In Parshas Matos we learn about the first two cities which will be part of Eretz Yisrael. An entire generation of Jews died in the desert, over a forty year period and did not enter Israel. This punishment occurred “measure for measure”מידה כנגד מידה) ) because they refused to make Aliyah after accepting the Lashon Harah about Israel from the Meraglim (spies).
Soon thereafter, along comes the tribe of Gad and Reuven and they state that they do not want to enter Eretz Yisrael proper! They prefer to stay on the Eastern bank of the Jordan. Their excuse is that they have a priority to take care of their abundance of animals (wealth/parnassa) and also secondarily will need to take care of their children (education).
במדבר לב: א-ב,ה פרשת מטות
וּמִקְנֶה רַב הָיָה לִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וְלִבְנֵי גָד עָצוּם מְאֹד וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת אֶרֶץ יַעְזֵר וְאֶת אֶרֶץ גִּלְעָד וְהִנֵּה הַמָּקוֹם מְקוֹם מִקְנֶֽה: וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ אֶל משֶׁה וְאֶל אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְאֶל נְשִׂיאֵי הָֽעֵדָה לֵאמֹֽר:… וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ אִם מָצָאנוּ חֵן בְּעֵיניךָ יֻתַּן אֶת הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לַֽעֲבָדֶיךָ לַֽאֲחֻזָּה אַל תַּֽעֲבִרֵנוּ אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּֽן:
The descendants of Reuven and Gad had an abundance of livestock very numerous and they saw the land of Yazer and the land of Gilad, and behold, the place was a place for livestock. The descendants of Gad and the descendants of Reuven came, and they spoke to Moshe and to Eleazar the Cohen and to the princes of the community, saying, They said, “If it pleases you, let this land be given to your servants as a heritage; do not take us across the Yarden [Aliyah].” (Bamidbar 32: 1-2,5)
They initially asked to settle in the following cities , starting with Ataros and Divon.
עֲטָרוֹת וְדִיבֹן וְיַעְזֵר וְנִמְרָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֶלְעָלֵה וּשְׂבָם וּנְבוֹ וּבְעֹֽן:
Ataros and Divon, Yazer, and Nimrah, and Cheshbon, and Elaleh, and Sevam, and Nevo, and Veon (Bamidbar 32:3).
Later on when their request was granted the order of the cities was reversed (Divon and Ataros vs. Ataros and Divon); in the pasuk and they were given other cities which they did not request.
במדבר לב: לד
וַיִּבְנוּ בְנֵי גָד אֶת דִּיבֹן וְאֶת עֲטָרֹת וְאֵת עֲרֹעֵֽר:
And the children of Gad built Divon and Ataros and Arorer (Devarim 32: 34).
With this background, we can examine the Mitzva to read the Parsha every week. The Actual obligation is to read each pasuk twice and then read the Targum. In Hebrew this spells out “Shmos”, the second book of the Torah.
שני מקרא ואחד תרגום = שמות
This obligation to read the Parsha twice every week with Targum is brought down as Halacha in the Shulchan Aruch. In other words, reading the Parsha in this manner is not just a nice thing to do, it is a Halachic obligation of every Torah observant Jew. Of note, the Shulchan Aruch singles out reading the words “Atraros and Divon”. Of the entire Torah, why are these two words so essential to this obligation?
שולחן ערוך אורך חיים רפ”ה א-ז
א) אף על פי שאדם שומע כל התורה כולה כל שבת בציבור, חייב לקרות לעצמו בכל שבוע פרשת אותו שבוע שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום, אפילו “עטרות ודיבון“.
ב) אם למד הפרשה בפירוש רש”י – חשוב כמו תרגום. וירא שמים יקרא תרגום וגם פירוש רש”י.
ג) מיום ראשון ואילך חשוב עם הציבור.
ד) מצוה מן המובחר שישלים אותה קודם שיאכל בשבת. ואם לא השלים קודם אכילה – ישלים אחר אכילה עד המנחה. ויש אומרים: עד רביעי בשבת. ויש אומרים: עד שמיני עצרת.
הגה: דהיינו בשמחת תורה, שאז משלימים הציבור.
ה) יכול לקרות הפרשה שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום בשעת קריאת התורה. (ועיין לעיל סימן קמ”ו(.
ו) למדי תינוקות אין צריכים לחזור ולקרות הפרשה בשבת.
ז) אין צריך לקרות פרשת יום טוב.
הגה: וכן אין צריך לקרות ההפטרות. ומכל מקום נהגו לקרוא ההפטרה. ובשבת של חתונה יקרא ההפטרה של שבת ולא “שוש אשיש”.
Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 285: 1-7
- Even though each person hears the Torah reading each week in the public reading, we are obligated to read each Parsha twice in the Hebrew and once in the Aramaic Targum, Even the words “Ataros and Divon” (Devarim 32:3).
- Rashi’s commentary shares the status of Targum and those who fear Heaven will read the Parsha with both Rashi’s commentary and the Targum.
- The first day of the week is considered “with the congregation”.
- The best way to perform this commandment is to complete the reading before the Shabbis meal [Shabbis lunch]. If you missed out on the opportunity to do so, you have until Mincha. Others say until Wednesday the week afterwards; while others even say you have until Shmini Atzeres. RAMA (Rabbi Avraham Abele Gombiner): Shmini Atzeres is Simchas Torah. So you are completing the Torah reading with the community.
- You can perform “Shanyim Mikra and Targum” at the time of the public Torah reading (see previous Siman 146).
- Teachers [of Parsha] do not need to repeat the Torah reading themselves since they read it during the week to their students.
- On Yom Tov there is no need to perform “Shanyim Mikra”. RAMA: Similary, there is no need to read their Haftarah readings (Mordechai). However, there is a prevalent custom to read Haftaros [on Yom Tov]. On the Shabbis of a wedding you read the regular Haftara, and not “I will surely rejoice” (Yishayahu 61:10)
The Mishna Berura clarfies that one can fulfill this obligation by reading the Parsha prior to Shachris on Shabbis day. However, he admits that it is best to complete the Parsha reading Friday afternoon. The Vilna Gaon seems to have read at least one Aliyah of the Parsha every day after Shachris. In this manner one reads the sixth and seventh Aliyah, of the Parsha, on Fridays.
משנה ברורה רפ”ה:ט
…דאין לעכב מחמת זה האכילה עד אחר חצות…ולכתחילה מהנכון, אם לא קרא שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום בערב שבת – להשכים בשבת בבוקר ולקרא השני מקרא אחד תרגום קודם הליכתו לבית הכנסת. [..אור זרוע…תלמידי רבינו יונה…]
כמה אחרונים כתבו דמן המובחר הוא לקרותה בערב שבת…דאם הוא קורא בתחילת השבוע והלאה הוא גם כן בכלל מצוה מן המובחר…בית יוסף…רמב”ם…בהנהגות הגר”א שהיה נוהג תיכף אחר התפילה בכל יום לקרוא מקצת מהסדרה שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום ומסיים בערב שבת.
Mishna Berura 285:9
Do not delay the Shabbis lunch meal to after midday…it is initially better and correct, if one did not read “Shanyim Mikra and Targum” on Friday – to wake up early in the morning of Shabbis and to read “Shnayim Mikra and Targum” prior to going to Shul to pray Shachris (Ohr Zarua, students of Rabeinu Yona).
Several Achronim wrote, that it’s best to read Shnayim Mikra on Friday…If he reads the Parsha from the beginning of the week and onwards, he is still considered performing the Mitzva in the “best” manner (Beit Yosef, Rambam). The Vilna Gaon was accustomed to read a section from the Parsha “Shanyim Mikra and Targum” immediately after Shachris every day, and complete the Parsha on Friday.
It is best to complete review of the Parsha on Friday prior to Shabbis. However, if that was not possible, we have a tradition going back to Moshe Rabeinu to complete this topic of study prior to Shabbos lunch.
תוספות ברכות ח עמוד ב דיבור המתחיל: ישלים פרשיותיו עם הצבור
… המדרש שלשה דברים צוה רבינו הקדוש לבניו בשעה שנפטר: שלא תאכלו לחם [ביום] שבת עד שתגמרו כל הפרשה…
…There is a Midrash that states, that there were three things commanded by our Holy Master (Yehuda Hanasi?) to his children at the time he died: do not eat bread on the day of Shabbis until they complete review of the Parsha…(Tosafos, Berachos 8a “complete his Parsha with the congregation”).
For those Jews who are inclined to perform Mitzvos in a Kabbalistic manner, Shanyim Mikra is essential. The Magen Avraham points out that the Arizal was careful to perform Shnayim Mikra v’Targum, every week.
מגן אברהם רפה:א
…דיקרא כל פסוק שני פעמים והתרגום עליו…וכך כתוב …בשם האר”י.
One should read every pasuk twice and then the Targum translation…this was written…in the name of The Ari (Magen Avraham (Rav Avraham Gombiner) 285:1)
The Kabbalist Moshe ben Machir (1600s Tzefat) in Seder HaYom, also advised everyone to complete Shnayim Mikra every week. He suggests to never leave the house without a Chumash in hand, so there is a daily opportunity to read from the Parsha.
סדר היום – סדר הכנת שבת
ואם לא עבר הפרשה בבקר שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום ישב לעבור אותה אחר שיכין צרכי שבת…וכן ראוי לכל בעל נפש לעשות כדי שתהא קריאתה בקבע ולא בעראי. ויקרא המקרא שתי פעמים קודם ואחר התרגום וכו’ מי שהוא בעל נפש אין לצאת מביתו בלתי ספר עמו ממקרא ותרגום כדי להשלים פרשיותיו עם הציבור מדי שבת בשבתו, ושכרו גדול כמו שאמרו בגמרא “מאריכין לו ימיו ושניתיו”
Seder HaYom – The Preparation For Shabbis
If one has not completed the Parsha in the morning [Friday]twice each Pasuk and once with Targum, he should sit and review the Parsha after he completes his Shabbis preparations…And it is proper for every G-d fearing person to do this so that he reading of the Parsha is habitual and not happenstance. He should read each Pasuk twice and then once the Targum translation etc. One who is G-d fearing, should not leave his home without a book with him that contains the Chumash with the Targum in order to be able to complete his Parshios with the congregation from Shabbis to Shabbis, and he gets a great reward as it is stated in the Talmud “his days and years are lengthened”.
The Taz (Rav HaLevi Segal, Turei Zhav), comments specifically on “Ataros and Divon”. He is bothered why these two cities were singled out by the Halacha, to read their names three times. He teaches us that these cities are significant because they are cities in Eretz Yisrael, and thus they important to be read aloud three times.
ט”ז רפה: א , אפילו עטרות ודיבון
לשון הטור: פרוש רש”י, אף על פי שאין בו תרגום, ולפי זה אפילו ראובן ושמעון וכיוצא בזה צריך לקרותו שלש פעמים…למה לא נקט בגמרא באמת ראובן ושמעון? …דלא מבעיא ראובן ושמעון שהם שמות השבטים ויש בהם ודאי קדושה…אלא אפילו עטרות ודיבון שהם שמות ערי ארץ ישראל ואפשר שקראו אותם העובדי כוכבים, אפילו הכי צריך לקרותו שלש פעמים:
The Tur states: Rashi explains, even though there is no Targum translation [of Ataros and Divon, they are merely names of cities, according to this explanation even the names “Reuven and Shimon” and the like need to be read three times…Why did the Talmud not actually mention Reuven and Shimon as examples?…The Talmud did not use the names Reuven and Shimon, they are the names of the Tribes and they are for sure Holy names…Rather, the Talmud is teaching us that even Ataros and Divon, which are the names of cities in the Land of Israel, and it is possible that they received their names from Idol worshippers, nonetheless, one must read them three times (Taz 285:1 Even Ataros and Divon).
Clearly, the Taz is teaching us an important lesson about Eretz Yisrael. We have an obligation to read the Parsha weekly with the Targum, in order to understand and internalize what we are saying. Thus, merely mentioning the names of the cities in Israel has an inherent holiness. Not only that, even the cities of Israel which are named by Idol worshippers has innate Holiness because they are cities in Eretz Yisrael. One does not fulfill his obligation to read the Torah weekly if he does not read the names of cities in Israel. We must not forget where we came from and what is important to us.
The purpose of our lives is to serve G-d in the best way possible with the years He has given to us. Therefore, one who is using his time wisely will be rewarded “measure for measure” with a longer life to serve G-d. The Talmud in Berachos teaches us that one who not only reads the Parsha twice and with Targum, but also internalizes the message of Ataros and Divon; he will have a long life. The message is to recognize the centrality and importance of serving G-d in Israel and remember the story surrounding Ataros and Divon. We must remember the mistake of the Mergalim and not making Aliyah initially as decreed by G-d.
ברכות ח עמוד א
אמר רב הונא בר יהודה אמר רבי אמי: לעולם ישלים אדם פרשיותיו עם הציבור שנים מקרא ואחד תרגום ואפילו “עטרות ודיבון” שכל המשלים פרשיותיו עם הציבור מאריכין לו ימיו ושנותיו.
Rav Huna son of Rav Yehuda said to Rav Ami: Always, a person should complete his Parshiyos with the congregation, twice each pasuk and once with Targum translation; even the words “Ataros and Divon”. For all who complete his Parshiyos with the congregation has his days and years prolonged (Talmud Bavli Berachos 8a).
The Ben Yehoyada explains the reward received for Shnayim Mikra is not just longer life, a more meaningful life in order to serve G-d. “Length of days” means quality of life and “length of years” means quantity of life.
Rashi’s comment begs explanation and causes more questions that need to be addressed. He states that Atarot and Divon do not have a Targum. Therefore, the Talmud in Berachos is teaching us to say these words over three times as we do for Reuven and Shimon.
רש”י ברכות ואפילו עטרות ודיבון
שאין בו תרגום
For they do not have a Targum translation (Rashi, Talmud Berachos 8a, “and even Ataros and Divon”).
The obvious problem with Rashi’s answer is that upon examination of our Chumashim, we notice that Ataros and Divon indeed have a Targum translation!
תוספות ואפילו עטרות ודיבון
…שיש לו מכל מקום תרגום ירושלמי…וצריך לקרות שלש פעמים העברי. מכל מקום יותר טוב פעם שלישית בתרגום.
…they have, nonetheless, a Targum Yerushalmi [not Onkelos]…and one must read the pasuk three times in Hebrew. Nonetheless, it is even better to read the third time with the Targum [that we have ].(Tosafos “and even Ataros and Divon”)
Therefore, there is the opinion that in placed in Chumash where there is no Targum Onkelos, we read Targum Yerushalmi instead. The Targum Yerushalmi translates Ataros as “Mechlelta” and Divon as “Malbeshta“. The Targum also translates the names of the other cities as well! It translates Yazer as “Kumrin”, Nimra as “Beis Nimrin”, Cheshbon as “Beis Chushbana”, Elale as “Ba’aley Divava”, Sivam as “Sima”, and Nevo as ” the burial place of Moshe”. What do these translations teach us?
במדבר לב:ג , פרשת מטות
עטרות ודיבון ויעזר ונמרה וחשבון ואלעלה, ושבם ונבו ובען.
תרגום ירושלמי במדבר לב:ג
מכללתא ומלבשתא וכומרין ובית נמרין ובית חשבנא ובעלי דבבא, וסימא ובית קברתא דמשה ובעון.
Mechleleta and Malbeshta and Kumrin and Beis Nimrin and Beis Chushbana and Ba’aley Divava, and Sima and the burial place of Moshe and On (Targum Yerushalmi (Onkelus) Bamidbar 32:3)
Of all the translated cities by the Targum, the Talmud only singled out Ataros and Divon! Clearly, there is a lesson to be learned here that only applies to these two cities.
These cities are mentioned twice in the Parasha. However, the second time the order of these two cities is reversed. This is very significant. Even more interesting , at the second mention of Divon and Ataros there is no Targum translation of these cities.
עטרות ודיבון ויעזר ונמרה וחשבון ואלעלה, ושבם ונבו ובען.
ויבינו בני גד את דיבון ואת עטרות ואת ערער.
The Children of Gad built Divon and Ataros, and Oroer (Bamidbar 32:34).
תרגום אונקולוס, במדבר לב:לד
ובנו בני גד דיבון עטרות וית ערער.
Divon and Cheshbon are is previously mentioned in Parshas Chukas.
במדבר כא:ל חקת
ונירם אבד חשבון עד דיבון, ונשים עד נפח אשר עד מידבא.
Their sovereignty was lost from Chesbon it was removed from Dibon and we laid waste unto Nophah which reaches up to Medeba ( Bamidbar 21:30).
רש”י: אבד חשבון עד דיבון
…סר ניר מדיבון…
…sovereignty of Moav was removed from Divon…(Rashi)
Sichon did not permit the Jewish Nation to pass through his border. Instead they attacked the Jews in the Midbar. They lost all their land from Arnon to Yabok. The Jews conquered several cities including the city of Cheshbon which was under the control of Sichon, king of the Emori . This area and city was originally part of Moav, but it was conquered by Sichon. In addition, the Jews conquered the city of Divon (Bamidbar 21:30). The Haftara on that Parsha describes how Ammon went to war with the Jews claiming that we stole the land from Arnon to the Yabok from Moav. However, Yiftach knew his Parsha, from learning Shnayim Mikra and he stated that G-d gave us this land when we were attacked, unjustly, by Sichon. Yiftach won the battle against Ammon (Shoftim 11).
These cities were conquered by the Jews prior to their Aliya with Yehoshua. Rav Kook finds it significant that one of the main cities conquered prior to Aliyah was called “Cheshbon”. Literally this means – deliberation. Rav Kook instructs all Jews in Chutz La’aretz not to make “cheshbonos” or deliberations – just go! make Aliyah.
Similarly, Divon was one of first cities conquered in Eretz Yisrael and thus it became a Holy place. We are forced to clarify the meaning this cities name and its significance.
The initial mention of “Ataros and Divon” (Bamidbar 32:3) parallels the story of Reuven and Gad requesting to settle these lands and not to enter the designated Land of Israel on the Western border of the Yarden. Ataros and Divon are located in modern day Jordan opposite the Dead Sea (ים המלח).
Reuven and Gad made the cardinal error of mistaken priorities in life. They prioritized their money in Chutz La’aretz over their children. Reuven himself made the same error, of not prioritizing his children, when he offered Yakov to kill his own children if he did not bring back Binyamin from Mitzrayim.
According to the Riva (Rabbi Yitzchak ben Asher Halevi), Reuven did not say to Yakov that if he does not return Binyamin then he may kill his two of his four sons; G-d forbid. Rather Reuven said, that if he does not bring Binyamin back then do not given him a portion in Eretz Yisrael, as a poor man with no land is like a dead person. This sort-of came true, with Reuven taking land on the eastern border of the Jordan and not in Eretz Yisrael proper.
Reuven and Gad requested from Moshe to get permission from G-d to settle the lands of “Ataros and Divon”. They specifically requested to first build cities for their animals and then build cities for their children. Their animals had priority to their own children.
במדבר לב: טז
ַיִּגְּשׁוּ אֵלָיו וַיֹּאמְרוּ, גִּדְרֹת צֹאן נִבְנֶה לְמִקְנֵנוּ פֹּה, וְעָרִים, לְטַפֵּנוּ.
They [Reuven and Gad] approached him [Moshe] and said, “enclosures for the sheep we shall build here for our livestock and cities for our children (Bamidbar 32:16).
Moshe noted that they prioritized their money over their children. He chastised them and told them to put their children first. Rashi clearly spells this out.
רש”י: נבנה למקנינו פה, במדבר לב:טז
חסים היו על ממונם יותר מבניהם ובנותיהם שהקדימו מקניהם לטפם אמר להם משה לא כן עשו העיקר עיקר והטפל טפל בנו לכם תחלה ערים לטפכם ואחר כך גדרות לצאנכם.
They were concerned for their property more than they were for their sons and daughters, for they put mention of their livestock ahead of their children. This is not right. Make that which is essential essential, and that which is secondary secondary. First build cities for your children and afterward, enclosures for your sheep (Tanchuma 7) (Rashi, Bamidbar 32:16).
Therefore, in the Pasuk Moshe clearly tells Reuven and Gad to first build a city for their children and then build up a city to enclosure their abundance of cattle.
בְּנוּ לָכֶם עָרִים לְטַפְּכֶם, וּגְדֵרֹת לְצֹנַאֲכֶם; וְהַיֹּצֵא מִפִּיכֶם, תַּעֲשׂוּ.
Build for yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your cattle, and what has come from your mouth shall you do (Bamidbar 32:24).
This instruction from Moshe parallels what they actually did order of building up Ataros and Divon. The Targum also explains the significance of Ataros in Divon as it specifically addresses their issues regarding when to settle their children and animals. Interestingly, it is Gad who establishes these towns and not Reuven.
במדבר לב: לד
וַיִּבְנוּ בְנֵי גָד, אֶת דִּיבֹן וְאֶת עֲטָרֹת, וְאֵת, עֲרֹעֵר.
And the children of Gad built Divon and Ataros, and Aroer (Bamidbar 32:34).
The Targum, in a few words, puts this all together. What is the meaning of the cities Ataros and Divon? Ataros is translated by the Targum (the first time) as “machleleta” מכללתא . This means “crown” or also “cattle pens”. The city Divon is translated by the Targum to mean “malbeshta” מלבשתא or honey-town דבש) ); a town of sustenance.
Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz (Yaaros Devash) points out that the the goyim named their cities after idolatry. We know from Talmud Sanhedrin (63a) that it’s forbidden to mention the names of Avoda Zara, except for the ones listed in the Torah. Nonetheless, these are names of cities in Eretz Yisrael and they therefore have Holyness ((קדושה even if the names are originally from Idol worship.
Rav Shternbuch in Teshuvos and Hanhagos (vol. 3 #99) has a different approach. He concedes that these two cities, Ataros and Divon, are names of Avodah Zarah. However, based on Talmud Temura (28b) he states we are required to disgrace these idolatry names by changing them in the Targum to Macheleta and Malbeshta. This answers the question how this Targum translation is different than translating Reuven or Shimon. In this way these new names are not really Targum but rather nicknames or insults.
Every Parsha of the Torah reminds us of our necessity to live in Eretz Yisrael and serve G-d here, for this is our priority. For us, as Jews, to know that Israel belongs to us, we must read and understand the Parsha every week. No wonder Chazal made it an obligation to read the Parsha every week twice and with the Tragum explanation. The first Rashi on Chumash, explains to us why it is so essential to know the Parsha – so that we the Jews are convinced that Eretz Yisrael belongs to us and no one else. This is the best and only place to raise our children in a city in Israel, because they are our priority not our wealth.
רש”י בראשית א:א
אמר רבי יצחק: לא היה צריך להתחיל את התורה אלא מ”הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם” (שמות יב ב), שהיא מצוה ראשונה שנצטוו ישראל. ומה טעם פתח בבראשית? משום (תהלים קיא ו) “כֹּחַ מַעֲשָׂיו הִגִּיד לְעַמּוֹ לָתֵת לָהֶם נַחֲלַת גּוֹיִם”. שאם יאמרו אומות העולם לישראל: “לסטים אתם שכבשתם ארצות שבעה גוים”, הם אומרים להם: “כל הארץ של הקב”ה היא; הוא בראה ונתנה לאשר ישר בעיניו. ברצונו נתנה להם, וברצונו נטלה מהם ונתנה לנו“.
Says Rav Yitzchak (Father of Rashi – Rav Shlomo Itzchak):The Torah did not need to begin here, it rather could begin from “This is your month” (Shemos 12:2), since it is the first mitzvah commanded to Yisrael. What is the reason the Torah begins with “Bereishis”? Because it can be deduced from Tehillim 111:6, ” The strength of His works He related to His people, to give them the inheritance of the nations.” For if the nations of the world should say to them: “You are thieves because you conquered the lands of The Seven Nations”. They say to them: “all of The Land belongs to G-d, he created it and He gave it to those who he desired. His desire was to give it [Eretz Yisrael] to them [Jews], and his desire was to take the land away from the seven nations and give it to us [Jews].”