Rabbi Finkelstein



FIRST ALIYAH– In the aftermath of Pinchas’ assassination of the ring leaders of Midian and Simeon who encourage the males of Israel to engage in promiscuous acts with the Moabite women, Hashem rewards him with a covenant of peace. Pinchas  succeeds his father, Elazar, as Kohen Gadol eventually, and serves in that position for many years, as we note his presence in the end of the Book of Judges. Pinchas’ act reflects a zealous desire on his part to protect the spiritual and moral integrity of the people of Israel, based on a halachic ruling taught him by Moshe

The Torah then continues to declare that the Israelites should not spare the Midianites who provoke these acts of promiscuity, despite the fact that the Moabite women are for the most part, the active participants. Interestingly, the Moabites are not targeted for destruction, for as Rashi tells us, Ruth, the ancestor of King David, is descended from them. However, as the Ramban points out, no male Moabite converting into Judaism can marry within what is called, ‘kehal Hashem’, the community of G-d. The Torah in Ki Tetze gives two reasons, one because of Moab’s refusal to provide food and drink to the Israelites, and secondly, because of the fact that the king of Moab, Balak, hires Bilaam to curse the Israelites. The Kli Yakar adds that Midianite women in addition to Moabite women are involved in this travesty that befall the people of Israel, though the text primarily refers to Moabites. In response, the Kli Yakar indicates that the Midianite women are aggressive in their pursuit of Israelite men, while the Moabite women are sought out by the Israelite men. It is because of that distinction between the Midianite and Moabite women, that the Torah emphasizes the need to despise the former.

SECOND ALIYAH- The Torah continues with a new census taken of the people of Israel with references to the different families in each tribe. What appears to be somewhat odd is the omission of names of certain families, prompting Rashi to comment that the members of these missing families died. In enumerating the tribes of Israel, and providing a brief summary of what happens to Korah and his group, we read that the sons of Korah remain alive.

Rashi comments that originally sympathetic to their father’s cause, they change their mind, and side with Moshe and Aaron. The Or Hachaim points out that it is to the merit of Korah that he does not coerce his children to join him in his rebellion against Moshe and Aaron, in contrast to Dathan and Aviram, the other ring leaders, who force their children to side with them. The Ibn Ezra writes that the descendants of these children of Korah  are the authors of a number of chapters of Psalm. It is interesting that the Ibn Ezra includes Samuel’s children and grandchildren as the Benei Korah as those authors.

THIRD ALIYAH– This Aliyah describes the process by which the land of Canaan is to be divided among the tribes when they cross the Jordan River. The land distribution is to  take place through a divine lottery. The Seforno, in analyzing the process of determining which tribes receive which territory, states that the tribe of Simeon, which is the least populated, is to settle within pockets of land surrounded by the land given to the tribe of Judah.

With a review of the background of the tribe of Levi, the Aliyah concludes with the case brought by the daughters of Zelaphchad concerning the inheritance of territory within the boundaries of Menasheh. They stake their claim, indicating that as there is no son, the daughters should be entitled to receive their father’s share of the land, as his rightful heirs. Rabbi S.R.Hirsch comments that the daughters make a highly sophisticated presentation to Moshe demanding their rights to ancestral property in that they speak directly to the point, and clarify their father had nothing to do with the spies or the followers of Korah that would have prevented him from receiving property. Rav Hirsch cites the Talmudic statements that the descendants of these two groups do not receive territory. Therefore, the daughters emphasize their father dies through his own sin, and should therefore not be denied ancestral lands.

FOURTH ALIYAH– Hashem, confirming the rightful claim of the daughters of Zelaphchad to inheriting their father’s estate, sets forth the rules for inheritance covering different scenarios in relation to the heirs. Following this set of rules regarding inheritance, Moshe asks Hashem to select a successor, one who has the ability to deal with the myriad types of people and their propensities, and who can take the lead in conducting the affairs of the people of Israel. In other words, Moshe’s successor must be indeed a strong personality able to handle the vicissitudes of the people. Hashem tells Moshe to pick Joshua, and that Moshe shall give him Semicha by laying his hand on him. Moshe responds by placing both hands on Joshua, indicating Moshe’s joy that his protégé is to be his successor. The Kli Yakar states symbolically that the concept of semicha represents not only leadership, but accountability for the actions and behaviour of the people that the leader is able to monitor and guide.

FIFTH- SIXTH-SEVENTH ALIYOT– These aliyot deal with the various sacrifices related to the Jewish calendar, beginning with the daily offerings, and ending with those connected to Succot and Shmini Ateret. The Ohr Hachaim considers the sacrifices to be reflective of atonement for sins committed, but mystically, as mechanisms to gather together those sparks of holiness that scatter apart at the time of creation. This thought is predominant in Lurian Kabbalah, in that each mitzvah we perform, repairs the world, tikkun olam.