This is the final shiur until after the summer break. There are some shiurim from the summer weeks in the archives at https://torah.org/series/ravfrand/. The shiur will resume with Parshas Shoftim.
The pasuk in this week’s parsha says, “Harass the Midianites and smite them. For they harassed you…” (Bamidbar 25:17-18). The Ribono shel Olam tells Moshe that he should take revenge from the Midianites for what they did to Klal Yisrael. The Medrash Tanchuma comments on this: “One who rises up to kill you—preemptively kill him. Rav Shimon says, ‘How do we know that someone who causes his friend to sin is worse than someone who kills his friend?’ It is because when someone kills another person, the victim still has a portion in the World-to-Come. However, when someone causes his friend to be sinful, he causes the friend to lose both this world and the next world.
The Medrash continues: Two nations approached the Jewish nation by sword (attacking us physically, but not spiritually) and two other nations approached them by attempting to entice them to sin (attacking them spiritually). Mitzrayim and Edom attacked us physically, but Amon and Moav attacked us spiritually. By the former nations we are commanded “Do not hate them” (Devorim 23:8). By the third generation following their conversion, we are allowed to intermarry with them (Devorim 23:9). However, concerning those who caused us to sin, it is written “Neither an Ammonite nor a Moavite shall enter into the Congregation of Hashem, even in the tenth generation they shall not enter into the Congregation of Hashem, forever.” (Devorim 23:4)
Ammon and Moav are on the “Enemies List” forever, because they did something far worse than trying to kill us physically. They tried to seduce us. They tried to take away our Olam HaBah. Therefore, the Ribono shel Olam rejects them eternally.
The Medrash continues and says that someone who has mercy on an Ammonite will end up suffering. He will come to shame, to wars, and to troubles. If the Torah rejects them and places them “off limits” then we are not allowed to show them kindness or to be nice to them. This is an old principle: Don’t be frumer (more religious) than the Torah. The Medrash gives an example of someone who had mercy on an Ammonite and, as a result, suffered terribly: Dovid HaMelech. As it is written: “And Dovid said I will do a kindness with Chonan son of Nachash, as his father did with me…” (Shmuel II 10:2)
Nachash was the King of Amon, and at one point he did a favor to Dovid (Shmuel I Chapter 11). Dovid HaMelech now wanted to repay the favor, so when Nachash died, he sent messengers to be Menachem Avel (extend condolence wishes to the mourner) to this Ammonite. The Medrash relates: “The Holy One Blessed be He said, ‘You have transgressed My Word to not inquire about or be concerned about their welfare. And you showed them acts of kindness. ‘Don’t be overly righteous!’ (Koheles 7:16)”.
What happened to Dovid as a result of this gesture? We won’t go into all the details of a long and complicated story in Tanach, but to make a long story short, when the messengers of Dovid HaMelech arrived at the palace, they were treated brutally, stripped down to the waist, and half their beards were cut off to mock them.
This is the point of the Medrash: A person should only do what the Torah says, and not try to improve on the Torah’s morality. If the Torah says about the Ammonites and Moavites “Don’t seek their welfare or their benefit,” we should follow the Torah and not be more “religious” than the Word of G-d.
The sefer Otzros haTorah brings a fantastic incident: When Rav Moshe Feinstein was a Rav in Luban, Russia, there was a Jew in the city who was a moser. A moser is a person that snitches to the government against Jews. (One has to realize that this incident took place in the 1930s, under the Stalinist Government. The Communists were at their height of power and were terrible to the Jews.) There were unfortunately Jews who were members of the Communist party, and they would snitch on other Jews to get them into trouble with the Soviet authorities.
The moser died and he left a letter to the Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) in which he confessed that he had been sinful during his life, and stated that now prior to death he regretted those actions. He bemoaned the fact that he was responsible for having Jews arrested, sent to Siberia, and killed. Out of shame and repentance, he stated that he wished to achieve kappara (atonement) after death for his actions, and hence requested of the Chevra Kadisha that they not give him a proper Jewish burial. He requested that his body be mutilated and abused. “I don’t want to have a tahara—just roll me in the gutter as a kappara for what I did in my lifetime.”
The Chevra Kadisha came to the Rav of Luban, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and showed him this “Last Will and Testament” of this Moser, and asked for his advice. Rav Moshe paskened that they were not allowed to treat a Jewish body disrespectfully, and that they had to bury him with a tahara and with all the honor and dignity accorded to any Jewish person being buried. He ruled that no person is the master over his own body, and this person had no right to make such a request. “What is going to happen to him after death is between him and the Ribono shel Olam, but we cannot take the law into our own hands and do this to another Jew because it is against the Din (Jewish law).”
The Chevra Kadisha tried to argue with Rav Moshe, repeating what an evil person this fellow was. Rav Moshe persisted: “This is what it says in Shulchan Aruch. You need to follow the Din. Don’t be frumer than the Torah.”
The Chevra Kaddisah buried the fellow, perhaps not with “full military honors,” but with normal Kavod HaMeisim (dignity due to the dead). A few days after the burial, the watchman at the cemetery reported that officers from the Russian Government came and insisted that the body be exhumed. The watchman was not in a position to tell the government officers “Sorry, we don’t do that type of thing.”
They dug up the grave. They opened the coffin. They looked at the body. They closed the coffin. And they reburied him. Before they left, the watchman asked if they could give him an explanation about what just happened. They told him what happened: Before this moser died, he sent a second letter. He sent a letter to the government stating that he could demonstrate how much the Jews hate the Communist authorities. “They are not going to give me a proper Jewish funeral because I was a friend of the government.”
Lo and behold, when they opened the coffin, they saw that he was buried k’das u’k’din (according to Jewish law) and that the allegation in the letter he sent them was in no way true. The moral of this story is: Keep what is written in Shulchan Aruch. Shulchan Aruch states what we are supposed to do. We should not try to outsmart the Shulchan Aruch, and we should not try to be frumer than the Shulchan Aruch. “Al te’hee Tzadik Harbeh” — ‘Don’t be overly righteous!’ (Koheles 7:16).
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Pinchas is provided below:
- # 064 – The Yarmulka: At Home and In the Office
- # 154 – Writing a Halachically Sanctioned Will
- # 201 – Fasting on Tisha B’Av: Is It For Everyone?
- # 246 – Hilchos Brachos: Ikar Ve Tofel
- # 291 – The Do’s and Don’t of Kashering Keilim
- # 336 – Tisha B’Av on Motzoei Shabbos
- # 381 – Making A Zecher Le’churban
- # 425 – Minhagim of the Three Weeks
- # 469 – Tu B’Av
- # 513 – Leining on Fast Days and Other Ta’aneisim Issues
- # 557 – Disinheriting
- # 645 – Women and Bentching
- # 688 – A Manicure on Shabbos?
- # 732 – Does A Mezuza Need a Door?
- # 776 – Yayin Mevushal – Does It Exist?
- # 821 – Cholent on Sunday of the Nine Days
- # 865 – Neckties,Shoelaces and Tichels: A Knotty Problem
- # 909 – Shabbos Shacharis – Hashkama Vs Later
- # 953 – Tevilas Keilim: My Hosts Haven’t Toiveled Their Dishes
- # 995 – The Mitzva of Shiluach Ha’Kain – Do We Make A Bracha?
- #1040 – Learning on Tisha B’av? Saying Tehilim on Tisha B’Av?
- #1084 – The Kohain Who Killed Someone by Accident: Can He Still “Duchan”?
- #1127 – Tei’ku – What Will Eliyahu Answer?
- #1169 – 17 Tamuz–When Does It Start? Wearing Laundered Shirts In Nine Days?
- #1212 – Goral: Can You Have A Raffle For A Sefer Torah?
- #1257 – Learning on Tisha B’Av, Should You? Can You? Eating Tisha B’Av Night So You Can Fast on Tisha B’Av Day?
- #1301 – A Tisha B’av Message: The Golden Rule – Don’t Do Unto Others What You Don’t Want Done Unto You
- #1345 – Bathing During the Nine Days
- #1389 – The Case of the Rabbi Who Said I Want My Son To Assume My Position When I Retire – Can He Demand That?
- #1433 – The Use of a Goral in Halacha
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.