Thursday, May 31, 2018

the missing "va'yehi chein" of parshas braishis

1. By each of the days of creation the Torah describes what G-d created, and then tells us, "Va'yehi chein."  The exception is on day #1 -- "Va'yomer Elokim ye'hi ohr" is not followed with a "va'yehi chein."  Where do we find that missing "va'yehi chein?"  You have to wait with baited breath from Braishis until our parsha where you finally find it.  Aharon lights the menorah, and the Torah tells us, "Va'ya'as kein Aharon."  The light of creation is finally complete.  The menorah symbolizes the light of torah sheba'al peh (Aharon is the mouthpiece for Moshe, who represents torah sheb'ksav.  "Ki sifsei kohen yisheru da'as..."  Therefore, Aharon is the one who does the lighting.)  The Torah enlightens us.  Without it, we can't see and appreciate Hashem's light, Hashem's presence in the world.

2. At the end of the parsha right after we read that Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe the Torah tells us that Moshe was the biggest anav in the world.  The meforshim are bothered by the placement of this pasuk.  Is this part of Hashem's explanation of why Moshe is different than everyone else?  If so, it should come 2 pesukim later, where the Torah tells us Hashem's response.  Ohr haChaim and Da'as Zekeinim writes that the Torah is explaining why Hashem had to intercede at all -- why didn't Moshe speak on his own behalf?  Netziv writes that the Torah is telling us that Hashem was not interceding because this was an affront to Moshe's kavod -- Moshe did not care about kavod.  Hashem had to intercede because the singularity of Moshe's nevuah is an essential fact of our emunah.

Based on the Shem m'Shmuel's analysis of what Miriam and Aharon were thinking, the pasuk fits perfectly in context.  Didn't Miriam and Aharon appreciate the uniqueness of Moshe?  The Shem m'Shmuel explains that aderaba, it was precisely because of their great appreciation for who Moshe was that they questioned his behavior.  Why, they wondered, would a tzadik so perfect, a navi so exalted, need to engage in perishus?  Wasn't Moshe immune from failings and temptations the rest of us suffered? 

Which is harder -- to fast l'shem shamayim on Yom Kippur, or to eat l'shem shamayim the day before?  Surely it is the latter.  It is hard to engage with the world and remain untainted by selfish motives or desires.  I am sure this is true for all of us.  It was true for Miriam and Aharon to some degree.  But they perceived that it was not true of Moshe.  Moshe Rabeinu remained pure in a way that no one else could.  Therefore, Moshe and Moshe alone could sanctify every aspect of his life, even the most mundane, in a way that no one else could.  What a kiddush Hashem!  So how could he pursue a path of asceticism and withdrawal rather than use his talent to its fullest potential (see Eretz Tzvi of the Kozhiglover on the parsha)?

"V'ha'ish Mosha anav..." is not part of the defense of Moshe, but is part of Miriam and Aharon's complaint!  Moshe, they thought, in his great modesty thought of himself as no better than anyone else.  Just like others required  perishus in some degree or other to avoid being swayed by temptation, so too Moshe thought he required the same.  But, that modesty came at a cost.  Miriam and Aharon's point was that Moshe was not everyone else.  No one else could be mekadesh the world of chomer as only a Moshe could and should.

Hashem's answer in no way undermines their argument.  Moshe was indeed above all other nevi'im and was not subject to the foibles others might fall prey too.  Nonetheless, because "peh el peh adabeir bo," there was a need for perishus, not for fear of temptation, but rather because this was what the higher level of nevuah demanded.  


  1. 1. "The exception is on day #1"

    see day 5, and the creation of man on day 6-- in those cases, Hashem's blessing completes the action, replacing the usual wrap-up report, Va'yehi chein [while 'va'yehi ohr' announces an honorific intensification of va'yehi chein on day #1; or otherwise said, 2. LO-CHEIN avdi Moshe (12:7), because he is as ohr]

  2. 1. Please tell us where this excellent insight comes from.
    2. "Hashem's answer in no way undermines their argument" is somewhat overstated, in that they were punished for what they said. It's hard to deal with this, because mimoh nafshoch, you don't want Miriam's/Aharon's error to be glaring, but there has to have been an error for which punishment was appropriate. But I would say that their error was assuming that just as for them tashmish did not generate kalus rosh, the same was true for Moshe. Their error was judging him on the basis of their experience of what ruach hakodesh requires. They should have realized that his darga required a focus and kedusha far greater than theirs. Like Reb Elchonon says.

    1. I saw it in a little sefer from a descendent of the Ishbitz/Rizhin line, but then my son told me it's in the Chanukas haTorah and I think he said R' Gedalya Schorr quotes a similar idea from the Zohar.