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(5730) Rashi ( Num. 31:21): "Eleazar the kohen said": "This is the statute of the Torah"



How to become a fitting vessel for the holy light

Moshe stated the law to sprinkle the Midyan’s vessels; Eleazar mentioned the need to purge the non-kosher flavors out of the vessel which Moshe had not previously taught; Moshe’s anger led him to this “error” of omission here and on two previous times

Moshe, friend of the King, saw the power from above to below to change the non-kosher absorption (vessel or person); Eleazar, friend of the people, saw the power of the Jews from below to above



1, On the verse: “Eleazar the kohen said (to the soldiers returning from battle, "This is the statute that the L-rd commanded Moses” Rashi cites the words: “Eleazar the Kohen said” and explains:

“Since Moses came to a state of anger, he came to the state of error, for the laws of purging gentile vessels eluded him’

(And Rashi adds that:

“We find a similar incident occurred on the eighth day of inauguration that when one comes into a state of anger, one comes into a state of error. And likewise is when Moshe said: "Listen, you rebels!" - through anger, he came to err (and hit the rock))

One must understand:

The word “Err” (ta’ot) applies in a case where one knows a certain thing, but the knowledge is incorrect – it is a faulty logic. However, when a subject “eludes” (nisalem) a person and he forgets it, it, seemingly , is not fitting to say that the person “erred”

One must say that Rashi’s wording: “one comes into a state of error” in connection with “the laws of purging gentile vessels eluded him” is because since Moshe said the law of “cleansing” (tischatu) , he stated that this refers to anyone who kills etc. and any garment etc. And from a positive formulation - one can derive a negative (m'klal hane atah shomeah lav), that regarding other things one is not required to do anything - his speech would be in the category of error.

However this also is not understood:

The laws of impurity and the laws of purging are two different aspects. Why, therefore should one term the omission of the laws of purging, in the discussion of “cleansing” – the laws of ritual purity - a mistake?

2, Afterwards Rashi cites the words: “which the L-rd commanded etc.” and states: “He ascribed the ruling to his mentor”

This also must be understood

The explanation of: “This is the statute of the Torah” is that “this” which he is about to say (the following words) is the (only) statute from the (entire) Torah.

That is why Rashi elaborates and from the beginning of Parshat Chukat states: “Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel etc “. Namely, that the statute of the red heifer on which states: “This is the statute of the Torah” is different from all the other statutes since it is completely beyond the realm of logic.

It is not understood:

The laws of purging gentile vessels are intellectually understood and they are not a statute. - Therefore how is the phrase here: “This is the statute of the Torah” relevant?

One must say that with: “This is the statute of the Torah”, Eleazar meant the previous law of “sprinkling on third and seventh day” which Moshe told them. And, referring to this, Eleazar added: “Only the gold etc.” For (the word) “only (‘ach’) is a word denoting limitation” - that even after purifying the vessels from the defilement of a corpse, one must not use them until they have been koshered.

According to this is not understood:

The phrase: “which the L-rd commanded Moshe” is the outcome of “This is the statute of Torah” which refers to the law (of the red heifer) which Moshe taught. Why then does Rashi say that: “which the L-rd commanded” refers to: “He ascribed the ruling to his mentor”? For according to this (it appears that) the words: ”which the L-rd commanded” refers to “Only the gold etc.” which Eleazar said?

3, The explanation is:

In order to mention the laws of impurity which “Moshe warned them about” previously, it is sufficient for Eleazar to say “This is the laws of the Torah” - without the addition: “which the L-rd commanded” and immediately afterwards state: “Only the gold etc.”

Yet from that which he added: “”which the L-rd commanded Moshe “ is proof that he did so in order to ascribe also the following lesson (the laws of koshering gentile vessels which Moses did not say) to his mentor.

However since the words: “This is the statute of the Torah” are connected with “Which G-d commanded” (as aforementioned in paragraph 2) where he emphasizes “This . . which”, one must say (according to this explanation) that even the lesson concerning the koshering of gentile vessels, is a part of “This is the statute of the Torah”

And therefore Rashi says: “he came to a state of error”. For the reason Moshe did not state the law of koshering is because he came into a state of error – that the law of the “cleansing” – the sprinkling of the Mei Chatas (the waters mixed with the ashes of the red heifer) does not only purify the vessel from its impurity, but it also koshers the vessel from its issur (the prohibited state resulting from the absorption of non-kosher flavor).

And although the non-kosher flavor is absorbed in the walls of the vessel where the sprinkling waters do not reach at all -

whereas the impurity also spreads through the entire vessel. And (although) the few drops of sprinkling waters which one sprinkles on the vessel, is from the outside and does not surround it,

nevertheless, the entire vessel becomes purified.

We thus see that the Mei Chatas have within them such a strong power, that through the sprinkling of a few drops on the outside, the entire vessel is cleansed from its impurity.

If so there is room to say, that the sprinkling should also kosher the vessel from the issur which is absorbed in it.

On this Eleazar said: “This is the statute of the Torah etc.” “Only the gold etc.” – where “only” is a word denoting limitation. The “statute of the Torah which G-d commanded” is said only regarding purifying one from the impurity of a corpse. But not to purify it from the absorption of the issur of non-kosher flavors (neveilos).

4, From the aspects of the homiletic style of Torah (yayina shel Torah) which is alluded to in this commentary of Rashi:

When a vessel has absorbed an issur, (and also when a person eats a forbidden food, which then becomes his own blood and flesh), the issur permeates it, inwardly  (and the forbidden food inside the person, inwardly).

Therefore the vessel has to be purged, in order to take out of it the issur which it has absorbed.

However impurity (tumah) is not something which comes into the inwardness (pnimiyut) of the vessel (or the person) – it is only an aspect of surrounding and transcending (makkif).  One cannot “feel” (ontappen) it with his intellect.

Therefore the purification comes from an aspect of transcendence: Through the immersion of the vessel (or the person) one does not see a difference in their pnimiyut.

And since the impurity of a corpse is even more transcendent, which has no rationale -

  since there is no logical reason why a dead person, who himself is not impure, should defile others -

therefore the purification of a corpse is in a manner which is even more transcendental: The innovation of the purification of a corpse, does not come about by immersing the impure object in the Sprinkling Waters, but rather by sprinkling two or three drops on it.

Because in the aspect of Makkif, only the general standing (ibershtel) of the thing or the impure person is considered and his conversion from impurity to purity. This is something which is not measured in quantity or in area.

And this is the explanation why Moshe held that the sprinkling of the Mei Chatas can also kosher a forbidden absorption - because Makkif effects even the inward (pnimi). And when there exists the general standing of the person, through awakening the Makkifim of holiness, it automatically works on his inner powers (pnimiyim).

This however is only regarding Moshe, the shoshbina d’malchus ( confidant/’best man’ of the King) who looks at the Jews from above to below. However “Eleazar the priest” whose aspect is lifting the Jews from below to above said that the general workings over the inner powers, by drawing down the transcendental, is not sufficient. But rather there must be Avodah also with the inner powers themselves. 

 M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Chukat 5725





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