Friday, May 29, 2015

who says carrying the Mishkan should be easy?

It has been a miserable week at work so I have little to say. Two small points:

1) Rashi writes (5:12) that the Torah uses the word “tisteh” in “ish ish ki tisteh ishto” to suggest that the sotah is guilty of being “tat m’darkei hatzeniyus.” “Tat m’darkei hatzeniyus” sounds like instead of a skirt that reaches three inches below the knee, the sotah wore a skirt only three inches below – a small turn away from the standard of modesty. But that’s not what we’re talking about. The sotah was guilty of violating (at a minimum) the issur of yichud after being specifically warned by her husband not to do so. Why such a benign phrase for an egregious crime?

It’s the slippery slope phenomenon. The situation did not deteriorate to the point where there was kinuy, stirah, and a breach of yichud overnight – it started with small things, with “tat b’darkei hatzeniyus.” Once the snowball starts going down that path, it picks up momentum on its own. The things that happen latter may be said to be almost an inevitable outcome by that point. The guilt the sotah bears is for starting the snowball rolling.

2) There is a machlokes in our parsha between Moshe Rabeinu and the Nesi’im and the Nesi’im won the debate. The Nesi’im brought wagons as a gift to the Mishkan, but at least at first Moshe did not want to accept them. It was only when Hashem gave the OK that he took the gift. The aron was carried by the Levi’im themselves, so it’s only natural that Moshe would have thought the rest of the Mishkan being carried by Levi’im would be the ideal. What was the thinking of the Nesi’im? The Shem m’Shmuel explains that the Nesi’im wanted to prove that the keduhas haMishkan could extend down to the world of the behamis as well. The klei haMishkan were not lowered in stature because they were carried in wagons pulled by animals; those wagons and animals were raised in stature. I can tell you that most days at my job I feel more like a beheima schlepping a wagon than a human being. The Nesi’im want people like me to remember we can connect to the Mishkan even in that state.

That’s a very chassidishe pshat. In half a line the Ne’os Desheh offers a different perspective that has more mussar appeal (even though it’s coming from Ishbitz). The Nesi’im gave wagons because they wanted to help make life easier for the Levi’im. Moshe Rabeinu didn’t understand: who says life, especially a life dedicated to avodas Hashem, should be easy? Who says it’s not better for the Levi’im to have to sweat a little under the burden of the beams? Hashem allowed the gift for whatever reasons he allowed it, but I don’t think that means Moshe Rabeinu didn’t have a point. I am sure my teenage children will disagree : )

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