Shabbos Parshas Chukas – Balak July 4, 2020

July 4, 2020 – 12 Tammuz 

Parshas Chukas – Balak:

Summer Heat

Dvar Torah – Mei Merivah – Waters of Strife

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Summer Heat:

This Shabbos Hashem brought the heat.  It was hot.  We walked to Rivkie and Mordy’s house where I sat on their patio for 2 hours and worked on my Dvar Torah.

Dvar Torah – Mei Merivah – Waters of Strife

I looked over my notes on Chukkas and expanded on it this year.  The following is my explanation of the Mei Merivah of Moshe hitting the rock and losing his right to go into Israel.  

The following two questions have always plagued me.

 

  •  How were the Jews allowed to go into Israel when the children seemingly were the same as their parents. The generation of the desert died in the desert because they challenged God and were not allowed to go in,    They also said why did you take us out of Egypt.  

 

  • What was exactly Moshe’s sin?

 

To answer the two above questions, let us understand the sequence of Verses and how to interpret them.

Summary of my answer and more fully explained afterwards:

  1. 38 years pass
  2. No water, thirst
  3. The people need water and ask in a harsh way
  4. They called the desert a wretched place, with no crops.
  5. They were rejecting their parents’ lives.  They wanted what God wanted for their parents  38 years ago.  
  6. They rejected the completely spiritual lifestyle
  7. Moshe misinterprets this and thinks they are no different than their fathers and perhaps would not be allowed to go into Israel.
  8. Moshe is angry because he wrongly believes his teachings for the past for 38 years is a complete failure.  
  9. God sets up a scenario that will almost certainly fail because as we know by the burning bush and Eldad and Medad that Moshe will not go into Israel.
  10.  God gives Moshe seemingly conflicting instructions.
  11. There were 600,000 people  packed before the rock breathing down Moshe’s neck.
  12. Moshe loses his Ruach Hakodesh and does not know where the rock to give forth water is located.
  13. God switches the rock around and puts the correct one in front of Moshe.  Moshe and the people fail to recognize the switch happening under their eyes.
  14. The last two words in this Parsha  was that Hashem was sanctified.

Explanation following the Verses:

Chapter 20 – Verse 1:

וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ בְנֵֽי־יִ֠שְׂרָאֵל כָּל־הָ֨עֵדָ֤ה מִדְבַּר־צִן֙ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב הָעָ֖ם בְּקָדֵ֑שׁ וַתָּ֤מָת שָׁם֙ מִרְיָ֔ם וַתִּקָּבֵ֖ר שָֽׁם׃

The Israelites, the entire assembly,  arrived at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.

Rashi says:   כל העדה. עֵדָה הַשְּׁלֵמָה, שֶׁכְּבָר מֵתוּ מֵתֵי מִדְבָּר וְאֵלּוּ פֵרְשׁוּ לַחַיִּים:

This Passuk takes place 38 years later.  Parshas Korah and the laws of Parah Adumah took place during year 2 after leaving Egypt.  This innocuous Verse takes place 38 years later.  What happened during the 38 years.  My assumption is nothing.  Life settled into a routine.   For years I did not realize that this Passuk is a transition.  The generation of the desert has died out and it is now time for the Jewish people to go into Israel.  God’s wish for the Jewish people will now be fulfilled.

Verse 2 –   וְלֹא־הָ֥יָה מַ֖יִם לָעֵדָ֑ה וַיִּקָּ֣הֲל֔וּ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְעַֽל־אַהֲרֹֽן׃

The community was without water, and they joined against Moses and Aaron.

People are thirsty.  They are in a desert.  How did the people respond?

Verse 3  –    וַיָּ֥רֶב הָעָ֖ם עִם־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֵאמֹ֔ר וְל֥וּ גָוַ֛עְנוּ בִּגְוַ֥ע אַחֵ֖ינוּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃

The people quarreled with Moses, saying, “If only we had perished when (IBN Ezra and Radak) our brothers perished before Hashem.  Rashi interprets it as “If only we would perish with the same death as our brothers because dying of thirst is the most painful death.  Rashi seems to fit better based on my below Pshat.  They were not identifying with their parents, they were only saying that if we do not merit to go into Israel, please kill us the same way as our parents.

Rashi’s words:  בגוע אחינו. בְּמִיתַת אַחֵינוּ בַּדֶּבֶר, לִמֵּד שֶׁמִּיתַת צָמָא מְגֻנָּה מִמֶּנָּה:

 בגוע. שֵׁם דָּבָר הוּא, כְּמוֹ בְּמִיתַת אַחֵינוּ, וְלֹא יִתָּכֵן לְפָרְשׁוֹ כְּשֶׁמֵּתוּ אַחֵינוּ, שֶׁאִם כֵּן הָיָה לוֹ לִנָּקֵד בִּגְוֹעַ:

It seems that they do not simply ask Moshe to pray for water.  They fought with Moshe.  It is interesting to note that they use the words “when our brothers” when the people who died were their fathers and brothers who were over 20.  I do not have an answer for this.

Verse 4 – The people continue to criticise

וְלָמָ֤ה הֲבֵאתֶם֙ אֶת־קְהַ֣ל יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־הַמִּדְבָּ֖ר הַזֶּ֑ה לָמ֣וּת שָׁ֔ם אֲנַ֖חְנוּ וּבְעִירֵֽנוּ׃

Why have you brought Hashem’s congregation into this wilderness for us and our beasts to die there?

They refer to the people as “Hashem’s congregation”.  They are wrapping themselves in holiness, “Hashem’s congregation”.  They also seem to be blaming Moshe even though Moshe was only a messenger of God.  

Verse 5 – and it continues – 

וְלָמָ֤ה הֶֽעֱלִיתֻ֙נוּ֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם לְהָבִ֣יא אֹתָ֔נוּ אֶל־הַמָּק֥וֹם הָרָ֖ע הַזֶּ֑ה לֹ֣א ׀ מְק֣וֹם זֶ֗רַע וּתְאֵנָ֤ה וְגֶ֙פֶן֙ וְרִמּ֔וֹן וּמַ֥יִם אַ֖יִן לִשְׁתּֽוֹת׃

Why did you make us leave Egypt to bring us to this wretched place, a place with no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates? There is not even water to drink!”

Amazing.  They use the same words of their fathers 38 years earlier.  They are the kids and were teenagers when their fathers uttered these words.  In the last 38 years,  they lived a spiritual life. a life of great comfort, where all needs were taken care of by God,   Yet they pushed back and seemingly rejected this life,,  and called the desert a wretched place.  They said that the desert is a wretched place “a place of no grain or figs or vines or pomegranates”.  They wanted normalcy, a life that combined spirituality and work, making your own way in life.

Yet 38 years earlier, their fathers rejected Israel precisely because it was a place that you have to work.  As the Satmar Rov and others say that they wanted to live a completely spiritual life, being fed  by God, living the ultimate Kollel life, with no suffering.  Now it seems that the kids are rejecting their parents’ choice.  They want a normal land, one in which they have to work hard, grow crops, feed their families by the sweat of their brow.   This is the nature of things.  It is a new generation and the kids want something different.  Society needs all types, those that are spiritual, those that go to the army, those that are farmers, all united together by the Torah and by great leaders.  This is the greatness of the Israeli army.  It is a reserve army so during war, everyone from all different walks of life report back to their army units.  In one unit, you will have a Torah scholar, a taxi driver,  a professor, and a laborer.  They bond together protecting the land of Israel.

Verse 6 –  וַיָּבֹא֩ מֹשֶׁ֨ה וְאַהֲרֹ֜ן מִפְּנֵ֣י הַקָּהָ֗ל אֶל־פֶּ֙תַח֙ אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וַֽיִּפְּל֖וּ עַל־פְּנֵיהֶ֑ם וַיֵּרָ֥א כְבוֹד־יְהוָ֖ה אֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (פ

Moses and Aaron came away from the congregation to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and fell on their faces. The Presence of the LORD appeared to them,

What is this Verse telling us?  Moshe and Aaron fell on their faces.  Moshe spent 38 years in the desert teaching and my assumption is preparing the new generation for their future in Israel.  At the first crisis, the new generation seems no different than the generation of the desert.  They accuse Moshe of bad faith.  Moshe is frustrated, he is upset, he falls on his face.  Hashem does not criticise the Jewish people.  He tells Moshe in a calm manner, this is what to do.

Verse 8:

קַ֣ח אֶת־הַמַּטֶּ֗ה וְהַקְהֵ֤ל אֶת־הָעֵדָה֙ אַתָּה֙ וְאַהֲרֹ֣ן אָחִ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתֶּ֧ם אֶל־הַסֶּ֛לַע לְעֵינֵיהֶ֖ם וְנָתַ֣ן מֵימָ֑יו וְהוֹצֵאתָ֨ לָהֶ֥ם מַ֙יִם֙ מִן־הַסֶּ֔לַע וְהִשְׁקִיתָ֥ אֶת־הָעֵדָ֖ה וְאֶת־בְּעִירָֽם׃

“You and your brother Aaron take the rod and assemble the community, and before their very eyes order the rock to yield its water. Thus you shall produce water for them from the rock and provide drink for the congregation and their beasts.”

The instructions to Moshe while seemingly clear is confusing.  If Moshe is to speak to the stone, then why take the rod.   The Kli Yakar brings this out in the next verse, verse 9, that says Moshe took the rod that was before Hashem, Aaron’s rod that was set aside for future generations to see that God is life giving..  The Kli Yakor explains that when Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the rock and  וְנָתַ֣ן מֵימָ֑יו –  Moshe is being told what to say to the rock.  Moshe is to say, just like this rod that was Aaron’s is a dry piece of wood, yet it became moist and sprouted forth blossoms, so you too, dry flint rock, produce water.    

Rashi on this verse says:

ואת בעירם. מִכָּאן שֶׁחָס הַקָּבָּ”ה עַל מָמוֹנָם שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל:

ואת בעירם [SO SHALT THOU GIVE THE CONGREGATION] AND THEIR BEASTS [TO DRINK] From this we may see that the Holy One, blessed be He, has regard for the possessions of Israel (Menachot 76b; Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 9).

Rashi is saying that preserving Jewish possessions and collective Jewish wealth is a real Jewish value.  We have to pray for it and our leaders have to be cognizant of it.   Resources are not to be squandered.

Verse 9:

וַיִּקַּ֥ח מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶת־הַמַּטֶּ֖ה מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר צִוָּֽהוּ׃

Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as He had commanded him.

Verse 10וַיַּקְהִ֜לוּ מֹשֶׁ֧ה וְאַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַקָּהָ֖ל אֶל־פְּנֵ֣י הַסָּ֑לַע וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֗ם שִׁמְעוּ־נָא֙ הַמֹּרִ֔ים הֲמִן־הַסֶּ֣לַע הַזֶּ֔ה נוֹצִ֥יא לָכֶ֖ם מָֽיִם׃

Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?”

Rashi says: 

ויקהלו וגו’. זֶה אֶחָד מִן הַמְּקוֹמוֹת שֶׁהֶחֱזִיק מוּעָט אֶת הַמְרֻבֶּה (בראשית רבה ה’):

ויקהלו וגו׳ [AND MOSES AND AARON] ASSEMBLED [THE WHOLE CONGREGATION BEFORE THE ROCK] — This was one of the places where the smaller contained the greater, (the entire congregation being assembled in front of one rock) (Leviticus Rabbah 10:9).

What is Rashi saying with this Medresh.  The entire experience in the desert was one of miracles.  There were 3,000,000 Jews in the desert along with up to 2.4 million of converts.  What were the logistics like?  It was all a miracle.  How did these many people leave Egypt.  There were no roads in the desert, no water, and no food.  It was all a miracle.  The Clouds of Glory paved a path wide enough and provided shelter for the Jews in the desert.  Food – there was Man.  Not only that I assumed that there was non stop food. If you wanted red grapes which I love, you just stuck out your hand and it showed up.    When I was in Israel for the first time in 1980, I worried about quenching my thirst.  We took a tour into Beer Sheva and I wondered how will I quench my thirst.  Is there is cold Pepsi in Beer Sheva.   Lo and behold, I was able to purchase one.  I assume in the desert, if you wanted a cold Pepsi you just extended your hand and boom, God put a Pepsi in your hand,  not a can but in the 12 oz. bottles sold in Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Denver when I attended in 1967 – 1971.   Do I wonder how it was possible for 600,000 to see the actions of Moshe?  Not at all.   No one would even bother to ask how this was possible and what difference does it make.

Look at the land of Israel today.  Prior to 1948 the total population was roughly 700,000 people, today over 8,000,000 and Israel is prosperous.  

 Just supplying the daily water needs in Israel is magnificent.  In the 1950s there was a minister in the cabinet who worked on water resources.  I remember going to Israel for the first time and being amazed that there was water and bathrooms at the Kosel.  To me life in Israel is a complete miracle from God.  

 So what is Rashi telling us?  I think Rashi is painting for us the scene.  There were 600,000 people watching Moshe,  crowding him.  Moshe could feel the 600,000 breathing on him watching him closely. Rashi is telling us that Hashem was amping up the pressure on Moshe and supercharging the atmosphere.  

Verses 10 and 11:

10 -וַיַּקְהִ֜לוּ מֹשֶׁ֧ה וְאַהֲרֹ֛ן אֶת־הַקָּהָ֖ל אֶל־פְּנֵ֣י הַסָּ֑לַע וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֗ם שִׁמְעוּ־נָא֙ הַמֹּרִ֔ים הֲמִן־הַסֶּ֣לַע הַזֶּ֔ה נוֹצִ֥יא לָכֶ֖ם מָֽיִם׃               

 11-וַיָּ֨רֶם מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־יָד֗וֹ וַיַּ֧ךְ אֶת־הַסֶּ֛לַע בְּמַטֵּ֖הוּ פַּעֲמָ֑יִם וַיֵּצְאוּ֙ מַ֣יִם רַבִּ֔ים וַתֵּ֥שְׁתְּ הָעֵדָ֖ה וּבְעִירָֽם׃                      

Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock; and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?”   And Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. Out came copious water, and the community and their beasts drank.

Rashi on Verse 10 says:

המן הסלע הזה נוציא. לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא הָיוּ מַכִּירִין אוֹתוֹ, לְפִי שֶׁהָלַךְ הַסֶּלַע וְיָשַׁב לוֹ בֵּין הַסְּלָעִים כְּשֶׁנִּסְתַּלֵּק הַבְּאֵר, וְהָיוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל אוֹמְרִים לָהֶם מַה לָּכֶם מֵאֵי זֶה סֶלַע תּוֹצִיאוּ לָנוּ מַיִם? לְכָךְ אָמַר לָהֶם המרים — סַרְבָנִים, לְשׁוֹן יְוָנִי שׁוֹטִים, מוֹרִים אֶת מוֹרֵיהֶם, הֲמִן הַסֶּלַע הַזֶּה שֶׁלֹּא נִצְטַוִּינוּ עָלָיו נוֹצִיא לָכֶם מַיִם? (תנחומא):

המן הסלע הזה נוציא MUST WE BRING [WATER] OUT OF THIS ROCK? — They said this because they could not distinguish it (the rock intended by God), for the rock from which the water had hitherto flowed during these forty years had vanished and taken a place amongst the other rocks when the “well” disappeared after Miriam’s death, and Israel said to them, “What difference is it to you from which rock you bring forth water for us?” — 

It was on this account that he (Moses) said unto them (called them) המרים — which means wayward one, or, as a Greek expression, “foolish people” or, “such as would teach (מורים) their teachers” — from this rock about which we have received no Divine Command can we bring forth water for you?! (cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 9).

Rashi on Verse 11 continues:

פעמים. לְפִי שֶׁבָּרִאשׁוֹנָה לֹא הוֹצִיא אֶלָּא טִפִּין, לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא צִוָּה הַמָּקוֹם לְהַכּוֹתוֹ, אֶלָּא “וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל הַסֶּלַע”, וְהֵמָּה דִּבְּרוּ אֶל סֶלַע אַחֵר וְלֹא הוֹצִיא, אָמְרוּ, שֶׁמָּא צָרִיךְ לְהַכּוֹתוֹ כְּבָרִאשׁוֹנָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר “וְהִכִּיתָ בַצּוּר” (שמות י”ז), וְנִזְדַּמֵּן לָהֶם אוֹתוֹ סֶלַע וְהִכָּהוּ (תנחומא):

פעמים [HE SMOTE THE ROCK] TWICE, because at the first attempt it did not bring forth more than a few drops, for God had not bidden him smite it, but He had said, (v. 8) “and ye shall speak to the rock”. They had, indeed, spoken, but to a different rock (not that which God had intended) and it had not given forth water. They said, “Perhaps it is necessary to smite it as on the former occasion when it says, (Exodus 17:6) ‘and ye shall smite the rock’, and just that rock intended by God happened to be there and they smote it [but without full effect, and so they smote it a second time] (cf. Midrash Tanchuma, Chukat 9).

The above Rashis on these two Verses add color.  Rashi says that Moshe and Aaron could not recognize the stone that was to produce the water.   Based on the Rashi in Verse 11, Moshe did speak to this rock as instructed by Hashem and no water came because it was the wrong rock.   Moshe was the prophet of Hashem, and his divine providence – Ruach HaKodash – failed him at a critical moment. Moshe seems  to lose his cool and calls them Rebels.  Everything goes south for Moshe.   The people said what difference does it make which rock, it is all a miracle anyhow.  Moshe answers angrily, I cannot produce water on which there is no divine commend.  The pressure is building on Moshe.

Rash adds in Verse 11 that at this point Moshe decides to hit the rock seemingly not knowing if this is the rock (or maybe even knowing).  Moshe decides, perhaps this is why Hashem told me to take a staff is to hit the rock.   What Moshe amazingly does not realize is that unbeknownst to him Hashem in an unnoticeable split second switches rock and Moshe hits the correct rock.  Wow.

Everything failed Moshe at this critical time.  Moshe overreacts to the complaints of the Jews.  He thinks they are rebelling against God and that they are no different than their parents, This was not true.  Hashem gives him instructions that on the surface and in a calm situation seems clear, but in panic can be misunderstood, his Ruach Hakodesh fails him. There are 600,000 people watching his every move, breathing down his neck, and crowding him, Hashem switches the rocks at the last minute. All this results in a state of frenzy and Moshe hits the rock when Hashem wanted him to speak to the rock.

Moshe seemingly was set up for failure.   It is the opposite of Yehuda and Tamar, where Midrash says that an angel pushed Yehuda into the room with Tamar.  Yehuda was going to walk away, Hashem took Yehuda’s free will away from him and is in effect saying, Yehuda, you will not fail this time.  You failed when Yosef was sold, now you will accomplish your destiny.  You will sleep with Tamar against your innate wishes, you will be forced to confront your humanity and say that she is more righteous than me and through this you will experience personal growth and understand responsibility. This will catapult you into a leadership position for your people,  you will become the king.  So too here, Hashem was setting up a scenario where Moshe would make a mistake and hit the rock.  Moshe was destined not to enter israel.  We know this from the burning bush in Shmos, from the prophecy of Eldad and Medad, and other places.  Hashem put into motion the Mei Merivah so that Moshe would lose his free will, do something in anger, and not go into Israel.  

It started with Moshe misinterpreting the Jews when they complained about no water.  Yes they said, why did you take us out of Egypt into a bad place, where there are no crops.  They were not polite in their request for water (and I would argue, who would be polite).  They were not rebelling against Hashem.  They were upset about no water and their life in the desert.  They realized that the desert was an idyllic life, but not the life they wanted.  They rejected their parents’ life in the desert.   In fact what they were saying, we want to go to israel.  We want to plant crops, have vineyards, orchards, and a life of physical labor combined with a spiritual God centered life.  They called themselves in verse 4, the congregation of God.   They were loyal to God and wanted what God originally wanted for their parents.   

They complained that with no water we will die of thirst and as Rashi says, thirst is the worst type of death.  If Hashem does not want us to go to Israel, fine, but we do not want to die a slow death of thirst.

Moshe misinterpreted this and thought they were rebelling against God.  The last Ramban in effect says this and I had to speak to Rabbi Twersky to confirm.  Here the Jewish people were not rebelling against Hashem.  They quarrelled with Hashem.  They needed water and asked harshly.     But they still recognized Hashem.  They were different then their fathers.  They wanted to go into Israel to fulfil their destiny that Hashem laid out for them.

The Ramban on Chapter 20, Verse 13:  Look at the underlined part when the Ramban says that the Jewish people did not rebel against God.  I do not really understand the Ramban, but his concept fits my entire Pshat.  The Ramban says that the Jews did not rebel against God.  They fought with God because they were dying of thirst, but they did not ask as their parents did, Is  God with us.

ויקדש בם שמתו משה ואהרן על ידם כשהקב”ה עושה דין במקודשיו הוא מתירא ומתקדש על הבריות שנאמר (ויקרא י ג) בקרובי אקדש וכן הוא אומר (תהלים סח לו) נורא אלהים ממקדשיך לשון רש”י גם כן פירש ר”א ואיננו נראה בעיני כי עדיין לא מתו משה ואהרן ואיננו מתפרסם לבריות שימותו בחטא הזה שיתירא הקב”ה על ידי כך כאשר היה בנדב ואביהוא ובפרץ עוזא ( ו ח) ועוד כי הכתוב אמר אשר רבו בני ישראל את ה’ ויקדש בם כי במריבים נתקדש מלשון בקרובי אקדש וראוי היה לדבריהם שיאמר ויכבד על פניהם

And He was sanctified with them: in that Moses and Aaron died because of them. When the Holy One, Source of all Blessing is He executes judgement with His sanctified ones, He is feared and sanctified by people. As it says: “With My close ones shall I be sanctified” (Leviticus 10:3). And it is also said that “The Awe of the Lord is from Your Holy Place” (Psalms 68:36). The language of Rashi also explains R’ Eliezer and it doesn’t appear to be correct to me because Moses and Aaron haven’t yet died, and, that Moses and Aaron had been sentenced to death for their sin, had not yet been publicized to people, which would enable fear of G-d through this. This occurred with Nadav and Avihu and with the transgression of Uzah. And furthermore, when the verse says “that the Israelites quarreled with G-d, and He was sanctified with them.” Because through their quarrel, He was sanctified of the same type as “with my close ones, I will be sanctified.” And it is fitting for these words as it says “and He was glorified on their faces.”…

והנכון בעיני כי מעשה הצור הראשון היה לעיני זקני ישראל בלבד כמו שמפורש שם (שמות יז ו ז) ובזה אמר ויקהילו 

משה ואהרן את הקהל וגו’ על כן אמר הכתוב כי מי מריבה האלה שנגזרה בהם הגזרה על משה ועל אהרן המה אותם מי מריבה אשר רבו בני ישראל את השם ויקדש בם לעיני כלם כענין שכתוב (יחזקאל לט כז) וקבצתי אתם מארצות איביהם ונקדשתי בם לעיני הגוים רבים ודע כי בראשונה היתה להם מריבה עם משה כמו שאמר (שמות יז ב) וירב העם עם משה וכן אמר (שם פסוק ד) עוד מעט וסקלוני והיו מנסים את השם היש ה’ בקרבנו (שם פסוק ז) אבל בכאן היו מריבים כלפי מעלה ולא היה בכאן נסיון ועל כן אמר כי אלה מי מריבה שנגזרה בהם הגזרה הזאת המה מי מריבה אשר רבו בני ישראל את ה’ ויקדש בם לעיניהם ולא הראשונים אשר נסו את השם ולא נתקדש רק לעיני זקני ישראל ובעבור היות ענין הסלע שני פעמים הוצרך לבאר על איזה מהם נענשו הצדיקים:

 

How does the Parsha of Mei Meirvah end? As verse 13 says, with holiness.  Klal Yisroel learned a lesson and now they were ready to go into Eratz Yisroel, the land of Hashem.

Verse 13:   הֵ֚מָּה מֵ֣י מְרִיבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־רָב֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל אֶת־יְהוָ֑ה וַיִּקָּדֵ֖שׁ בָּֽם׃ (ס)

Those are the Waters of Meribah—meaning that the Israelites quarrelled with the LORD—through which He affirmed His sanctity.

 

Divar Torah for Shmos, January 5 and 6, 2018

Moments of Time that Changes History:

Parshas Bereishis documents times in history where decisions were made that changed the course of history.  Two recent ones:

  1. The brothers sold Yosef. They failed
  2. Yehuda and Tamer – Yehuda was not given the option by God to fail.

 

Previously, I spoke about another moment in history that changed the slavery in Egypt in this week’s Sedra. Chapter 2, Verse 11 says:

Verse 11:                                   וַיְהִ֣י ׀ בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣י׃

Some time after that, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his kinsfolk and witnessed their labors. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsmen.

Rashi says on when Moses had grown up:

ויגדל משה. וַהֲלֹא כְּבָר כָּתַב וַיִּגְדַּל הַיֶּלֶד? אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה בְּרַבִּי אִלְעָאִי, הָרִאשׁוֹן לְקוֹמָה וְהַשֵּׁנִי לִגְדֻלָּה, שֶׁמִּנָּהוּ פַּרְעֹה עַל בֵּיתוֹ (ילקוט שמעוני):

ויגדל משה AND MOSES WAS GROWN — But has it not already been written, (Exodus 2:10) “And the child grew”? Rabbi Judah the son of Eloai said: the first time it refers to growth in stature, the second time to greatness, — that Pharaoh appointed him to have charge over his palace (Tanchuma Yashan 2.2:17; cf. also Yalkut Shimoni on Torah 166:11).

Moshe was the Jewish nation’s inside man. Moshe was in charge of the house of Pharaoh, meaning he was the chief builder, chief architect and was in a position to ensure that the slavery in Egypt would be tolerable.  Per the Medresh,  he already convinced  Pharaoh to give the Jews a day off and it was Shabbos.  Had Moshe remained in power the slavery in Egypt would have been benign.  Due to two selfish people, evil men, who informed on Moshe to Pharaoh, the future of the exile in Egypt changed and thousands of Jewish babies were killed, the people suffered back braking slavery.  Yes, one or two evil men can destroy a world.

(Over Shabbos, I added, that the other story of Shifrah and Puah  –  Yocheved and Miriam, was one of greatness, defying Pharaoh and perhaps changing history.)

It is difficult for me to sleep and I wake up numerous times at night.   To sleep, I have to force my mind to put myself in a place and feel what it would be like. I will not think about the Holocaust because it is too dangerous. I started out with being at Gettysburg along the Union line with the Confederates charging the line.

I switched to thinking about Jewish history. I focused on two times in Jewish history that were moments that changed everything.  Throughout history decisions are made, events unfold, that change the course of history.  I would suppose that God does not intervene, but lets man chose.  Man must choose the right path.  Once man chooses for better or worse, Hasgachah Pratis, divine guidance affects the future.

The two events I think about is when the 10 tribes broke off from the 2 tribes.  Two selfish kings destroyed Israel.   Once the split happened the northern 10 tribes would follow a different Torah.  The nation of Israel could never again be united.  Who stood up for the people, the congregation of Klal Israel?  NO ONE. There was no one with the power to change the course of history.   They could not go up against two powerful, corrupt kings.   It was the start of the end.  It took roughly two hundred years for Sanchreb to destroy the northern kingdom. In 2003+- Martin Brody took me to the UCLA Hillel for Shabbos morning Davening.  Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller spoke eloquently. He said the Jews do better with leaders that are Avos, father figures than kings.   How true.  This is what the Torah worried about and was concerned about shifting from judges and father figures to kings.

The other time of history I insert myself into,  is European Jewry.   Who could have changed the destiny of European Jewry so that the  holocaust would not happen.  1881 is given as the start of the destruction of European Jewry, when the Czar issued harsh decrees against the Jewish people.  Previously, anti Semitism which was terrible,  was isolated.   In 1881 anti-Semitism morphed into pervasive state sponsored anti-Semitism, which effected a country’s entire Jewish population.  Newspapers were enlisted in this growing and insidious anti-Semitism.  The Jews of the Pale of Settlement were forced to leave.   For 1881 to 1914, about 2 million Jews left, with 1.5 million going to America. This is tragically demonstrated in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement

In 1885, my grandfather wrote a short Sefer, Sholom Yeruhalim, and felt that the start of the movement back to Israel was the start of the coming of  Moshiach and was a worthwhile endeavor.  He tried to develop  an agricultural settlement for 1,000 families.  History could have changed but it did not happen and my grandfather had to abandon the project.  Tragic.

In 1894 Theodore Herzl was standing at the gates outside of the military base where Captain Alfred Dreyfus was dishonored. Upon seeing and hearing the cries of death to the Jews in liberal France, he clearly saw, like daylight, that there was no future for the Jews of Europe. Of course, he could not predict a holocaust, but he understood the Jews have three options; 1) leave Europe willingly, 2) be thrown out 3) live  in fear and live with pogroms..

Herzl was very charismatic and I believe put on this earth by God to help get the Jews to leave Europe and get into Israel. Herzl only wanted to help Jews.   God does not hurt the Jewish people by placing a decent man on the earth.

Unfortunately he failed to convince the Jews to move to Israel at that time when they could and go to the land that God promised is flowing with milk and honey.

LEADERSHIP

SHABBOS – PARSHAS PINCHOS – 24 TAMMUZ 5775 – July 11, 2015:

LEADERSHIP:

20 Tammuz – 5664 – July 3, 1904 – Yahrzietof Binyomin Tzvi Ben Yaakov – Theodore Herzl

22 Tammuz- 5666 – July 17, 1873 – Yahrzeit of Admor Dovid Morgenstern. Second Kotzker Rebbe.

29 Tammuz – 5700 – August 4, 1940 – Yahrzeit of Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Parshas Pinchos Chapter 27, Verses 15-23 talks about leadership. Parshas Pinchos is blanketed by the Yahrzeits of Herzl and Jabotinsky, with my Zedi’s Yahrzeit in the middle. Herzl and Jabotinsky were secular and not accepted by many in the Torah world. Yet they were great people whose mission was to save Jews. The tragedy is that many in the Torah world refused to understand them. Others understood their message.   My Zedi and all the Kotzker children understood leadership, the responsibilities, and worked for the betterment of all the Jews. Reb Dovid’s son in 1885 tried to go to Israel and change everything to save the Jews in Europe. He understood the right things to do because he had Shimosh from his grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe, and his father, Admor Dovid Morgenstern.

These three people should be MiLeitz Yosher for all Jews.

This Shabbos I went through the first half of Parsha Pinchos and tried to get a foothold in the parsha. I focused on Chapter 27, Verses 15-23. The storyline is that Moshe and Eliezer counted the nation of Israel and said these 601,730 men over 20 years old will inherit the land of Israel.   The five daughters of Zlaphchad go to Moshe and say , “why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he has no sons, give us an inheritance.” The next storyline is that God tells Moshe “go up to the mountain of Averim and look at the land. You will die and you are not going into Israel.” After Moshe is told you are not going to Israel, he asks for God to appoint a successor. When you read these nine verses, it is a beautiful story. One leader passed the leadership to the next generation’s leader. However, Hebrew words have nuances and there are Midrashim that give color.

15Moses spoke to the Lord, saying:

16“Let the Lord, the God of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation,

17who will go forth before them and come before them, who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
18The Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and you shall lay your hand upon him.

19And you shall present him before Eleazar the Kohen and before the entire congregation, and you shall command him in their presence.

20You shall bestow some of your majesty upon him so that all the congregation of the children of Israel will take heed

21He shall stand before Eleazar the Kohen and seek [counsel from] him through the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. By his word they shall go, and by his word they shall come; he and all Israel with him, and the entire congregation.”

22Moses did as the Lord had commanded him, and he took Joshua and presented him before Eleazar the Kohen and before the entire congregation.

23He laid his hands upon him and commanded him, in accordance with what the Lord had spoken to Moses

Rashi on Verse 15 speaks in praise of Moshe and says.:

Moses spoke to the Lord…: This [verse comes] to let us know the virtues of the righteous, for when they are about to depart from the world, they disregard their own needs and occupy themselves with the needs of the community. — [Sifrei Pinchas 23] וידבר משה אל ה’ וגו’: להודיע שבחן של צדיקים שכשנפטרין מן העולם מניחין צרכן ועוסקין בצרכי צבור:
saying: He said to Him, “Answer me whether You are appointing a leader for them or not.” – [Sifrei Pinchas 23] לאמר: אמר לו השיבני אם אתה ממנה להם פרנס אם לאו:

Moshe wants an answer from God. Moshe didn’t merely ask, but said in a harsher tone, I want an answer. The Orach Chaim Hakodosh speaks about this and really does not answer.  Chazal say that there were 4 times that Moshe asked something from God and wanted an answer. All were when the nation of Israel was in trouble.

I can understand why Moshe talked harshly saying, I demand an answer. Leadership is critical. Throughout our history leaders have failed. After King Solomon dies, the Jewish people had a series of bad leaders leading to disastrous results. In our own day and age, the great leaders after the Holocaust rebuild Jewry.  Unfortunately there were those who despite their greatness felt a need to disparage other leaders.   Pre WW II, when Europe was burning there were those leaders who understood that the salvation for Jewry was Eretz Yisroel. In the 1880s Admor Dovid Morgenstern’s son, Reb Chaim Yisroel M’Pilav understood this and tried to change the dynamic. The Meshech Chocmoh understood this and while not directly agreeing with Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Kook, agreed in principal with him. In secular Jewry, Herzl changed everything and in the heavens they were praying that Herzl would succeed. Jabotinsky also got it. Many, many Gedolim understood it, but could not make the necessary changes. The Agudah got it in 1937.

Rashi on Verse 16 seems to contradict the above and that Moshe was asking for selfish reasons.

Artscroll put the two together and says that Moshe desired a successor and he truly felt that he son could be that person. It was a benign request of God. However, the language used by the Medresh Tanchuma Sefrei is harsh, as if Rashi is saying time for me to take care of my own. After all, the opening Rashi on Verse 15 is also harsh.

 Verse 16:

Let the Lord… appoint: When Moses heard that the Omnipresent told him to give Zelophehad’s inheritance to his daughters, he said, “It is time to ask for my own needs-that my son should inherit my high position.” The Holy One, blessed is He, said to him, That is not My intention, for Joshua deserves to be rewarded for his service, for he “would not depart from the tent” (Exod. 33:11). This is what Solomon meant when he said, “He who guards the fig tree eats its fruit” (Prov. 27:18). – [Mid. Tanchuma Pinchas 11],

Another question on Rashi – You would think that Moshe would have thought to ask for his sons to succeed him would have happened after Moshe heard that he is going to die. Perhaps Rashi means both.

Another question – Rashi says that Joshua was rewarded for his service. Does this mean that Joshua was a worthy leader, or with  Moshe by laying his hands on Joshua thereby passing the mantle of leadership, and this instilled in Joshua a leadership force.  (The magic wand). The Ksav Sofer says that Joshua was a capable leader. A person to become a leader must have “Shimosh”. He must learn and observe from a teacher, a leader and once he absorbed all that he saw, how his teacher treated people, how people asked questions, then he can succeed him. Joshua observed all this. Not only that we know that Joshua led the fight against Amalek, Exodus 17, Verses 9 and 10. Joshua was this person through his dedication to Moshe.

 Verse 17:

Verse 17 repeats itself. The leader is to take the people out and lead them back in twice. What does it mean “and back in”.

The final Verse that can be questioned:

 Verse 19:

יט  וְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֹתוֹ לִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְלִפְנֵי כָּל הָעֵדָה וְצִוִּיתָה אֹתוֹ לְעֵינֵיהֶם:

19And you shall present him before Eleazar the kohen and before the entire congregation, and you shall command him in their presence.

Rashi says:

And you shall command him: Concerning Israel; be aware that they are troublesome and obstinate. [You accept office] on condition that you take upon yourself [all this]. – [See Sifrei Beha’alothecha 42]

This command was said in their presence”. In front of the entire congregation Moshe told Joshua they are troublesome and obstinate. We have a beautiful moment and the people of Israel are criticized. Why say anything negative at this time. Joshua saw everything that Moshe went through and knows all this. If you want to criticize, put a positive spin on it. Why not say, yes that are troublesome, but they are a holy nation, well worth the sacrifice. They are a great people. Maybe that is what was actually said.

It appears that this Rashi is his own explanation.   My initial reaction is that Rashi is focusing on the words        לְעֵינֵיהֶם   “in their presence”, even though it is not part of the Divrei Hamaschil of Rashi.    This word is extra because the Verse already said that Joshua is standing before the entire congregation.

On initial glance Rashi appears to be rebuking the Jewish people. The Ranban asks this question on Rashi and says that these words of rebuke were not said in front of the people. But rather privately to Joshua.   We still have to understand Rashi.

I was looking in Rabbi Munk’s Sefer and I noticed something. The same word,   לְעֵינֵיהֶם is used five Verses earlier when God told Moshe the reason why Moshe will not be going into Israel with the Jewish people , “ because Moshe did not  to sanctify Me through the water before their eyes   “לְעֵינֵיהֶם“.

I believe that Rashi agrees with the Ranban,  but Rashi is telling us that God told Moshe to command Joshua about the “לְעֵינֵיהֶם “. Remember what happened to me, how I let my anger get the better of me and was punished, do not let this happen to you.   This was not done publicly, but privately.   This verse is explained both ways.   Pashut Pshat like the Ranban, but the deeper explanation is that privately Moshe told Joshua, this is serious business. You will be provoked, etc.