Wednesday, May 30, 2012

no argument

Rashi alludes to the Midrash that Moshe was hesitant to tell each  of the degalim where they should camp.  "If I tell tribe X to camp in the North," Moshe said to Hashem, "They will ask me why not in the South.  If I tell them to camp in the South, they will ask me why not in the North."  (Sounds like your typical shul.)  Hashem told Moshe that he has nothing to worry about because Bnei Yisrael already knew exactly how to arrange the camp, as they had been assigned positions by Ya'akov Avinu when they carried his coffin out of Mitzrayim.
Moshe Rabeinu must have known that the shevatim had been assigned positions by Ya'akov, and yet he still felt arguments would erupt.  Moshe felt that he needed to offer people some kind of explanation, some kind of justification, some reason why one sheivet should camp here and not there, or vice versa.  Yet Moshe was wrong. Hashem reassured him that the people will willingly accept their place based simply on the way things were done before, even if he couldn't provide a good reason for it.   The anticipation of having to offer rationalizations or explanations that may be difficult to come by is sometimes itself the only obstacle to getting things done.  Certain practices are built into our Jewish DNA from way back and need no justification beyond that strength of precedent.  

Why is it that Moshe anticipated arguments to whatever arrangement he proposed while Ya'akov's word on the matter was accepted (as Moshe knew) without question?  I think the answer is that our forefather is known as Ya'akov Avinu, but Moshe is Moshe Rabeinu.  As great a rebbe as Moshe was, he knew that Ya'akov as a father can ask of his children and get their agreement even where he stood no chance.



  1. To add to what you said...

    Somewhere in Bemidbar, the children of Aharon are listed as the children of Aharon and Mosheh. Rashi says that teaching someone makes him like your son. I recently saw a discussion (I can't remember where) why all of BN"Y aren't called Mosheh's children, since he taught all of them. The answer I saw there was that this only applies to a rebbe muvhak. The implication is that Mosheh wasn't the rebbe muvhak of everyone in BN"Y.

    The way you answered, you seemed to imply that it was more of a psychological thing. But the truth, as it appears to me, is that it actually can be the halachah: As Yaakov's sons, they were obligated to listen to his instructions (kibud). However, BN"Y were not required to give Mosheh more kibud than an ordinary talmid chacham.

    That is how it appears to me.

  2. Anonymous11:17 PM

    perhaps Moshe suspected there was a flaw* in the equation,
    coffin = mishkan? doing things "the way [they] were done before", as in
    the shevatim's long past funeral arrangement, can be deadly, can render
    things but ever-replicating, overly inertial parts of the same old story;
    the aron hakodesh was no burial box, but the site (from between the
    cheruvim) of pulsating news from the Living G-d...
    {Hashem told Moshe that in this case the people would prefer the security
    of established pattern--same old dad (same old x)-- to unheard of explanations from a rav}

    *or flaws, for a shevet's relation to Ya'akov (& so to other shevatim) might differ somehow from that same shevet's relation to Hashem (& so to the other shevatim); otherwise said, Hashem's (the mishkan's) relation to the 12 might've differed from Ya'akov's (the coffin's)

  3. Anonymous3:10 PM

    of course one can argue for the soundness of the equation, coffin =
    mishkan : that one should become in his person a living sefer Torah +
    Ya'akov's body never decomposed = the coffin housed a living (lasting)
    sefer = the luchos of the aron; or backwards from the luchos, bones
    to the surrounding tribal flesh (& that Moshe, who carried the tablets down the mountain, carried too the righteous bones of Yosef);
    "so that bones that You have crushed [1st luchos] rejoice [2nd luchos]",
    tehillim 51:10

    one can also read from the juxtaposition multiple warnings-- on the one
    tzad, that the Torah must not become a dead letter; on the other side,
    that the luchos are in some sense in repose, are resting in peace, & had
    better not be disinterred from the aron/mishkan-mikdash (just as bones once buried had better remain undisturbed)