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Vol. 5 No. 36
When Korach and his followers accused Moshe Rabeinu of conceit, claiming that the whole of the nation was holy, that Hashem was among them all, and that if so, why did he raise himself above the congregation of G-d, Moshe heard the accusation and fell on his face. The Targum Yonoson makes a remarkable comment: Moshe heard, he says, how all the husbands warned their wives not to be alone with him. In other words, they actually suspected him of committing adultery with their wives.
This incredible accusation seems incomprehensible. How did Moshe become subject to such a shocking and ridiculous accusation, even on the basis of Korach's other allegations? The Kli Yokor quotes a Chazal, which states that someone who is proud will eventuallycommit adultery. (Specifically adultery, he maintains, and incest, because a proud man, in his ambition to monopolise command, will set out to dominate everything other men own - even their wives.) That is what the possuk means when it says: "Because the whole congregation is holy, so why do you (Moshe and Aharon) raise yourselves above them?" Sanctity, he was claiming, should serve as an antidote to pride and, conversely, Moshe's pride would ultimately destroy the people's sanctity - that pride would inevitably cause him to commit immoral acts, since sanctity, as Rashi explains at the beginning of Kedoshim, is based on a high standard of morality. This fear, adds the Kli Yokor, was enhanced by the fact that anybody who sought Hashem, would go to the Tent of Meeting to seek guidance from Moshe Rabeinu - anybody - including women, and they would subsequently be alone with him. Consequently, the men warned their wives not to visit Moshe Rabeinu unescorted.
In truth, so humble was Moshe Rabeinu that, not only did he have no inclination to dominate anyone else's wife, but he had even eliminated the desire to dominate his own. And we know this from the fact that he was quite prepared to separate from his wife Zipporah, when this became necessary. But Korach and his men, inasmuch as they believed Moshe to be proud, considered it impossible for Moshe Rabeinu to live without a woman, and so presumably, that separation only enhanced their contention that he must be having affairs with other menís wives. It is unbelievable that humility as deep and as genuine as Moshe Rabeinu's, should be misconstrued for pride, and how a man who rose to such levels of sanctity that he could permanently separate from his wife, should be charged with public immorality. And the following list of additional sins of which they accused Moshe Rabeinu seems just as incredulous: 1. That all of Moshe Rabeinu's decisions were his own and not Divinely inspired; 2. That Moshe took the B'nei Yisroel out of Egypt in order to kill them in the desert; 3. That he had now set out to dominate them; 4. That all the gifts of Kehunah and Levi'yah - Trumos and Ma'asros, etc. - were instigated by Moshe and Aharon out of personal greed, since Aharon was a Cohen, and Moshe a Levi.
Presumably, Moshe's high standards were inconceivable to other human beings, whose conduct and whose goals fell far short of his. Consequently, those who lacked emunas Chachamim could - and would - misconstrue Moshe's extreme righteousness for something which they were able to conceive - such as conceit. He was putting on airs, they asserted, making himself out to be what he was not.
Perhaps the greatest proof of Moshe's true and genuine humility lay in his response to their ridiculous assertion. A vain person tends to react vociferously to any allegations concerning his faults and failings, yet Moshe Rabeinu did not act - he merely fell on his face, an act which the Ohr ha'Chayim and the Kli Yokor attribute to humility. In addition, he lowered his own dignity, in spite of extreme provocation, to go to Dosson and Avirom, who only came in the first place to make trouble for Moshe (as they had done on various other occasions), in an attempt to placate them. This is hardly the reaction that one would expect from a vain and conceited man! (The Ramban even goes so far as to ascribe Moshe Rabeinu's silence to one of admission - who knows, he thought, perhaps their assessment of him was correct!)
How aptly Chazal describe the Machlokes of Korach as being one of "Korach and his congregation"? They most certainly quarrelled with Moshe Rabeinu. They may well have quarrelled among themselves (the "Machlokes of Korach and his congregation", note). But Moshe did not join in the dispute. He remained silent, not because he was a pacifist or because he was shy - indeed, the moment he perceived that they were determined to disrupt the entire order of the Jewish camp, he stood up, firm and determined, and challenged them - but because he was truly humble, the most humble man who ever lived!
About the Mitzvos
Torah is New - (Part II)
The obligation to treat Torah as if it was new, refers not only to ensuring that it does not fall into disuse (as we explained in the previous issue of 'About The Mitzvos'), but also to making certain that one continues to treat mitzvos with the same enthusiasm each time that one performs them - as if this was the first time one was performing that particular mitzvah. That is why the Torah is compared to milk (and is also one of the prime reasons that one eats milk products on Shevu'os) - because Torah should be treated in the same way as a baby feeds from its mother's breast, each time with a fresh enthusiasm, as if he had never done this before.
Practically speaking, it means that when one approaches a mitzvah, reciting a brochoh, say, or a tefillah, one should not go about performing it because he did it last time ('mitzvos that people perform out of habit'), but because the mitzvah needs to be performed now. One should try to disassociate oneself from the fact that one did it before, and should try to muster an independent devotion that stems from the excitement of that moment. With regard to tefillah, davening from a sidur helps to achieve this, because it is easier to daven as if that tefillah was a new one.
That is why the Torah writes nothing else about Mattan Torah other than (after a preparatory period of forty-nine days) "and you shall bring a new gift to Hashem". That is the essence of Mattan Torah, and that is what perpetuates the Torah - that whatever one gives to G-d, any mitzvos that one performs, should be in the form of a new gift, as if it was the first time that one was performimg the mitzvah.
Some commentaries explain Rashi's comment in Beha'aloscho (with regard to Aharon kindling the lights of the Menorah) - 'to teach us that he did not change' (Bamidbor 8:3) - in this way: to teach us that Aharon's enthusiasm for the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah never waned. His excitement whenever he came to light it, even after many years had passed, was no less than it had been the very first time that he did so.
THE MITZVOS OF TODAY
Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
41. To honour (or respect) one's father and mother - as the Torah writes in Yisro (20:12) "Honour your father and mother".
What does honouring them mean? Providing them with food and drink (i.e. shopping and serving them), clothing them and covering them (with blankets etc.) - out of the father's funds (if the father has). If the father does not have but the son does, then we force the son to sustain his father according to his means. He should serve them in the way that a slave serves his master, and he should honour them even after their death.
If his father asks him for a glass of water, and there is another (passing) mitzvah to perform, if that mitzvah can be performed by someone else, then he should perform it, whilst the son provides his father with the glass of water. But if there is nobody else to perform the mitzvah, then the son should perform it, and the father must wait for his glass of water. If his father instructs him to sin - even if it is only a Rabbinical transgression - then he must decline, since everyone - even his father - is obligated to honour G-d (and complying with the wishes of the Rabbonon is also an act of honouring G-d, seeing as the Torah has commanded us not to go astray from whatever they command us).
To honour one's father takes precedence over honouring one's mother, since his mother is also obligated to honour his father. Someone who makes light of his parents' honour, has nullified this mitzvah, unless he does so with their knowledge and consent. Refer to end of Mitzvah 42. A woman too, is obliged to honour her parents, except that her husband takes precedence. This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women (as qualified above).
42. To fear (or revere) one's mother and one's father - as the Torah writes in Kedoshim (Va'yikro 19:3) "Each man shall fear his mother and father".
What does fearing parents mean? Not to stand or sit in their places (i.e. that are designated for them for that occasion); not to contradict their words - even when one knows that one is right; not to add weight to their words (i.e. to add his opinion to theirs, when they argue with a third person); not to call them by name, either in their life-time, or after their death. He should refer to his father as 'my father, my master' (and likewise, his mother) - though from the Gemoro in many places it is evident that one may even call them by name, provided one adds the word 'father' or 'mother'. (The prevalent custom in some circles to call parents by their first name is shocking and is not in keeping with the spirit of the halochoh.) One's father and mother are equal as regards both honour and fear (provided there is no clash between them, as we explained earlier). The Torah equates their honour and their fear to the honour and fear of Hashem.
Someone who transgresses this and makes light of their fear, has negated this mitzvah, unless he does so with their knowledge and consent, since a father and a mother who forego their honour, absolve their son from the obligation of honouring them (though this does not authorize the son to disrespect or to despise them in any way, by word or deed). This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.
Get Out of the Way
After Korach and his men had been killed, and the people grumbled again, complaining that Moshe and Aharon were responsible for the death of 'the people of G-d', Hashem instructed Moshe and Aharon to leave the congregation because He was about to kill them (Bamidbor 17:10) But why should Moshe and Aharon need to go away, asks the Ramban? Why could Hashem not kill the guilty ones and spare those who were righteous? Indeed, we find throughout our history, when, in times of plagues, three people would be sleeping under one blanket - two of them would succumb and the third one would be spared. That is G-d's might. That is His way. He punishes those who are guilty and spares those who are innocent, and He has no problem with putting that into practice, whatever the circumstances. So, why were Moshe and Aharon told to leave? The Ramban gives two explanations: Firstly, he says, there are occasions when Hashem, in His anger, issues a decree, sending a sweeping punishment that strikes down all in its path - innocent as well as guilty. This was just such an occasion. Consequently, had Moshe and Aharon not left the vicinity, even they would have suffered the same fate as the sinners (see Rashi in Parshas No'ach 6:13, who makes the same comment regarding the generation of the flood, only Rashi confines this concept to cases of immorality and idolatry, whereas, according to the Ramban, it appears to be dependent upon the degree of G-d's anger, irrespective of the category of sin).
Alternatively, answers the Ramban, it was out of deference to Moshe and Aharon that Hashem asked them to leave. As long as Moshe and Aharon were standing there, He would, in their honour, not lay a hand on the malcreants, and it was only after they had moved away, that He would proceed to punish them.
And They Fell on their Faces
Moshe and Aharon fell on their faces, writes the Ba'al ha'Turim, instead of davening for the people. "Why is that?" he asks. Why did they not daven for them like they did on previous occasions? Because, he explains, their tefillah did not flow spontaneously, and he compares this to the Mishnah in B'rochos 34b, which describes how Rebbi Chanina ben Dosa would daven on behalf of the sick, and how he would determine whether the patient would live or die from the fluency of his prayer. If the prayer came out spontaneously, he knew that it had been answered; if not, then he knew that the man would die.
Perhaps the Ba'al ha'Turim follows the opinion of Rashi, who explained already at the beginning of the Parshah, that Moshe fell on his face there (16:14), because of the embarassment that he felt because this was Yisroel's fourth sin. If that is so, then one can safely presume that he would have felt no less embarassed here, at the scene of their fifth sin.
The Targum Yonoson however, who explains at the beginning of the Parshah that Moshe fell on his face because of the shame that he felt at being accused of immoral conduct (see main article), learns here that Moshe fell on his face in order to pray on the people's behalf. This is perfectly feasible, because this time, Moshe and Aharon fell on their faces in response to the news that G-d was about to kill the people, and not on account of the personal accusations that were levelled against them.
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