Friday, January 15, 2010

some thoughts of R' Shteinman on Parshas Va'Eira

A few quick thoughts on the parsha:

1) Rashi interprets the pesukim at the beginning of the parsha as an admonishment to Moshe for complaining about the suffering of Bnei Yisrael. Hashem contrasts Moshe with the Avos, none of whom bemoaned their suffering, e.g. Avraham did not complain at having to pay top dollar for Me’aras haMachpeilah. Rav Shteinman in his Ayeles haShachar questions this comparison – surely the added affliction of the Jewish people is far more disturbing than extra cost for a piece of property! He does not offer an answer.

2) Rashi (7:3) indicates that the punishment of the Egyptians was supposed to ellicit a response of tshuvah from Bnei Yisrael. Obviously the Egyptians deserved punishment for their wrongdoing irrespective of whether Bnei Yisrael learned any lesson from their fate -- Bnei Yisrael being moved to tshuvah is a consequence, not a reason for the Egyptians’ suffering.

R’ Shteinman quotes R’ Simcha Zisel of Kelm as explaining that the descendents of Haman merited to learn Torah in Bnei Brak because Haman served as the instrument which led BN”Y to tshuvah. R’ Shteinman questions this idea. Can a rasha accrue merit for a wicked deed just because some unintended good emerges as a consequence? Does it make sense to say that Nimrod deserves credit for tossing Avraham into the kivshan because as a result Avraham’s fame spread far and wide?

3) On the topic of the hardening of Pharoah’s heart, R’ Shteinman notes that at first glance the ability of Pharaoh to resist is a great chilul Hashem. Pharoah undoubtedly thought he was going to come out the winner in this contest against Moshe and G-d and rallied his people around that idea. It’s only in retrospect, after all the makkos are over, that we appreciate that Pharoah was only being given those kochos of resistance to setup a bigger knockout punch at the end. “Kol po’al Hashem l’ma’anei’hu” means that all that occurs, even that which superficially appears to be a chilul Hashem, in the end fits into the larger plan of kiddush Hashem.

4) Pharoah is chastised for not listening to Moshe, “V’hinei lo shamata ad koh” (7:16). Obedience to a Navi's message is one of the 613 mitzvos, not one of the 7 mitzvos bnei Noach, so why should Pharoah have listened? R’ Shteinman explains that the truth of Moshe’s shlichus was a matter of inescapable and irrefutable logic; Pharoah should have obeyed because Moshe was obviously an agent of Hashem. "Nikarim divrei emes" is a mechayeiv in this context.

R’ Shteinman’s question made me think of Bilam, prophet to the nations of the world. There clearly is a chalos of nevuah, a position and status of navi, that exists globally, yet I am not sure what meaning such a position would have if there is no mitzvah on a ben Noach to listen to the navi.


  1. >> ....that which superficially appears to be a chilul Hashem, in the end fits into the larger plan of kiddush Hashem

    Yet we still find that Moshe when defending Klal Yisroel by teh Eigel argued that destroying the B'nei Yisroel would cause a chilul Hashem.

  2. I don't understand -- if someone is drowning, do you stand by idly and say that what is happening must ultimately be for the purpose of kiddush Hashem? Moshe Rabeinu saw Klal Yisrael drowning.
    How Hashem responds to our ta'anos and impressions about what the bigger kiddush Hashem is or isn't is His cheshbon, but we can still ask the question and/or give voice to our ta'anah.

  3. Anonymous1:08 PM

    in regards to chiyuv to listen to navi for ben noach, i think i saw once an issue if ben noach is metzuvah on emuna, if yes, maybe that'd be the pshat?

  4. Tamir3:35 PM

    Chaim B.: I don't understand -- if someone is drowning, do you stand by idly and say that what is happening must ultimately be for the purpose of kiddush Hashem? Moshe Rabeinu saw Klal Yisrael drowning.

    I don't know: Avraham Aviu, in Aqedat Yischaq, wasn't just asked to "stand by idly and say that what is happening must ultimately be for the purpose of kiddush Hashem", but, to extend your metaphor, hold hold his son's head down under the water, as well. And, he was willing to go through with it.

    Also, are you saying that arguing that "destroying the B'nei Yisroel would cause a chilul Hashem" was just a ruse to get Kelal Yisra'el off the hook ?
    If not, Chaim Markowitz's point, that Moshe Rabenu didn't submit to this "larger plan of kiddush Hashem" idea, still holds. Otherwise, who was he to question what "veE'ese Otekha leGoy Gadol" would lead to ?

  5. Tamir -- I did not think the Avos were a ra'ya as they either had a din yisrael or accepted upon themselves mitzvos of a yisrael. Secondly, the Chasam Sofer writes that this gufa is why we refer to the nisayon of the akeidah as akeidas *Yitzchak* -- Avraham heard the tzivuy directly from Hashem, but Yitchak trusted in the nevuah he knew about only through mesorah.
    I think included in R' Shteinman's idea is that it is part of the mitzvah of emunah.
    Lastly, what I meant in response to C.M. was that belief in there being a larger plan does not prevent our making appropriate hishtadlus -- including tefilah of the sort Moshe made -- to bring about what we think is the correct result.

  6. couple of thoughts...

    1. This is a din in the gavra, not the cheftza. Avrohom's suffering vs Moshe's suffering

    2. Every evil person has a front - a shop window. They also have a back office where they perpertrate their evil. haman's descendants davka were lomed torah because the front became so thick and well developed that this is all that they picked up.

    The evil dissipates.

    3. This is not a chillul hashem, aderaba, it is a kiddush hashem. Hashem could have changed Pharoh into a frog and the benei yisroel could have just walked out of mitzraim, but He didn't. Why did He have wage war against Pharoh? The medrash states that the eser makos were analogous to a army that first cuts off the enemies water supply etc.

    Moshe and Aharon were commanded to treat Pharoh with respect - almost as an equal - kaveyachol - with Hashem.

    Gufa by waging war against Phasroh who was the dominant world leader was shem shamayim niskadesh and kovod hashem created.

    4. The criticism of Pharoh is not mitzad chiyuv - as is evident throughout the entire dialog Pharoh is given an even footing. Hashem was angry with Pharoh.

    If I am angry with you, that does not mean you have a chiyuv to listen to me, it means that you have wronged me.

    We see this in the last nevuah which Moshe gave to Pharoh where Moshe walked out bechori af - Moshe was angry not becuase Pharoh did not do a mitzva - rather this was an interpersonal engagement with Pharoh.

    pc :-)

  7. Tal Benschar7:31 PM

    With respect to Q #1, WADR I think the question misses the point of what Rashi is saying. The criticism against Moshe wasn't because he bemoaned the suffering of Bnei Yisroel. The criticism, rather, is that he doubted his whole shelichus and Hashem's determination to carry out his promise to redeem the Jewish people. Moshe did not merely cry over the suffering of the Jews (lama hareota la'am ha zeh) but questioned his mission. (lama zeh shelachtani). The suffering per se was not the issue (they already suffered before Moshe appeared on the scene) but the fact that Moshe had only made things worse and the geulah appeared farther than ever.

    That is the contrast with the Avos. They were promised things which Hashem never fulfilled in their lifetimes. In fact, events happened which "rubbed in" the fact that the promise had not been kept (such as Avraham having to pay top dollar for land promised to him and his children). Yet the Avos never doubted that Hashem would fufill his promise.

    Moshe, OTOH, doubts his mission at the first sign of real trouble -- he admonishes Pharaoh, and Pharaoh increses the work of BY.
    (See the second Rashi on possuk 1 -- "I am faithful to reward those who follow me, and not for nothing did I send you.")

    In fact, the psukim afterwards emphasize this point -- Hashem only appeared to the Avos "be el Shaddai" -- Hashem made many promise -- but not with his name YKVK -- which represents the middah of fulfillment of the promises. (See Rashi on possuk 2).