by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Pinchas(68)This week's sedra deals with the reward Pinchas received for his act of bravery recorded in last week's sedra. Also the batlle with Midyon; the request of the daughters of Tzlafchad for receiving their father's inheritance; the appointment of Yehoshua to replace Moses and finally the scarifices offered on the Holydays.
Hashem informs Moses that he will not lead the nation into the Promised Land. Moses' first reaction is recorded. Numbers 27:15, (16)
"And Moses spoke to Hashem saying: May the Hashem, the G-d of the spirits, appoint a man over the community."
And Moses spoke to Hashem, etc. RASHI: To make known the virtue of the righteous, when they pass from this world they put aside their own needs and concern themselves with the needs of the community.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
G-d had just told Moses (verses 12-14) that he was to prepare himself to die. Moses' immediate reaction was to ask G-d to designate a successor to lead the nation after his death.
A Question: We can ask: what else could he have done? What personal request might Moses have made?
Hint: Put yourself in Moses' place.
An Answer: Moses could have asked G-d to allow him to enter the Land of Canaan, as he eventually did ask Him (see Deut. 3:23). In spite of this, he put aside his personal request, which stemmed from his strong longing to enter the Land of Israel. Instead, he dealt first with the community's problem - securing a leader for them to succeed him after his death.
Looking at the Dibbur Hamaschil of this comment, what would you ask?
A Question: Rashi's comment certainly refers to Moses' request in verse 16. Why then does he make his comment on these words from verse 15 and not on verse 16?
Hint: Look closely at this verse. Does it look strange?
A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING
An Answer: The words in this verse are very similar to a familiar phrase, which is repeated over 50 times in the Torah - "And G-d spoke to Moses saying." But here we have the mirror image of that famous verse:
"And Moses spoke to Hashem saying"
This phrase appears only once in the whole Torah - our verse! This is certainly a striking fact. It must have significance.
Perhaps we can say that just as the phrase denoting Hashem's communications to Moses with this wording, implied urgency and significance, so too was this communication from Moses to Hashem significant and urgent. According to Rashi, the urgency was that Moses wanted to immediately assure a successor to deal with the people's needs. Perhaps it was for this reason that Rashi chose these words to comment on. But notice that he adds the word "etc". This means that the continuation of the verse (in our case the next verse as well) is also included in the focus of his comment.
"To Make Known the Praise of the Righteous"
This unique phrase may explain another anomaly in Rashi's words. His opening words are - "to make known the praise of the righteous". What does Rashi mean by these words? If Moses, did in fact ask G-d to appoint a successor, then the Torah is just reporting what happened. Why is this considered to be "making known the praise of Moses' righteousness" anymore than any other story about his righteous acts as reported in the Torah?
But if we are aware that the Torah intentionally used the unique phrase "And Moses spoke to Hashem saying", this uniquely divine phrase, then maybe we can understand Rashi's meaning. The Torah used just these words, which are exclusively reserved for Divine communications, in order to show Moses' divine-like selfless concern for the needs of his flock. This, then, may be the reason that Rashi choose just these words as his Lead Words for this comment.
But if you see Rashi's comment to verse 16 "May Hashem apponit" you should have a quetion on Rashi's comment that Moses was mainly concernened about the communities needs.
ONE MORE QUESTION
A Question: Rashi says on verse 16 that Moses wanted Hashem to appoint Moses' own son as his replacement. So we see that perhaps Moses' concern was not so altruistic. Maybe he was just doing what most fathers would do - secure a position for his son.
How would you answer this?
Hint: See the verse thast follow 18-22)
An Answer: Certainly Moses may have been interested in securing his position for his son, but if we see how Moses reacts to G-d's rejection of appoining his son, we get a clearer understanding of Moses' deeper interests. See that Moses went ahead immediately, without further discussion, to asppoint Yehoshua. See verse 22. The Talmud says that if a man gives charity "on the contition that my son will be healed from his illness" , and if the son is not healed, the charity is still valid. We explain that this is so, because the man really wants to give the charity, he also wants he son to live, but if he knew his request would not be granted, he still would have given the charity. So too with Moses; he wanted first and foremost that an appropriate leader be appointmented in his stead, he also wanted his son to be appointed but that was not his primary concern. Rashi was right that Moses' primary interst was to find a leader for the People and for this he deserved praise.
What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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