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Parshas Ki Sisa 5759

Outline Vol. 3, # 16

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

The Veil

After the events of the Golden Calf, and Moshe's intercession for the people, the Torah refers to Karnei Hod -- rays of light emanating from Moshe's face. As a result of the radiance, Moshe began to wear a veil.

Opinions vary as to when Moshe wore this veil, when it was taken off, and what its purpose was.

Both the Kli Yakar and Rebbi Akiva Eiger were of the opinion that Moshe wore the veil when speaking with the people, but removed it when communicating with Hashem.

According to Kli Yakar, the veil demonstrated the humility of Moshe. When Moshe became aware that the people were staring at him because of the radiance, he was ashamed, and covered his face. When speaking with Hashem, however, he needed to remove the veil, in order to receive the teachings first hand.

Rebbi Akiva Eiger, though, explained it differently. According to his words, Moshe was by nature an `anov' -- humble person. In teaching the people, however, he had to direct with strength; excessive modesty might prevent him from discharging his duty fully. The veil was a symbol that Moshe had to conceal and hold back his nature in order to fulfill his mission.

Interestingly, the recently published Shimusha shel Torah tells similar stories regarding Rebbi Akiva Eiger himself. Although Rebbi Akiva Eiger has always been renowned for, among other things, his great humility, he nonetheless stood up for the honor of the Torah with strength and might. He could easily disregard his own honor -- but the honor of the Torah, its sages and their decrees, could not be slighted!

Others explain in accordance with Ralbag: Moshe could spend his days fasting and communing with Hashem, but he needed to be able to relate to ordinary people, as well. The veil symbolized to Moshe that he had to separate from the purely spiritual realm in order to be able to advise, guide and direct the people.


The legal compendium Chai Adom begins with lofty concepts.

"It is a positive mitzva from the Torah to attach one's self in thought to Hashem, as the Torah says: (Devorim 10:20) `You shall fear Hashem ... and adhere to Him.' Is it possible for a person to adhere to Hashem? Rather, the intention is that one's thoughts should constantly be bound to Him..." (See Ramban, Devorim 11:22)

See further there, how the author of Chai Adom continues at length.

The commentaries struggle to explain the words of Chai Adom, however, for they seem to be in direct contradiction to the Talmud (K'suvos 111b): "Is it possible for a person to adhere to Hashem? Rather, one who marries his daughter to a Talmud Chachom (Torah Scholar), one who does business with Talmidei Chachomim, one who benefits Talmidei Chachomim from his property -- the Torah considers it as if he has attached himself to Hashem..."

The Beis Baruch explains that the mitzva to adhere to Hashem is like any other commandment. There is an ultimate purpose and intention of the mitzva, besides the simple laws. The Talmud is explaining the simple laws, which apply to all men. It would be too much to expect the average person to attain such a lofty level as to adhere in thought constantly to Hashem. Therefore, the Talmud commanded that people strive to attain a closeness to the Talmidei Chachomim -- Torah Scholars. However, the purpose and ultimate intention of the command is as the early authorities stated, that one should learn from the Scholars' deeds and come to appreciate the ways of Hashem. The Chai Adom is reminding us about the purpose of the mitzva: Ideally, each person should try, on his own level, to attain true attachment to Hashem.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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