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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas 5780

Parashat Hashavua: Who Are the Moshlim?

Harav Yosef Carmel

We have been discussing the land captured by Sichon from Parashat Chukat, and the subject will continue through the beginning of Sefer Devarim. In general, there is a discussion with some detail into the journeys and travails of Bnei Yisrael on the eastern side of the Jordan River. First we will summarize this sojourn, then we will find the unifying theme.

A. Moshe sent messengers to the King of Edom, asking for permission to traverse his land; the request was adamantly rejected (Bamidbar 20:14-21). Hashem commanded Bnei Yisrael not to start up with Edom, and so they went around their land and arrived at the border of Moav, the Arnon Stream (Devarim 2:1-9).

B. At the border of Moav, Bnei Yisrael were commanded not to fight with Moav (Devarim 2:17-23).

C. Next, Moshe was warned not to start up with Amon either (ibid. 19).

D. Moshe called out to Sichon in peace to allow Bnei Yisrael to pass through their land. Sichon massed his troops, and Moshe leads a successful battle against Sichon and took his land, while staying away from the land of Moav and Amon (Bamidbar 21:21-25).

E. The Torah quotes the Song of “the Moshlim,” which mentions Moav’s loss in battle to Sichon (Bamidbar 21:27-30).

F. Balak tried to hire Bilam to curse Bnei Yisrael (ibid. 22:2-24:25).

G. The daughters of Moav and Midian caused members of Bnei Yisrael to sin in Shittim. Moshe was commanded to take revenge against Midian (ibid. 25:1-9; ibid.16-18).

H. The daughters of Tzlofchad firmly attempted to hold on to the inheritance of land in Eretz Yisrael due to their father (ibid. 27:1-11).

I. Moshe sent representatives of each of the tribes to take revenge against the Midianites, including killing Bilam (ibid. 31:1-8).

J. The tribes of Gad and Reuven requested to receive their portion of land in the area of Gilead, on the eastern side of the Jordan (ibid. 32:1-32).

K. Half of the tribe of Menashe also received a portion in the land on the eastern side of the Jordan (ibid. 32:40-42).  

As a means of introduction, we will look at the word moshlim, who are the people who make declarations about the cities of Sichon and their battles. In Modern Hebrew this can mean rulers, such as governors, and also can refer to writers of metaphors. Certainly these cannot be the full meanings of the word here, because then these people would not need to be highlighted in our holy Torah. We suggest that they were highly spiritual people, with some having divine inspiration and some of them being close to prophecy. One of them was actually a great prophet, who might have even been on the level of prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu – Bilam the Sorcerer (see Sifrei, Devarim 357:10).

There is another example of a non-Jew who was close to prophecy – Elifaz HaTeimani, one of Iyov’s friends (see his introduction to his speech to Iyov – Iyov 4:12-16). To his credit, Elifaz did not claim to have clear prophecy but speaks of his divine encounter of a significant type. We will continue on this theme in future weeks.
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