(Numbers: 30:2-36:13) / (Haftara: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1,2) / (Pirkay Avot 2)

  1. [30:3]  “When a person makes a vow…” The Talmud tells us that vows—promising to separate oneself from things that are permitted–is the first step to refined spirituality. What do vows have to do with more refined spirituality?
  2. [35:11-34] “…cities of refuge will be for you…” If someone killed a person accidentally, he could run away to a “city of refuge”, and he would be safe there from revenge. In those days, it was rare that someone killed by accident. Why does the Torah devote so much space to the “cities of refuge”?  What principles of law and behaviour are being taught here?
  3. [Haftara: 2:19] “Your own wickedness will correct you…”  How does one’s wickedness correct him or her? Is this an effective way of learning or an inferior way of learning?
  4. [Pirkay Avot 2:1] Be as careful with a minor mitzvah as with a major one, for you do not know the rewards of the mitzvot.”  If we read this mishna in a simple way, it seems to say that one should not choose between mitzvot, but rather, do whatever mitzvah comes to hand even if there seems to be a more important mitzvah to do. That, however, cannot be true. What is this mishna coming to teach us?
  5.  [2:1] “Which is the right path for man to choose for himself? Whatever is proper for the one who does (or made) it, and proper in the eyes of others.”  Rav Ovadiah of Bartinuro (16th century, Italy) understands this to mean that one should find a balance between one’s own desires and the expectations of the community. However, R. Moshe Zacuto, (1625-1697) says that one should do balance both what God expects and what the community expects. How is this mishna understood differently by each of these explanations?

Commentary

[33:1]   “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…”

The forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the land of Israel happen in the life of every person from his birth until his return to his source. Leaving Egypt represents birth, and one moves on until one comes to the land of elevated life (elevated life in this world and in the next world).

–R. Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, (1700-1760)

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker