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Gleaned From the Sfas Emes

by Rabbi Simcha Leib Grossbard

Parshas B'ha'alosecha


Towards the end of the parsha is the episode where Miriam haN'viah and Aharon haKohan speak disapprovingly of Moshe Rabbenu's separation from his wife. And G-d reproves them...

“And they said, ‘Has G-d spoken only to Moshe? (which may have led him to become celibate), G-d has spoken to us, also!’ (So this is not a valid reason for him to separate from his wife). And G-d heard.” (12:2)“And G-d descended in a pillar of cloud... and called forth Aharon and Miriam...” (12:5)

“And He said, ‘Hear My words! If there be among you a prophet - through an unclear vision I appear; as in a dream I speak with him.’” (12:6)“‘Not so with My servant Moshe. He is faithful throughout My entire house.’” (12:7)

“‘Mouth to mouth, I speak with (literally ‘in’) him - and through a clear vision, not in a cryptic manner...’" (12:8)

Verses 2 and 6 imply that only an exalted plane of prophecy is reason for abstinence, and Miriam and Aharon question if Moshe’s level of prophecy is high enpough to warrant such measures. But verse 7 implies another reason for abstinence - the faithfulness of Moshe, which was not previously mentioned. What is the intention of verse 7?

Prophecy was received as the prophet shed his physical nature and became totally absorbed in spiritual transmission. In fact, prophets actually used to shine when their prophecy was being received due to this abundance of spiritual inflow. But after receiving their prophecy, the spiritual glow diminished, and they resumed their physical nature. Their prophetic state was temporary. It was a garment, worn and then taken off.

But Moshe Rabbenu, the verse records, was “faithful in the house of G-d”. Faithful means constant, consistent. He was constant and consistent in his G-dliness. Unlike all other prophets, Moshe Rabbenu's lofty spirituality never departed from him. This can be seen from verse 8, “Mouth to mouth I speak ‘in’ him.” Moshe Rabbenu was so suffused with spirituality that it was not Moshe speaking G-d's words, but G-d who spoke from Moshe's mouth.

Being “faithful in His house” describes the constancy and consistency of Moshe Rabbenu's spirituality - so constant that he never shed it, never returned to a physical nature. Because of his constantly high spiritual state, abstinence befitted him. (Sfas Emes, B’ha’alosecha 5656)

Prophecy is not the only form of spirituality which can cause a person to shine. For example, the spiritual inflow of Shabbos or a Yom Tov, can also cause a glowing countenance. Talmidim of Rav Aharon Kotler, zt"l, recall how, on Yom Kippur, he looked different. “His face had a shine” they say, “a glow.

”Rav Aron Grossbard, sh'lita, of Detroit, recalled how in his youth, he once went to Ger (in Poland) for Rosh haShana. He climbed up the bookcase at the far end of the Bais haMedrash to see the Gerrer Rebbe (Rav Avrohom Mordechai Alter, zt"l). Sitting at the ‘tisch’ were some of the most distinguished Rabbis in Poland. Yet the Gerrer Rebbe's face, somehow, stood out. “It had a shine” he said, “a glow.”

“Gleaned From the Sfas Emes” - excerpts adapted from a soon to be published book, G-d willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of “The Sfas Emes Haggadah” (Targum Press) and “Kasheleg Yalbinu”, a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.

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