Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Parshat Matos/Ma'sei

In parshat Matos, Hashem commands Moshe and Moshe commands the Jews to attack Midyan, with 1000 warriors from each tribe for a total of 12,000 (Bemidbar 31:1-5). The fact that this machaneh, or camp, consisted of 12,000 actually, according to R Yehuda, has halachic ramifications. The tenth and final mishnah of the 1st perek of Eruvin says that in a machaneh, or encampment of Jewish soldiers, five normal halachic obligations are waived (though under specific conditions explained in the gemara):

1) They may take wood from anywhere if it is needed (and not be concerned with the fact that it belongs to others; here, as an example of a condition given in the gemara in yerushalmi is that they are not near a forest where wood is readily available)
2) They are excused from having to [ritually] wash their hands [for example, before eating a meal]
3) They may eat demai
4) They are excused from having to make an eruv [chatzeiros, but not an eruv tchumin whose basis is Biblical]

Various suggestions are made as to what minimum this encampment must consist of. R Yochanan suggests 10 men after a machaneh of David. R Yehuda ben Pazi also suggests 10 on the basis of the machaneh elokim. R Chanania suggests 100 based on the hundred man machaneh of Gideon. Finally, R Yehuda suggests 12,000 on the basis of machaneh yisrael that found Midyan.

Hadran Alach Mavui! (Perek Alef Shel Eruvin, Talmud Yerushalmi)!

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