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Friday, June 12

The Weekly Shtikle - Beha'alosecha

One of the numerous topics discussed in this week's parsha is the commandment to make two silver trumpets to be used under specific circumstances. The Torah decrees that the trumpets are to be blown at times of war so that we may be remembered before HaShem and we may be saved from our enemies. The pasuk begins with a puzzling wording, (10:9) "Vechi savo'u milchamah be'artzechem..." The word milchamah is singular but the "tavo'u" is a plural verb, thus making the exact translation of this pasuk unclear.


According to Targum Onkelos, the pasuk is read as if it were written "Vechi savo'u lemilchamah," when you come to [wage] war. The Sifrei (Beha'alosecha 76) states very simply, based on this pasuk, that the trumpets are to be blown whether you are waging war on your enemy or your enemy is attacking you. Eimek HaNetziv suggests that it is the grammatical incongruity of the pasuk that is the reasoning behind the midrash. Because it is unclear whether the pasuk is talking about B'nei Yisroel waging war or war being waged, we may understand that it is referring to both.

Sha'arei Aharon points out, however, that according to Rambam (Hilchos Ta'aniyos 1,2) it is clear that this does not include a "milchemes reshus," voluntary war. Therefore, when the Sifrei includes B'nei Yisroel waging war on its enemies, it refers only to "milchemes mitzvah," a Divinely sanctioned war. Rambam defines this elsewhere (Hilchos Melachim 5:1) as the wars against the seven nations, Amaleik and any act of defence. [According to this, it would seem that any military or political move which clearly undermines the efforts of National security and defence may in fact be a transgression of failure to engage in "milchemes mitzvah."]


Rav Hirsch makes an insightful observation in support of the above interpretation. The Torah, in reference to war, will sometimes use the verb "tavo," but at times it uses the word "teitzei." The word "teitzei," to go out, implies a voluntary act of going out to war and thus, it is used in reference to an uncommanded war. The word "tavo," indicating the coming to or coming of war, implies a more passive acceptance of the realities and necessities of war. Therefore, it is used, as it is here, in reference to a "milchemes mitzvah," which is carried out only by Divine decree.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka


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