Parshas Shelach 5757 - '97
Outline # 40
by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
Mercy for the Generation of the Desert;
Chodshei Hashanah Part Twenty Six
Last week, we quoted the Kedushas Levi, who explained why the concept
of Rosh Hashanah -- the Day of Judgment -- appears in the Mishnah after Yom
Kippur. It was only after the atonement and reconciliation of Yom Kippur
that the judgment of Rosh Hashanah was introduced to the people.
This has a far-reaching implications
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Hashem revealed thirteen attributes
of mercy to Moshe . According to several opinions (Rebeinu Tam and Ramban),
the first two attributes are identical -- the name of Hashem. The Talmud
explained the repetition of the name, which indicates mercy: First, He is
merciful before the sin, even though He knows that sins are about to be
performed. Secondly, He is merciful after the sin, and accepts repentance.
Hashem's name is associated with creation and the life-force. The repetition
of the name indicates two concepts of creation: 1. The ideal, Garden-of-Eden
type world, without errors and transgression. 2. The real, human world with
its imperfections and vicissitudes. (See Rav Yitzchok Hutner, Pachad Yitzchok,
Rosh Hashanah 33 [repeated in Yom Kippur 1].)
Actually, Beraishis (Genesis) contains two accounts of Creation. The first
is only an account of the six days of creation. There is no dialogue, no
description of Adom and Chava (Adam and Eve), no snake, no forbidden fruit.
The second account contains the real-life story of mankind. See Rashi at
the beginning of the Torah, second comment, that the first account -- a world
of strict justice -- "arose in thought," but did not actually occur. In
actuality, Hashem joined the forces of Justice and Mercy, and only then created
The world of strict justice which "arose in thought," will occur in the
future world (Moadim Uzmanim, part 6, simon 60; also see Ba'al Shem Tov al
Hatorah, 2). It corresponds to the Plan. In order to reach that ultimate
goal, we must live in the practical world of trial and tribulation, try to
learn from our mistakes, and hope to bring the world ever closer to the utopia.
The Rabbis say that there were many worlds before this one, but Hashem
was not pleased with them and destroyed them. Only our world found favor.
But wait; what made our world so desirable? The first man transgressed; the
second man killed the third. After ten generations, He decimated mankind
with the flood. Ten generations later, only Avraham was found satisfactory.
What makes our world so great?
The answer is that the inhabitants of our world have the ability to change
themselves. Man is the perfect computer system -- he can change his own
circuitry, rewrite his own program. He can redirect his fate. The Evolutionists
saw man as the product of nature. (So did many others, including the Calvinists.)
It is not so; man is not merely the product of fate; rather, his fate is
his own product. When Hashem saw a world that could produce the greatest
evils, and at the same time produce great individuals who could redirect
themselves and help others to do so, He was pleased.
In the Ten Commandments, we find the expression "He visits the iniquity
of the fathers on the sons and the sons' sons, for three or four
generations." (Shmos [Exodus] 20:5) The same expression is found in the Thirteen
Attributes, and in our parsha, when Moshe prays for the people to be forgiven
for the error of the spies.
Ibn Ezra (Shmos [Exodus] 20:5) explained the expression to mean, "His
patience only lasts for three or four generations." Ramban, ibid. disagreed:
"His anger only last for three or four generations;" that is, there is a
limit to His anger. The Sefer Hachinuch explained the great kindness of having
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as days of judgment and mercy. Being judged
and cleared once a year, allows us to begin each new year with a clean slate.
Rather than have the debts add up, we are allowed a chance to satisfy all
creditors each and every year.
In our parsha, Ramban explained the use of the same expression. The mistake
here was so great, that the one generation would not be able to bear the
full brunt of the punishment. Instead, Moshe prayed that punishment be meted
out over a long period -- generations. This is the reason that Tisha B'av
(the ninth day of the month of Av) was singled out for a time of tears; the
incident of the spies' complaints occurred at Tisha B'av -- and Moshe asked
that all generations share in the burden, in order to spare the one generation
from extreme hardships.
Several of the thirteen attributes are mentioned in Moshe's prayer. One
of the notable exceptions is that the repetition of the Hashem's name is
missing. Rav Munk explained that, since the generation of the Desert would
not be entirely forgiven, the second name -- Mercy after the sin -- was not
mentioned. (The Call of the Torah) Instead, the name alluding to the pristine
world of justice, the ultimate world of the future, post-corrective era,
would be mentioned in Moshe's prayer. We still have a way to go...
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
1 Babbin Court
Text Copyright © '97 Rabbi
Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis,