Military Justice

Parshas Devorim

On the cusp of entering Eretz Yisroel, Moshe parts from the people with a 37 day speech. One of the landmark points that Moshe mentions, is crossing the waters of the Zered Brook. More significantly this transpired after the “Men of War” –  a euphemism for the Generation of the Desert – had perished; every male between twenty and sixty had died. This crossing marked the end of the wandering period, now the focus of the new generation was on attaining Eretz Yisroel.

Question One

How are we meant to understand the decree that all men between twenty and sixty were to die for sending the spies and subsequently disparaging Eretz Yisroel?

Firstly were just all the men between twenty and sixty sinners? It seems pure coincidence that none of the older people did any wrong. Secondly it is unlikely that there were no people who did not resist the flow.

Question Two

We find that Hashem said Levi should not be counted with the rest of the people so they won’t have to suffer the decree of death, if they sinned they likewise deserve to die and if they didn’t sin shouldn’t they be protected by their merit?


Rabbi Avraham Danzig (1748–1820), in codifying the commandment to honor one’s father and mother, (Chayei Odom 67:3) writes that one has to view parents as nobles and dignitaries. This requires further explanation. While we can understand if one’s mother is an aristocrat her child has to treat her accordingly, but how is every child expected to perceive their own mother as royalty if the parent is truly low and classless?

Truth be told, everybody has some area in which they shine. Whereas truly noble people shine in many areas, no one is completely evil and there is something that they excel at; e.g. an eye for detail, good memory, keeping up with friends. The child when honoring the parent can treat his father like a nobleman and his mother like a noblewoman. The method to do that is by focusing on at least one detail in which his father excels, this will give the child the correct perspective to honor his father on par with that of an important personage.

We can deduce from the above, that one aspect or one feature can be the telling point for which to view the entire totality. Likewise eliminating one salient feature could technically be viewed as total destruction.

After the episode of the Spies, Hashem initially wanted to eradicate the entire people for maligning Eretz Yisroel. After Moshe’s incessant supplication, his entreaties enabled to reduce the sentence to dying over a period of forty years, but how does this fit with the initial plan to wipe out the entire nation? The answer is, one full facet of the nation was wiped out. All men between twenty and sixty were eligible for army service, by obliterating the military, Hashem had removed a segment of the nation and this was a fulfilment of destroying the Jewish people. It is possible that this feature was selected, because part of their shortcoming was in the belief of their military to conquer the land.

We now understand that Levi’s exemption from army duty saved them from having to be part of the eliminated facet. While probable that some of the people from other tribes were innocent they still perished. There was a communal wrong and a communal punishment, Levi who were separated survived.


What is special about your parent?


Rabbi Meir Yechiel of Ostrovtze (1851-1928) was an outstanding scholar who lived an ascetic lifestyle, he led a following of learned chassidim. The Rebbe was not born to a rabbinical family, his father’s occupation was that of a baker.

Once the Rebbe was sitting among fellow Rabbanim, and each Rebbe was repeating a Torah idea that he had heard from his father. When it was Rabbi Meir Yechiel’s turn, everybody was curious as to what the Rebbi was going to say, they could hardly imagine that he had heard anything from his father.

The Osrovtze Rebbe said “My father taught me, that a freshly baked item is better than one that is stale and rewarmed”.

Weekly Halachah

When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos or Sunday, one may eat meat and drink wine at the final meal before the fast (Shulchan Aruch 553:10).

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