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NUMBERS — 33:35 Etzion-geber

NUM390 In addition to the intrinsic sin and violation of ethical behavior by the greedy individual, the greedy Jew also necessarily violates a host of other sins in the process of displaying greed (many of which are discussed in other chapters in this volume). For example, by immorally taking money from others due to greed, a Jew is guilty of stealing, a Torah violation (Leviticus 19:11). Even taking a very minor amount is still considered stealing (Maimonides, Hilchot Genaiva 1:2). And if the person is not aware that he or she is being swindled, this is the classic definition of stealing (Maimonides, Hilchot Genaiva 1:3). Another sin that a greedy person is guilty of (by swindling victims without their knowledge) is that of being a hypocrite. It is a Torah violation not to be "whole with God," i.e. act the same on the inside and on the outside (Deuteronomy 18:13). In fact, Rabban Gamliel would throw out any student from the Beit Midrash-House of Jewish Learning, if he showed any hypocrisy (Berachot 28a). All those arrested for swindling other or cheating the government, at one time, seemed to act legitimately-until they were caught. They all acted hypocritically, especially those who supposedly were Torah-observant Jews. Maimonides states that it is absolutely forbidden to act one way and think another way (or act differently in secret) (Maimonides, Hilchot De'ot 2:6). According to the commentaries, this action is a Torah violation, much like a land that appears fruitful on the surface, but beneath the ground everything is rotten (Numbers 33:35 with Ibn Ezra and Malbim commentaries). When King David specified the formula for a long and meaningful life, he stated that a Jew should not speak with guile. Rabbi David Kimchi understands this to be acting hypocritically, i.e., speaking one way but acting in a different manner (Psalms 34:13-14 with Radak commentary). Thus, an individual can achieve a great life by refraining from being a hypocrite. This is especially true in business, regarding which one's word should be one's bond, and a violation of one's word violates a Torah law (Leviticus 19:36, Bava Metzia 49a). Of the three types of individuals whom God hates most in this world, the number one category is a person who acts hypocritically (Pesachim 113b). Thus, if one's greed leads to speaking to people nicely as he or she cheats them, this is the ultimate sin.


NUMBERS — 33:52 destroy

NUM392 We may now proceed to examine the areas in which a biblically prescribed harsh treatment appears to be contrary to established principles of compassion. A survey reveals two distinct concerns of early Judaism. One was the survival of monotheism in an ocean of paganism. The other was the eradication of bloodshed in a primitive society where feuds were normally resolved by murder. In both of these areas the Bible demands strict justice untempered by mercy. The promise of the Land of Canaan to the Children of Israel was contingent upon their acceptance of monotheism. Moses warned that the Canaanites must be expelled and their idols destroyed [this verse]. Coexistence with the Canaanites, a morally corrupt people, would have aborted the growth of monotheism at its very inception. The harsh decree of expulsion was an emergency measure which did not establish an ethical norm. It was never applied to the pagans of other countries, for their practices posed no danger to the viability of monotheism in Palestine. Thus when the prophet Jonah rued God's willingness to forgive the Ninevites (4:2), God retorted: "Shall I not have compassion for Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?" (4:11). In every situation where idolatry threatened to weaken the will of the people to uphold monotheism, the Bible warns against permitting compassion to undermine the determination to uproot idolatry. This admonition was couched in the oft-repeated classical phrase: "Thine eyes shall not pity them" (Deuteronomy 7:16). It applied equally to pagans and to backsliding Jews guilty of inciting the people to revert to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:9). Continued at [[DEUT934]] Deuteronomy 19:13 pity BLOCH 64).


NUMBERS — 35:2 cities

NUM396 The Jewish nation shall give cities to the tribe of Levi to dwell therein; these cities also shall serve as havens for those guilty of unintentional manslaughter. Due to their devotion to serving Hashem, the tribe of Levi was singled out to serve Him in a unique way. Unlike the other tribes, they received no land inheritance and did not toil in the fields, vineyards or orchards. Still, the Levites needed cities where they could live and raise their families and keep animals. Due to the special qualities of the tribe of Levi, the Levite cities were made havens for those who committed unintentional manslaughter, for perhaps such unfortunate people could gain atonement through dwelling in a place that became holy with the special sanctity of the Levites. Also, in that Levites possess good, sensitive hearts, sublime wisdom and refined character, everyone knew that if someone guilty of unintentional manslaughter would seek refuge among them, they would not hate him or harm him, even if the person who he killed was one of their relatives. See [[LEV1028]] Leviticus 25:34 cities CHINUCH 208-9


NUMBERS — 35:2 pasture

NUM398 A healthy ecological balance dictates that there must remain distance between city and rural areas. Thus, the Torah [this verse] does not permit any planting or building in the one-thousand-cubit radius around the city. Rashi on this verse, based on the Talmud (Bava Batra 24b) comments that the purpose is also to protect the beauty of the city. Thus, the Torah was concerned about zoning and city beautification. The Mishnah (Bava Batra 2:7) states that even a tree had to be a distance of at least 25 cubits (37 – 50 feet) from the city, and some say fifty cubits, in order to allow proper growing of trees and prevent possible damage.


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