Sent:                               Friday, June 13, 2008 5:48 AM


Subject:                          Netvort:parshas Behaaloscha, 5768


                                                                  Who, Me ? 
                         By Rabbi Joshua (questionably known as The Hoffer) Hoffman


In honor of Avigayil Hefter,who was born in Yerushalayim last Friday, and her parents,my nephew Yisroel Meir Hefter and his wife, Tova, of Yerushalayim. May she grow to be a source of nachas to her parents,her wider family and all of klal Yisroel.


After the nation complains to Moshe about their food provisions, and asks fort meat, Moshe asks God to relieve him of the burden of caring for them, which, he feels is beyond his own ability. God tells Moshe to gather seventy elders from the congregation, and that He will come down and speak to Moshe, and increase from his spirit onto the seventy elders. How was this supposed to help Moshe in dealing with the people? On a simple level, these seventy elders, who were now endowed with the ability to prophesy, would assist Moshe in dealing with the burdens of the nation. However, we do not find, in the subsequent parshas of the Torah, that this, in fact, ever happened. Moreover, this approach does not explain how the frustration that Moshe had with the complaints of the people would be alleviated. If the complaints themselves bothered him and led him to doubt his own leadership abilities, how would the addition of seventy aids bolster his self- image and make him realize that he could continue as their leader?


Perhaps we can explain that Moshe was plagued by self- doubt in his own abilities since the people did not want to follow him into the land, and therefore he asked God to find someone else more worthy. Therefore, God wanted to demonstrate to Moshe that he did, in fact, have the ability to lead them. He did so by endowing the seventy elders with prophecy by merely extending the power of prophecy that Moshe had onto the elders. Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra explains that the process was akin to  lighting many flames from a single flame. God was trying to show Moshe that if all of these people were able to prophecy merely by tapping into his power of prophecy, he certainly had within him the ability to continue leading the nation. Interestingly, the Torah said that these elders prophesied, and ' velo yasafu,' they did not continue, as Rashi explains in one of his two interpretations. The Kesav Sofer explains that since this prophecy was only needed for a particular time, and was not the kind of prophecy that is attained through one's own personal development, it did not continue beyond the time that it was actually needed. Thus, there was only a need for these elders to prophesy at that particular moment, in order to give encouragement to Moshe in believing in his own abilities to continue in his leadership role.


There were two exceptions to the case of the elders, people who merited prophesy in their  own right, and these were the two people identified in the Torah as Eldad and Medad. As explained by Rashi, when they saw that their names were written on slips of paper which identified those who would prophesy, they did not deem themselves worthy , and left the vicinity of Moshe and the elders and walked in to the area of the encampment, where they began to prophesy on their own.As Rav Moshe Sternbuch explains in his work  Ta'am Va Da'as, this means that they attained prophesy on their own merits, following a process of self- development . When Yehoshua heard them and went to Moshe to stop them, he answered, " would that all the nation of God would be prophets." In this statement, Moshe was articulating his goal for the Jewish nation, which was for them to reach the level of prophets. Perhaps this helps explain why he was so frustrated with their complaints over their food supply. These complaints indicated that the people were not, in fact, striving to elevate themselves and attain prophecy, but were rather, focused on their material needs. The episode of the seventy elders, and the subsequent incident with Eldad and Medad, demonstrated to Moshe that he still had the ability to lead others to prophecy, and, moreover, that there were still people among the nation who were themselves striving to reach a higher level in their relationship with God, thus vindicating his deepest wishes for the nation. . 




Netvort archives are temporarily available at

  Please address all correspondence to the author (Rabbi Hoffman) with the following address - JoshHoff @

  To subscribe to Netvort, send a message with subject line subscribe, to To unsubscribe, send message with subject line unsubscribe, to the same address.


Vote for your city's best dining and nightlife. City's Best 2008.