On The Heaven And The Earth
"...at the image of Hashem does he gaze..." (12:8)
In this week's parsha, Hashem castigates Aharon and Miriam for criticizing
Moshe and proceeds to define Moshe's uniqueness. Amongst Moshe's unequaled
abilities is his capacity to "gaze at the image of Hashem" - "utmunas Hashem
yabit". The verb "yabit" - "gaze" is defined by Rashi in parshas Lech Lecha
as "looking down from a higher vantage point". If so, what is meant by
Moshe's ability to view Hashem's image from a higher vantage point?
Above all of Moshe's outstanding qualities, the Torah describes him as an
"ish anav me'od" - "an exceedingly humble man". Rav Moshe Kordovero, one
of the greatest Kabbalists of the middle ages, describes humility as the
ability for a person of great stature to relate to those of lesser stature
without being condescending and to see the worth of each individual. The
Torah is teaching us that Moshe's ability to see the "tmunas Hashem" -
"image of Hashem" engraved within every human being provided him with a
heightened sense of humility, and this allowed him to deal with each
individual as a person of worth. Moshe did not have to look up to see
Hashem; he could see Hashem by looking down as well.
3.See appendage to the Tomer Devorah
A Taste Of Their Own Medicine
"...My master Moshe, destroy them!" (11:28)
Acquiescing to Moshe's request for assistance, Hashem incorporated a new
political entity into the corporate structure of Bnei Yisroel, the
Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin's function was to assist Moshe in leading the
nation. Two of the chosen elders, Eldad and Meidad, who, because of their
appointment became imbued with the ability to prophesy, did not follow the
others to meet Moshe at the Ohel Mo'ed - Tent of Meeting. They remained in
the camp, prophesying. The Torah records that Yehoshua was angered by their
behavior and suggested to Moshe "kela'aim". The Rashbam, who generally
follows a more literal interpretation of the verses, translates "kela'aim"
as "incarcerate them", from the word "kela" - "prison". Rashi only offers
this as a secondary interpretation; his primary interpretation, based upon
the word "kaleh" - "destroy", is that Yehoshua suggested that Moshe appoint
them to positions which would require community service, resulting in their
demise. Why does Rashi not favor the more literal interpretation?
Furthermore, how did Yehoshua's suggestion address what he perceived to be
The Ramban explains that Yehoshua's anger was prompted by his perception
that since Moshe had summoned the seventy elders to the Ohel Mo'ed, Eldad's
and Meidad's reluctance to go had to be viewed as dissention.
Consequently, incarceration would not be the recommended course of action,
for if a person is a political dissenter, incarcerating him brings more
attention to his cause and could spark a grassroots movement in his support.
Therefore, Yehoshua suggested that if they were objecting to the manner in
which the leadership was serving the nation, the best course of action would
be to let them experience the difficulty of contending with community
pressure. This experience would either diffuse their opposition to the
current leadership or destroy them in their attempt to reform the system.
We Are Connected
"Moshe heard the people weeping concerning their family groups..."
The Talmud relates that any commandment which we initially accepted with
rejoicing, such as bris milah - circumcision, would be performed joyously in
later generations. However, any commandment that was received with
resistance, would be fulfilled in later generations with aggravation.
Specifically, since Bnei Yisroel wept over being prohibited from marrying
their family members, the result was that there would never be a Kesubah, a
marriage document that records the couple's financial obligations to one
another, written that did not involve some form of dispute. Why are
circumcision and prohibited relationships the two examples utilized?
The Maharal questions why, in fact, it became prohibited to Bnei Yisroel to
marry their family members. According to the Talmud, in preparation for
receiving the Torah, Bnei Yisroel underwent complete conversion i.e.
circumcision, ritual bathing, and the bringing of sacrifices. By Torah
law, when a person converts he severs all preexisting family relationships.
Therefore, technically, if a brother and sister were to convert, as Jews
they would be permitted to marry one another based upon the dictum "ger
shenisgayer kikatan shenolad dami" - "A convert has the status of a newborn
child." Therefore, asks the Maharal, why did the conversion process of Bnei
Yisroel not sever all preexisting family relationships, permitting them to
marry their family members?
The reason why conversion severs preexisting family relationships is that
when a person becomes a Jew, he disconnects himself from his previous
heritage, and connects himself with the heritage that began with our
Forefather Abraham. This is the reason for the custom of naming converts
"ben Avraham" - "the son of Abraham". The conversion of Bnei Yisroel at Har
Sinai did not sever their previous heritage; on the contrary, it reaffirmed
and reconnected them back to their ancestry. It is because of their
connection to their ancestry that they merited to receive the Torah.
Therefore, all previous family relationships remained intact.
The misonenim were complaining that since they had undergone conversion,
they should have been permitted to maintain relationships with family
members, as is standard for the laws of conversion. Their mistake was that
Bnei Yisroel's conversion was not a standard one, rather, it was akin to the
circumcision which they had to undergo. The function of circumcision is to
reconnect us to the covenant of Abraham, as we recite in the blessing for
circumcision "lehachniso bevriso shel Avraham Avinu" - "to enter him, i.e.
the one being circumcised, into the covenant of our Patriarch Abraham".
It is for this reason that Chazal compare Bnei Yisroel's reaction to the
precepts governing prohibited relationships and circumcision. They are
alluding to the source of Bnei Yisroel's mistake; although they underwent
conversion, this process did not serve to sever their preexisting heritage,
rather to reaffirm it.
2.Krisus 9a See Rashi Shemos 24:6
3.Gur Arye Bereishis 46:10 See introduction to the Shav Shmaytsah