Torah from Heaven
In this week’s parashah, the Torah is given. R’ Moshe ben Maimon z”l
(Rambam; 1135-1204) writes about this in his exposition of the 13 ikkarim /
fundamental beliefs: “The eighth ikkar is that the Torah is from Heaven.
This requires us to believe that the entire Torah which is in our
possession, which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu a”h, is from the ‘mouth’ of
the All Powerful One. This means that it was received by him [Moshe
Rabbeinu] through a process which, for lack of a better term, we call
‘speech,’ though we really don’t know how he received it.
Moshe alone knew how he received it. He was like a scribe who wrote down
the history, the events and the laws; that is why he is called a ‘mechokek /
legislator.’ There is no difference [in holiness] between [the verses or
phrases]: ‘The sons of Cham--Kush, Mitzrayim, Put, and Cana’an’ (Bereishit
10:6); ‘His wife’s name was Meheitav’el, daughter of Matred, daughter of
Mei-zahav’ (36:39); and ‘Timna was a concubine’ (36:11), on the one hand,
and ‘Anochi / I am Hashem your Elokim’ and ‘Shema Yisrael,’ on the other.
They are all from the ‘mouth’ of the All Powerful One, they are all the
Torah of Hashem--perfect, pure, and the truth which is holy. . . One who
says that Moshe told the Torah’s stories on his own is classified as one who
denies [an essential belief], for he believes that the Torah has a ‘heart’
and a ‘rind’ and that these stories have no purpose. This is included in
‘denying the Divine origin of the Torah,’ [which causes one to forfeit Olam
Haba, according to the Mishnah]. . .
The way we make a sukkah, lulav, shofar, tefilin and other [mitzvah] objects
today is exactly the form that Hashem told Moshe. He [Moshe] told us, and
he is trusted that he fulfilled his mission honestly. The verse that
teaches this principle is (Bemidbar 16:28), ‘Through this [punishment of the
mutinous Korach] you shall know that Hashem sent me to perform all these
acts, that it was not from my heart.’ [This demonstrates that trusting
Moshe is a prerequisite to accepting the Divine origin of the Torah.]”
(Hakdamah L’perek Cheilek)
“And her two sons -- the name of one of whom was Gershom, for he had said,
‘I was a ger / sojourner in a strange land.’ And the name of the one was
Eliezer, ‘For the Elokim of my father came to my aid, and He saved me from
the sword of Pharaoh’.” (18:3-4)
R’ Zvi Elimelech Shapira z”l (1783-1841; the Bnei Yissachar) asks: Why
doesn’t the second verse say, “And the name of the one was Eliezer, for he
said ‘the Elokim of my father came to my aid . . .” He answers:
Some would say that the phrase “he said” in verse 3 serves both verses.
However, that would not explain the similar absence of “he said” in the
verse (Bereishit 32:31), “Yaakov called the name of the place Peniel--‘For I
have seen the Divine face to face, yet my life was spared’,” and the verse
(Bereishit 41:51), “Yosef called the name of the firstborn Menashe--‘For
Elokim has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s household’.”
Rather, the common denominator of our verse and those two verses is that the
speaker would have had to pronounce a Name of G-d to get his message across.
Therefore, he only *thought* the words and, thus, the verses don’t say, “He
said.” (Agra D’Kallah)
R’ Menachem Mendel Krochmal z”l (rabbi of Nikolsburg, Moravia; died 1661)
offers another explanation for the absence of “he said” in verse 4:
We read (Shmot 2:21), “Va’yoel Moshe / Moshe desired to dwell with the man
[Yitro]; and he gave his daughter Tzipporah to Moshe.” The word “Va’yoel”
can mean, “He took an oath.” Our Sages explain that, as a condition of
marrying Yitro’s daughter, Moshe took an oath that his first child would be
pledged as a priest to idolatry.
The obvious question is: How could Moshe make such an oath? We also could
ask: Earlier (2:16), Rashi z”l wrote that Yitro had abandoned the idol
worship to which the Midianites were attached, and they banished him. If
so, asks R’ Krochmal, why would Yitro want Moshe to pledge his son to idolatry.
He explains: Our Sages say that Yitro was a seeker of the truth, and that
led him to test every form of idolatry known to man. When Moshe met Yitro,
the latter had recently abandoned the idolatry of Midian. But, there were
other forms of idolatry still to be tested, and Yitro wanted his grandson to
be pledged to serve idolatry. Moshe was confident, however, that Yitro
would soon arrive at the truth and that Moshe’s (as yet unborn) son would
never be a priest to idolatry.
Because Moshe’s firstborn son was pledged to Yitro’s beliefs, Moshe had to
explain the baby’s name to Yitro. Thus we read, “The name of one of whom
was Gershom, for *he had said*, ‘I was a ger / sojourner in a strange
land’.” For the same reason, he didn’t include G-d’s Name in his firstborn
son’s name. In contrast, Moshe did not have to explain his second son’s name
to anyone. Thus, it doesn’t say, “He said.” And, he did include G-d’s
Name. (Pi Tzaddik: Drush 2)
“Moshe’s father-in-law . . . said, ‘What is this thing that you do to the
people? Why do you sit alone and all the people stand over you from morning
Moshe said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to seek
Elokim . . .’
The father-in-law of Moshe said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good .
. . Now heed my voice; I shall advise you, and may Elokim be with you’.”
R’ Eliyahu Guttmacher z”l (1796-1874; rabbi of Grätz, Prussia) writes: From
Yitro, we can learn the rules for giving advice properly. These include:
(1) Generally, one shouldn’t give unsolicited advice. However, one may
give unsolicited advice to someone for whose welfare he is responsible, or
to a loved one [such as Yitro to Moshe].
(2) Before giving advice, one should ask questions and learn the relevant
details in order to give useful and accurate advice [as Yitro did here].
Just as a doctor must know all the details of a patient’s condition, so it
is with anyone who is giving advice.
(3) If the subject is a small one, one may rely on his own wisdom to give
advice. But, regarding important matters, one should recommend that the
person receiving the advice seek a second opinion from someone greater
[here, Elokim]. (Derashot V’chiddushei R’ Eliyahu Guttmacher)
“You shall not covet your fellow’s house. You shall not covet your
fellow’s wife, his slave, his maidservant, his ox, his donkey, nor anything
that is le’rai’echa / to your fellow.” (20:14)
R’ Yisrael Meir Hakohen z”l (the Chafetz Chaim; died 1933) asks: Why didn’t
the verse say, “nor anything that is *shel* rai’echa / belongs to your
fellow”? He answers:
The verse is teaching that you should not even covet something that does not
yet belong to your friend, but is on its way to becoming his. For example,
if Reuven sees Shimon (fictitious names) about to pick up an ownerless item
in the street and Reuven runs and grabs it first, our Sages call Reuven a
rasha / wicked man, even though he has not committed any technical
transgression. Why? Because one is required to have faith that G-d has set
aside for him all of the material belongings he is destined to have, and no
one can touch that. Thus, if Shimon finds something of value, it was not
meant to belong to Reuven. (Zechor L’Miriam p.57)
“Moshe said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for in order to elevate you Elokim
has come; so that fear of Him shall be upon your faces, so that you shall
not sin’.” (20:17)
R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi z”l (1745-1812; founder of Chabad; known as the
Ba’al Ha’Tanya) asks: How could Moshe tell Bnei Yisrael not to be afraid
when G-d revealed Himself? Isn’t there a mitzvah to fear G-d? He explains:
The mitzvah to fear G-d, like the mitzvah to love G-d, describe a
relationship between a person who views himself as a being and another
Being, G-d, external to himself. Ideally, however, one should transcend
that level and elevate himself to a point where he nullifies himself and
feels that he has no existence because nothing truly exists independent of
G-d. Thus Moshe said, “Do not fear, for in order to elevate you Elokim has
come.” The next part of the verse explains: Fear of Him is only so that you
will not sin. The level where a person still worries about sin is itself a
low level. (Ma’amarei Admor Ha’zaken Ha’ketzarim)
Memories of Yerushalayim
R' Ben-Zion Yadler z"l (1871-1962; "Maggid / preacher of Yerushalayim”),
describes in his memoir, B'tuv Yerushalayim, his role in supervising weights
and measures in Yerushalayim.
These procedures were established by the Aderet zt”l [Hebrew acronym of “R’
Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Teomim” (1845-1905; Assistant Rabbi of
Yerushalayim)]. He placed the responsibility for this on the Bet Din
Tzeddek [the highest rabbinical court] and asked me to implement the matter
in practice. In the beginning, he would accompany me to the stores, until
it became routine that every storekeeper was obligated to inspect and repair
his weights and measures.
Later, the government took over supervision of weights and measures.
Government officials would repair weights by adding thin strips of iron, but
the Aderet ruled that this wasn’t sufficient because the strips could fall
off. Therefore, I arranged for a blacksmith to repair them with thicker iron.
I had clear instructions from the Aderet how to act in these matters. For
example, storekeepers who sold sharp foods had to inspect and repair their
weights twice a year, and all other storekeepers once a year. After the
government announced a law governing this, we obtained the government’s seal
through the intervention of the Chacham Bashi [the Sephardic Chief Rabbi],
and it was entrusted to me to stamp those weights and measures which were
found to be accurate.
Special arrangements were made by the supervisors to supply precise weights
and measures to anyone who wanted to buy them, and they also were lent to
storekeepers when we took their measures for repairs. The blacksmith took
half a grusch [a small coin of the Ottoman Empire] to repair each weight or
measure. This is how things were until the First World War broke out.
[Footnote: Remember for good Rabbis Mattityahu Elbe, Binyamin Cohen and Nata
Golomb who helped me with the difficulties surrounding these matters in the
neighborhoods around the Old City, in Meah Shearim and in Machaneh Yehuda.]
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Hamaayan needs your support! Please consider sponsoring Hamaayan in honor of a happy occasion or in memory of a loved one. The low cost of sponsorship is $36. Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.