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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 1, v. 1: "Eileh hadvorim" - Rashi says that because Moshe was delivering words of rebuke he expressed himself in a veiled manner and recounted the negative happenings by allusion only.

The Malbim once delivered a fiery speech on Shabbos to his congregation about the importance of shmiras Shabbos. On Sunday morning a prominent by wealth member of the congregation burst into the home of the Malbim, livid with rage. "What right do you have to insult me in public?" he ranted. "Don't you know that to embarrass your fellow man in public is worse than all the desecration of Shabbos that goes on in the whole world? Aren't you aware of my being one of the greatest donours to all community needs and that a sizeable portion of your wages comes from my pocket?" And on and on and on......

When the Malbim was finally able to squeeze in a word edgewise he remarked, "My, your hat looks so good on you. Did you have it custom made?" The congregant looked quizzically at the Malbim, wondering why he responded with a non sequitur. He went into high gear once again, criticizing and belittling the Malbim for so terribly shaming him in public. Once again the Malbim found a crack of space in the diatribe, when it was necessary for the congregant to catch his breath. Once again, "My, your hat looks so good on you. Did you have it custom made?" At this point he replied, "No, I did not have it custom made. Just like everyone else does, I went into a haberdashery and tried on a few hats until I found the one that suited me and then purchased it."

"If so," said the Malbim, "what do you want from me? Don't you remember that on the previous Shabbos I spoke about the importance of charity? I also had an irate visitor on Sunday. He was a very wealthy member of our community who is very miserly. He had compaints similar to the ones you have just voiced.

Believe me, I had no particular person in mind. Every week the people who fall short in the subject matter that I raise come to me and complain about my embarrassing them. I am like the hat manufacturer. I make different speeches on a variety of mitzvos, meaning to attack no one. Those who feel that the speech fits them are like the those who choose a hat from the rack that fits them perfectly."

Moshe spoke in a cloaked and indirect manner. No doubt those who realized that he mentioned their failing picked their "custom made hat."

Ch. 1, v. 1: "EiLeH hadvorim asher di'beir Moshe el KOL YISROEL" - The gemara B.B. 165a says that all people transgress "Avak Loshon Hora," the dust of evil gossip, meaning loshon hora through insinuation. This is alluded to in our verse. The word "EiLeH" is spelled Alef-Lamed-Hei, the same as the first letters of "Avak Loshon Hora." Regarding this matter moshe spoke "el KOL YISROEL," to everyone, since all fall short in keeping this law.

Ch. 1, v. 13 "Va'asi'meim b'rosheichem" - It is quite puzzling that Rashi first comments on the word "b'rosheichem" and only afterwards explains "va'asi'meim" although it appears earlier in the verse.

Upon seeing the comment Rashi makes on the word "b'rosheichem," that they should honour and be in awe of him, an answer may emerge. On the words "y'du'im l'shivteivhem" which also appear in this verse Rashi explains that there is a requirement to appoint only heads who are known to the people, knowing them intimately from previous years as an upright G-d fearing person.

The outward, seemingly pious appearance of a person and a most recent knowledge of his behaviour only, are far from conclusive that he is an appropriate candidate for the position. Rashi points out that once a person appears in front of Moshe cloaked in his talis, even Moshe would not know if he is truly a righteous individual (based on the Holy Zohar in parshas Yisro 18:21, "V'atoh sechezeh"). This requirement being the case, we run into a new problem. Once a person is well known from his early years, even if he was always wholesome, there is the fear that people would have an attitude of, "I knew him since he was young." Maintaining the vision of a youth in mind one reacts with, "How can such a person be a leader over me? I remember him as a little child running around ......" Possibly, this is why Moshe was brought up in the house of Paroh since the time he was a three month old baby. This kept him out of public view of the bnei Yisroel who would afterwards be required to have the greatest of awe for Moshe and treat him with tremendous honour.

Therefore Rashi first explains the word "b'rosheichem," saying that it is required to have "kovod v'yiroh," - honour and awe, of the person, this in spite of having known him from the time of his youth. Then and only then, "va'asi'meim," can I place him as your head.

Alternatively, this can be answered by noting what Rashi says on the word "va'asi'meim." Rashi (M.R. 1:8) points out that this word is spelled deficiently, "cho'seir," lacking a letter Yud between the Sin and Mem. (In virtually all Torah scrolls we find this word spelled with a Yud.) The word can be read "v'oshmom," - their guilt. This teaches us that the heads of the people are held responsible when the common folk sin, since they should have influenced them to behave properly.

A story will be used to bring out the thrust of the answer. The Holy Baal Shem Tov often travelled, using supernatural powers to have his mode of transportation cover vast distances in a miraculously short amount of time.

Equally miraculous was the fact that his horse and carriage arrived at the proper destination. Once he took along the legendary Rabbi Yechiel Mechel of Zlotshov. As they were travelling Rabbi Y.M. noticed a look of concern on the Baal Shem Tov's holy countenance. The Baal Shem Tov told his faithful driver Alexi that they had taken a wrong turn and must retrace their path. Such an occurrence had never before happened. This recurred again and again. A smile crept up on the face of Rabbi Y.M. who had heard of the miraculous travels of the Baal Shem, but frowned upon hearing them. Although he had now personally witnessed the miracle of travelling at a great speed, but Divine directional guidance was sorely lacking. The Holy Baal Shem Tov read the thoughts of Rabbi Y.M. and said to him, "Don't think for a moment that I do not have the ability to travel miraculously quickly and as well to arrive at my desired destination. It is only as a result of the lack of your full trust in me that Hashem has not sent me this ability on this particular trip."

Similarly in our verse, Rashi must first predicate that there is a requirement of giving honour and having fear of the appointed leaders, before stating that the communal shortcomings fall upon the heads of the leaders. Indeed, if the people do not give honour and do not hold in awe their leaders, then the guilt of the masses is not placed upon their leaders, since the leaders' ability to influence was stymied by the followers' lack of confidence in them.

Ch. 1, v. 17: "Lo sakiru fonim bamishpot" - In Yeshayohu 3:9 it says "Hakoras pneihem onsoh bom." Rashi explains that this means that their appearance has identified them as being brazen faced. We can apply this explanation to our verse. The verse exhorts the judges to not identify and recognize the litigants as being brazen faced. The reason for this is that it would change a ruling regarding the judgement of money matters. A person who has been accused of not paying back a loan and responds that he indeed owes part of what the other person claims, and regarding the rest he says that it was never borrowed, "modeh b'miktzas hataanoh," swears that what he just said is true and is believed, as per the verse in Shmos 22:8, "ki hu zeh" (B.K. 106). The gemara B.M. 3a asks why he swears. If we believe him since he admitted partially, why swear? If we fear that he is lying, it is likely that he will also swear falsely. The gemara answers that if he owes the rest as well, he truly wants to pay back all but does not have enough funds. To totally deny the loan requires a brazen faced person. We do not believe he will have the audacity to TOTALLY deny a loan in the face of the person who was kind enough to lend him money. By denying part of the loan he hopes to bide his time until he comes up with the funds to pay the rest. The oath is being administered to a person who is essentially honest.

If, however, the defendant is brazen faced, the reasoning falls apart since he is ready to deny the complete loan. If indeed he has admitted to a partial debt he would be believed without an oath, since he could just as readily denied the whole amount. This logic is called a "migu." Since Hashem does not want the ruling of the judges to change from case to case based upon their appraisal of the level of audacity of the litigants, the Torah says "Lo sakiru fonim," - do not recognize, do not identify, who is brazen faced.

(Ponim Yofos)

Another interpretation of the words of our verse: Rabbi Eliezer Rokei'ach, the author of Arba Tu'rei Ovven, was a judge. When sitting in judgement he would always wear his talis and pull it far over his eyes so that when the litigants came in front of him he would hear their claims but would not see their faces. This, he said, was the fulfillment of the words of our verse, "Lo sakiru fonim bamishpot." As well, he explains the gemara Sotoh 47b which says that once there increased judges who were "ro'ei fonim b'din," usually translated as taking the side of one litigant not based on his actual proofs, there was an erosion of "lo soguru mipnei ish" (our verse) - you shall not fear any man while judging. Rabbi Eliezer Rokei'ach translated the gemara as follows: Once there increased those who looked at the faces of the litigants (and saw that one of them is a person to be feared), this brought an end to fulfilling the requirement of not fearing either litigant. He therefore cloaked his eyes with his talis to keep from seeing their faces.

Anser to last week's question:

Bmidbar, Ch. 33, v. 9: "V'Aharon ben sholosh v'esrim u'm'as shonoh b'moso" - Where do we find the number of years of Aharon's life used as a mnemonic, a prompt, to remind us of the number 123 in regard to something being done or appearing that number of times?

The gemara Yerushalmi Shabbos 16:1, Medrash Shochar Tov on T'hilim chapter 22, and ma'seches Sofrim 16:12 all say that Hallel is mentioned 123 times, corresponding to the years of Aharon's life. The Rambam in hilchos Chanukah 3:12 says that at the end of each section (perhaps the intention is each verse) that the chazan says, the congregation responds with the single word "halleluKoh." The total number of responses is 123 as were the years of Aharon's life. The Sh'yo'rei Korbon, a commentator on the Yerushalmi understood those who said that the gemara refers to the responses of the congregation as saying that the response was after every word the chazan said. With this premise he questioned that the total should be over one thousand. He therefore explained that the intention of the gemara is that the word form HALLEL appears in T'hilim 123 times. The Korban Ho'eidoh, another commentator on the Yerushalmi, disagrees with the Sh'yo'rei Korbon, citing the Rambam as saying that the response was only after every section. This does total 123 times. Please note that we do not follow this custom today. The change in custom is noted by the Rambam hilchos Chanukah 3:14.



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