Subscribe to a Weekly Series

Posted on October 15, 2014 (5781) By Rabbi Yochanan Zweig | Series: | Level:

“He became King over Yeshurun” (33:5) The Ibn Ezra renders the verse, “Vayehi bishurun melech” – “He became King over Yeshurun (i.e. Israel)”, as a reference to Moshe being the King of Israel.1 The Ramban points out that this interpretation contradicts the following Talmudic discourse: A major component of the Rosh Hashona prayers is a section known as “malchiyos”, which declares the existence and total sovereignty of Hashem. One of the verses that the Talmud lists which should be recited within this section is the verse, “Vayehi bishurun melech”2,3 Clearly, the King being referred to in the verse is Hashem, not Moshe. How does the Ibn Ezra resolve this apparent contradiction? A more striking contradiction can be found in Rashi’s commentary on the Torah. When explaining the verse “He became King over Yeshurun”, Rashi defines “King” as “Hashem”.4 In Parshas Beha’aloscha, Hashem commands that a set of trumpets be fashioned for Moshe’s exclusive use. Rashi comments that they were used in a manner befitting a king. Here Rashi cites the verse, “He became King over Yeshurun” to prove that Moshe had the status of king.5 The Talmud teaches that, although a scholar may waive the honor which is due to him, a king is not permitted to do so.6 The Mordechai, one of the early Talmudic codifiers, sheds some light on the reason for this. A scholar, who earns the right to be honored, may relinquish this right. However, the honor due to a king is Hashem’s honor: “ki laHashem hamlucha” – “For sovereignty belongs to Hashem”.7 Therefore, a king has no right to waive the honor due to him.8 The Jewish notion of monarchy is that the king functions as a conduit for Hashem’s sovereignty over the world. This is what is meant by sovereignty belonging to Hashem. Moshe Rabbeinu epitomizes the notion of the Jewish king being the conduit for Hashem’s sovereignty over this world. As Chazal say “Shechina midaberes mitoch grono” – “The Divine Presence speaks through Moshe’s mouth.”9 Therefore, there is no contradiction in interpreting the verse “He became King over Yeshurun” as referring to both Hashem and Moshe, for Moshe’s sovereignty is, in reality, the sovereignty of Hashem. 1.33:5 2.Ibid. 3.Rosh Hashona 32b 4.33: 5.10:2 6.Kiddushin 32b 7.Tehillim 22:29 8.Gittin Perek Hanizakin see also Maharsha Kiddushin 32b 9.See Mechilta Shemos 19:19

Dancing With The Bride

“The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a heritage to the Congregation of Jacob”(33:4) Simchas Torah is a day in which we celebrate the Torah. Why did Chazal see fit to designate a separate day for Simchas Torah? Would not Shavuos, the day we received the Torah, be a more appropriate time for this celebration?1 The Talmud instructs a father that as soon as his child is able to speak, he should teach him. “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morasha Kehilas Yaakov” – “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is a heritage to the Congregation of Jacob.”2 Why is this the verse selected when there are earlier verses in the Torah which convey a similar message, such as “vezos Hatorah asher sam Moshe lifnei Bnei Yisroel” – “This is the Torah that Moshe placed before Bnei Yisroel.”3 The last four parshios in the Torah record the events that transpired on the day of Moshe’s death. A major event that ensued was the new covenant in Parshas Nitzavim. The concept of “kol Yisrael araeivim zeh bazeh” – “Each Jew is a guarantor for his fellow Jew” in regard to mitzvos and aveiros, is introduced as a result of our responsibility for the covenant.4 The general concept of a guarantor is discussed by the Talmud. The Talmud teaches that one who accepts upon himself to repay a loan should the borrower default, is required by Torah law to honor his commitment to pay.5 The commentaries raise the following difficulty: Legally, for a person to be liable to perform a service, there must be consideration, such as money. What is the instrument which obligates a guarantor to honor his commitment? The Ritva answers that although the guarantor does not receive money, he nevertheless receives the satisfaction that the lender is relying upon his credibility to issue the loan. This benefit serves as the instrument for the transaction in lieu of money.6In light of this explanation, the following difficulty arises: Why are Bnei Yisroel bound to their commitment of “arvus” – “being guarantors” ? What were they receiving that they did not already have? To begin answering the aforementioned questions, we must analyze another concept which was introduced on the day that Moshe died. This is the concept of “lo bashamayim hee” – “Torah is no longer in the Heavens.” 7 The explanation for this is as follows: As long as Moshe was alive, he consulted with Hashem concerning all difficult Torah legislation. Therefore, Hashem was the final arbiter for Torah legislation; as long as Moshe was alive, Torah was still in the Heavens. On the day of Moshe’s death, Bnei Yisroel were given unilateral authority over all Torah legislation. This is what is meant by “The Torah is no longer in the Heavens.” This new authorization which Bnei Yisroel received is the instrument that obligates them to honor their commitment to be guarantors. At Sinai, when Bnei Yisroel received the Torah, Chazal describe the relationship formed as that of bride and groom.8 Hashem was the groom and Bnei Yisroel were the bride. On the day that Moshe died, a new relationship was formed; Bnei Yisroel were the groom and the Torah was the bride. This is alluded to in the verse, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe morasha Kehilas Yaakov”, Chazal see in the word “morasha”, an allusion to the word “me’orasa”, which means “betrothed” i.e. the Torah that Moshe commanded us is also betrothed to us.9 The notion of Torah not being in the Heaven and the Torah becoming the bride to Bnei Yisroel are one and the same. The Talmud instructs a father to begin teaching his son Torah with the verse which reflects this new relationship. Shavuos celebrates Bnei Yisroel becoming a bride to Hashem, while Simchas Torah celebrates Bnei Yisroel becoming betrothed to the Torah. This is reflected in the customs of the day. In most Jewish communities, a representative is chosen to be the “chassan Torah”, the groom to the Torah. We also dance with the Torah as a groom dancing with his bride. 1.See Ramoh Ohrech Chaim 669 for source to Simchas Torah 2.See Tosefes Bracha, Zos Haberacha 3.Vaeschanan 4:44 4.See Rashi 29:28 5.Bava Basra 173b 6.Kidushin 7a 7.30:12 8.See Rashi VeZos Haberacha 33:2 9.Sanhedrin 59a