Monday, June 11, 2012

Abarbanel on Miram's complaint

The Abarbanel always seems to have something interesting to say on difficult parshiyos. From the Ramban down to Achronim, everyone is bothered by what the pasuk, "V'ha'ish Moshe anav me'od..." has to do with Miriam's sin of speaking against Moshe and her punishment. Abarbanel explains that the question only arises because we put the punctuation in the wrong place. The usual reading of the pesukim is,"Vayomru," Miriam and Aharon said, "Harak b'Moshe dibeir Hashem...." Did Hashem speak only to Moshe? -- end quotation marks.  New topic: "VaYishma Hashem," Hashem's heard their lashon ha'ra, which is then followed by the enigmatic, "V'ha'ish Moshe anav..."  Move the quotation marks, writes Abarbanel, and you have a completely different meaning. "VaYomru" -- start quotation marks -- "Harak b'Moshe...VaYishma Hashem... V'haish Moshe" -- close quotation marks. The entire contents of pesukim 11:2-3, including "V'ha'ish Moshe anav," are Miriam's words!

There are three possible reasons that Moshe might have separated from Tziporah: 1) Moshe did not reallylike her; 2) Moshe's status as a Navi precluded his having a relationship; 3) Moshe was personally disinclined to have a relationship because he felt he should dedicate himself exclusively to Hashem. Miriam's intent was to show that all three of these excuses were invalid.

1) "Ki isha kushis lakach" -- Moshe, you knew she was a kushis when you married her and had two kids.  Too late to complain about that now. 

2) "Harak b'Moshe... VaYishma Hashem" -- Being a Navi does not preclude having a wife; we are also Nevi'im, Hashem also listens to us, and we remain married.

3) "V'ha'ish Moshe anav me'od?" -- Are you Moshe more humble, more special, than everyone else, that you think you should behave differently than the rest of the world? (The 'hey' of 'ha'ish' is not a 'hey hayedi'ah' but rather is a 'hey' that indicates a question.)


  1. According to this, there is no indication in the Torah that Moshe was indeed עניו מכל ...

  2. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Va'Yishma Hashem

    1) heard nothing from Moshe (from his mouth, nor from his heart!) in his
    own defense, because he was most humble;
    2) listened to the hearts of all the earth [took an instant Global Survey, as only He can], & heard that no man anywhere was to be found so humbly in the hearts of so many, as Moshe*; this then was very serious business, accusing Moshe of holding himself superior to others to whom Hashem had spoken, when Bnei Yisrael (the public) in their hearts (& in their tents?) held ish ha-Elokim to be so humble...

    *related to 'he who is of pleasing spirit to others, is of pleasing spirit to Hashem' (Avos 3:13)

  3. great Unknown4:15 PM

    re anonymous @2:47
    1) not necessarily. When people insult me, I don't respond because I look at it as little puppies snapping at the heels of a giant. Cute, but only worthy of a moment's condescending notice. Not even as significant as mosquitoes.
    2) Chazal tell us that many of Bnei Yisroel felt that Moshe was arrogant. Korach and his gang went so far as to extend that to arrogation.

    1. Anonymous11:37 PM

      Moshe's self-defense in the matter of Korach, that he stole no
      donkey nor did any wrong, is an exception that proves the rule:
      guilt feelings, borne of Moshe's necessary* dominance, overcame his humility even as they underscored it, such that he unnecessarily pleaded the obvious to Hashem (in pasuk 16:15)

      *not the selfish dominance as charged by the rebels

    2. great Unknown1:24 PM

      Granted, your interpretation is a possible explanation, but according to the Abarbanel's approach, one with no backing in the Torah. It is just that the understanding of all of the other commentaries have established a reputation for Moshe of being humble.

      According to the Abarbanel, there is no support for this "legendary".

      Note that after the congregation of Korach was annihilated, the Jews accused Moshe and Aharon of "killing the Nation of G-d." This does not indicate a high level of respect for Moshe. This disrespect/suspicion is also noted in the Gemora in Sotah.

    3. Anonymous5:22 PM

      the people, so often rebellious, at times intend teshuva--
      it was at just such a time that Hashem read of Moshe in the
      lining of their hearts (perhaps Miriam was so wise/sensitive
      as to time her challenge to Moshe to when the people were in
      one of their passing moods of return*, so that her brother
      would not then have the popular judgement going against him,
      in addition to her's?);
      so long as the people see Hashem as threatening or even as
      outright damaging, rather than humble, & see Moshe by
      extension/association as His guilty accomplice, they gripe
      at him; when they're feeling penitent (& so Hashem no longer feels threatening to them), then they know Moshe more
      clearly in his humility

      *feeling more than usually upwardly included in Moshe's
      thoughts, 11:29? feeling duly chided by the quail crisis?

      {if Abarbanel were to ask, "what in the world has any of this to do with my punctuation solution?", he'd be easily

  4. chaim b.10:18 PM

    >>>According to this, there is no indication in the Torah that Moshe was indeed עניו מכל ...

    Who says there has to be? Just because we were all brought up to read this pasuk as G-d's words and not Miriam's doesn't mean al pi pshuto shel mikra it has to be that way.

    1. I agree. But then, I repeat my question: how do we know that Moshe was an עניו?

    2. Upon further consideration, the Abarbanel could infer the עניוות of Moshe from ונחנו מה

  5. Anonymous3:45 AM

    if Moshe was arrogance incarnate, still, he submitted that
    gaavah to His Great Purpose...

    he had lived a pampered life, bedecked with jewels in an Egyptian
    palace, stationed far above his slaving brothers; & he alone of all men was beamed with Chochmah, adorned with Torah, The Crown Jewel, during
    suspended animation* atop the mount...

    *the ratio of Moshe's pulse in the palace to the pulse of the slaves,
    equaled the ratio of his pulse on har Sinai, to the pulse of free men
    at ease (or increasingly tense with anticipation?) in the base camp