Thursday, June 29, 2017

vayishlach malachim -- messengers of Ya'akov, messengers of Moshe

So much is going on in the parsha, and there is no little time to write!

"Vayishlach Ya'akov malachaim el Eisav achiv..."  I know -- wrong parsha.  But not really -- as we'll see.  "Im Lavan garti..."  I fulfilled my mission.  I kept Torah and mitzvos even in Lavan's home; I came away unscathed.  I've achieved my tikun.  Now that I've perfected myself, I can reach out to you, Eisav my brother, and help you maybe achieve your tikun.  "Vayishlach Moshe malachim mi'Kadesh el Melech Edom..."  (20:14).  Moshe too sends messengers, and they come to the king of Edom and give him a history lesson.  Look at how "achicha Yisrael," your brother Klal Yisrael suffered in Egypt until we were redeemed by G-d.  Rashi suggests that Moshe emphasized brotherhood to hint to Edom that as brothers they should have shared the burden of slavery, but they did not -- only we carried that burden.  Therefore, Edom, you owe us one.  Meshech Chochma suggests that Moshe's point was that we were redeemed by G-d; we did not incite rebellion against Egypt.  There is no danger of letting us pass through your country, Edom; we do not cause trouble.  No executive order or wall is needed.  But Sefas Emes recognizes the parallel language to Ya'akov's shlichus, a shlichus that reverberates throughout history.  We suffered in Egypt and as a nation went through a process of tikun.  We are on the way to fulfill our destiny.  Maybe this time, Edom, you will help us and in doing so, help yourself achieve your own tikun. 

G-d tells Moshe in our parsha to tell Aharon that his time has come.  "Vaya'as Moshe ka'asher tzivah Hashem."  (20:17)  Moshe prepared Aharon for death, faithfully fulfilling G-d's command, no matter how difficult it might have been for him (Rashi).  If it was difficult for Moshe, how much more difficult it must have been for Aharon -- after all, he was the one who was going to die!  Yet, the pasuk only speaks about Moshe.  Did Aharon not know what was going to happen?  Sefas Emes explains that it was not the death of Aharon per se that troubled Moshe.  What bothered Moshe is that he saw the chain of events that would unfold without Aharon: the dissipation of the ananei ha'kavod, the attack of Amalek/Cana'an, the complaints of the people that would follow.  His beloved Klal Yisrael would suffer.  As hard as death is, sometimes life for those who remain behind, struggling to cope and come to terms with loss, with a different, changed existence and set of relationships, can be just as hard. 

So Aharon died and Canaan attacked.  "Vayishb mimenu shevi," they took a captive.  "Alisa la'marom shavisa shevi..." (Teh 68:19)   Chazal tell us that when Moshe went upstairs to get the Torah, it was being held captive by the malachim, who did not want to let it go. (Sefas Emes elsewhere notes that the fact that Torah is called a captive shows that the Torah is really meant for us here on earth, to elevate our mundane lives.  It's not meant for the heavens.)  Torah is like the cord that allows us to plug into Hashem to get chiyus.  Before Hashem gave us the Torah he offered it to the nations of the world, but they chose to reject it.  Therefore, their chiyus is dependent upon us.  "Vayishb mimenu shevi," the Canaani wanted to take back that dependence, to take back what they gave up, to try to seize their own chiyus instead of revolving around us.

Finally, at the end of the parsha we get to the complaint of Bnei Yisrael that the mon was inedible, "nafsheinu katzah b'lechem ha'kilokel."  For 40 years they had been eating mon and suddenly it's no good?  We discussed this last year here.  There is a unique din by the chatzotzros: while other klei hamishkan made by Moshe could be used until they wore out, the chatzotzros had to be put in genizah after Moshe died.  R' Yechezkel Sarna (I think - can't remember the source 100%) explains that the purpose of the chatzotzros trumpets was to call together the people to give them instruction.  What the Torah is telling us is that the call to the people used in Moshe's generation would not work in the next generation.  Each generation needs it's own call.  So too, each generation needs its own food, it's own nourishment.  The mon could be the most spiritual thing to eat, but that was good only for the dor hamidbar.  The new generation that was entering Eretz Yisrael need something else to sustain them.  

We have to be smart and thing about what our generation needs -- what is the trumpet call that will gather us, what is the food that will nourish our souls.  What worked in the past will not necessarily work in the present. 

1 comment:

  1. "Maybe this time, Edom, you will help us"--
    would Edom ever assent to such salt: we'll cross by derech ha'melech (20:17), poured onto the wound: v'rav ya'avode tza'ir (Bereishis 25:23)?

    "the pasuk only speaks about Moshe"--
    did not Aharon claim passivity at the end of Shemos 32:34,
    v'yeitzei ha'eigel hazeh? now he was really reduced to passivity

    "the Canaani try to seize their own chiyus"--
    one could say that the Canaanites breaded (from va'yi'lachem, 21:1) the Israelites: either bombarded Israel with breadloaves (as per Chasam Sofer's taste of real food in "why complain now?"), or traded their bread for mon so as to taste the now captive, coveted spiritual food of Israel

    "b'lechem ha'kilokel"--
    they'd begun leaving over until morning as in Shemos 16:20, but rather than breeding worms, the leftover mon bred snakes (21:16)

    "the chatzotzros had to be put in genizah after Moshe died"--
    too bad the same was not done with the copper snake (21:9), considering what became of it by Melachim II, 18:4