Moshe admonishes Klal Yisroel regarding the troubles and burdens and quarrels they caused and states that he could not bear them alone. (1:12) Rashi (this past week, on 29 Tammuz, we celebrated Rashi’s 901st yahrtzeit) explains, based on the Sifri, that in this case the burdens – masa’achem – refers to Apikorsim (heretics) who would derisively discuss Moshe’s comings and goings from his house. If he left home early they would say Moshe is having family problems; if he left home late they would say that Moshe is plotting against them.
The questions are obvious: (i) In what way is this derisive behavior heretical? (ii) How does the word masa’achem/burdens come to mean or at least hint to this kind of behavior?
The Meforshei Rashi address these questions. (i) the Gemoro says that one who belittles a Torah scholar is an Apikorus (Sanhedrin 99b). (ii) Masa’achem cannot be taken literally (burdens) because the pasuk here has already discussed torchachem/troubles, so ‘burdens’ would not be adding much. The word masa’achem is to be understood instead as masa’achem/your words, based on the use of ‘masa’ in a pasuk in Mishlei (30:1). So the sense of the pasuk’s use of masa’achem is “Your belittling words against a great man were heretical.”
I was not able to find an answer for what would logically follow as question (iii): What is the hint in the word masa’achem or elsewhere in the pasuk which indicates that the derisive speech behavior took this particular form of commenting on Moshe’s comings and goings?
[Interestingly, the word Apikorus derives from one or more of these three sources. (i) The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who ideas would qualify as, well, Apikorsus; (ii) from the Aramaic word hefker, meaning abandoned; an Apikorus has abandoned the essence of his religion; and (iii) from a combination of the Aramaic words afik (gone out) and rasen (horse’s halter); an Apikorus is like a horse which has wiggled out of its halter and is aimless.]
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