Parshat Beha’alotecha (Numbers 8:1–12:16) - The Jewish Voice
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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Parshat Beha’alotecha (Numbers 8:1–12:16)

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Recreation of the chatzotzrot by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, Israel.Sound the Trumpets!

Horns,horn,horns. Any New Yorkers has heard those loud, raucous, and sometimes annoying sounds. They can be found all over the city from foghorns on the piers to cab horns in Times Square. These loud sounds are meant to signal to their listeners: listen up! Move out of the way! I’m coming through, and I’m bigger than you. These horns are meant to startle their listeners, and have them adjust their behavior accordingly.

A horn for better occasions can be found in Parshat Beha’alotecha, where Hashem commands Moshe to create two silver horns known as the chatzotzrot. The Torah tells us that they were blown in order to gather the nation together for a festival or for an upcoming journey. The chatzotzrot would also be blown as signals for which direction to travel. Finally, they would also be blown when the B’nei Yisrael would be under attack by their enemies. According to the Ibn Ezra, the sounding of the chatzotzrot during battle was to remind the people to cry out to Hashem in prayer to save them from their enemies.

Although this distinction is overlooked in the English translations, there is a change in language describing the enemies that are attacking the B’nei Yisrael in chapter 10, verse 9. First, the enemies are called “tzar hatzorer etchem,” or the oppressor that oppresses you. At the end of the passuk, they are described as “oyvechem,” or “your enemies.” Why this change in language? Although a pashtan or a grammarian might dismiss it by saying they are synonyms, it seems to me that there’s something else going on here.

Upon further examination, a second question presents itself: why is this battle taking place in the Land of Israel? Although if one splices the passuk, it can be divided into wars inside or outside Eretz Yisrael, the results are awkward. And yet a third question: if these enemies are attacking in Eretz Yisrael, and the B’nei Yisrael are saved from them, why does the passuk not describe the enslavement of either the Jews or the enemies? Finally, once again on the grammatical level, why is the word “v’noshatem,” as opposed to the word “v’nitzaltem,” used to describe Hashem’s salvation?

The Meshech Chochmah and the Netzv comment that this battle description is not of an ordinary battle or siege. Although it could be described as a battle the B’nei Yisrael will fight during their conquest of the land, these two meforshim look deep into the future for their answers. The Meshech Chochmah notes that the word, “b’chatzotzrot,” is referring to this particular pair. This pair was hidden away after Moshe’s death and was never used during the conquest. According to the Sifrei, these chatzotzrot would only be used during the apocalyptic war of Gog and Magog that ushers in the Messianic Age. Therefore, concludes the Meshech Chochmah, the sudden reappearance of these horns tells the student that this must be Milchemet Gog U’Magog.

The Netziv analyzes the Midrash at the grammatical level. According to the Netziv, the word “oyev” to describe an enemy is only used when the enemy is bearing ill feelings to his or her rival but has not yet openly acted on those feelings. The word, “tzar hatzorer” is describing how the enemy is actively waging war against the Jewish People. When the Jewish People will sound the chatzotzrot during Milchemet Gog U’Magog, Hashem will go out and thoroughly destroy their enemies. As the passuk in Zechariah states, that on that day, “Hashem will be King over the entire world, and He will be One and His Name will be One.” At the end of the war, the enemies will no longer be our enemies, whether openly or internally, as the world will be united to seeking the word of Hashem. No one will be taken as a prisoner or as chattel by the occupying forces.

The Malbim also notes that the word “teshua” is only used to describe a complete and permanent victory. If the Torah would have used the word, “v’nitzaltem,” it would have only been describing a temporary victory. Therefore, concludes the Malbim, the usage of the word “v’noshatem,” indicates that this would be a permanent and complete victory for the Children of Israel. This sort of victory would only be possible as a result of the ultimate Milchemet Gog U’Magog.

Therefore ironically, the sounding of the chatzotzrot serves many of the same uses that a New York City car or fog horn will. On the one hand, it is tell the Jewish People, “listen up! We’re under attack. Hashem, please save us!” On the other hand, it is saying to our enemies, “get out of our way. Hashem is coming to save us, and if you are attacking us, you will suffer His wrath.” May the sounds of the chatzotzrot soon be sounded over the hills of Yerushalayim to celebrate our ultimate victory and the proclaiming of Hashem as “King over the World, and that on that day, Hashem will be One and His Name will be One.”

Adina C. Brizel graduated from the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and is currently freelance writing and lecturing in her hometown, Kew Gardens Hills. She can be reached at adina.brizel@gmail.com

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