fulfilled the Mitzvah.
Similarly this applies to the fulfillment of the Positive Commandments. When a person fulfills a Mitzvah due to one’s calculations, reason and comprehension – this is connected with his being.
Therefore, the Mitzvah is performed solely during the time of his deed and action. Whereas when one fulfill the Mitzvah, not due to calculation, due to the person’s being, but solely due to Kaballat Ol - acceptance of the yoke of Heaven – the fulfillment of G-d’s Command and Will. Then just as G-d is above time and place, so too it relates to His Will. Therefore, fulfillment of the Mitzvot due to Kaballat Ol reveals the yoke of the Sovereignty of Heaven, the Sovereignty of the Creator, visibly. And his “fulfilment” continues for the entire duration of the time afterward.
It has been explained many times, that when one finds two explanations in one verse, there is a relationship between them. The same is in our case. The two explanations in “Who can count the dust of Jacob” – the explanation of the Targum “the children of the house of Jacob” and the second explanation (the Midrash) “One cannot reckon the Mitzvot which they perform with dust etc.” – have a connection between them.
The explanation of the matter is:
The Baal HaTurim writes on the verse, “Who can count the dust of Jacob” (מי מנה עפר יעקב)
“This is like the verse, ‘a young deer’ (עופר האילים) and is based on “Israel is a (young) child and I have loved him” and so too Targum Onkelos renders, ‘who can count the children of the house of Jacob’”
In other words, according to the Targum “the children of the house of Jacob” alludes to G-d’s love for Bnei Yisroel because “Israel is a child and I have loved him”.
The explanation of this verse is known - that G-d’s love for Bnei Yisroel is because they are a “lad”.
Regarding the love of a father for his grown son, it is possible that it is not visible and recognizable that the cause of the love is solely because he is his son. It is possible that the love is due to the son’s wisdom and good character, and so forth. Or since he a son who obeys his father’s commands with maturity (with all the powers of the son etc.). Whereas regarding the love of a father for his young son, who does not possess the completeness of intellect and character, it is visibly recognizable that the father’s love is due to his being his son. So much so, that he is totally united with him.
We therefore find that the love of a father for his grown son (and also the love of a grown son for his father) is (visibly) a love that is enclothed in reason. Whereas the love of a father for his young son (and also the love of young son for his father) is not due to reason, but rather due to his being progeny (השייכות בתולדה). So much so that, this is why a father (and mother) give birth (and bring) sons and daughters into the world.
This is the meaning of, “Israel is a child and I have loved him”. There is a love from G-d toward Yisroel when they are in lofty condition of serving G-d, and where their virtue is apparent. This love is due to reason, like the love of a father to his grown son. Then there is G-d‘s essential love of Bnei Yisroel that is due to their souls which are a “veritable part of G-dliness Above”. This is like a part of G-d‘s Essence (similar to the love of a father to his young son).
This love is not dependent upon Avodat Yisroel
(As it states in the Midrash,
“Just as a father does not punish his small son when he sins . . so too is Yisroel – even when they inadvertently sin– they are considered like a small child”)
This is the connection between the two explanations in Rashi:
This is the level of “Israel is a child and I have loved him” which is connected with the Avodah of “the dust of Jacob” – the Avodah due to Kaballat Ol which has no calculations.
Due to this Avodah, Yisroel are called “children”. In other words, the smallness and bitul that is in each and everyone of Yisroel, like a small child that has no visible virtues and whose service is not with reason and comprehension.
Due to the great dearness of Bnei Yisroel to G-d, even those who, due to their level in Avodat HaShem are at the level of dust, at a low level, where there is none below it. Even they are included in “Who can count the dust of Jacob”.
This is the ashes of the Parah that purifies even one who was defiled by a corpse, the epitome (“grandfather/אבי אבות”) of impurity. In other words, one whose holy vitality (חיותו דקדושה) has been completely severed. So much so that, “Moshe's face darkened”, as he could not fathom how such a person could become pure.
However, since in his essence and Pnimiyut, he is at the level of “Israel is a child”, there is a purification and rectification (טהרה ומזומנת) for him.
Also for one who outwardly and visibly is in a condition of one who “deceived her husband,” – her husband being a reference to G-d - G-d gives the Sotah dust so that Yisroel becomes purified to G-d (her husband). So much so that “she is cleansed and bears seed”, the seeding of Torah and Mitzvot, in a visible manner and in one’s daily life.
8. According to this, one can also explain the connection to the Chag HaGeulah of Yud-Beis, Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, where he said,
“It was not myself alone that G-d redeemed on Yud-Beis Tammuz, but also all those who love the Torah etc.” So much so, that it was for “all those who merely bear the name ‘Yisroel’”
This alludes to one whose Jewish name is so concealed within him that it is just in the manner of a “connotation” (כינוי). However, through the redemption of the Rebbe Rayatz, even this aspect of “Israel is a child and I have loved him” was revealed within him.
Just as it was actually visible in the Avodah of the Baal HaGeulah, that his endeavoring was not just for, “the children of the house of Jacob, literally – the education of school-children, including education “from the time that a child begins to speak”. Rather it was even to those who are at the level of “children”, in Torah knowledge and their connection to Judaism, so much so to the level of dust.
All this was done through Mesirat Nefesh and Kaballat Ol, that was completely above accounting. The level of “there is no accounting”. With this power, he effected and accomplished and successfully revealed within each and every one of Yisroel the level of “Israel is a child and I have loved him”, in a positive manner.
So will it be for us. Through endeavoring in the spreading of Torah and the strengthening of Judaism is all places, in the manner that the Baal HaGeulah directed us, there will be fulfilled very soon, that which is stated in our Parsha –
“A star has gone forth from Yaakov, and a staff has arisen from Yisroel . . shall be possessed etc.”
This is Melech HaMoshiach, may he come and redeem us take us upright to our land. And as Rambam writes ‘may he speedily be revealed. Amen, so may it be G‑d's Will’’, mamosh.
MSichas Shabbat Parshat Balak 5726
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