Halakhah leMosheh miSinai

מעשה ברבי ישבב שעמד והחליק את כל נכסיו לעניים. שלח לו ר”ג, “והלא אמרו חומש מנכסיו למצות?” ור”ג לא קודם לאושא היה? ר’ יוסי בר’ בון בשם ר’ לוי: כך היתה הלכה בידם, ושכחוה, ועמדו השנים והסכימו על דעת הראשונים. ללמדך שכל דבר שבית דין נותנין נפשן עליו הוא מתקיים, כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני.
ואתייא כיי דאמר רבי מנא: “כי לא דבר רק הוא מכם” — ואם הוא רק מכם, הוא למה שאין אתם יגיעין בתורה. “כי הוא חייכם” — אימתי הוא חייכם? כשאתם יגיעי’ בו.
רבי תנחומא בשם רב הונא: (שמות לה) “ובצלאל בן אורי בן חור למטה יהודה עשה את כל אשר צוה ה’ את משה”. “אותו משה” אין כתיב כאן אלא “אשר צוה ה’ את משה” — אפי’ דברים שלא שמע מפי רבו, הסכימה דעתו כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני.
ר’ יוחנן בשם ר’ בניי: “כאשר צוה ה’ את משה עבדו” כן צוה משה את יהושע, וכן עשה יהושע. “לא הסיר דבר מכל אשר צוה ה’ את משה” — “אותו משה” אין כתיב כאן, אלא “מכל אשר צוה ה’ את משה” — אפי’ דברים שלא שמע מפי משה הסכימה דעתו כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני.

An event with Rabbi Yeshovav, that he stood and divided all his property amongst the poor. Rabban Gamliel sent for him.  ”Didn’t they say [that a most] one fifth of his property [should be spent] for mitzvos?”

But wasn’t Rabban Gamliel before Usha [where they ruled this law about one fifth]?

Rabbi Yosi beRabbi Bun in the name of Rabbi Levi: This was the accepted law in their hands. It was forgotten, and the later ones established and agreed to the intent of the early ones. This comes to teach you that anything a court puts their souls into endures, as though it was said to Moshe from Sinai.

This goes like that which Rabbi Mana said: “For it is not an empty thing from you” — and if it were empty, it would be because you didn’t study the Torah deeply. “For it is your life” — when is it your life? Then you do study Torah deeply.

Rabbi Tanchuma in the name of Rabbi Huna: “And Betzalel ben Uri ben Chur of the tribe of Yehudah did all that Hashem commanded Moshe.” It doesn’t say here “that Moshe commanded him”, just “that Hashem commanded Moshe”. Even things which [Betzalel] did not hear from his rebbe’s [Moshe's] mouth, his idea agreed [with the rest of the Torah, or perhaps: with the Will of G-d] as though it were said to Moshe from Sinai.

Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Benayei: “As Hashem commanded his servant Moshe” so Moshe commanded Yehoshua, and so Yehoshua did. “He did not veer from anything that Hashem commanded Moshe” — it doesn’t say here “that Moshe commanded him”, rather “from all that Hashem commended Moshe”. Even things which he didn’t hear from Moshe is ideas agreed [with the rest of the Torah] as though it were said to Moshe from Sinai.

– Yerushalmi Pei’ah 1:1, 3a
(see also a Yerushami Shevi’is 1:5, 2b for a discussion similar to the first part of the above)

… הזורע את שדהו שני מיני חטים: עשאן גורן א’, נותן פאה אחת. עשאן שתי גרנות, נותן שתי פאות.
מעשה שזרע ר”ש איש המצפה לפני ר”ג ועלו ללשכת הגזית ושאלו אמר נחום הלבלר מקובל אני מר’ מישא שקיבל מאבא שקיבל מן הזוגות שקיבלו מן הנביאים הלכה למשה מסיני בזורע את שדהו שני מיני חטים עשאן גורן אחת נותן פאה אחת עשאן שתי גרנות נותן שתי פאות:

… Someone who plants his field with two breeds of wheat: If he make of them one storage in the silo [and thereby treats them as one crop], he gives one pei’ah [corner left over for the poor, in this case from the combined crop]. If he makes of them two storages [treating each breed as its own crop], he must give two pei’os [one from each breed].

An event where Rav Shimon, a man of Mitzpah, planted in front of Rabban Gamliel [such a crop]. They went up to the Chamber of Hewn [Wood, the meeting room for the Sanhedrin in the Beis haMiqdash], and they asked [what to do]. Nachum the Record-Keeper said, “I received from Rabbi Meisha, who received from his father who received from the Pairs [of sages who led the first generations of tannaim, starting with the end of the Great Assembly and of prophecy] who received from the prophets a law [given] to Moshe from Sinai that someone who plants his field with two breeds of wheat: if he makes of them one storage he gives one pei’ah, if he makes of them two storages he must give two pei’os.

– Mishnah Pei’ah 2:4

It seems to me that there are two different means given for how we could receive a law that is considered “halakhah leMoshe miSinai — a law [given] to Moshe from Sinai”.

  1. The mishnah states the obvious meaning: Moshe received the law, and it was faithfully transmitted down the ages.
  2. The Yerushalmi on the previous chapter gives another possibility — that someone toiled in Torah to discover a result that was certainly given to Moshe, even though it was not then passed on down the generations.

This second possibility requires more analysis.

אמר רבי אילעאי: שאלתי את רבי יהושע, “באלו עומרים פליגי בית שמאי וב”ה?”
אמר לי, “בתורה הזאת, עומר הסמוך לגפה ולגדיש ולבקר ולכלים ושכחו — בית שמאי אומרים ‘אינו שכחה’; ובית הלל אומרים, ‘שכחה’.”
וכשבאתי אצל רבי אליעזר, אמר לי, “לא נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל על העומר שהוא סמוך לגפה ולגדיש ולבקר ולכלים ושכחה, שהוא שכחה. ועל מה נחלקו? על העומר שנטלו ונתנו בצד הגפה, בצד הגדיש, בצד הבקר, בצד הכלים, ושכחו. שבית שמאי אומרים, ‘אינו שכחה’, מפני שזכה בו; ובית הלל אומרים, ‘שכחה ‘.”
וכשבאת, והרציתי את הדברים לפני רבי אליעזר בן עזריה, אמר לי, “הברי’ הן הן הדברים שנאמרו למשה בחורב.”

Rabbi Ilai said: I asked Rabbi Yehoshua about which sheaves the Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel disagree. He said to me, “In this Torah: a sheaf that is next to a wall, a stack, a heard or utensils and [the owner] forgot it. Beis Shammai say, “It is not shikhekhah [and thus not sufficiently forgotten for the owner to obligated to leave the sheaf for the poor].” Beis Hillel say, “It is shikhekhah.”

When I went to Rabbi Eliezer, he said to me, “Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel did not disagree about a sheaf that is next to a wall, a stack, a heard or utensils and [the owner] forgot it, that it is shikhekhah. About what did they disagree? About a sheaf that he picked up and placed on the side of a wall, the side of a stack, the side of a heard or the side of utensils. That Beis Shamai say, “It is not shikhekhah” because he put significance to it. Beis Hillel say, “It is shikhekhah” [because the reminder he used is mobile, and not guaranteed to be there later anyway].

And when I came and presented these ideas before Rabbi Elazer ben Azariah, he said to me, “By the Creator! These are the very things that were said to Moshe in Choreiv.”

– Yerushalmi Pei’ah 6:5, Vilna ed. 29a

Here we have the explanation of the scope of a dispute between Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai as being given to Moshe at Mount Sinai (a/k/a Choreiv), and yet the two schools obviously couldn’t have had that dispute until a millennium after the revelation!

But the gemara doesn’t speak of a “halakhah” given to Moshe, but rather “hadevarim” — echoing the first half of the voice from heaven “אלו ואלו דברי א-לוהים חיים הן, והלכה כבית הלל — These and those are the words of the Living G-d, and the halakhah is like Beis Hillel”.  Perhaps Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah was saying that this understanding of the dispute captures at least part of the plurality of thought that Hashem gave Moshe on the topic of grain forgotten near movable but significant items.

In terms of the two types of leMoshe miSinai, though, this truth — an understanding of a dispute a millenium later — must be of the discovery of a truth sort (type 2), and couldn’t possibly have been handed down teacher to student since Horeb.

The Rambam has a famous difficult statement with respect to halakhos leMoshe miSinai. He writes that they are never touched by machloqes. The obvious difficulty — there are countless counterexamples.  (For example, the list of deformities that would render an animal tereifah and thus make any shechitah irrelevant is both halakhah leMoshe miSinai and the subject of numerous disputes.)

It doesn’t fit in the words of the Rambam, but I wish could have used the above distinction to resolve the question. Within halakhos that we know are miSinai because Moshe told Yehoshua who told the Zeqeinim and to on down the generations could in theory lose their details in transmission, and machloqes could ensue.

However, through true yegi’ah beTorah (as the first Yerushalmi puts it, above) one can rediscover a truth that we know must have been given to Moshe. If that truth is a halakhah (rather than a spectrum of divrei E-lokim Chaim), then we would only realize its miSinai nature because it is so clearcut in hindsight that no one would consider an alternative position.As the Talmud puts it, “ללמדך שכל דבר שבית דין נותנין נפשן עליו הוא מתקיים, כמה שנאמר למשה מסיני — to teach you that any matter that a beis din gives over their souls to it endures, as though it was said to Moshe from Sinai.”

As I wrote, though, this can not be the Rambam’s meaning. His exact words in his introduction to his commentary to the mishnah (pg 11 in the Qafech edition) are “כל זמן שיאמר אדם קבלתי כך וכך — any times that a person says ‘I received such and such…’” It is explicitly a received halakhah leMoshe miSinai, and not one discovered through yegi’ah.

Still, the Rambam’s position is difficult as at face value it contradicts statements he himself makes elsewhere. And most other rishonim dispute it. So perhaps this suggestion stands as a possibility without his great name attached to it.

Modes of Prayer

In an earlier entry, Prayers and Requests, I wrote:

Yaaqov avinu lying on his deathbed, tells his son Yoseif:

וַֽאֲנִ֞י נָתַ֧תִּֽי לְךָ֛ שְׁכֶ֥ם אַחַ֖ד עַל־אַחֶ֑יךָ אֲשֶׁ֤ר לָקַ֨חְתִּי֙ מִיַּ֣ד הָֽאֱמֹרִ֔י בְּחַרְבִּ֖י וּבְקַשְׁתִּֽי׃

Also, I gave you one portion (or perhaps, “one thing, [the city of] Shechem”) beyond that of your brothers, which I took from the control of the Emori — becharbi uvqashti — with my sword and with my bow.

- Bereishis 48:22

The Targum Yonasan renders “becharbi uvqashti” as “betzelosi uva’us-hi — with my prayers and my requests”. This is also in Bava Basra 123, “‘Charbi‘ — this is tefillah,qashti‘ – this is baqashah [request].”

The Vilna Gaon characterizes two kinds of prayer: tefillah and tachanunim. As [R JB Soloveitchik] notes, as does Rav Hirsch, lehit-pallel is in the reflective; something we do to ourselves. Teaching ourselves to turn to Hashem, and what things ought to be our priorities. Our primary tefillah was therefore organized by Anshei Keneses haGdolah in the sunset of the prophetic period, as a means of impressing us with the art of dialogue with the A-lmighty.Turning to our Father with the needs actually on our mind is called tachanunim. …

(There is much more there, including R’ Soloveitchik’s understanding of “betzelosi uva’us-hi” which differs from my own, how actual prayer is usually some fusion of the two modes, relating this to the opening words of Mesilas Yesharim, etc…)

Adding to these two kinds of prayer the biblical obligation of Shema, and we have the core of Shacharis, from Barekhu until the Torah reading. Three sorts of liturgy.

However, I recently found some notes in which I referred to the Malbim, who identifies a different third mode of liturgy.

וְע֨וֹד אֲנִ֤י מְדַבֵּר֙ וּמִתְפַּלֵּ֔ל וּמִתְוַדֶּה֙ חַטָּאתִ֔י וְחַטַּ֖את עַמִּ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּמַפִּ֣יל תְּחִנָּתִ֗י לִפְנֵי֙ יְ-הוָ֣ה אֱ-לֹהַ֔י עַ֖ל הַר־קֹ֥דֶשׁ אֱ-לֹהָֽי׃ וְע֛וֹד אֲנִ֥י מְדַבֵּ֖ר בַּתְּפִלָּ֑ה…

And I am still speaking, and mispallel and confessing my sins and the sins of my nation Israel, and putting my techinos down before Hashem my G-d on the holy mountain of G-d. And I am still speaking in prayer…

- Daniel 9:20-21

כפל מבואר: ועוד אני מדבר, תפלות אחרות שלא נזכר פה, והיה בתפלתו ג’ סדרים,
א] תפלה שגדרו שפיכת הנפש והדבקה באלהים, ועז”א מדבר ומתפלל,
ב] ווידוי ומתודה,
ג] תחנה שהיא בקשה פרטית, עז”א ומפיל תחנתי שהיא התחנה הפרטית בעבור הר קדש של א-להי שזה היה עקר תחנתו:

The doubling is explainable: “And still I speak”, other prayers which aren’t mentioned here.  And there were three orders (sedarim) in his prayer:

  1. The tefilah whose limits are the pouring out of the soul and deveiqus (attaching oneself) to G-d. And about this [the verse] says, “speaking umispallel – and praying”;
  2. Confessing — “and confessing [my sins...]“
  3. Techunah which is personal requests. About this [it says] “and put my techinos down” for this is the personal techinah which was for “the holy mountain” of  “my G-d”, for this was the essence of [Daniel's] techinah.

- Malbim ad loc.

Qorach’s Heart

The title verse of this week’s parashah reads “ויקח קרח” (Bamidbar 16:39). The simple translation would be “And Qorach took”. However, the Midrash Rabbah takes it slightly differently, using an equally valid if less obvious translation. “‘And he took Qorach’ — meaning, his heart took him.” The Ramban notes that the word “vayiqach” consistently refers to a non-physical move. This connects our chapter to the previous one of tzitzis. “And you shall not explore after your heart and after your eyes, after which you stray.” (15:39). Rashi explains that the heart and eyes are spies for the body. The eye sees, the heart desires, and the body commits the sin.

Why was he moved to rebel? In what direction did Qorach’s heart take him? Moshe appointed Elitzafan ben Uzi’el to be the leader of the clan of Kehas. The Tanchuma (ch. 1) writes that Qorach, being older than his cousin Elitzafan, thought that the job would be his.

Had they focused more on character development than on theology, their fates would have been much more for the better.

Qorach could not belittle Moshe’s authority — the Jewish People all saw the beams of light radiating from Moshe’s face when he came down from Sinai. Instead, Qorach built up the masses. “The whole community, every one of them is holy, and Hashem is among them; and why do you raise yourselves above the congregation of G-d?” (16:3) He attacked Moshe politically by trying to make him redundant religiously.

This is the meaning of the two slogans a third midrash (Midrash Rabba, quoted by Rashi) attributes to Qorach. “If a garment is all blue, does it need tzitzis?” The whole garment is techeiles, reminding us of heaven and of G-d, so why would we need an additional blue thread? The whole community was at Sinai and had experienced the heights of prophecy at the Red Sea; we do not need priests and leaders. Similarly, “If a room is full of Sifrei Torah, does it need a mezuzah?”

R. Moshe Feinstein (Derash Moshe), stresses a second aspect that builds on the first. As his very examples show, Qorach assumes that anyone can interpret the Torah for themselves. That, somehow, at Sinai they were imbued with the “spirit of the law” and can use that to guide practice.

The meaning and purpose behind halakhah is critical. It is true that we rule that mitzvos do not require intent. However, as the Mishnah writes, “From [acting] shelo lishmah, not for its sake, one comes to act lishmah.” The purpose in the mitzvah performed by rote observance is in its bringing the person closer to later performing it with intent.

Rav Hirsch likens the relationship between halakhah and lishmah to that of experimental data and scientific theory. G-d gave us the halachic process; its results are the objective data with which we work. Our theories about the meaning and purpose are just that — theories. In a scathing comment against Reform, and Geiger’s notion of a “science of Judaism”, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch likens deriving practice from ideas about the purpose of the law to alchemy. (The 19 Letters of Ben Uziel)

Qorach’s rebellion is held up by the Mishnah as an archetype of lacking lishmah. “Any controversy which is lesheim Shamayim, for the sake of [the One in] heaven, will in the end persist; and that which is not lesheim Shamayim will not in the end persist. Which is a controversy for the sake of Heaven? The controversy between Hillel and Shammai. And which is not for the sake of Heaven? The controversy of Qorach and his entire congregation.”

Amazingly, Qorach was not inherently an evil person. The Arizal associates his name with the last three letters of the words “צַ֭דִּיק כַּתָּמָ֣ר יִפְרָ֑ח– the righteous shall blossom like the date-palm.” (Tehillim 92:13) The Ari concludes from this that Qorach will eventually have a place in the World to Come.

Where did the gap emerge between this Qorach and the one who challenged Moshe’s authority? He was hurt by being passed over for an honor. He did not rebel for the sake of heaven, although he might have convinced himself that his position was the more reasonable way to worship Hashem. A tiny seed of jealousy, and all objectivity was lost. Without deriving values from the grounding of halachah, all was lost.

A tiny gap opened between his heart and his mind, between his subconscious and his righteous ideals. And so Qorach “explored after his heart”. Such gaps are all too common. As we say in Aleinu, “וְיָֽדַעְתָּ֣ הַיּ֗וֹם וַהֲשֵֽׁבֹתָ֮ אֶל־לְבָבֶךָ֒– And you will know today, and you will respond to your heart.” (Devarim 4:39) The mind can know something even while it must still be answered to the heart.

Through the study of Mussar one can close that gap. Bridging mind and heart, mitzvah and lishmah, is critical. From the smallest of imperfections in his control of his inner self, Qorach took to leading a full rebellion. Mussar has the power to cleanse our hearts from all impurities — both conscious and subconscious. It gives depth and meaning to our observance of halakhah; it connects the act to the lishmah.

With thanks to Rabbi Zvi Miller of The Salant Foundation, who provided the core thought. Originally appeared in Mesuqim MiDevash, Qorach 5764.

How Does Prayer Influence?

As a memorial to R’ Mordechai Eliyahuzt”l, here is a translation of the introduction to his siddur, “Sefatei Tiftach”:

How Does Prayer Influence?

One must read well the verses that speak about the creation of man in order to understand man’s mission in this world:

כו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ כז וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃ כח וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ וּרְד֞וּ בִּדְגַ֤ת הַיָּם֙ וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּבְכָל־חַיָּ֖ה הָֽרֹמֶ֥שֶׂת עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

26: And G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, similar to our likeness, and they will have mastery over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the animals, all the land, and every crawling thing which creeps on the land.
27: And G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female he created them.
28: And G-d created them and G-d said to them, “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and control it, and have mastery over the first of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all living thing which creeps on the land.

– Bereishis 1

Man must have “mastery” in the world and all its creatures. Not in the sense of exploitation, only in the sense of leadership and using it for a purpose. “Put your mind to not ruining and destroying My world.” (Qoheles Rabbah 7:19) This was G-d’s purpose in creating man. This is the simple and initial understanding of the concept “tzelem Elokim — image of G-d”.

What must man do in order to fulfill his duty?

In order to fulfil this important duty man must know why G-d created the world? In what way does the world reach its destiny? This is the reason why we learn the Words of Hashem as they appear in the Torah, Neviim and Kesuvim.

Our Sages of blessed memory understood the great responsibility that man has to fulfill his mission. Therefore they invested all of their abilities and time into this study, to know the ways of Hashem. In this they followed the way of Moshe Rabbeinu who begged from G-d, “הֽוֹדִעֵ֤נִי נָא֙ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֔ךָ — Inform me please of Your Ways.” (Shemos 33:13) That I may be able to walk in Your Ways and not lead Israel in an erroneous path.

“And you will walk in His Ways”

Moshe taught the ways of Hashem, but that is no enough. In order to walk in His days one requires the middah of anavah. Corresponding to Moshe, who was “anav me’od mikol adam asher al penei ha’adamah – much more modest than any person on the face of the earth.” Bil’am established that he too knew the says of Hashem. “Veyodei’ah da’ad elyon – and knows the Higher Knowledge”, knows that G-d wants — and does the absolute opposite. Someone who wants to be of the students of Moshe Rabbeinu a”h must make a treasure for himself of the middah of anavah. To remember that even though we are partners of the Holy One blessed be He in the Act of Creation, we can not say like the words of the snake “veheyisem ke’elohim – and you will be like gods” doing what you want.

We must remember that man is in truth so short of time in contrast to the Infinity of G-d. He is so limited in his understanding and strength in contrast to Divine Wisdom, in contrast to its Essence. Just from within that [thought] is he able to fulfill his mission. This is how Moshe was. “Rabbi Yochanan said: The Holy One, blessed be He doesn’t rest His Shechinah except on someone who is mighty, rich, wise and an anav.” (Nedarim 38a). Wise, mighty and wealthy — that he is worthy of bringing the Word of Hashem. A master of anavah — that he knows his place.

This is not simple!

It is not simple to reach this [plane]. Moshe’s first encounter with G-d was in the [burning] bush. The first sentence that G-d says to Moshe: I am readying to fulfill the oath which I made to the forefathers, to take the Israelites out of Mitzrayim and to bring them to the land of Israel. Are you ready to be partners in this great work? Moshe didn’t comprehend where he would discover the ability to say something so great. “וַיֹּ֤אמֶר מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי כִּ֥י אֵלֵ֖ךְ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה וְכִ֥י אוֹצִ֛יא אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃ — And Moshe said to G-d, ‘Who am I that I would go to Par’oh, and that I would take the Benei Yisrael out of Egypt?’” (Shemos 3:11).

G-d said to Moshe: Do not worry, I am with you. “כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ — for I will be with you” (v. 12). But this was not enough for Moshe. He didn’t see how all of this would materialize. The situation said otherwise; Par’oh ruled, and Israel was so enslaved to him they weren’t thinking at all about redemption. “וַיַּ֤עַן מֹשֶׁה֙ וַיֹּ֔אמֶר וְהֵן֙ לֹֽא־יַאֲמִ֣ינוּ לִ֔י וְלֹ֥א יִשְׁמְע֖וּ בְּקֹלִ֑י כִּ֣י יֹֽאמְר֔וּ לֹֽא־נִרְאָ֥ה אֵלֶ֖יךָ ֽה’׃ — And Moshe replied and said, ‘And they won’t believe me and they won’t listen to my voice, for they will say: Hashem did not appear to you.’” (4:1)

Moshe the man of G-d

It took seven days for HQBH to convince Moshe, at the end of them he trusted that Hashem would be with him. “E-hyeh asher E-hyeh – I Will Be Who I Will Be”. He accepted even the reality that the Benei Yisrael who were wallowing in the 49 gates of tum’ah would believe in redemption and would be partners to Your praise. He took the staff of G-d in his hand, and went to take the Israelites from Mitzrayim.

Moshe did and succeeded. Hashem was with him. The Benei Yisrael believed. Hashem split the sea. Listens to His Voice. Brings the plagues through him. Gave the Torah through him. Moshe on His side says, and correctly, “And we, what are we?” We are nothing. Everything is from Him.

Moshe passes the responsibility on to Israel

At the end of his days, Moshe passes the responsibility on to Israel. He writes sifrei Torah and gives them to the Benei Yisrael. He carves them on stone. Teaches them; places it in their mouths. It is possible to pay attention and see that in all of the later parshios of the Torah, from the parashah of “Ki Savo” until the end of parashas “Haazinu”, Moshe tells Israel about the way G-d behaves. In this way he tells them at the outset what will happen in history. He teaches them the ways in which G-d leads the situation of the Nation of Israel.

Moshe tells them this as part of passing the responsibility. You must know the ways of Hashem in order that you would be able to work together with G-d, “‘…כָּעֵ֗ת יֵֽאָמֵ֤ר לְיַֽעֲקֹב֙ וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מַה־פָּ֖עַל אֵֽל׃ — At the time it will be said to Yaaqov and Israel: What does G-d do?’ (Bamidbar 23:23) Rabbi Yirmiyah ben Elazar said: In the future, an echo of a [prophetic] voice will blow through the tents of the righteous and say: Whomever works with G-d — let them come and take their reward.” (Yerushalmi, Shabbos 39b)

The inheritance of Moshe

The inheritance that Moshe passed on to us is both the Torah and also the leaving from exile to redemption. “אם אין אתה גואלם אין אחר גואלם — if you do not redeem them no one else will redeem them.” (Shemos Rabba 3:3) Moshe passed on to us the power of prayer. Moshe was the person whose prayer is mentioned in the Torah more than any other petitioner. Numerous times he prayed to save the nation from extinction and was answered. He prayed with mesirus nefesh (personal sacrifice) “וְאִם־אַ֕יִן מְחֵ֣נִי נָ֔א מִֽסִּפְרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּתָֽבְתָּ׃ — [And now, if You carry their sin,] and if not, please erase me from Your book which You wrote” (Shemos 32:). He prayed for his sister, “אֵ֕-ל נָ֛א רְפָ֥א נָ֖א לָֽהּ׃ — please G-d, please heal her” (Bamidbar 12). He prayed 414 prayers in order to enter together with Israel into the land.

The prayers for entering the land were not accepted. He had complete those which were answered. The liturgy of prayer which we have is built on this order. Leaving exile, entering the Land of Israel, progress within it fto redemption, blessing and peace. The gemara depicts this order as it is reflect in the blessings of Shemonei Esrei as they were coined by “120 elders, and among them numerous prophets” (Megillah 18b).

These men were the greatest sages of the Nation of Israel. They used ever hidden wisdom from generations ago of the Jewish Nation in order to reach the exact liturgy of prayer. They studied will the prophecies of Moshe and the other prophects. They delved into them deeply to know the Will of Hashem, His Plans. All this knowledge they layered into the words of the prayer. When we pray in the morning in this liturgy, we remind ourselves not just the process of the world, we remind ourselves what we must do today. When we acknowledge every morning before we do anything what the purpose and function of our activity. When we pray at the end of the day, we pray specifically that liturgy, we pray and inspect whether indeed we did what we thought in the morning. And we acknowledge what is incumbent on us to complete tomorrow.

The Power of Will

The essential purpose of prayer is to awaken our will so that is desired the Will of HQBH. To praise Hashem, to be connected to Him. When our will is attached to Hashem’s will — action is created. This influences thew will of other people. This influences reality. “Rabban Gamliel the son of Rabbi Yehudah haNasi would say: … Make His Will like your will, so that He will make your will like His Will. Nullify your will before His Will, so that He will nullify others’ will before your will.” (Avos 2:4)

The power of will is so strong that at times there is no need to move lips. Strong and true will is enough. “וְהָיָ֥ה טֶֽרֶם־יִקְרָ֖אוּ וַֽאֲנִ֣י אֶֽעֱנֶ֑ה ע֛וֹד הֵ֥ם מְדַבְּרִ֖ים וַֽאֲנִ֥י אֶשְׁמָֽע׃ — and it will be before they call I will answer; while they still speak, I will listen.” (Yeshaiah 65:24) However for most people this is not enough; they need also the utterance of the lips. Still in every case the Will is the deciding factor for all of them.

If a person doesn’t really want to go with Hashem — he won’t go. Therefore, the exodus from Egypt began only when they cried, when we truly wanted: “כג וַיְהִי֩ בַיָּמִ֨ים הָֽרַבִּ֜ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיָּ֨מָת֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם וַיֵּאָֽנְח֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִן־הָֽעֲבֹדָ֖ה וַיִּזְעָ֑קוּ וַתַּ֧עַל שַׁוְעָתָ֛ם אֶל־הָֽאֱ-לֹהִ֖ים מִן־הָֽעֲבֹדָֽה׃ כד וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים אֶת־נַֽאֲקָתָ֑ם וַיִּזְכֹּ֤ר אֱ-לֹהִים֙ אֶת־בְּרִית֔וֹ אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם אֶת־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃ כה וַיַּ֥רְא אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיֵּ֖דַע אֱ-לֹהִֽים׃ — And it was after many days and the King of Egypt died, and the Israelites wight from the slavery, and they cried out; and their plaint went up before G-d from the slavery. And G-d heard their groaning, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac with Jacob. And G-d saw the Benei Yisrael, and G-d Knew.” (Shemos 2)

The power of crying out

G-d wanted to bring them out even without crying. He wanted to fulfill his oath to the forefathers, but it is impossible to fulfill it without the will of the Nation of Israel. They are not an “object” that one moves from place to place. They have to want, to cry. It is hard to remove them from Egypt if they are tied to eggplant, zucchini and onions. [A reference to the lament in Bamidbar 11:5, when "the complainers" got tired of a steady diet of manna. -micha]

The truth is that also after the Benei Yisrael’s cry in Egypt there were levels on which the Benei Yisrael wanted to return to Egypt. ” נִתְּנָ֥ה רֹ֖אשׁ וְנָשׁ֥וּבָה מִצְרָֽיְמָה — let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt” (in the sin of the spies, Bamidbar 14:4) These moments were more dangerous than the war against Amaleiq. The Nation of Israel must guard the will of redemption for the entire length of the journey. The cry must be from the deeped place of a person. The most true. So that even if he grows tired and finds difficulties in the journey, he will not fail. “כִּ֣י ׀ ה֣’ אֱ-לֹהֶ֗יךָ ה֚וּא הַֽהֹלֵ֣ךְ עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א יַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֥א יַֽעַזְבֶֽךָּ׃ — For Hashem your G-d is the One Who goes with you, He will not fail you nor abandon you” (Devarim 31:6) — “He will not let you fail so that you leave Him.”

FOr this reason we pray every day three time. From the whole heart. With full intent. With full seriousness / will. When we do everything in our ability, HQBH will complete the work. “אֶ֭קְרָא לֵֽא-לֹהִ֣ים עֶלְי֑וֹן לָ֝אֵ֗-ל גֹּמֵ֥ר עָלָֽי׃ — I will call out to G-d Most High, to G-d who accomplishes it for me.” (Tehillim 57:3)

Amein. So may it be His Will.

HaGaon haRav Rishon leTzion Mordechai Tzemach ben Mazalzt”l

23 Adar I 5689 – 25 Sivan 5770

תהי נפשו צרורה בצרור החיים

The Pashkevil To End All Pashkevilin

R’ Yaakov Haber put this up at his blog, and I think it SO warrants further distribution, I’m mentioning it here.

To quote:

… [E]veryday there were posters about how, in the opinion of the poster maker, various rabbis, organizations or publications, created existential threats to the Jewish community.

There are also pashkevil about the dangers of attending public concerts. (Jewish music performed by Orthodox men and children with separate seating); the dangers of cell phones that have Internet access; and the dangers of certain books that expose the community to foreign concepts. … [N]ew pashkevil were just plastered around the city regarding a new Yeshivah for boys, that in the opinion of the plasterer, does not conform to the ‘long standing’ traditions of Ramat Beit Shemesh. (Ramat Beit Shemesh was founded in 1998).

Pashkevil’s are anonymous. Although they carry the signatures of great Rabbis, these signatures are dubious at best and have seldom been proven to be authentic. To my observation, they seldom accomplish anything positive, while they serve the purpose of promoting division and hate amongst Jews.

This is what the Chofetz Chaim said about Pashkevil’s:

“I must speak out my heart about the manner of conflict taking place among the Jewish people. One camp publicizes its view with the signatures of all of its backers. The other side does the same. One of them wrote ‘the one with the most signatures wins’, and I say the one with the most signatures is creating unnecessary conflict in Israel. All of Israel is burning like a fire as each side places more and more ads condemning their opposition. Even the holy land of Israel is becoming a subject of controversy. I don’t know who permitted all of these terrible sins. Everyone is sure that he is saying the truth and it is the other opinion that is creating the argument. This is a grave error, because even if both are right, they have no right to violate the Torah. So many mitzvos are being violated. No good can possibly come out of this. Right or wrong, they are creating a chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name). Twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva died in one month, not because they argued, but because they argued improperly and caused a chilul Hashem. Certainly each one of these giants felt that he was right.”

So, with the help of my esteemed congregation, Kehilas Shivtei Yeshurun in Ramat Beit Shemesh, I designed a pashkevil of my own. The pashkevil is a verbatim letter of the Chofetz Chaim, signed by the Chofetz Chaim. We will cover every Pashkevil we can find with our pashkevil.

This is the pashkevil to end all pashkevil!

I prevailed upon Rabbi Haber to make PDFs available of the pashkevil, suitable for printing up and posting in your own shul.

Click here for the Hebrew version, and here for the English one.

The Time of the Ivrim

Note this map of Israel, as it was divided into the territories for the various shevatim:

Map of Israel

The Tribes of Israel

There are two things odd about the south-west corner of the map. First, the Gaza Strip is not included, and second, the tribe of Shim’on lives in an island within Yehudah’s land.

These two are connected. Shim’on never succeeded in conquering its promised portion of Israel, and therefore settled within an empty part of the Judean desert.

This may be related to the story of Pinechas. The generation leaving the Sinai Desert encounter the people of Midian. The Midianim, realizing that the Jews were getting supernatural help, despair of attacking the Jews directly. Instead, they first try to employ Bil’am to curse us, and when that fails, they  insert a wedge between the Israelites and our G-d by promoting assimilation. They set up an idol of Baal Pe’or, a god of personal license, and the women of Midian went out to the Jewish camp and offered sex. Things got to the point where Zimri ben Salu, the head of one of Shim’on’s clans, went to bed with Kozbi vas Tzur, a Midianite princess. At that point Pinechas had to stop the downward trend and killed Zimri and Kozbi.

But we see that Shim’on entered Israel while still struggling with “ol malkhus Shamayim — the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven”. And this might explain their lack of success.

(This is likely also the basis of a Yiddishism. A luckless person who appears to be creating his own lack of success is a “shlemiel“. This is probably a reference to the nasi of Shim’on named in the beginning of Bamidbar, Shelumiel ben Tzurishadai. Shim’on being thought of as the luckless bumbler among the shevatim.)

However, the tribe of Shim’on was not alone. On this map, we see Dan just to the north of the Gaza strip up just until the area currently called “the Dan” — the environs of Tel Aviv. However, that’s not where they end up settling either!

We learn in Yehoshua pereq 19 that they instead headed north, and that is the land of Dan in biblical Hebrew. “From the Dan to Beer Sheva” is an idiom for the inhabited areas of Israel — Shofetim 20:1; Shemuel I 3:20, II 3:10; 17:11; 24:2, 15;

Shimshon haShofeit came from Dan (Shofetim 13:2) and is even called Bedan (Shemuel I 22:11, the identification of the two is in Rosh haShanah 25a). He leads the Jews who are living in the land of the Pelishtim (Shofetim 13:5) from Ashqelon (14:19) down through Azza.

The interesting part is the Shimshon’s downfall has related causes to those of the tribe of Shim’on. He intermarries when he weds Delilah, perhaps accidentally (not knowing her conversion was false, see Rambam Issurei Bi’ah 13:16), but still he lived with the influence of someone who didn’t buy into ol malkhus Shamayim. Sexuality also plays a role, as his first wife has an affair with one of the groomsmen shortly at the end of the wedding week (14:20) , and he too finds a zonah when he gets to the city of Azzah (16:1). The gemara (Sotah 9b) traces a pattern from this, to his love of Delilah, to his downfall.

Avraham is called an Ivri (Bereishis 14:13), literally referring to his descent from Eiver (R’ Nechemiah, Medrash Rabba 42:8) and/or his coming to Israel by “crossing” the Jordan (Rabbanan, ibid). Rabbi Yehudah (ibid) explains the connotation as his willingness even when the whole world is standing on the wrong side, to stand across from them on the side of Truth. We similarly find Yoseif called an Ivri when he resists the seduction of Potiphar’s wife (40:15). Ramban ad loc comments that Ivri is a term used for the Jewish People when we stand distinct.

The Jewish midwives in Egypt are the “meyaldos haIvrios” when they refuse Par’oh’s orders as are the women who refuse to give up their children (Shemos 1:15) — and the midwive’s resistance is attributed to their Yir’as Hashem (v. 17)

But the only time we as a people are called the Ivrim is…. in contrast to the Pelishtim, the people of Azza! “וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ שָׂרֵ֣י פְלִשְׁתִּ֔ים מָ֖ה הָֽעִבְרִ֣ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה — And the leaders of the Pelishtim said, “Who are these Ivrim? …” (Shemuel I 29:3) A stark contrast to the assimilationism of Shim’on and Shimshon / BeDan, who failed to conquer and hold on to the area.

In short, the southern coastline of Israel has always been a problem. It isn’t current events; Hamasistan has deep metaphysical roots.

And from what it appears, the healing of this problem requires a transition in which, as Rabbi Yehudah put it, “כל העולם כולו מעבר אחד, והוא מעבר אחד — the whole world is on one side, and he” — Abraham and the Jewish People — “is on one side.”