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Friday, July 21

The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

The end of parshas Matos details the conquering and settling of the east side of the Jordan River by the tribes of Reuvein, Gad and half of Menasheh. The very last pasuk recounts Novach's capture of a series of cities and subsequently naming them after himself, Novach. Rashi dwells on the words "vayikra lah Novach" which should have featured a mapik heh in the word lah. He explains that the word is without a mapik heh, therefore rendering it "softer," because the name of that city did not endure.

Rav Hirsch writes that if Novach's naming of this city did not last, surely there must be a reason, some deficiency in his actions. He explains that while it is the way of the nations to have cities named after oneself, this is not typical practice among B'nei Yisrael. It puts undue importance on one's possessions as his true accomplishments when in truth, it is one's deeds that are his true legacy. (Indeed, the only city name in Eretz Yisrael that comes to mind as possibly being named after a person is Shechem – not a Jew.) It was Novach's naming the city after himself that was the reason why the name did not last.

Rav Shimon Schwab, in Ma'ayan Beis HaShoeiva, points out that the previous pasuk recounts Yair's naming his captured land Chavos Yair, the villages of Yair. How come Novach's city did not retain its name but we find no such fate for that of Yair's? He explains that there is an important nuance which differentiates the two names. Novach gave the city his exact name. This was an indication that from Novach's perspective, this city was the very embodiment of himself. Yair, conversely, named the city "The Villages of Yair." The simple addition of that extra word made clear that there was a separation between the man and his possessions. These were his villages but it wasn't him.

 Chazak, Chazak, veNischazeik!

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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