Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 3:32 AM
Subject: Netvort : parshas Beha'aloscha, 5767


                     By Rabbi Joshua (counterintuitively known as The Hoffer) Hoffman

  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.

  Reb 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 @

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