When Moshe complained to Hashem, “Lamah ha’rei’osa l’am hazeh lamah zeh shi’lachtani,” Hashem responded that Moshe would see what would be done to Pharoah. Rashi writes that Hashem was alluding to Moshe that he would only see the makkos, but would not see what happens to the 31 kings in Canaan.
Was Moshe being punished for sticking up for Bnei Yisrael? See last week’s post for the Shem m’Shmuel’s pshat. The pashtus is that Moshe was indeed being punished for his words, but the Pnei Menachem suggests the opposite meaning here. Moshe Rabeinu was so great that his neshoma exerts an influence on all future doros, not just on his immediate historical context in his lifetime. When the gemara uses the expression, “Moshe – shapir ka’amart,” to praise an amora who said a sharp sevara, the appellation Moshe is used because Chazal were identifying something of Moshe’s neshoma speaking through that person. What Hashem was telling Moshe here is that he does not need to be physically alive to see the conquest of Eretz Yisrael – his influence is so great that even after death, it will still be felt. This is very far from the pshat, but it shows you the degree to which the meforshim go to give credit to Moshe for sticking up for Klal Yisrael and to defend Moshe’s reputation.
A long time ago I posted a piece based on the Noam Elimelch on why the Torah uses the expression “vayei’aser lo Hashem” when describing Hashem’s response to Yitzchak’s tefilah for children. Chazal explain the word “va’yei’aser” as having the same root as a-t-r, a pitchfork, which is used to turn over the pile of wheat top to bottom. It sounds like there was something unusual about Hashem responding to Yitzchak’s tefilah, some major change that had to happen to turn things over. Why should that be so?
The Noam Elimelech explains that because tzadikim have their head upstairs, they see things from a very different perspective. A regular person would undoubtedly be troubled and pained beyond belief if he/she didn’t have children. Yitzchak Avinu, however, accepted that if the ratzon Hashem was for things to be that way, then that’s the way it is. He might daven for the sake of having a child because that would be a means to be marbeh kvod shamayim, but personal want did not enter into the equation. “Vayei’aser lo Hashem” means Hashem had to change that perspective. Yitzchak had to be turned over -- upside down, so to speak. Yitzchak had to feel human want and connect to it, and only then would his tefilos carry the necessary power to bring him children.
Why do I revisit this idea? When Klal Yisrael is suffering, a tzadik knows one thing: kol d’avid Rachmana l’tav avid -- whatever happens, this is the best way for things to be. If that’s the perspective you have, then how do you daven for it to be any other way? We read in Megillas Esther, “U’Mordechai yada es kol asher na’asah vayilbash sak v’eifer.” What did Mordechai know that no one else knew? Everybody knew what Haman was planning! The Sefas Emes explains that Mordechai knew kol d’avid Rachamana l’tav avid and nothing bad would come from Haman’s plans. If you see tzarah from that transcendent perspective, then there is nothing to ask for. Nonetheless, despite what he knew, “vayilbash sak v’eifer,” he empathized with the pain of Klal Yisrael, and for their sake, because they were experiencing suffering, he davened on their behalf. That transcendent perspective has to be put on the back burner, out of mind, otherwise it is an obstacle to prayer.
The Sefas Emes (quoted in the hakdamah to the Pardes Yosef on Shmos) explains that this was Moshe Rabeinu’s complaint. Moshe knew that kol d’avid Rachmana l’tav avid, and whatever happened to Klal Yisrael, it was only for the sake of making them better and completing the galus. But if that’s your perspective, it’s that much more difficult to pray. Moshe Rabeinu complained, “Why did you send me?” Why not send a lesser person who would more naturally feel the pain of Klal Yisrael, who would more naturally empathize with their suffering, who would be able to give voice to their feelings better? Why not send someone who does not see kol d’avid Rachamana l’tav avid so vividly and who can therefore pray better?
But of course, it’s davka because Moshe has such complaints that he is the best messenger.
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