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Parshat Pinchas - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'
Milchemet Midyan
1. In the sin of "bnot moav" (see 25:1-9), both the daughters of Moav and Midyan participate. Afterward, in 25:16-18, God commands Bnei Yisrael to attack only the Midyanites (and not Moav). In your opinion, can you explain why?

2. Why was Moav interested in causing Bnei Yisrael to sin? [Relate to 22:2-8.] Why was Midyan interested in causing Bnei Yisrael to sin? [Note which of these two countries borders with Israel.] Whose sin would you consider worse? [In your answer, relate to Devarim 2:9-10,17-19.] [see also Rashi & Ramban on 25:18.]

3. When Bnei Yisrael finally go to war with Midyan (see 31:1-8), they send only 1,000 soldiers from each tribe (total 12,000) and the army is led by Pinchas the kohen.
How is this form of going to battle different than other battles that Bnei Yisrael have fought thus far (or that they will fight in the future)? Who has led Bnei Yisrael in battle in their previous battles?

4. Even though we don't have exact population figures of how large of an army Moav had, we can extrapolate a rough estimation from the number of female children (most likely under the age of 13) whom were taken captive = 32,000 (see 31:35).
[Note also that not all of Midyan was destroyed. This nation appears again many other times in Tanach - see Shoftim chapter 6.]
Based on that figure, how many adult males would you estimate lived in Midyan? How big of any army would they have in potential?
Based on the size of Bnei Yisrael's potential fighting force (i.e. 600,000 men age 20 and up), does it make sense that they would send a force of only 12,000 men? If not, why do you think that this is the 'strategy' that God commands Moshe to follow?

5. Based on the above questions, what do you think is significant about "milchemet Midyan"?
Use your answer to explain the reason for the special tax that was levied in 31:25-54.]
[Can you relate this as well to Moshe's special relationship with Midyan? Note Bamidbar 10:29-32.]

6. Is there any relationship between Midyan and Amalek?
Relate to Bilam's final blessings in Bamidbar 24:20-25 & Sefer Shoftim 4:11,17-20.
[See also Breishit 25:1-6.]

7. As long as we are dealing with numbers [in the Book of Numbers], what is the population drop in Shevet Shimon between the census in Bamidbar chapter 1 and chapter 26?
Is there any other shevet in which we find such a drastic drop?
Can you relate this to 25:14 and 25:9?!
Does Shimon receive a blessing from Moshe Rabeinu in Parshat V'zot ha'Bracha (Devarim chapter 33)?
If so, what is it; if not, why not?
Is this similar to any other "shevet"?

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)

Shiur #1 - The Order of Parshiot in Parshat Pinchas
1. To the best of your recollection, what was the purpose for the "mifkad" [census] that is taken in chapter 26?
Then, answer this question based on:

    a) Your 'first impression' when reading 26:1-4 as a continuation of 25:16-18.
    b) Its juxtaposition to the opening sentence - "And it came to pass after the PLAGUE... (i.e. 26:1)
    c) The finale psukim of this census in 26:51-56!
Note Rashi 26:1. Note how he quotes two different Midrashim.
Which of the above possibilities does he relate to?
See also Chizkuni & Ibn Ezra in regard to this topic.

2. Carefully compare the 'style' of this census (i.e. how the people are counted by families) to the census in the first chapter of Sefer Bamidbar. What is the primary difference between them?
As you review Bamidbar chapter one, note also what takes place in Bamidbar chapter 2. Is there anything similar to this in chapter 26?
Based on your comparison:
What was the purpose of the census in Bamidbar 1->2?
What is the purpose of the new census in Bamidbar 26?
Does your answer explain the reason for the differences?

3. In 25:16-18, God commands Bnei Yisrael to attack Midyan.
Where in Sefer Bamidbar do we find the actual details of this battle?
Can you explain why the details of that battle are not recorded until chapter 31?
[See Chizkuni on 25:17. How does he 'solve' this problem? See also Ramban on 25:17. How is his pirush different?]

4. Carefully review the primary topics of each of the individual "parshiot" that are recorded between chapters 25 and 31. It would be helpful to list them, and attempt to group together the common topics.
Note how there "parshiot" appear to form an 'interruption' of the narrative that otherwise would flow naturally from 26:1 to chapter 31. Can you explain the reason for this structure?

5. In your opinion, where in Chumash does 27:12-23 belong? Can you explain why this narrative is recorded at this point in Sefer Bamidbar?
Compare 27:12-13 to 31:1-2. What can we learn from this regarding the chronological order of these events?

6. What was your conclusion in regard to the primary topic of chapters 28->29?
In your opinion, does this unit belong in Sefer Bamidbar?
If not, where does it belong (and why)?

7. Continue your review (or 'scan') of Sefer Bamidbar until its conclusion in chapter 36. As before, make a listing of all the primary topics of each "parshia" (or set of "parshiot"); this time listing from chapter 25 until the end.
Study this list, and attempt to 're-organize' these parshiot (i.e. from chapter 25 until chapter 36) in a more 'logical' order.
Would you consider chapters 26-27 as one unit? If so, why?
In your opinion, where does this unit belong?
Can you explain why the Torah places it after chapter 25?
Read Rashi on 26:1 once again. Explain the two answers that Rashi suggests based on the above analysis. See also Chizkuni.

8. Based on your answers to the above, what can we learn from the 'parshia break' that we find in the middle of 26:1?

9. Review Devarim 4:3-4, noting its specific context within the opening topic of chapter 4. [Btw, do these psukim sound familiar? How did you understand them up until now?]
Can you relate Devarim 4:3-4 to the events of Bamidbar chapter 25? Can you explain why Moshe mentions specifically "baal peor" in this rebuke?
After that event, do we find any other instance when Bnei Yisrael sin in the desert?
Attempt to this relate to the overall theme of Sefer Bamidbar (and the above questions).

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Shiur #2 - Parshat T'midim U'Musfaim - Its Internal Structure
1. Chapters 28->29 form a unit. Explain why, and give a title to this unit.
Would the heading: 'The Jewish Holidays' - be a precise title for this unit? Explain why yes and why not.
Does your title of this unit explain the reason for the repetition of the phrase "milvad olat ha'tamid..." in each holiday? [If it doesn't it should.]
What does the word "musaf" mean. Did you include it in your title?
When we doven "tfilat musaf", do we ever quote the psukim from Parshat Pinchas? If so, when, where, and why?
When we read the Torah on "yom-tov", do we ever read from Parshat Pinchas? If so, for which aliyah?
Can you explain why?

2. How does this unit relate to Vayikra chapter 23?
Is it simply a repeat? If not, what it is?
Be sure that you relate to the phrase "v'hikravtem ishe l'Hashem" that is repeated so often in chapter 23. Relate as well to Vayikra 23:37-38 - See Rashi on that pasuk!
[See also TSC shiur on Parshat Emor re: the "chagim".]

3. Based on Bamidbar chapters 28-29, organize a table that lists (and compares) the specific animals (and their numbers) that are offered on each holiday. Can you identify any type of a 'pattern'?
If so, based on that pattern, attempt to group the holidays together based on their similar "korbanot". Can you find a reason for the groupings that emerge?
According to these groupings, should Shmini Atzeret be considered one of the "shalosh regalim" or one of the Days of Judgement?

4. In your opinion, should the special Musaf offering of Rosh Chodesh be offered on Rosh Ha'shana as well, or does the special Musaf offering of Rosh Ha'shana 'override' it?
Now, look at the parsha carefully, and see if you arrived at the same conclusion that Chumash does (i.e make sure that you study 29:6 in its context)!

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut
1. Review the opening four psukim of Parshat Pinchas (i.e. 25:10- 13). In your opinion, does 25:13 'explain' 25:12, or does God grant Pinchas an 'additional' reward in 25:13?
Can you explain the difference between the award of "brit shalom" in 25:12 to the award of "brit kehunat olam" in 25:13?
In your opinion, are these two britot identical or are they different?
If they are different, what does "brit shalom" imply?

After you have thought about this, see:

  • Rashi 25:12-13 - How does Rashi answer the above question?
  • Ramban 25:11-13. This Ramban is very difficult, how does he explain the difference between the two britot?
  • Ibn Ezra 25:12-13 - How does Ibn Ezra answer the above...?
    [See also Chizkuni - is this the same as Ibn Ezra?
    Why does he add the law about birkat kohanim?
  • Sforno 25:12 - Clearly, he understands brit shalom in a very different manner. Can you explain why? What does he base his pirush on.
    Then, see once again the Ibn Ezra on 25:13. How and why does he argue with Sforno's approach?

2. Note the word "shalom" in birkat kohanim (Bamidbar 6:26).
If I am not mistaken, these are the only two instances in Sefer Bamidbar where we find the word "shalom". [E-mail me if you find another].
Could this parallel help us understand the connection between brit shalom and brit kehunat olam?
Would this imply that brit shalom is the same as brit kehunah?

3. In Sefer Breishit we discussed two approaches to the concept of brit:

    a) A one sided covenant, basically a Divine promise;
    b) A two sided covenant, which binds both sides.
    [See Ramban Breishit 6:18 for complete discussion.]
What type of "brit" is God's brit with Pinchas?
Can you use the Ramban in Breishit 6:18 to better understand his pirush to Bamidbar 25:13? [Using the Ramban's own words, "v'hamaskil yavin"!]
How does the zealous act of Pinchas relate to the biblical concept of "kehuna"? [Relate to Shmot 19:4-6.]

4. In relation to question #1 in 'shabbos table questions' - be sure to see Rashi & Ramban on 25:18 concerning why only Midyan is attacked [and not Moav].
Does Ramban argue with Rashi, or does his interpretation 'add' to Rashi's explanation? Explain!
Now see Chizkuni on 25:18. What does his pirush ADD?
Why problem in 'pshat' does Chizkuni's pirush answer?

5. In regard to the 'strange' progression of parshiot in Parshat Pinchas (as discussed in Part II above) - Note how the following parshanim relate to these problems of "smichut parshiot"!
Rashi on 27:12. See also Ibn Ezra.
Relate to Rashi's two "mshalim" in his pirush to 26:1!
See also Chizkuni on 27:12. Can you explain his pirush?
Finally see Ramban on 27:12. How does his pirush here affected by his opinion of "yeish mukdam u'muchar"?!

6. In regard to why Parshat Tmidim u'Musafim is recorded here:
See Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Ramban on 28:2.
Explain how (and why) each pirush is different.