Chamishoh Mi Yo'dei'a

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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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1) Ch. 1, v. 17: "Lo soguru mipnei ish" - Fear not a man - This is a warning for a judge to not fear a threatening litigant. When may a judge bow out because he fears one of the litigants?

2) Ch. 1, v. 17: "V'hadovor asher yiksheh mi'kem takrivun ei'lai ushmativ" - And the matter that will be difficult for you you should bring to my attention and I will hear it out - Rashi (Sifri) says that because of Moshe's stating that he is capable of handling even the most difficult of cases the ruling of the inheritance of the daughters of Tzelofchod alluded him. The gemara Sanhedrin likewise says that Moshe was punished for this. The gemara then asks, "Why say that Moshe was haughty? He did not say 'V'ashmi'achem,' I will surely respond. He only said 'ushmativ,' I will hear it out. If I don't know the ruling, I will have to be taught." The gemara therefore concludes that it was in the merit of the daughters of Tzelofchod that the rulings of inheritance came through them.

At first glance this gemara seems to disagree with Rashi (Sifri). How can we reconcile this?

3) Ch. 1, v. 37: "Biglalchem" - Because of you - Although we are in the middle of words of rebuke, how can we interpret these words to be positive and beneficial?

4) Ch. 2, v. 17: "Va'y'da'beir Hashem ei'lai leimore" - Rashi d.h. "Va'y'hi/Va'y'da'beir" writes that it is only after the people mentioned in verse 16 died that Hashem communicated with Moshe with a caring expression, "va'y'da'beir." From the time of sending the spies until their death the bnei Yisroel were reproved, and in turn the expression of communication with Moshe was also one of reproach, "va'yomer."

Rashi himself says the exact opposite on Bmidbar 12:1 in d.h. "Vat'da'beir." He says that "dibur" is a harsh expression, as in "di'ber ho'ish adonei ho'oretz itonu koshos" (Breishis 42:30), while "amiroh" is a soft expression, as in "va'yomar al noh achai to'rei'u" (Breishis 19:7).

5) Ch. 2, v. 27: "Ba'derech ba'derech eileich" - On the path on the path I will go - Why the repetition?



He must stand strong and judge against the threatening litigant if that is the conclusion the judge draws. However, the Medrash Tanchuma in parshas Mishpotim says that this only applies if the judge is involved in the case and sees that things are bending against the threatening litigant. If he is involved but so far there is no indication in which direction the ruling may go, he may bow out if he fears the tough litigant.


This gemara should be understood as follows and the conclusion of the gemara and the statement of the Sifri will not be in disagreement. We can either understand "ushmativ" as "I will hear it out" and there is an understood connotation that Moshe would surely have a response. On the other hand, it could be understood as the gemara posits that Moshe only meant to convey that he would hear it out but was not sure that he would have a response. Since he spoke in an ambiguous manner and did not spell out clearly that he might not know the answer, Hashem held back the knowledge from him, and Moshe's not immediately responding was also open to interpretation, either as a punishment for expressing that he wa ssure he would have an answer, or that although he actually knew the answer, it was transmitted through the intervention of Tzelofchod's daughters because of their great merit. Thus Moshe was punished in kind, with an ambiguous understanding of why he did not respond immediately. (Mahari"l Diskin)


The M.R. says that this means for your benefit, as understood through a parable. A maidservant accidentally dropped her bucket into a well and was unable to retrieve it. She began to cry because of the loss. The king's maidservant came by to draw water from the well and also dropped her golden bucket into the well. The other maidservant was overjoyed, saying that whoever would be sent to fetch the golden bucket would at the same time retrieve hers as well. So too, once Moshe would not merit to enter the Holy Land and would be buried in the desert, when the time for the revival of the dead would take place and Moshe will be brought into Eretz Yisroel, so will the rest of those who died in the desert.


The Mizrochi asks this and leaves this question unanswered, "v'tzorich iyun." The Sifsei Chachomim in the name of the Mahari"tz differentiates between "el Moshe" and "ei'lai." This seems to be a farfetched way of explaining Rashi, as Rashi clearly differentiates between "amiroh" and "dibur," and makes no mention of the use of the word "ei'lai." L'vush Ho'oroh and Tzeidoh La'derech differentiate between Hashem speaking face to face, connoting kindness, albeit with the expression "dibur," and Hashem speaking indirectly, through a medium, connoting harshness, albeit with the expression of "amiroh." The examples Rashi gave are of people talking, Miriam (Bmidbar 12:1) and Lote (Breishis 19:7).

The B'eir Baso'deh cites the Holy Zohar (3:132b) who says that "dibur" connotes speaking in a raised loud voice, while "amiroh" connotes speaking in a soft voice. The Holy Zohar asks, "If so, why does Hashem usually speak to Moshe with the expression 'dibur'." He answers that another prophet would quake, tremble, and fall down in a trance out of fear when hearing even an "amiroh" communication from Hashem, while for Moshe, the father of all prophets, even a strong communication brings no such reaction. Says the B'eir Baso'deh, "This is the intention of the verse 'Va'y'da'beir Hashem ei'lai LEIMORE.'" When Hashem speaks with a DIBUR expression, "ei'lai," to me, it is as if it were LEIMORE, a soft expression." He concludes that the question raised by the Mizrochi is thus resolved. The words of Rashi on Bmidbar 12:1 only apply to a person speaking or Hashem communicating with another prophet. However, when communicating with Moshe, "dibur" is considered soft, while "amiroh" is considered harsh.

Although he does not elaborate on why "amiroh" is harsh, perhaps it is because when Moshe, who is capable of receiving a communiqu? in a high-powered manner, receives it in a soft manner, it is a limitation of the clarity of the message, hence this is the harshness itself. It is somewhat like running a 220 volt appliance on a 110 volt current. If the appliance is made to be run on 220, the 110 charge is negative.

Perhaps we can now interpret every "Va'y'da'beir Hashem el Moshe leimore" as "And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the DIBUR manner," which is harsh, but because it was to Moshe it is LEIMORE, soft.


Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates that this means that the bnei Yisroel said that they would only travel on the well-trodden path.



See also Sedrah Selections, Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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