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.

Advertisements

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.