Wednesday, January 16, 2019

hands down

Chazal tell us that the attack of Amalek happened because "rafu Y'DEIHEM min haTorah," because Klal Yisrael neglected their Torah learning.  Why the stress on "y'deihem?"  The Maharasham in Techeiles Mordechai quotes the Chazal that "Torah mateshes kocho shel adam."  That doesn't necessarily mean that a person who learns Torah is physically weak.  The Torah warns us that a person should not think his success comes from "kochi v'otzem YADI," his own strength and ability.  It's this koach -- the belief in the power of "kochi v'otzem YADI"  -- which Torah weakens.  Learning Torah humbles a person; the more one learns the more one recognizes the vastness and depths of the dvar Hashem and just how limited our own ability and insight is.  Because Klal Yisrael's dedication to learning fell a notch, "min haTorah," because of that loss, "rafu y'deihem," their perspective on the limits of the "kochi v'otzem YADI" was tainted.

The Mahrasham does not say it, but I think based on his approach we can understand why Klal Yisrael had to fight Amalek as opposed to being miraculously rescued as had happened at Yam Suf.  Since they invested trust in their kochi v'otzem yadi, Hashem responded in kind and let them use their own power to carry on the battle. 

Moshe's challenge was to shift their perspective.  "V'haya ka'asher yarim YADO..."  Moshe lifted up his hands and directed people's gaze to shamayim.  There is no power in "otzem yadi" -- our hands only have power when we connect to Hashem. 

"Va'yehi YADAV emunah ad bo ha'shemesh"  Ibn Ezra interprets emunah here either has steadfast or like the word "omain" (e,g. "Va'yehi omein es Hadasah"), to train, to nurture.  Our hands need to be trained to connect to Hashem. 

"YAD al keis K-h" -- the war with Amalek is won when we connect "otzem yadi," our ability, to the kisei of Hashem, the true source of power.


  1. Wonderful interpretation of "Torah mateshes kocho ..."

  2. Interesting. So they had to fight because their weakness in Torah brought about the belief in the effectiveness of their own hands, so they didn't deserve total l'maala min hateva. But Moshe showed that hands without siyata dishmaya will fail. You'd think that dibbur would be a more effective way to teach that lesson than hands.

  3. "kochi v'otzem YADI"

    what were Bnei Yisrael feeling entitled to? to the silver & gold naturally [and clothing, as a fine for late payment], that they received from the Egyptians-- they had slaved for centuries; the sudden boon was nothing more than a work wage due...

    but this new Torah-learning track had them feeling poor, so they resisted it, "rafu Y'DEIHEM min haTorah". specifically demoralizing to the people was Moshe's use of leek'tu at 16:16, alluding to leket*: the manna was a deliberate dropping [so Ordered] by the melachim travelling with the klal, from their own daily harvest (angel food, Yoma 75b)

    *the exact Torah taught at Marah is uncertain, D.C. Feb. 6, 2012; perhaps leket was included in the curriculum as a charitable teaser?

    "as opposed to...Yam Suf"

    at the splitting of the sea, each Jew could point with his/her finger and say, 'this is my G-d!'; since then they could only point accusingly at Moshe (15:24, 16:2). we're left with hand-to-hand combat...

    "Moshe lifted up his hands"

    but why, if linked to Heaven, did those hands grow heavy (k'veidim, 17:12)? did Moshe feel some trace of kavod for his outstanding act with Yosef's bones (13:19), personally hefted while the masses were busy bagging their hard-earned precious metal?