Friday, July 17, 2009

Parshiot Matot and Masei - פרשיות מטות ומסעי

"וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמר זה הדבר אשר צוה יהוה. And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes, to the B'nei Yisrael saying, this is the word that Hashem commands." (Bamidbar 30:2)

Normally I'd write about that which Moshe goes on to say but instead I'd like to discuss the manner in which Moshe speaks here.

The Sfat Emet raises the issue, noting that Moshe uses the opening statement "זה הדבר," as opposed to the word "כה," which is frequently employed by lesser prophets. The former phrase suggests a level of accuracy that the latter lacks - it roughly means, "This is exactly that which was said."

With that in mind, the Sfat Emet asks a question - why are some of Moshe's prophecies introduced with the word "כה?" The answer is simple but spectacular - that there are things in this world which cannot truly be understood or grasped. We can talk our way around these issues with analogies, allusions and the like, but our understanding will only ever be imprecise at best. We learn that one of the Rambam's 13 principles of faith is to believe that Moshe was Hashem's greatest prophet, a prophet who was far more highly receptive of God's will than any other man. And yet even Moshe, who had the ability to relate his prophecies with absolute precision, could sometimes not address the people with the words, "זה הדבר."

So what is this realm that we cannot really understand? The Sfat Emet explains that it is the "Olam HaZeh." At first glance, this might seem a little odd; after all, don't we live in "Olam HaZeh," don't we live apart from "Olam Haba?"

On reading the words closely, we can understand the concept better. The word "Olam," of "Olam Hazeh," is linked to the word "Ne'elam," meaning hidden. The word "Hazeh" means something very specific - something that can be quantified and related to. So which world are we living in - a hidden world or a revealed world? Is everything clear to us, or is it all hidden away?

It would seem that the Sfat Emet is subtly teaching that this world has two parallel aspects. It isn't one or the other, and that though that there are times when everything seems clear, moments when we can say "Zeh HaDavar," even to the greatest Torah scholars there are moments that can only be referred to as a moment when we only partially understand what's happening - a moment that is best defined by "Koh."

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.

Dedicated to someone I upset this week. I hope that they enjoy this and forgive me.

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