Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 3:32
Subject: Netvort : parshas
By Rabbi Joshua (counterintuitively known as The Hoffer)
The Ramban, in the letter that he wrote to his son
toward the end of his life, presents a program for development of character. The
best character trait of all, he tells his son, is that of anavah, or humility.
In order to develop that trait, however, it is first necessary to remove the
trait of anger from within oneself. That trait, he says, is a bad one, and
causes man to sin. Once that negative trait is removed, he will be filled with
humility, which leads to fear of God. In light of this teaching of the Ramban,
we need to understand the events recorded at the end of this week's pasha,
which, at first blush, would seem to contradict what he wrote to his son.
The Torah tells us that the people complained to Moshe about
the manna they were receiving, and asked for meat. Moshe turned to God and asked
where he will get the meat to feed this large group of people. God tells him to
tell the people to prepare to eat so much meat for the next thirty days that it
will eventually come out of their noses. Moshe asks, "six hundred thousand foot
soldiers are the people in whose midst I am, yet you say I shall give them meat
and they shall eat for a month of days. Can sheep and cattle be slaughtered for
them and suffice for them?" (Bamidbar 11:21-22). God, in response, told Moshe,
"Is the hand of God too short? Now you will see if what I said shall happen to
you or not" (Bamidbar 11:23). Rashi brings two opinions concerning the nature of
Moshe's remarks to God. According to the opinion of Rabbi Akiva, the remarks are
to be interpreted literally, and, in actuality, what Moshe said on this occasion
was worse than what he said at the incident of the waters of Meribah, and
deserved the punishment of being excluded from entering Eretz Yisroel. However,
since the remarks were made in private, God did not punish him for the remarks
he made here, but, rather, for his behavior at the later incident. In both
instances, we find Moshe Rabbeinu becoming enraged, and saying inappropriate
things as a result of his anger. In fact, the Rambam, in his Shemoneh Perokim,
writes that Moshe's sin at the Mei Meribah was that he displayed anger when he
wasn't supposed to. According to Rabbi Akiva, Moshe's remarks in connection with
the people's request for meat, which were also made out of anger, were even
worse than his remarks at the Mei Meribah. Following this approach, the
incidents recorded in the Torah following this one are very hard to understand.
The Torah tells us that Moshe, on God's instructions,
selected seventy men to serve as his assistants. God then bestowed His spirit
upon these people, and they prophesied. After that, two more people, Eldad and
Medad, who remained in the camp, prophesied as well. Yehoshua, seeing this, felt
it was an affront to Moshe, and told him to lock them in jail. Moshe answered, "
Are you being jealous for my sake? Would that the entire people of God could be
prophets, if God would but place His spirit upon them" (Bamidbar 11:29). Moshe
here appears to be the quintessential anav, or humble person, not arrogating the
power or prophecy to himself, but wishing that the entire people be afforded the
ability to become prophets. According to the remarks of the Ramban to his son in
his letter, it is hard to understand how Moshe, exactly after having spoken to
God in anger, reached this level of humility.
Moreover, in the next
incident, the last episode in the parsha, Miriam and Aharon speak in criticism
of Moshe, and the Torah then remarks that Moshe was the most humble of all men
on the face of the earth. According to Rabbeinu Nissim in his Dearashos HaRan,
Moshe was actually present when his siblings spoke about him, and he didn't
react, thus generating this comment about his character. Again, how, according
to the Ramban, was Moshe able to achieve this level of humility so soon after
expressing the great degree of anger that he did in connection with the people's
complaints? I believe that we can answer these questions based on a teaching of
Reb Zadok HaKohein of Lublin in his work Tzidkas HaTzadik.
Zadok writes that if a person sees that he is having an especially difficult
time in controlling a certain trait or refraining from a certain kind of action,
he should not view this as a sign of weakness on his part. Rather, he should
view it as an indication from Heaven that it is precisely in this area that he
has the greatest potential for growth. The difficulties he is experiencing are a
means for him to apply greater effort in overcoming the challenge, and
developing that trait in which he, in fact, has the greatest potential to grow.
Based on this teaching, we can now understand that it was precisely after Moshe
uttered the harshest words of his life out of anger with the situation facing
him that he was able to then exercise control over this trait, and thereby apply
himself to remove that negative trait, and develop the supreme trait of humility
for which the torah praised him.
Please address all
correspondence to the author (Rabbi Hoffman) with the following address -
JoshHoff @ AOL.com.
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