יום שבת, 28 במרץ 2009

About Listening

This Shabbat, we'll start reading a new Book . Vayikra.

The Book starts with he word "Vayikra" = and [HE] called Moshe and spoke with him.

Maybe this teaches us that when we want to start communicating with another person we have to establish an atmosphere of "listening" and this can only happening if we are listening to our partner. We cannot expect anybody to listen to us, if we don't listen. I guess this happens between individuals as well as between groups or nations.

יום שבת, 21 במרץ 2009


And He Called to Moses – and Who Heard?

My words are largely based upon Prof. Y. Leibowitz’s Sheva Shanim shel Sihot al Parashat HaShavua, pp. 438-441. My prayer is that, in due time, they shall bring redemption to a wounded and bleeding world.

Rashi, following the Sages (Yoma 4a), makes a precise textual inference:

And He called to Moses (Vayikra 1:1)-This implies that the Voice went on and reached his [Moses’s] ears only, but all the other Israelites did not hear it.

(Rashi quotes based on Silberman translation)

An interesting question arises in this connection: On whom does the hearing depend, on the speaker or on the listener? Or perhaps on both of them? (The halakhah regarding the blowing of the shofar comes to mind. As the RaMBaM formulated it, “He does not fulfill his obligation until both hearer and blower have proper intention” – Hilkhot Shofar 2:4).

In addition, what is the instrument through which one “hears” the voice of God? Rashi’s further comments shed some light on the kinds of voice and hearing involved:

From the Tent of Meeting – This teaches us that the Voice broke off and did not issue beyond the Tent of Meeting.

Since we have not been informed that the Tent of Meeting was surrounded with a sealed acoustical wall and a sophisticated system of insulation – it did not even have a roof – we can assume that we are dealing with a rather different kind of “voice” and “hearing.”

The midrash Tannaim Sifra (Chapter 5) further clarifies the issue:

Could it be [that the Voice was not heard outside the Tent] because it was weak? The words et hakol [the Voice] teach us otherwise: The Voice is understood in Scripture [in accordance with the verse]: The Voice of the Lord is power, the Voice of the Lord is majesty; the Voice of the Lord breaks cedars (Tehillim 29:4). If so, why does it say from the Tent of Meeting? This teaches us that the voice was cut off [from being heard outside the Tent].

According to the above, ability to hear the Voice is not limited by hearing problems or acoustical issues. Rather, it is dependent upon the will of the Speaker, or that of the listener, or upon the relationship between Speaker and listener.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz (in his Sheva Shanim Shel Sihot al Parashat Ha’Shavua) cites the Midrash HaGadol on this topic, which presents a particular reading of the Sifra selection brought by Rashi:

Could it be that [the Voice] was weak? The word hakol [the Voice] as understood in the Writings, teaches us otherwise. And if so, why does this one [Moses] hear it and this one [Israel] not hear it? Rather, all those whom God wants to have hear it, do hear it, and the rest do not hear it.

According to this way of thinking, the ability to hear the Voice is conditional upon divine grace, and God chooses those who will hear His Voice.

In contrast to this view, we may glean a different notion from the words of Rabbi Hayim ben Atar, author of the commentary Or HaHayim:

And He called to Moses: Perhaps this is intended to speak of God’s powers, that He can call out in a great Voice and be heard only by those whom he chooses. That is the meaning of and He called to Moses – although He called out, His speech was only heard by Moses and not by those with Moses.

The Hebrew expression asher yahpotz – “whom He chooses” - is ambiguous. Does it mean “whom He chooses,” as the Midrash HaGadol would claim? Or does Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar mean to say that he who chooses to hear God’s Voice will be able to hear it, making the whole thing dependent on people themselves?

Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz tries to suggest that both views share a common element: Whether God’s voice only reaches those special individuals chosen by God, or whether it reaches all people who choose to hear it, reception of the Voice is not dependent on the Voice itself, but rather upon the character of the person receiving it. Leibowitz deduces from this that, in any event, worship of God via the acceptance of the yoke of the Torah and the commandments can enable people to hear the Voice, and not vice versa. This is largely compatible with the RaMBaM’s theory of prophecy.

The Tanaitic midrash Sifra, and Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar in its wake, also expound upon the word leimor [“saying,” from the verse The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Ten of Meeting, saying]:

He spoke with him for Israel’s sake and not for his own sake, for his speaking to Moses was only for Israel’s benefit.

Moses, the greatest of prophets, served as the “pipeline” for transmitting God’s Voice to Israel. This is reminiscent of a verse that follows the Ten Commandments: “You speak to us,” they said to Moses, “and we shall obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die (Shemot 21:16).

RaShBaM explains: “’You speak to us’ – If they had not said this, God would have communicated all of His commandments to them directly.”

Moses, who was capable of “hearing,” had to mediate between God and Israel, which was incapable of “hearing.” We can infer from this that a different kind of hearing was involved, which was not dependent upon auditory and acoustical factors.

And what are those words which are heard in our parasha, which opens a series of parshiyot dealing with the sacrificial worship of God?

RaMBaM’s attitude towards the sacrificial rite, which he explained in the Guide for the Perplexed, is well known. He saw the sacrifices as a kind of concession to irrepressible pagan tendencies. The Torah’s precisely prescribed rite, which required painstaking attention to the proper place and method of sacrifice, would raise it into a form of worship of God.

In contrast to the RaMBaM, the RaMBaN and others viewed sacrifice as a way to draw near to God, in which a person could symbolically sacrifice his own animalistic nature by offering up an animal sacrifice.

It seems to me that, at the end of the day, the common theme of these two approaches is that God’s Voice commands us to exercise restraint and maximum control over our drives, while not denying the existence of those drives.

Can words of prayer or the study of these parshiyot serve as proper substitutes for the hard work of giving reign to reason, morality, and God’s Voice over the powerful drives which awaken in us in our hours of distress? Do today’s synagogues and batei midrash serve as places where the public is taught to lend God’s Voice control over strange and violent emotions?

This question may demand ceaseless thought. Perhaps it all depends on the quality of our hearing of that Voice. Or, perhaps, as Yeshayahu Leibowitz lyrically expressed it, do the hearer and the speaker of God’s Voice stand within the Tent of Meeting, or outside it?

the Wee Alef


Many years ago, when I began to learn Chumash in Grade 1, the custom in the school where I learned was – as per the time-honored heder tradition – to begin the study of Bible with Parashat Vayikra. Many reasons were given for this practice. Among them, following the Midrash Tanchuma, (91:14):

Said Rabbi Assya: Why do the children begin their study with the Book of Vayikra?

It is because all the offerings appear in VAYIKRA, and because the little children are pure, and they have not tasted sin and wrongdoing. Therefore The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said that they should first begin with the order of the offerings: Let the pure ones come and study pure matters, and therefore I reckon as if they stand and offer the sacrifices before Me, and I inform you that even though the Temple was destroyed, and offerings are not brought, were it not for children who study the order of the sacrifices, the world could not exist.”

The commencement of study was a festive and ceremonial affair, to which the rabbi and communal leaders were invited. Among other subjects discussed on this joyful and touching occasion was the written tradition with which we are all familiar: The letter aleph at the end of the word Vayikra is diminutive; in the Masorah, the tradition of Biblical inscription, it is called ‘aleph zeira’ – ‘little aleph’.

Now, fifty years later, I would like to consider afresh this unique phenomenon. I do not intend, within the framework of this d’var Torah, to conduct an extensive survey of the enlarged and diminished letters in the Torah and the Bible as laid down by the Masorah. I do wish to relate, in homiletic fashion, to the possible significance of this diminution, following in the footsteps of some of the commentators who dealt with this phenomenon.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, author of the commentary “Baal HaTurim” (and author of “The Four Turim”), presents the familiar inscription as a compromise between Moshe’s will and that of The Holy One, Blessed Be He:

The aleph of Vayikra is diminutive because Moshe wanted to write only “Vayiker’ (‘encountered’, as though by chance) as is written in the story of Bil'am, as though God appeared to him by accident. God, however, directed him to write ‘Vayikra’ – with an aleph. Moshe wrote the aleph – but undersized it.’

Rabbi Efrayim of Lunshitz, in his commentary “Kli Yakar”, takes in a similar approach, but he does not present the text as a compromise between the will of Moshe and that of God; it is rather a carefully directed message, designed to compare Bil'am’s prophecy with that of Moshe – at least in certain aspects:

The ‘aleph’ of ‘Vayikra’ is diminutive, as if it were written “Vayiker" – ‘encountered by chance’. This is intended to compare the prophecy of Moshe to the prophecy of Bil’am (“Now God did encounter Bil’am”), as is written, “There arose no further prophet in Israel like Moshe” – but among the nations there did arise one, and who was that? Bil’am. The meaning of this is not that Bil’am was Moshe’s equal in prophecy, God forbid, but this is the explanation: Moshe perceived more that his preparation had prepared him for, as is written “who was known by God” but it does not say “who knew God”, meaning that he did not know God beyond his personal capability, but God knew him and granted him additional abundance in Israel, meaning to say “in Israel’s merit”. None of Israel’s other prophets perceived beyond their abilities. But among the nations of the world there did arise one – for the honor of Israel – who did perceive more than his character entitled him to . . . this teaches us that the two were equal in that both had additional, unplanned perception, in addition to what their personalities entitled them.”

True, according to the logic of the above, the text should have read “Vayiker”, without the aleph”, but “Vayiker” has the connotation not only of something temporary, coincidental; it also has the connotation of impurity, and therefore an “aleph” - a wee aleph – was added on.

It is interesting to examine the Midrashic tradition (Midrash Rabba Parasha 14, beginning with “ub’vo Moshe)” which contrasts Moshe’s prophecy with that of Bil’am:

‘”When Moshe would come to the Tent of Appointment to speak with Him.’ It is taught ‘There arose no further prophet in Israel like Moshe’ – in Israel there arose no prophet the equal of Moshe, but among the nations there did arise one. This was so that the nations of the world should have no excuse, saying ‘If we had a prophet like Moshe, we too would have worshipped The Holy One, Blessed Be He.’ And what prophet did they have who was the equal of Moshe? This was Bil’am ben Be’or. There was, however, a difference between the prophecy of Moshe and that of Bil’am. Moshe possessed three qualities, which Bil’am lacked:

- He would speak with Him standing, as is written, “And you stand here with Me and I will talk to you’; but He would speak to Bil’am only when Bil’am was prostrate, as is written, ‘Bowed, but with eyes uncovered’.

- Moshe would speak with Him mouth to mouth, as is written ‘Mouth to mouth, etc’, but with Bil’am, ‘Utters the hearer of Godly sayings’ – he did not speak to Him mouth to mouth.

- Moshe spoke with Him face to face, as is written ‘And God spoke to Moshe face to face”; to Bil’am He spoke only through parables, as is said, ‘He took up his parable and said.’

Bil’am had three qualities that Moshe lacked:

- Moshe knew not who spoke to him, but Bil’am knew who spoke to him, as is written, ‘Utters the hearer of Godly saying who envisages a vision of Shaddai’.

- Moshe did not know when God spoke to him; Bil’am knew when The Holy One, Blessed Be He, spoke to him, as is written, ‘Who knows the knowledge of the Most High’. A parable was spun: A king’s cook knows what is on the king’s table and how much the king spends on his table. So did Bil’am know what The Holy One, Blessed Be He, was going to say to him.

- Bil’am would speak with Him whenever he so desired, as is written, ‘Bowed, but with eyes uncovered’ – he would fall on his face and immediately his eyes would be uncovered in respect to his request; Moshe did not speak with Him whenever he pleased.

- Rabbi Shim’on said: Moshe, too, would speak with Him whenever he wished, as is written ‘And when Moshe would enter the Tent of Appointment to speak with him’ - he would immediately hear the voice speaking to him.”

In the Yalkut Shimoni (V’Zot Ha-beracha 247:966), we find a somewhat different presentation of the comparison:

There arose no further prophet in Israel like Moshe’ – in Israel there arose no prophet the equal of Moshe, but among the nations there did arise one. And who was that? Bil’am the son of Be’or. But there are differences between the prophecy of Moshe and the prophecy of Bil’am son of Be’or:

- Moshe did not know who was speaking with him; Bil’am knew who was speaking with him, as is written, ‘utters the hearer of godly sayings’.

- Moshe did not know when God would speak with him before He spoke; Bil’am knew when God would speak to him, as is written, ‘Who knows the knowledge of the Most High’.

- Moshe did not speak with Him unless he was standing, as is written, ‘And you stand here with Me’; Bil’am spoke with Him while prostrate, as is written, ‘Envisages a vision of Shaddai, bowed, but with eyes uncovered’. This may be compared to a king’s cook who knows how much the king spends on his table.”

In Midrash Rabba, separation is made between those characteristics which make Moshe’s prophecy superior – although here too the Midrash does not ignore elements of Bil’am’s prophecy which make it the more important. In contrast to this, the comparison drawn by the Yalkut Shimoni tips the scales in favor of Bil’am.

The tension between the prophecy of Moshe and that of Bil’am appears to be the background for the Rashi’s commentary on Vayikra 1:1 – although there is no explicit reference to the diminutive aleph:

And He called to Moshe” – All statements and all declarations and all commandments were preceded by a call, a term of affection, the idiom used with reference to the angels, as is written (Isaiah 6:3) And they called one to the other’; but to the prophets of the nations of the world He reveals Himself with expressions connoting the temporary and the impure, as is written, ‘Now God did encounter Bil’am’.

Rashi contrasts “Vayikra” to “Vayiker” – without overt reference to the Masorah.

In my opinion, the diminutive aleph opens an interesting window through which we can observe the difference between the prophecy of Moshe, the greatest of all Israel’s prophets (“There arose no further prophet in Israel like Moshe’) and the prophecy of Bil’am, greatest of non-Israelite prophets, and perhaps, via these two prophets, we can discern the difference between Israel and the nations.

In Midrash Rabba the (almost) equal opportunity given Bil’am is presented as an opportunity given the nations of the world “so that they have no excuse” – but priority is given by The Holy One, Blessed Be He, to Moshe. In the Yalkut, however, Bil’am is presented as having a qualitative starting edge over Moshe.

The Baal Ha’Turim paints a Moshe as a humble man who does not see himself intrinsically any better than Bil’am, but The Holy One, Blessed Be He, grants him an advantage, and the ‘compromise” (diminutive aleph) is a result of dialogue between The Holy One, Blessed Be He, and Moshe.

The author of the Kli Yakar presents the two as equals in terms of basic God-given attributes; Moshe reaches a higher plane through his own efforts, not through divine favoritism.

It seems to me that these approaches parallel the differences between those who see the concept “Chosen People” as an innate trait, a kind of divine grace -- and those who believe in the basic and intrinsic equality of all men created in His image. The election of the Jewish people, according to this approach is first and foremost an opportunity and a challenge – a little aleph, but great responsibility.

א' זעירא

א' זעירא

לפני שנים רבות, כאשר התחלתי ללמוד חומש בכתה א', היה הנוהג בבית הספר בו למדתי בחוץ לארץ, בדומה למסורת ה"חדר", להתחיל את לימוד החומש מפרשת ויקרא. סיבות רבות ניתנו לכך; בין היתר, בעקבות מדרש תנחומא (צו, סימן יד)

"אמר רבי אסיא: למה הם מתחילים התינוקות של בית רבן ללמוד בספר ויקרא?

אלא מפני שכל הקרבנות כתובים בו ומפני שהם טהורים, עד עכשיו ואינם יודעים מהו טעם חטא ועון, לפיכך אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא שיהו מתחילין תחלה בסדר הקרבנות: יבואו טהורים ויתעסקו במעשה טהורים, לפיכך אני מעלה עליהם כאלו הם עומדים ומקריבים לפני הקרבנות, והודיעך שאף על פי שחרב בית המקדש ואין קרבן נוהג אילולי התנוקות שקורין בסדר הקרבנות לא היה העולם עומד."

התחלת הלימוד נשאה אופן חגיגי וטקסי ולטקס הוזמנו הרב וראשי הקהילה. בין יתר הדברים שנדרשו במעמד חגיגי ומרגש זה היתה המסורת הכתובה המוכרת לכולנו: האות א' במילה "ויקרא" היא קטנה; היא מוגדרת במסורת הכתיב כ"א" זעירא.

ברצוני, במרחק של חמישים שנה, להתבונן מחדש בתופעה ייחודית זו. אין בכוונתי לערוך, במסגרת דבר תורה זה, מחקר מקיף על האותיות המוגדלות והמוקטנות בתורה ובמקרא לפי המסורה. ברצוני להתייחס בצורה דרשנית למשמעות האפשרית של הקטנה זו, בעקבות חלק מפרשני המקרא שהתייחסו לתופעה.

רבי יעקב בן אשר, בעל פירוש "בעל הטורים" (מחבר "ארבעה טורים") מציג את מסורת הכתיב המוכרת לנו כפשרה בין רצונו של משה לבין רצון הקב"ה, וזו לשונו:

" א' ד"ויקרא" זעירא, שמשה לא רצה לכתוב אלא "ויקר", כדרך שנאמר בבלעם, כאילו לא נראה לו ה' אלא במקרה, ואמר לו הקב"ה לכתוב גם ב'אלף' – וכתבה קטנה"

רבי אפרים מלונטשיץ, בעל פירוש "כלי יקר" הולך בכיוון דומה, אבל אינו מציג את הכתוב כפשרה בין רצונו של משה לרצון הא-ל, אלא כמסר מכוון, הבא להשוות את נבואתו של בלעם לנבואתו של משה, לפחות בהיבטים מסוימים, וכך לשונו:

"אלף של "ויקרא" קטנה, כאילו נאמר "ויקר" וטעמו של דבר: להשוות נבואת משה אל נבואת בלעם, שנאמר בו לשון "ויקר", כמו שכתוב 'ולא קם בישראל כמשה עוד' – אבל באומות העולם קם ומנו? בלעם - ואין הפירוש שיהיה בלעם שווה למשה בנבואה חלילה, אלא כך פירושו: שמשה השיג יותר ממה שהיה ראוי להשיג על פי הכנתו, כמו שכתוב "אשר ידעו ה'" – "אשר ידע את ה'" לא נאמר, אלא, לומר לך שהוא מצד הכנתו, לא ידע את ה' על זה האופן, כי אם ה' ידעו ונתן לו תוספות שפע בישראל רצונו לומר "בזכות ישראל", וכל שאר נביאי ישראל כל אחד לא השיג יותר מכדי הכנתו, אבל באומות העולם קם אחד לכבודן של ישראל שהשיג יותר ממה שהיה ראוי להשיג על פי הכנתו...להורות שהיו שניהם שווים בזה במה שהיתה בשניהם השגה מקרית נוסף על הראוי להם מצד עצמותם"

אמנם, לפי היגיון זה, היה צריך להיות כתוב "ויקר" – ללא אלף בכלל, אלא "ויקר" מבטא לא רק ארעיות ומקרה אלא גם טומאה, ולכן נכתבה האות א' בהקטנה.

מעניין לבדוק את המסורת המדרשית המשווה בין נבואתו של משה לנבואתו של בלעם :

בבמדבר רבה (פרשה יד ד"ה כ ובבוא משה), מוצגת ההשוואה כך:

"'בבוא משה אל אהל מועד לדבר אתו' תני (דברים לד) 'ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה' - בישראל לא קם אבל באומות העולם קם, כדי שלא יהא פתחון פה לאומות העולם לומר אלו היה לנו נביא כמשה היינו עובדים להקב"ה. ואיזה נביא היה להם כמשה? זה בלעם בן בעור, אלא הפרש בין נבואתו של משה לנבואתו של בלעם; ג' מדות היה ביד משה מה שלא היה ביד בלעם משה: היה מדבר עמו עומד שנאמר (דברים ה) 'ואתה פה עמוד עמדי ואדברה אליך וגו'', ועם בלעם לא היה מדבר עמו אלא נופל שנא' (במדבר כד) 'נופל וגלוי עינים', משה היה מדבר עמו פה אל פה שנא' (שם /במדבר/ יב) 'פה אל פה בו' ובבלעם 'נאם שומע אמרי אל' שלא היה מדבר עמו פה אל פה, משה היה מדבר עמו פנים בפנים שנאמר (שמות לג) 'ודבר ה' אל משה פנים אל פנים' ועם בלעם לא היה מדבר כי אם במשלים, כמה דתימא (במדבר כג) 'וישא משלו ויאמר' .

ג' מדות היו ביד בלעם מה שלא היה ביד משה: משה לא היה יודע מי מדבר עמו, בלעם היה יודע מי מדבר עמו, שנאמר 'נאם שומע אמרי אל אשר מחזה שדי יחזה'. משה לא היה יודע אימתי הקב"ה מדבר עמו ובלעם היה יודע אימתי הקב"ה מדבר עמו, שנא' 'ויודע דעת עליון' - משלו משל לטבחו של מלך שהוא יודע מה המלך מקריב על שלחנו ויודע כמה הוצאות יוצאות למלך על שולחנו, כך היה בלעם יודע מה הקב"ה עתיד לדבר עמו, בלעם היה מדבר עמו בכל שעה שירצה שנאמר 'נופל וגלוי עינים' היה משתטח על פניו ומיד היה גלוי עינים על מה ששואל ומשה לא היה מדבר עמו בכל שעה שירצה. ר' שמעון אומר אף משה היה מדבר עמו בכל שעה שירצה שנאמר ובבא משה אל אהל מועד לדבר אתו מיד וישמע את הקול מדבר אליו."

לעומת מסורת זו, מוצגים הדברים בילקוט שמעוני וזאת-הברכה רמז תתקסו) בצורה קצת שונה:

"לא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה, בישראל לא קם אבל באומות העולם קם ואיזה זה? בלעם בן בעור, אלא שהפרש יש בין נבואתו של משה לנבואתו של בלעם בן בעור, משה לא היה יודע מי מדבר עמו ובלעם היה יודע מי מדבר עמו, שנאמר 'נאם שומע אמרי אל', משה לא היה יודע מתי מדבר עמו עד שנדבר עמו, ובלעם היה יודע אימתי מדבר עמו שנאמר ויודע דעת עליון, משה לא היה מדבר עמו אלא כשהוא עומד שנאמר ואתה פה עמוד עמדי, ובלעם היה מדבר עמו כשהוא נופל שנאמר אשר מחזה שדי יחזה נופל וגלוי עינים, משל למה הדבר דומה לטבחו של מלך ויודע כמה הוצאות יוצאות למלך על שולחנו."

בבמדבר רבה נעשית הפרדה בין המאפיינים ההופכים את נבואתו של משה לנעלה יותר למרות שגם כאן אין המדרש מתעלם מאפיונים בנבואתו של בלעם ההופכים אותה לחשובה יותר.

לעומת זאת, בילקוט שמעוני פועלת ההשוואה ברובה המכריע לטובתו של בלעם.

הרמז למתח בין נבואתו של בלעם לנבואתו של משה עומד כנראה גם מאחורי פירושו של רש"י על ויקרא א,א בלי התייחסות מפורשת לא' זעירא :

" ויקרא אל משה - לכל דברות ולכל אמירות ולכל צוויים קדמה קריאה, לשון חבה, לשון שמלאכי השרת משתמשים בו, שנאמר (ישעיה ו ג) 'וקרא זה אל זה', אבל לנביאי אומות העולם נגלה עליהן בלשון עראי וטומאה, שנאמר (במדבר כג ד) 'ויקר אלהים אל בלעם'."

רש"י מנגיד את "ויקרא" (ללא התייחסות למסורה) ל"ויקר".

הא' הקטנה פותחת , לדעתי, פתח מעניין להתבוננות בהבדלים בין נבואתו של משה, הנביא היהודי הגדול ביותר (לא קם בישראל כמשה עוד) לנבואתו של בלעם, הנביא הגדול ביותר מאומות העולם ואולי דרך שני נביאים אלו, להבדל בין ישראל לעמים.

במדרש רבה מוצגת ההזדמנות ה(כמעט) שווה שניתנה לבלעם כהזדמנות שניתנה לאומות העולם "כדי שלא יהיה להם פתחון פה" אך ברורה ההעדפה מלכתחילה שניתנת למשה על ידי הקב"ה. לעומתו, מציג המקור המובא בילקוט את בלעם כבעל נתונים נבואיים התחלתיים גבוהים יותר.

בעל הטורים מציג את משה כעניו שאינו רואה את עצמו גדול מבלעם באופן מהותי, אך הקב"ה בכל זאת מעניק לו יתרון וה"פשרה" (א' קטנה) היא תוצאה של דו-שיח בין הקב"ה לבין משה.

בעל 'כלי יקר' מציג אותם כשווים מבחינת הנתונים הבסיסיים שאינם תלויים באדם, ועליונותו של משה היא במדרגה שהשיג בעצמו ולא בהעדפה מראש של הקב"ה.

דומני שגישות אלו תואמות את ההבדלים בין אלו הרואים במושג "עם סגולה" נתון מהותי, מין חסד א-לוהי, לבין אלו המאמינים בשוויון הבסיסי והמהותי בין כל בני אדם שנבראו בצלם . בחירתו של עם ישראל, על פי תפיסה זו, היא בראש וראשונה הזדמנות ואתגר – א' קטנה, אך אחריות גדולה.

ויקרא אל משה- ומי שמע?

ויקרא אל משה - ומי שמע?*

רש"י, בעקבות חז"ל (יומא ד, ע"א), מדייק בלשון הכתוב:

"ויקרא אל משה" – הקול הולך ומגיע לאוזניו של משה וכל ישראל לא שומעין".

השאלה המעניינת בהקשר זה היא: במי תלויה השמיעה? ב"משמיע" או ב"שומע"? או בשניהם גם יחד? (בהקשר זה, קשה שלא להיזכר בהלכה, כפי שהיא מנוסחת ברמב"ם (הלכות שופר ב, ד ), לגבי תקיעת שופר: 'לא יצא ידי חובתו, עד שיתכוין שומע ומשמיע.')

בנוסף לכך, מהו הכלי שדרכו 'שומעים' את קול ה'? ומהו אותו "קול ה'"?

רש"י מוסיף דבר מה בפירושו העשוי לשפוך אור על סוג הקול והשמיעה, וכך לשונו:

"מאוהל מועד – מלמד שהיה הקול נפסק ולא היה יוצא חוץ לאוהל"

מכיוון שלא שמענו שאוהל מועד היה מוקף בקיר אקוסטי אטום ובמערכת בידוד משוכללת, ואף תקרה לא היתה לו, יש להניח שמדובר כאן ב'קול' וב'שמיעה' מאיכות אחרת.

ומדרש התנאים ספרא (ה) אף מבאר את הדברים:

"יכול מפני שהקול נמוך? תלמוד לומר: 'את הקול'; מה הקול המתפרש בכתובים 'קול ה' בכֹּח, קול ה' בהדר; קול ה' ֹשֹבֵר ארזים'; אם כן, למה נאמר 'מאוהל מועד'? מלמד שהיה הקול נפסק".

אם כן, הדבר המונע את שמיעת הקול איננו בעיית שמיעה או מגבלה אקוסטית, אלא הדבר תלוי ברצונו של 'המשמיע' או ביכולתו וברצונו של ה'שומע' או בקשר בין השומע למשמיע.

ישעיהו ליבוביץ (ב'שבע שנים של שיחות על פרשת השבוע') מביא את דברי בעל "המדרש הגדול" בנושא זה, המציג קריאה מסוימת בדברי הספרא, המובאים על ידי רש"י:

"... יכול שהיה [הקול] נמוך? תלמוד לומר: "הקול" המפורש בכתובים; ואם כן, מה זה (משה) שומע וזה (עם ישראל) אינו שומע? אלא כל שהקב"ה רוצה בו שיישמע, הוא שומע, והשאר אינם שומעים"

על פי תפיסה זו, שמיעת הקול תלויה אם כן בחסד אלוהי והקב"ה בוחר את אלה שישמעו את קולו.

לעומת גישה זו, ניתן לקרוא את דברי רבי חיים בן עטר, בעל פירוש 'אור החיים' גם בדרך אחרת, וכך לשונו:

"ויקרא אל משה - אולי שיכוון הכתוב להודיע תעצומותיו יתברך, שיקרא בקול גדול ולא ישמענו זולת את אשר יחפוץ, והוא אומרו 'ויקרא אל משה', שהגם שקרא, לא נשמע הדיבור אלא אל משה ולא למי שלפניו"

האם הכוונה ב"אשר יחפוץ" היא אשר יחפוץ בו ה', כדברי בעל המדרש הגדול? או שמא מתכוון בעל אורח חיים לומר שכל מי חפץ לשמוע את קול ה' יוכל לשמוע אותו, ואין הדבר תלוי אלא באדם עצמו?

פרופ' ישעיהו ליבוביץ מנסה להציע מכנה משותף לשתי התפיסות וטוען שבכל מקרה, בין אם קול ה' מגיע ליחידי סגולה הנבחרים על ידי האל בלבד, ובין אם הוא מגיע רק לאדם הבוחר לשמוע את הקול, שמיעת הקול איננה תלויה בקול, אלא היא תלויה במהותו של האדם אליו מגיע הקול. ליבוביץ מסיק מכך שבכל מקרה עבודת ה' על ידי קבלת עול תורה ומצוות היא היכולה להביא את האדם לשמיעת הקול ולא להפך. דבר זה תואם במידה רבה את תורת הנבואה של הרמב"ם.

מדרש התנאים ספרא, ובעקבותיו בעל "אור החיים", דורשים גם את המילה 'לאמר':

"בשביל ישראל היה מדבר עמו ולא בשביל עצמו, שלא היה דיבורו למשה זולת בשביל ישראל"

משה, גדול הנביאים, משמש אם כן צינור להעברת "קול ה'" לישראל. דבר זה מזכיר את הכתוב אחרי עשרת הדברים: " וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה: דַּבֵּר אַתָּה עִמָּנוּ וְנִשְׁמָעָה, וְאַל יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ אֱלֹהִים פֶּן נָמוּת." (שמות כ, טז)

והרשב"ם מפרש: 'דבר אתה עמנו' - ואילמלא שאמרו כך, יש לומר שהיה אומר להם הקב"ה כל המצוות מפיו'.

תיווכו של משה, שיכול היה "לשמוע", התבקש מכיוון שבני ישראל לא היו מסוגלים 'לשמוע'.

ניתן להסיק מכך שמדובר במהות שונה של שמיעה, שאיננה תלויה במערכת השמיעה האקוסטית.

ומהם אם כן הדברים המושמעים בפרשה זו, הפותחת סדרה של פרשיות העוסקות בעבודת ה' באמצעות קורבנות?

ידועה גישתו של הרמב"ם במורה הנבוכים לעבודת הקורבנות, הרואה בה מעין התחשבות בנטיות האליליות שאינן ניתנות להכחדה ותיעולן לעבודת ה', בצורה מדוקדקת, תוך כדי הקפדה על מקום ההקרבה ועל כללי הקרבה קפדניים ביותר.

בניגוד לרמב"ם, הרמב"ן ואחרים, רואים בעבודת הקורבנות דרך להתקרב לקב"ה, כאשר האדם מקריב באופן סמלי את הבהמיות שבו על ידי הקרבת הקורבנות.

נראה לי שבסופו של דבר, המשותף לגישות השונות הוא שקול ה' מצווה על ריסון ואיפוק ועל שליטה מֵרבית ביצרים, תוך כדי התחשבות בקיומן של יצרים אלו.

האם מילות התפילה או לימוד פרשיות אלו יכולות לשמש תחליף נאות לעבודה קשה זו של השתלטות התבונה, המוסר, וקול ה' על יצרים חזקים המתעוררים בנו בעתות מצוקה? האם בתי הכנסת ובתי המדרש משמשים היום מקום בו מתחנך ציבור המשליט את קול ה' על אש זרה ואלימה?

ייתכן ששאלה זו מצריכה התבוננות מתמדת ואולי תלוי הדבר באיכות השמיעה של אותו קול, או האם, כפי שניסח זאת ליבוביץ בצורה מליצית, השומע והמשמיע את קול ה' נמצאים בתוך אוהל מועד או מחוצה לו?

* דבריי מבוססים במידה רבה על דבריו של פרופ' י. ליבוביץ ב'שבע שנים של שיחות על פרשת השבוע' עמ' 438-441 ותפילתי היא שבבוא הזמן יביאו גאולה לעולם פצוע ומדמם.

יום שישי, 20 במרץ 2009


Hodesh [Month], Hiddush [New Idea] and Hithadshut [Renewal]

Anyone who has read Rashi’s comment on the first verse of the Torah is acquainted with Rabbi Yitzhak’s question regarding the Torah’s “editorial policy,” and its solution: the Torah begins with Bereishit in accordance with the verse, He revealed to His people His powerful works (Tehillim 111:6). The various views flowing from that verse are well-known, and are largely dependent upon the various “spectacles” through which different Jews read the Torah.

It seems to me that because of this, less attention was paid to the interesting alternative suggested by Rabbi Yitzhak in Rashi’s commentary, that it, the idea that the Torah could have begun with the section, This month shall mark for you… (Shemot 12:2), known as Parashat Ha-Hodesh, which serves as this Shabbat’s additional Torah reading.

Rashi brings Rabbi Yitzhak’s idea in these words:

And Rabbi Yitzhak said, “The Torah should have begun with none other than this month shall mark for you, which is the first commandment that the Israelites were commanded.

The commandments constitute the Torah’s significance; thus there seems to be no reason that it begin from Genesis. The RaMBaN develops a different approach to Rabbi Yitzhak’s statement, and claims that, in any event, we are unable to understand the Act of Creation from the narrative of Bereishit. However, if we study Parashat Ha-Hodesh, perhaps we will be able to come up with additional reasons why it may be considered to be the Torah’s second beginning. Perhaps we will even be able to understand why this section was chosen as the additional reading for the Shabbat in which we bless the coming month of Nissan, the first of months (Shemot 12:2).

The commandment to sanctify the new month was given to Moses and Aaron while they were still in Egypt. It symbolizes the turning point, the renewal of an enslaved people. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in his commentary on this passage:

It is only after all this, that the words This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; get their real meaning: This renewal of the moon shall be a beginning of renewals for you. That is, noticing, realizing, the fresh birth of the moon shall induce you to achieve a similar rejuvenation. You are to fix your moons, your periods of time by taking note of this ever fresh recurring rejuvenation. It does not say this month shall mark the beginning of the months, but shall mark for you, it is not a question of the actual months but of our months. That is also why…we find new moons and festivals referred to as your months and your festivals whereas the definitely fixed seventh day is never caller your Sabbath…

So the Jewish consecration of the New Moon is an institution for the periodical fresh spiritual and moral rejuvenation of Israel by finding itself again in conjunction with its God…and they give the meaning of Rosh Hodesh - which literally finds its expression in the mussaf sacrifice – as being concentrated in what they explain to be the goal that the goat sacrifice of Rosh Hodesh attempts to attain, viz. : “to atone for the pollution of the Sanctuary that remained unknown from beginning to end”: to work against all our estrangement from all holiness and holy ideas into which we have unconsciously drifted, and which we ourselves could not notice. Without this regularly bringing ourselves back into communion with our God…we should always slide farther and farther from Him, always be getting more and more estranged from Him; quite unconsciously and without our noticing it, our natures would become less and less responsive to the light of His Spirit, our natures would become darker and darker until – like Pharaoh – our hearts would become so hardened and weighed down that even the most startling signs and the most affecting wonders would not achieve this rebirth, the rejuvenation of our inner selves.

But the Jewish idea of atonement comprises not only the spiritual and moral rebirth of our inner selves, but along with it a fresh arrangement of our external, our social and national conditions. The rebirth of our inner selves must come first, the other then results…The heathen knows no new thing, not in the world, not in humanity, not in his gods, nor in the powers he places above men in the world…everything swims down the stream of blind unalterable necessity…

(Isaac Levy translation)

According to Hirsch, the role of the Jewish People is, by means of recognition of the renewing month and the paschal sacrifice, to develop consciousness of change and renewal at the experiential level, in defiance of the deterministic world-view of Egyptian paganism.

Paganism is seen as frozenness, as a closed and deterministic world upon which man can have no influence. The world we are charged to develop is a world of change, a developing world. The RaMBaM’s statement in Hilkhot Hametz u’Matzah (7:3) is apposite:

It is necessary to make a change [from regular behavior] on that night so that the children will see it and ask, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” until he responds to them and says to them “this and that occurred and this and that happened”…if he is alone, he should ask himself, “Why is this night different?”

Changes invites questions, and questions are necessary in order to develop consciousness of change and faith in the possibility of change.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote these words in the end of the 19th century and relates to the two beginnings (Nisan and Tishrei) metaphorically as figures of light and darkness, completing his comments in poetic style

Everything pertaining to the earth is born bare and without blossom out of the night, and even though it rises to the brightness of midday and riches of blossoms and fruit, sinks bare and blossomless to the night of its grave. Everything holy and Jewish has its origin in Light and Life and even though it has to meet and contend, in running its course, with Night and Death, out of darkness and death it struggles back to Light and Life, and what was born out of morn and spring, ends again at dawn, rejuvenated to a new Spring.

It seems to me that the tension between these two beginnings, the renewed creation of the world on the one hand, which we celebrate in Tishrei, and the birth and liberation of a people in Nissan, on the other, allows these to serve as the twin focal points for religious contemplation.

The moon represents the ability and the need to believe in renewal and change. In a special way, the renewed moon of Nissan constitutes an appropriate opportunity for contemplating the possibility of a change of direction, of escape from bondage to the light of freedom. Pharaoh represents that part of us that consecrates the status quo and does not believe in change. Will we have the strength and wisdom to liberate ourselves from this pagan stasis, to have faith in change, and to renew ourselves?

Divine Glory


It is told that Rebbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk used to walk around his Bet Midrash and ask his Hassidim: Where is The Holy One, Blessed Be He?

Each of his Hassidim thought before answering, and then gave an answer based on this or that passage or on some dictum of Chazal.

- One said: “There is no place where He is not found”.

- Another said: “The Universe is filled with His glory”.

- The third said: “Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You”. . . and so on . . . learned answers all.

Then Rebbi Menachem Mendel rose and announced, in his thundering

voice: “You don’t understand – The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is found wherever one lets Him in!”

The problem of God’s revelation in our world engaged religious thought throughout the generations. In a certain sense, the question of revelation is tied up with the meaning of its existence for us today.

Our parasha, which completes the Book of Shemot and the description of the erection of the Mishkan, concludes with the following passages (40:33-38):

And he set up the enclosure around the Tabernacle and the altar,

and put up the screen for the gate of the enclosure -

So Moshe finished the work.

Now the cloud covered the Tent of Appointment –

and the Glory of God filled the Dwelling.

Moshe was not able to come into the Tent of Appointment

for the cloud took up dwelling upon it –

and the Glory of God filled the dwelling.

Whenever the cloud goes up from the Dwelling,

The Children of Israel march on, upon all their marches;

If the cloud does not go up – they do not march on, until such time as it does go up.

For the cloud of God is over the Dwelling by day, and fire is by night in it,

before the eyes of all the House of Israel upon all their marches”.

At first glance, as we read the passages according to their plain meaning [p’shat], one might understand that following the completion of the Mishkan by Moshe’s hands, two events occurred:

A. A cloud covered the Tent of Appointment

B. The Glory of God filled the Mishkan

Both the cloud and the glory are designated “the cloud of God” and “the Glory of God” - the cloud above the Mishkan testifies to the existence of the Glory of God inside the Mishkan; as long as the cloud is seen above the Mishkan, Moshe is constrained from entering the Tent of Appointment and the Children of Israel are unable to progress on their desert journeys.

Can a contemporary Jew, who studies Torah and is not a mystic, comprehend the expression “the Glory of God” in a meaningful and relevant manner?

This expression appears a number of times in the Bible, in varying contexts. Most of the traditional commentators do not deal with the nature of that “glory” in our parasha, but in other places; explanations pertinent to the specific context are given.

Rabbi Efrayim of Lunshitz, author of the KLI YAKAR commentary, deems it necessary to differentiate between the cloud and the glory:

“The cloud covered the Tent of Appointment, and the Glory of God filled the cloud” – from this it appears that the Glory of God is not the cloud, but rather the fire and the light, i.e. the Glory of God was seen from within the cloud; were it not for the cloud, it would have been impossible to gaze upon it, for man cannot gaze into the light of the sun, kal va-chomer he cannot look at the brilliance of His Presence. Therefore the holy light was always seen from within the cloud, and when the Mishkan stood, the two [the cloud and the

Glory] were separated from each other, for the Divine light would enter the Mishkan, for there was the place of His holiness, and the cloud would remain outside . . . therefore it says here: Moshe was not able to come into the Tent of Appointment for the cloud took up dwelling in it – and the Glory of God filled the dwelling.” For if the Glory of God were combined with the cloud it would have been able for Moshe to enter into the cloud, as is recorded at the end of Parashat “Mishpatim” “Moshe entered the cloud”, because then the Glory of God was covered and it was possible for Moshe to enter the cloud, but now that they were separate from each other, the cloud being outside and the Glory of God was – without the cloud – inside the Tent, Moshe was unable to enter the Tent of Appointment . . .”

The author of the KLI YAKAR, then, imagines “the Glory of God” as light and fire, and the cloud serves as a protective shield preventing man from coming too close to the Glory of God.

Rashi (Shemot 16:7) explains the Glory of God in the context of the Manna, which fell every morning as an expression of something justifiably requested and willingly given:

At daybreak you will see the Glory of God” – this is not identical with that glory of (v. 10) behold, the Glory of God was seen in the cloud.” But this is what he said to them: In the morning you will know that He has the ability to satisfy your craving and He will provide meat. He will not give it with a smiling countenance because you asked improperly, on a full stomach. But the bread - which was requested in order to satisfy a real need - when it will fall in the morning you will see the glory of the light of His countenance, in that He will bring it down for you in the morning lovingly – there will be time to prepare it, dew above and dew below, as though placed in a box.”

‘The Glory of God’, in this context, is something given ‘lovingly’ as an answer to a legitimate existential need of man.

Rambam, in GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED (Book 1, Chap. 19) relates to the entire universe as an expression of the Glory of God:

The whole earth is full of His glory” – the meaning of this verse being that the whole earth bears witness to His perfection, that is, indicates it. Similar is the dictum: “And the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” - every mention of ‘filling’ that you will find referring to God is used in this sense, and not in the sense of there being a body filling a place. However, if you wish to consider that the ‘Glory of the Lord’ is the created light that is designated as ‘glory’ in every passage, and is that which ‘filled the tabernacle’, there is no harm in it.”

Yeshaayahu Leibowitz (SEVEN YEARS OF DISCUSSION OF THE WEEKLY PARASHA, p. 432) understands Rambam’s words as follows:

“The Mishkan, which was built by Israel for the service of God, attests to God and to man’s cognizance of God, and this is the ‘Glory of God’ - there is nothing tangible, no object filling the Mishkan.”

The second part of the Rambam’s words is explained by Leibowitz in the following fashion:

“Rambam posits this assumption [the understanding of the concept ‘Glory of the Lord’] in order to accommodate the weak understanding of the student and the reader of the Torah, taking into consideration his intellectual level and the depth of his faith. This means that if the faith of the believer requires visualization of the cognizance of God, he is allowed to explain this passage as pointing out the visible phenomenon, such as that which Israel recognized. If, however, Man rises to a higher plane of understanding and his belief is profound, he does not need such tangible expression, but he well understands the ‘Glory of God’ mentioned here is only a stylistic representation of the service of God in the Mishkan.”

In any case, this approach has two components of the concept “Glory of God”:

- Observation of the universe as an expression of Divine Revelation; The Heavens proclaim the Glory of God”, and all creation is testimony to His existence, and Man can study the revelation of the Divinity through study of creation.

- The Glory of God as commitment of Man to being an active witness to the existence of God in the world: My witnesses are you – declares the Lord” (Isaiah 43:10)

Perhaps the two components of “Glory of God” can be linked. Sometimes, everyone needs an external ‘light’ which makes it possible to see the Glory of God; this seeing provides an opportunity to serve, by one’s actions, as a living witness to the Glory of God. Sometimes, certain individuals can transform themselves into a Mishkan in which their behavior reveals the Glory of God. An allusion to this may be found in the order of priorities laid down in the Talmud in Tractate Megillah (3b), later codified by Rambam (Laws of Megillah 1:1):

“Rabba asks: The reading of the Megilla and the need to attend to burial of a meit mitzvah [a corpse having no one to bury it] – which takes precedence? [Do we say that] reading of Megilla takes precedence in order to publicize the miracle? Or perhaps attending to burial takes precedence – because of respect for people? After asking the question, he answered himself: Attention to the dead takes precedence. For the Master taught: Great is respect for people, for it defers every negative precept in the Torah.”

When faced with the choice of either publicizing the miracle performed for us on Purim or fulfilling the obligation to bury a meit mitzvah, we must choose the latter, out of respect for human beings. From this we may deduce that the sure sign of our ability to experience - and to give to- the Glory of God is seen through the respect we give man, every man – for the meit mitzvah is not someone renowned and important; it may be assumed that he is someone anonymous and destitute, created in the image of God.