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Questions on Parashiot Balak & Pinchas

I’ve been reading Pinchas and Mattot but can’t understand certain aspects of the text. I’m sharing my questions on the web in the hope someone will come back with an answer :). In each case I didn’t find an answer in Rashi.


1) Rashi comments on perek 25 verse 5, that “Each and every one of the judges of Israel would kill two [of those who had sinned with the Midianite women and their idol, Peor], and the judges of Israel were seven myriads (seventy thousand) and eight thousand, as stated in Eilu Hein HaNisrafin (Sanhedrin 82a).” We find out that 24,000 of the Israelites died as a result of sinning with the Midianite women. Yet if each judge killed two, that would amount to 156,000 dead. Alternately, if each judge killed two until all the sinners died, what purpose could there be in stating that there were 78,000 judges? Perhaps to show that it wasn’t just the Sanhedrin of 72 that was meant by the judges? E.g. That there were enough judges to kill the sinners?..


2) If the judges of Israel killed the sinners seduced by the Midianite women, why is the event referred to as a plague? (Ex.: 25:16 and 26:1) I have a tentative answer, but I’m not sure of it: Rashi commented in Parashat Korach that it’s sin that kills, not the incense of G’s service. Thus the plague is a reference to the sin, not the means by which they were killed.

3) The daughters of Zelophehad are referred to with the word “להם” which denotes the masculine “to them.” (27:7) . Why refer to an all-female group that way? Indeed, later in the same passage they’re referred to by the feminine “to them” – “להן” . The best I can imagine is to show that they are able to inherit from their father, just like sons would have been able to (albeit the sons would have taken the whole inheritance). But then, why not use the masculine form both times? Any other explanations?

4) Regarding the hierarchy of inheritors stated in verses 27:8 to 27:11, is this mandatory according to halacha or just the default which can be circumvented (e.g. with a properly made will)?

5) A weird repetitive phrasing appears in regards to the sacrifices. What Artscroll’s translation renders as a tenth of an ephah literally reads as “a tenth tenth”: עשרון עשרון. (ex.: 28:11) To me, that sounds like we should be implying the words “of a” in between, e.g. “a tenth of a tenth” – one hundredth. What’s the proper meaning of the phrase and why is there such a repetition?

6) There’s a peculiar bit of phrasing regarding the libations for the sacrifices, in verse 28:14. The verse refers to the volume measurement known as a “hin” by saying “the hin” – e.g. a specific hin. In hebrew the word is, ” ההין.” Why is there that extra “heh” at the start?

7) Verse 28:28 states, “three tenth-ephahs for the one bull” for the sacrifices to be brought on Shavuot, which include two bulls. Later we find that for Rosh Hashana’s sacrifice, there’s to be made “one tenth ephah for the one lamb, for the seven lambs.” (29:4)

Why doesn’t 28:28 state, “for the two bulls” after “three tenth ephahs for the one bull”? Does it mean only one bull would be accompanied by the offering of three tenth ephahs? If so, which one? [Note: It’s not just because there were two bulls that the verse doesn’t state “for the two bulls,” because in 29:14 you have “two tenth ephahs for the one ram, for the two rams.”

8) 29:8 says, regarding sacrificial animals, “unblemished shall they for you.” Why “for you?” What does that add? The context is not a sacrifice of atonement, but rather an olah-offering (rising offering) so the point is not that that they need to be unblemished to be able to take our sins upon them.

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