Pearls of Rashi – Parshas Matos-Massei II

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In this week’s Torah portion, Matos-Massei, we are told of the passing of Moshe’s brother, Aharon, the High Priest[1]. It was in his merit that the clouds of glory had come. These clouds protected the Jews all of the years that they wandered in the desert. Hence with his passing, the miraculous clouds passed as well[2]. The Torah tells us shortly after that that[3] “the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the south of the land of Canaan, heard that the Jewish Nation had arrived.”

What was it that the Canaanite king heard? Rashi cites the words “the Canaanite … heard,” and comments as follows. These words come “to teach you that it was the news of Aharon’s death that he heard, for Hashem had removed the clouds of glory. He thought that Hashem permitted him to wage war against the Jews …”

Just who was this Canaanite king? The Torah used the very same expression earlier[4]; “the Canaanite king of Arad heard.” There Rashi tells us that this Canaanite king was Amalek. Rashi explains there that Amalek saw that Aharon had passed away, and Hashem had removed the clouds of glory. What Rashi is telling here is that because Hashem removed the Jew’s protection, Amalek thought that Hashem permitted them to wage war against the Jews.

Why did Amalek suddenly feel the need for “permission” to fight against the Jews? Rashi writes there that Amalek had always been “a whip used to rebuke Israel. They were ready at any time to punish the Jews.” Furthermore, we see that Amalek had attacked Israel earlier in Rephidim[5]when Aharon was still alive!

Here Rashi is teaching us a fundamental lesson. Indeed, Amalek did not require “permission” to attack the Jews. All that they needed was the opportunity to attack. The removal of the clouds of glory provided them with a superb opportunity. However, here they were not attacking in the usual manner of Amalek. Instead, they were attacking in the way of Canaan. They thought that permission (rather than opportunity) was granted for them to attack the Jews. It had nothing to do with the removal of the clouds of glory, rather it was due to the passing of Aharon. Here Rashi is teaching us how significant the passing of a Tzaddik is.

I wish one and all a good Shabbos! May we merit the time of the complete and true redemption now!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Taken from Biurim L’Pirush Rashi Volume 4, Page 290

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס

[1]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 33:38.

[2]. They later returned in Moshe Rabbeinu’s merit.

[3]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 33:40.

[4]. Parshas Chukas, Bamidbar 21:1.

[5]. Parshas Beshalach, Shemos 17:8.

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