Saturday, September 24, 2011

Parshas Nitzavim - Vayelech; Our connection to Moshe Rabbeinu

The gemara says in Bava Basra (12:2);
אמר רבי אבדימי דמן חיפה מיום שחרב בית המקדש אע"פ שניטלה מן הנביאים מן החכמים לא ניטלה  אלא אמר רב אשי תדע דאמר גברא רבה מילתא ומתאמרא הלכה למשה מסיני כוותיה. ודלמא כסומא בארובה? ולאו טעם יהיב?

“Rebbi Avdimi from Chaifa said, ‘From the day the Beis ha’Mikdash was destroyed…even although nevuah was taken away from the neviim it was not taken from thechachamim. Rav Ashi said, ‘You can know that this is true because a talmid chacham might say something and you will find that the halachah le’Moshe mi’Sinai is stated like him.’

[The gemara asks…] Maybe it is like a blind person groping for the way down from an attic? (He happened to guess the right halachah.)

[The gemara answers: This is not possible because] did he not give a reason?”

Rashi explains;
וכיון דאמר טעמא  סברת הלב היא הבאה לו בנבואה וזכה להסכים להלכה למשה מסיני
“Since he said a reason – [we can see that] it is a sevara of the heart that came to him in nevuah and he merited to understand the halachah le’Moshe mi’Sinai by himself.”

  • How is it possible for the talmid chacham to achieve a level of nevuah which will endow him with the same level of Torah understanding as Moshe, if he is not on the same level of nevuah as Moshe?

Rb Dessler z”l explains as follows;
The first mishna in Pirkei Avos says “Moshe kibel torah mi’sinai” – “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai.”

Rb Chaim Volozhin (Ruach Chaim) asks: Why does the mishna say; “Moshe received the Torah at Sinai,” surely the mishna should rather say “from Sinai?”

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin answers as follows;

There are two places in the Torah where people have their names repeated. At the Akeida the malach called to Avraham;
וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ ה' מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי
“And the malach of Hashem called to him from shamayim and he said ‘Avraham, Avraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’”

At the sneh, Hashem called to Moshe;
 וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֨יו אֱלֹקִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֗ה וַיֹּ֛אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֥ה מֹשֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי
“And Hashem called to him from within the bush and he said, ‘Moshe, Moshe!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’”

  • At the Akeida, there is a pesik between the two occurrences of Avraham’s name. At the sneh there is no pesik to split the two occurrences of Moshe’s name, why is this?

Rabbi Chaim Volozhin z”l (Ruach Chaim, Pirkei Avos, 1:1) explains that there are two portions to the neshama. The main portion of the neshama remains in olam habah even when a person is alive. The body acts as clothing to the lower portion of the neshama which is present in olam hazeh.

Both Avraham and Moshe were on the madregah that they were aware of their neshama in olam habah even when they were in olam hazeh. This is why the passukrepeats their names, once for their neshama of olam hazeh and once for their neshama of olam habah. Nevertheless there was still a difference between the madregahof Avraham Avinu and the madregah of Moshe Rabbeinu.

With Avraham Avinu, there was still a small division between the two parts of his neshama. That is why there is a pesik that divides between the two names - Avraham. However, with Moshe Rabbeinu, there was no interruption between the two parts of his neshama at all, that is why there is no pesik between the two mentions of Moshe’s name.

In what way was Moshe greater than Avraham?

The gemara says in Chullin (89a);
אמר רבא ואיתימא ר' יוחנן גדול שנאמר במשה ואהרן יותר ממה שנאמר באברהם דאילו באברהם כתיב ואנכי עפר ואפר ואילו במשה ואהרן כתיב ונחנו מה
“Rava said, some say it was Rabbi Yochanan. ‘That which is stated concerning Moshe and Aharon is greater than that which is said concerning Avraham Avinu. Regarding Avraham it is said, “And I am dust and ashes.” But regarding Moshe and Aharon it is written, “And we are nothing.”’”

Because Moshe was so humble that he considered himself as nothing at all, he was able to fully perceive olam habah and receive nevuah through an aspeklariah meirah – a clear lens.  On the other hand, all other neviim were on the level of Avraham, so that there was some interruption in their perception of olam habah. Therefore they received nevuah at a level of aspeklariah she’eino meirah – an unclear lens.

This is why the mishna says Moshe kibel Torah mi’sinai. The mishna means that Moshe received the Torah through his middah of Sinai. Just as Har Sinai was the lowest of the mountains and was therefore worthy that the Torah be given on it, so too Moshe was the humblest of men and therefore merited that the Torah be given through him. Because he considered himself to be nothing at all, the Torah was able to be transmitted through him clearly, as through an aspeklariah meirah.

Eliyahu ha’navi
The passuk says in Malachim 2 (2:9);
וַיְהִי כְעָבְרָם וְאֵלִיָּהוּ אָמַר אֶל אֱלִישָׁע שְׁאַל מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה לָּךְ בְּטֶרֶם אֶלָּקַח מֵעִמָּךְ וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע וִיהִי נָא פִּי שְׁנַיִם בְּרוּחֲךָ אֵלָי
“And it was as they passed and Eliyahu said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I should do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘May there please be double of your spirit to me.’”

Eliyahu answered;
וַיֹּאמֶר הִקְשִׁיתָ לִשְׁאוֹל אִם תִּרְאֶה אֹתִי לֻקָּח מֵאִתָּךְ יְהִי לְךָ כֵן וְאִם אַיִן לֹא יִהְיֶה
“And he said, ‘You have asked a difficult thing. If you see me taken from you it will be to you so, and if not, there it will not be.’”

The beraisa of שלשים ושתים מדות דרבי אליעזר בנו של רבי יוסי הגליל in מדה א' (p.96 at the back of the gemara ברכות) says that Elisha (who was present when Eliyahu was taken away in a chariot of fire) did receive double Eliyahu’s spirit because you find that Eliyahu performed 8 miracles whereas Elisha performed 16.

  • Why did Elisha have to be present when Eliyahu was taken away in order to receive double his spirit?
  • How was it possible for him to receive double his spirit? How could he receive more from Eliyahu than Eliyahu had himself?
  • Surely Eliyahu was truly greater than Elisha. If so, how is it possible to say that Elisha had double the inspiration of Eliyahu and therefore was able to perform double the number of miracles?

Rb Dessler z”l explains that the full extent of a tzaddik’s neshama is revealed when he leaves olam hazeh, at this time the two halves of his neshama are combined together. If a talmid is close to his rav then he is drawn towards olam habah together with him. Even after the passing of the rav, the talmid remains drawn to olam habah through his connection to his rav. That is why Eliyahu Ha’Navi said to Elisha that if he would follow him through his being taken, he would receive double Eliyahu’s ruach.

Eliyahu did not mean that Elisha would be physically present at his departing, he meant that Elisha would be able to remain connected to him as he left olam hazeh and entered olam habah. If so, he would be able to perceive the portion of Eliyahu’s neshama that had always remained in olam habah. Elisha did merit this, and therefore he was able to perform double the number of miracles that Eliyahu had performed. Even although Elisha was not on the actual level of Eliyahu, because he always remained attached to Eliyahu even when Eliyahu Ha’navi was in olam habah, he achieved a greater level of elevation than Eliyahu had accomplished.

We can similarly understand how it is possible for a talmid chacham to achieve a level of nevuah and understanding that is equivalent to Moshe’s level at Har Sinai. Just as Elisha remained always attached to Eliyahu, klal yisrael remains always attached to Moshe Rabbeinu. As the passuk says in Malachi (3:22);
זכרו תורת משה עבדי
“Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant.”

Because we always remain talmidim of Moshe Rabbeinu, we are able to achieve a level of understanding of the Torah which is beyond our own level through our unbroken connection to Moshe Rabbeinu.

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