Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
"And Moshe heard, and it found favor in his eyes" (Vayikra 10:20).
On the final day of the dedication of the Tabernacle, Moshe Rabbeinu had given specific instructions to his brother Aharon, the High Priest, and his children, the priests. Nevertheless, because of the tragedy of the passing of Nadav and Avihu, Aharon's sons who were killed by Hashem for bringing a foreign fire which they were not commanded to do, the priests burned up one of the sacrifices rather than eat it.
Moshe was angry that things weren't done properly and he demanded an explanation. Aharon justified what they had done and said that since they were in mourning for their relative they were not permitted to eat from that particular sacrifice. Moshe heard his explanation and it found favor in his eyes.
Rashi brings the comments of the Sages who praise Moshe's character by pointing out that he was not ashamed to admit and say that he had not heard that explanation from Hashem.
However, it is hard to understand what there was to be ashamed of if Hashem never taught Moshe that particular law. Therefore, the Sifsei Chachamim explains that Rashi means that Moshe was not ashamed to admit that he had forgotten what Hashem had taught him, and, had he been embarrassed, he could have covered up and saved face by saying that he had not been taught it at all. (Rashi's words should be read as follows: he was not ashamed to admit [that he had forgotten] and [rather, had he been ashamed] say that he had not heard that explanation from Hashem.)
Later commentators explain that, no matter what, surely Moshe would not have lied about the matter. However, he could have responded in an ambiguous manner which would have given the impression that he had never learned it. Nevertheless, he openly admitted that he had learned it but had forgotten.
Harav Chaim Shmulevitz zt"l, explained the ramifications of this Chazal. It was not only a question of personal pride; which Moshe Rabbeinu would have had no problem dealing with. We should realize that the credibility of the entire Torah of Moshe was at stake. For if it is possible for Moshe to forget one law, then scoffers and deniers might contest every law in the Torah claiming that perhaps Moshe Rabbeinu forgot some detail here too. Therefore, for the Torah's sake Moshe had every excuse to rationalize and decide that it is best to give the impression that he had not yet learned those laws. As a matter of fact, someone less trustworthy than Moshe might have concluded that he was required to bend the truth just a bit for that very reason.
This is the innovation of the words of Chazal. Moshe did not let himself be blinded by well-seeming rationalizations. He was not embarrassed to tell the truth: "I heard the law and forgot it." He knew that he must do what is right and Hashem would see to it that the honor of the Torah would not be slighted. For one never loses by going with the truth; which is the seal of the Almighty.
This is the lesson of our master Moshe. And the true "Moshes" of every generation, the Rabbis and Torah scholars, follow in his path to this very day.
Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztvk"l, was a talmid chacham of the highest caliber, with an impeccable character fitting for a man of such distinction. He greeted everyone with his ear-to-ear smile and was a man of peace who was never involved in any dispute whatsoever. In short, he was the perfect tzaddik which the Creator wants us all to be.
In his younger years, Reb Shlomo Zalman, who was known to be a genius, was invited to present his candidacy for the recently opened position of Rosh Yeshiva of Kol Torah, in Bayit Vegan. The big day finally arrived and Reb Shlomo Zalman delivered one of his finest lectures to the students and faculty of Kol Torah who listened intently to what was being said before them and how well it was being explained to them.
Suddenly, one of the rabbis asked a difficult question from some source which seemed to contradict what was being concluded. Reb Shlomo Zalman stopped speaking and thought abut the question. He would later tell that he thought of several answers he could have given to defend his position, however, he explained, since he had not considered them before his lecture, he was not convinced that they were really true, and he would not risk the chance of saying something that he wasn't absolutely sure was correct. Instead, Reb Shlomo Zalman left the question hanging and went on to another aspect in his discourse.
When Rav Auerbach returned home, he told his wife that he would probably not get the position since someone had refuted his Torah and he had not defended it. Imagine how surprised he was to be informed that the one who had the authority to hire the new Rosh Yeshiva chose Reb Shlomo Zalman specifically because he was impressed at how he had handled that challenge!
Indeed, one never loses by going with the truth.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network