Pearls of Rashi: Parshas Chukas

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This week’s Torah portion, Chukas, tells us how the Jewish people, traveling through the desert, wished to pass through the land of the giant Sichon. The Torah tells us that[1] “Yisroel (the Jewish Nation) sent messengers to Sichon.” Rashi cites the words “Yisroel sent messengers” and explains that “Elsewhere, the sending (of messengers) is ascribed to Moshe, as it says[2], ‘So I (meaning Moshe) sent messengers from the desert of Kedamos.’ … Moshe is Yisroel, and Yisroel is Moshe. This teaches you that the leader of the generation is comparable to the entire generation because the leader is everything.”

In the Midrash, which is the source of Rashi’s comments, the Hebrew word for
head of the generation” is “head – Rosh – ראש. “Rashi uses the word “Prince – Nosi – נשיא.” The meaning of the “head–Rosh” of the generation is that one’s head conducts whatever goes on within his body. So too does the head of the generation conduct and lead the entire generation. However, the word prince (נשיא) of the generation is related to the Hebrew words “נשיאה והרמה,” meaning uplifted; it is a description for one who is above the nation or the community.

Therefore, when the Midrash says that the head of the generation is the entire generation, it means that the leader controls every part of the body equally. The whole generation is one being, and the Rosh is its head. However, this applies only regarding communal matters.

Rashi’s word Nosi has a different connotation. He is comparable to the entire generation because the leader is everything. The leader of the generation is both above the whole generation and is the entire    generation.

This presents us with two contrasting aspects of a prince – נשיא. On the one hand, one may have thought that his actions are equal, or at least proportionate to those of the entire nation. This is because his actions are elevated high above those of the rest of the nation. But, on the other hand, since, as Rashi says, “the leader of the generation is comparable to the entire generation, because the leader is everything,” even though he is head and shoulders above the rest of the nation[3], his actions still affect and can be drawn down into the entire generation.

I wish one and all a Good Shabbos and a healthy summer!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 33 Pp. 131 ff.

מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש

The Soldiers of Tzivos Hashem Chaim and Aiden Oded שיחיו Morris
Rabbi & Mrs. Menachem M. and Chaya Mushka שיחיו Morris

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, Chukas 21:21.

[2]. Devorim 2:26.

[3]. This expression is based on the description of King Saul in I Shmuel 9:2.

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