FIRST ALIYAH- The first Aliyah deals with the various laws concerning the taking of vows, and the means and methods of repealing or annulling them. At the end of Hilchot Nedarim, the Laws of Vows, Mishne Torah, 11:23, the Rambam discusses the underlying motivations for someone to pledge or to vow. While considering the negative aspects of vow taking, such as in a fit of anger, the one who takes a vow in order to improve oneself spiritually is to be praised if he indeed carries out that vow. Otherwise, unnecessary or harmful vows are to be avoided. The Kli Yakar examines the vow that is based on anger and/or ill conceived thought, as those that require examination and possible repeal. He further underscores the phrase at the beginning of the Torah reading indicating that vows should be made for the sake of G-d.
The second part of the Aliyah refers to the war of revenge against the Midianites, who under the leadership of Bilaam, along with Moabite women seduce Israelite men prompting a plague to break out in the camp of Israel. The plague ends after Pinchas kills the ring leaders of this operation. Moshe tells Pinchas to accompany the Israelite soldiers in battle, as a means of completing the task of destroying those who want to harm Israel’s spirit and connection to G-d. He is also the Kohen who is assigned to serve in the capacity of a glorified military chaplain. (Rashi)
The Or Hachaim comments that Moshe, on his own, commands Pinchas to join the military forces in their battle against Midian, recognizing the latter’s important role in bringing the plague to an end. Therefore, Moshe does not choose Joshua to lead this army, even though G-d tells Moshe to appoint Joshua as his successor.
SECOND ALIYAH- The laws of koshering and toiveling (immersing) vessels are based on the command given by Elazar, the Kohen Gadol, to the people of Israel, to apply these laws to vessels captured from the Midianites. The Torah describes the koshering process as כבולעו כך , ,פולטו that the way the vessel is used, is the way it is koshered. If the vessel is used with fire, then the koshering process is with fire (Libun). If the vessel was used with boiling water, the process for koshering is through boiling (Hagaalah). Earthenware cannot be koshered.
In regard to Tevilat Keilim, the immersion of vessels made or owned by non-Jews, we learn that metal and glass utensils require immersion accompanied by the recitation of a beracha, or blessing. There are questions regarding the necessity to immerse plasticware. Those who do immerse plastic do not recite a beracha. The immersion must take place in a mikveh or in a natural body of water, not a man-made lake. (The above two paragraphs are simply outlines of what is a much more expansive area of Jewish law that requires more explanations and examples.)
The Ramban wonders as to why the laws of koshering and toiveling are connected to the spoils of war taken by the Israelite soldiers in their battle with the Midianite forces, and not to the spoils of war captured in the wars against Og and Sihon. The Ramban comments that in regard to the wars with Og and Sihon, the Torah has already indicated that whatever is captured from them automatically belongs to the Israelites, as the latter are promised the land and all of its property. Therefore, anything belonging to the nations of Sihon and Og automatically belong to the Israelites with no need of koshering or toiveling anything. However, in the case of Midian, it has to be pointed out that Midianites, unlike Sihon and Og of the Amorite kingdoms, are not fighting on their own territory trying to defend it. Therefore, one cannot make an assumption that the materiel that is captured automatically becomes the property of the Israelites unless processes of ownership are carried out, i.e., koshering and toiveling.
THIRD and FOUTH ALIYAH-The tribes of Reuven and Gad, later joined by Menashe, petition Moshe to allow them to settle the land east of the Jordan River captured from Sihon and Og, rather than sharing with the other tribes land west of the Jordan. Moshe castigates them for appearing to avoid going to war in conquering Canaan. Their response that they intend to accompany the other tribes and fight alongside of them in that campaign prompts Moshe to develop what is called in Halachic Hebrew, a תנאי כפול, a double condition. Moshe expresses to the tribes that if Reuven and Gad live up to their bargain in helping to conquer Canaan, then their families can remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. However, if they fail to meet their commitments to help conquer Canaan, they shall settle the western side of the Jordan with the other tribes. The Talmud in Kiddushin states this type of ‘double condition’ is an inherent part of agreements. The failure to utilize a ‘double condition’ has the potential to invalidate the entire agreement.
Moshe adds one corollary to this agreement. The parties to this agreement, including Reuven, Gad, Menashe and the other tribes, must understand there is an ethical principle underlying it as well as other arrangements. Whatever one does, must be fulfilled in good faith in the eyes of G-d, and in the eyes of the people of Israel. In other words, transparency is of utmost importance.
In addition, Moshe reminds the tribesmen of Reuven and Gad that their first priority is to build homes for their families, and then provide shelter for their animals. In approaching Moshe, the leaders of these tribes put the emphasis on their animals rather than their families. The Kli Yakar comments that logically, the statement made by the tribal leaders regarding protection for their flocks is correct, as their flock’s locations are to be at the border providing a first line of defence against enemy infiltration. Moshe responds that logic displays a lack of trust in G-d, and that to show they truly believe in Hashem’s protection, they should build places for their families first,and do not need added buffers against prospective enemy attacks.
The fourth Aliyah brings us into Masei which begins with a listing of the forty- two stops the Israelites make in the various deserts leading to the land of Canaan. Rashi addresses the forty two stops as indications that the people of Israel are not simply wandering in the desert, but are reaching their destination at the crossings of the Jordan River. Further, the Ramban quotes the Rambam in the Guide for the Perplexed, as stating that in the future, there will be those who shall deny the authenticity and historicity of the sojourn in the desert. These scoffers will state the people of Israel could only have traveled in populated areas. The parsha of Masei disproves that theory by listing the forty- two stops indicating that they were all off of the beaten track, nowhere near civilization.
FIFTH ALIYAH- This Aliyah describes in great detail the boundaries of each of the tribes in Canaan. Rashi’s commentary on these borders is highly descriptive. The Ramban points out that the Torah, in commanding the newcomers to Canaan to destroy any vestiges of idolatry there, is actually one of the 613 commandments. He cites Rashi’s interpretation of the same passages as references to the specific conquest carried out by Joshua, but the Ramban believes his own point of view is the correct one.
SIXTH ALIYAH- Pursuant to the plans to enter the land of Canaan, and settling it, Hashem tells Moshe the names of the new leaders of the tribes. Interestingly, the word, ‘nasi’, prince or leader is not used in reference to the heads of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon. The Or Hachaim comments that in the case of Judah and Benjamin, the absence of that title indicates that in a future time, a leader greater than a prince shall arise. The tribe of Benjamin will produce Saul, and David will come from Judah. In regard to Simeon, its leader is not given the title of ‘nasi’ because his tribe has belittled itself in taking the lead in committing promiscuous acts under the influence of Bilaam. We also know that the land of Simeon is to be absorbed by the territory of Judah.
SEVENTH ALIYAH- In preparation for settling the land of Canaan, Moshe puts into motion the selection of cities of refuge to accommodate inadvertent murderers. The area of Gilead on the eastern side of the Jordan is noted as a violent location, prompting the need for more cities of refuge in that area. We also read of the role of the ‘blood redeemer’ who as a relative of the slain victim has the right to kill the murderer, as long as the latter is not in the city of refuge.
The Torah then warns that those who are guilty of premeditated murder shall not seek refuge in these cities which are under the control of the Leviim who do not receive tribal territory in Canaan. The Daat Zekeinim cites the case of the general of David’s army, Yoav, who tries to seek refuge in the sanctuary by holding on to the corners of the altar in order to avoid capture and the death penalty by Solomon, for the crime of killing Avner ben Ner the general of Saul’s army as recounted in the opening chapters of Kings I.
The Aliyah concludes with the resolution of the claims of the daughters of Zelaphchad to their father’s estate, and their marriages to men from the same tribe to avoid the transfer of ancestral property from one tribe to the other. The practice of only marrying within the same tribe is applicable to the generation of the daughters, but not to future generations.
THE NINE DAYS- The nine day period between Rosh Chodesh Av on Wednesday, July 22 and Tisha B’Av on Thursday, July 30 has several restrictions Halachically, as we are told by the Talmud, that with Rosh Chodesh Av we minimize our simcha.
The restrictions are as follows: 1) no haircutting or shaving 2) no eating of meat, poultry or drinking of wine except on Shabbat 3) no washing of clothes 4) no home renovations or expansions 5) np planting of trees 6) no purchasing of new clothing 7) no swimming or bathing for pleasure.