Monday, April 20, 2015

a few thoughts

1. Anyone who feels any connection to the world of YU/modern orthodoxy/religious Zionism in America or Israel must feel a profound sense of loss at the passing of R’ Aharon Lichtenstein. I have no doubt that if you were to ask anyone like myself too young to have seen the Rav for the name of a single individual who best personifies the blend of gadlus in Torah and intellectual greatness that a YU / Torah u'Mada /modern orthodox education should bring one to aspire to, if not achieve, that one name would be R’ Aharon Lichtenstein. An unbelievable loss.

2. Last week I mentioned the Ohr haChaim’s question of how Moshe could have missed the obvious distinction between kodshei sha’ah, which Aharon ate despite being in aninus, and kodshei doros, the korban of Rosh Chodesh, which Aharon reminded Moshe that he could not eat. The Ruzhiner offered a brilliant answer. The gemara (quoted by Rashi on chumash) tells us that the korban musaf of Rosh Chodesh is unique in that it is not a kapparah for us, but is a kapprah that Hashem asks us to bring on his behalf kavyachol for his diminishing the moon during ma’aseh braishis (see Maharal in Gur Aryeh and the Ishbitzer in Mei haShiloach for some perspective on what that means). We know that this difference between the sun and moon (again, whatever symbolic meaning that has) is temporary in nature. At the time of geulah the moon will be restored to its original size and glory. Moshe therefore saw the musaf of Rosh Chodesh as kodshei sha’ah as well. It was because Moshe had greater, not lesser vision that he missed the distinction that Aharon drew.

3. Rashi comments on “banav hanosarim” (10:12) that Elazar and Isamar deserved punishment as much as Nadav and Avihu did, but were spared. The pashtus I assume is that the derasha is based on the extra word “nosarim,” but that just begs the question of why Rashi wasn’t also bothered by the extra word “banav.” HaKsav v’haKabbalah as usual has an interesting linguistic insight. We have two words in the Torah for something leftover/remaining: 1) nishar, 2) nosar. What’s the difference? Nishar means the more important thing was left behind. “Vayisha’aru shenei anashim bamachaneh…” – Eldad and Meided were greater than their peers, as they alone remained prophesizing. “Vayisha’er ach Noach” – Noach alone remained after the flood and everyone else was destroyed. The word nosar means the less important thing was left. That’s exactly why we call the leftover portion of a korban that was not eaten and now must be disposed of “nosar.” Even though Elazar and Isamar were spared punishment, they were not “nisharim,” not more distinguished or more worthy, but were merely “nosarim.” 

4. The simple pshat in “vayishma Moshe vayeitiv b’einav,” (10:20) is that Aharon’s sevara or Aharon himself (see Ohr haChaim) found favor in Moshe’s eyes – the subject of “vayitav” is Aharon, the predicate of “b’einav” is Moshe. The Targum Yonasan learns the pshat a little differently. He adds that Moshe made a public service announcement and spread the word that he was in error and Aharon was correct. The Peirush Yonasan explains that the T.Y. learned that Moshe, not Aharon was the subject of “vayitav” – Moshe did something to make himself “tov,” to make amends to Aharon and regain favor in his eyes after previously criticizing him. I think there is a third way to read the pasuk. The Targum Yerushalmi adds a few extra words and says that Moshe received schar for his willingness to publicly admit error and acknowledge that Aharon was correct. Why the need to mention that Moshe got rewarded here?  I think the Targum Yerushalmi read “vayitav b’einav” as meaning that Moshe found favor in G-d’s eyes.


  1. You can learn pashtus that "banav" therefore chayav misah; "hanosarim" but nevertheless spared through the tefilla of Moshe. In any case, the vort of the HaKsav veHaKabbalah is relevant.

  2. Even some of us who don't have any connection to YU/MO feel a profound sense of loss.