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Yahrzeit of the Rambam

This past week, כ טבת, was the Yahrzeit of the Rambam. He was born in the year 1138 and died in 1204. It’s befitting for his Yahrzeit to fall out the week of Parshas Shemos (the year he died was on the Monday of Shemos like this year) as this is the first Parsha to mention Moshe Rabbeinu. The חסיד יעב"ץ, who lived during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, in his Sefer Ohr HaChaim in the beginning of Perek ט writes אשר כבר נתפרסם על הרמב"ם ממשה עד משה לא קם כמשה. (The Chidah in the שם הגדולים מערכת מ אות קי talking about Reb Moshe Gaon who lived during the Gaonic period brings a כתב יד that says there wasn’t any Tana or Amora that was named Moshe והוא פלא וסוד והיינו דאמרי אנשי על הרמב"ם ממשה עד משה וכו' שלא היה תנא או אמורא שנקרא משה).Today, it is inscribed on the Matzeivah of the Rambam in Tiveria -ממשה עד משה לא קם כמשה.

Such a claim is rather astounding being that there were Neviim, Geonim, Tannaim, and Amoraim in between them so it’s difficult to understand such a statement. However Moshe Rabbeinu was a מלך as the Pasuk says in Vzos HaBracha ויהי בישורון מלך which according to some Meforshim is referring to Moshe Rabbeinu and as the Rambam writes in Hilchos Melachim. Moshe Rabbeinu was also a Navi. Nonetheless we don’t refer to him as Moshe HaMelech or Moshe HaNavi, but we refer to him as Moshe Rabbeinu. It seems that what is more important to us is that Moshe taught us Torah. It’s most likely in that sense that it is said about the Rambam ממשה עד משה לא קם כמשה. The Rambam was the first one to codify all the Halachos of the Torah and put it into the Mishneh Torah. The Rambam himself even writes in his introduction to Mishneh Torah that it was called such because it is a repetition of the Torah and that one must only need to learn the Torah Shebiksav and the Mishneh Torah and nothing else is needed. (As much as he felt that was the case, the Rambam became part of in depth learning and became part of “Pilpul” as we know it today.) As a Rabbeinu, it could be said about the Rambam ממשה עד משה לא קם כמשה.

However, throughout his lifetime and for a generation or two afterward, he received tremendous opposition. There were Rishonim in France who were against his philosophical writing, specifically the Moreh Nevuchim. Though it’s not clear if the burining was done by Jews or by non-Jews who confiscated them, in the year 1232 in France, many copies of Moreh Nevuchim and the Yad HaChazaka were burned as a result of the controversy. It’s said about Rabbenu Yona, who was involved in the controversy surrounding these writings of the Rambam, that he wrote his Sefer Shaarei Teshuva out of regret for his involvement. Some years later, in June 1242, 24 wagonloads of Talmud were burned in the same place. Many saw that as a punishment for what had been done to the seforim of the Rambam. As challenging as the Ramban is at times when he disagrees with the interpretation of the Rambam throughout Chumash and in philosophy, there is a touching and balanced letter written by the Ramban in אגרת ב (found in the כתבי הרמב"ן Mosad Harav Kook edition volume one) defending the Rambam against the חכמי צרפת who were out to denounce him. He begins with tremendous הכנעה to the חכמי צרפת saying who is he to say and he writes how the Rambam was only writing the Moreh Nevuchim for those who struggled in philosophy-

הלכם גאוני התלמוד הטריח עצמו? והוא כמוכרח ואנוס לבנות ספר מפני פלסופי יון שמה לנוס, לרחוק מעל ארסטו וגליאנוס, השמעתם דבריהם אם טעיתם אחרי ראיותיהם וכו' והצרכו ללמד בהם מספרי היונים והעמים שונים נמשגו הלבבות אחר המינות וכו' והנה שם הרב ספריו כתריס בפני הפורענות מגן הוא לחצי קשתי בני יון וכו'

He then continues describing his successful kiruv efforts he did and his social involvement which impressed upon all his followers and to try to denounce him will only cause catastrophe-

ורבים מעמי הארץ מתיהדים כי נפל פחד הרב עליהם ונתחזק מוראו על כולהם והנני מעיד עלי לפני רבותי שמים וארץ כי שמענו ממגידי אמת שבכל ארצות מלכות תימן קהלות רבות עוסקים בתורה ובמצות לשמן והיו מזכירים שם הרב בכל קדיש וקדיש: בחייכון וביומיכון ובחיי דרבנא משה בן מיימון, אשר האיר עיניהם בתורה העמידן בקרו אורה לבטל מהן גזרות קשות וכובד המס וכו' וקהלות האלה בשמעם את דברי האלה היוצאת הלא יפקרו עול המורא ויגלו פנים בתורה, להתריס כנגד רבני צרפת ידברו ואיש את רעהו יעזרו וכו' תעשה תורה כשתי תורות וכל ישראל שתי חבורות וכו' והלא אפילו לאנשי ביתו של אדם עבדיו ושפחותיו הכנענים צוו רבותינו: שלא להטיל אימה יתירה עליהם שמא יאכילוהו דבר איסור וכו' הצריכו למימרינהו בניחותא כי היכי דליקבלינהו מיניה, וזו קל וחומר שאין עליו תשובה על אחת כמה וכמה להזהיר את הרבים וכו'.

Potential of every child

Even though the Pasuk says about the Nevuah of Moshe לא קם בישראל כמשה עוד, nevertheless the Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuva 5:2 כל אדם ראוי לו להיות צדיק כמשה רבינו- that every person must strive and believe that he could reach the level of Moshe Rabbeinu.

The Pasuk in the Haftorah says את מי יורה דעה ואת מי יבין שמועה גמולי מחלב עתיקי משדים. The Gemara in Sotah 12b says this Pasuk is referring to Moshe Rabbeinu as a baby who refused to nurse from מצריות because פה שעתיד לדבר עם השכינה יינק דבר טמא? והיינו דכתיב: את מי יורה דעה וגו', למי יורה דעה ולמי יבין שמועה? לגמולי מחלב ולעתיקי משדים. The Rama in YOD 81:7 rules that if avoidable, a Jewish baby should not nurse from a non-Jew and the Rama writes because חלב כותית מטמטם הלב. But the question is that the Gemara specifically gives the reason by Moshe Rabbeinu because he was שעתיד לדבר עם השכינה. But most children will probably not end up being דבר עם השכינה and therefore why should it be a problem to have a child nurse from a non-Jew?

It’s said from Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky that we see from here that a parent must keep all his child’s opportunities open and raise them as if they will speak with the Shechinah. It’s interesting that about the Rambam himself it was said ממשה עד משה לא קם כמשה.

Growth through struggle

The Haftorah begins with the Pasuk הבאים ישרש יעקב יציץ ופרח ישראל ומלאו פני תבל תנובה (ישעיה כז,ו). The Radak explains this Pasuk referring to the גאולה העתידה but Rashi explains this Pasuk going on Yaakov and the Galus Mitzrayim. The meaning is that when they went down to Mitzrayim-הבאים ישרש יעקב, they were small in number. But there in Mitzrayim, it was יציץ ופרח ישראל ומלאו פני תבל תנובה-“Israel will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like fruit”.

This idea expressed in the above Pasuk in the Haftorah is expressed in the beginning of the Parshah. The Ramban in Vayigash 46:2 discusses this idea regarding when the Pasuk uses “Yaakov” and when it uses “Yisrael” both in Vayigash and in the beginning of Parshas Shemos:

אחר שאמר לו השם לא יקרא שמך עוד יעקב כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך, היה ראוי שיקראנו בשם הנכבד ההוא. וכן הוא נזכר בפרשה הזאת שלשה פעמים, אבל קראו יעקב לרמוז כי עתה לא ישור עם אלהים ועם אנשים ויוכל, אבל יהיה בבית עבדים עד שיעלנו גם עלה, כי מעתה הגלות תתחיל בו. וזה טעם ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה יעקב ובניו (פסוק ח), כי בשם בני ישראל יבאו שמה, כי יפרו הבנים וירבו ויגדל שמם וכבודם, אבל יעקב הוא עתה ברדתו שם

When they went down to Mitzrayim, it was as “Yaakovites” as the Pasuk saysהבאים מצרימה את יעקב איש וביתו באו referring to past tense that they came as “Yaakov”. It was only in Mitzrayim where they became “Yisrael”. Before the struggle and pain of Mitzrayim, they came down as “Yaakov”, few in number. But it was in the struggle and difficulty of Mitzrayim where they thrived-פרו וישרצו וירבו במאוד מאוד ותמלא הארץ אתם. At first it was הבאים מצרימה את יעקב, but then it was ובני ישראל פרו וישרצו וכו'. “Yisrael” is because כי שרית עם אלקים ועם אנשים ותוכל-that he overcame the struggle and was victorious. So too was happening in Mitzrayim as the Pasuk says וכאשר יענו אתו כן ירבה וכן יפרץ through the suffering and pain came about the growth and reaching of higher levels.

From him or from us

ויאמר אל עמו הנה עם בני ישראל רב ועצום ממנו (א,ט)

The word ממנו can sometimes mean “from him” or “from us”. The Ibn Ezra explains that it depends on whether or not the “nun” is רפה or has a דגש: כל ממנו בספרי אנשי מזרח סימן לרבים הנו"ן רפה כמשפט להפריש בינו, ובין, ממנו פנה (זכרי' י, ד), שהוא סימן לשון יחיד שאיננו נמצא בפני המדבר, שהוא דגוש כמשפט. וכל ספרי מערב שניהן דגושין בין שהוא סימן לשון יחיד, ובין שהוא סימן לשון רבים, והיה כן, כי ממנו לשון יחיד דגוש הפך המנהג וכו'.

The Gemara in Arachin 15a discusses that which in Parshas Shelach, the Meraglim said כי חזק הוא ממנו, the simple understanding is that they were saying the כנענים are more חזק than ממנו-us. But the Gemara says אל תיקרי כי חזק הוא ממנו אלא ממנו, כביכול בעל הבית אין יכול להוציא כליו משם, as if they were saying more חזק that ממנו-than him, referring to Hashem that the כנענים are stronger than Hashem.

However, Tosfos in Arachin 15b says there is no difference if it’s with a דגש or רפה against the explanation of the Ibn Ezra above:

אל תקרי ממנו אלא ממנו - פירוש אל תקרי ממנו רפי אלא ממנו דגש ואינו כן שכל ממנו שבתורה דגושין ואינו מחליף כלל זה בזה.

So according to Tosfos, the אל תקרי ממנו will have to be expressed with the finger, whether or not one is pointing towards the self or outward as there is no difference in pronunciation. Here we find another connection between the Rambam and this week’s Parshah. The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva 3:7 writes there are five types of people that are classified as מינים and one of them is האומר שיש שם רבון אחד אבל שהוא גוף ובעל תמונה. On this the Raavad says ולמה קרא לזה מין וכמה גדולים וטובים ממנו הלכו בזו המחשבה לפי מה שראו במקראות וכו' that how could such a person be classified as a מין if כמה גדולים טובים ממנו thought this way based on Pesukim. The simple reading of what the Raavad says כמה גדולים טובים ממנו is a very strong rip against the Rambam as if to say “much greater people than him” as in the Rambam. However the Kesef Mishnah asks on this גירסא that it can’t be the Raavad would have such a strong expression against the Rambam to say that such people who believed that Hashem has a גוף are גדולים וטובים ממנו and really the correct nusach is what is written in the ספר העיקרים פ"ב ממ"א וז"ל. א"א אף על פי שעיקר האמונה כן הוא המאמין היותו גוף מצד תפיסתו לשונות הפסוקים והמדרשות כפשטן אין ראוי לקרותו מין, עכ"ל.

However, the Chazon Ish YOD 62:21, to explain the Raavad, writes the following: ומש"כ הראב"ד ז"ל (כפי נוסחת הספרים) וכמה גדולים וטובים ממנו וכו' האי “ממנו"ר"ל ממנו עם ישראל. According to this translation of the word ממנו not meaning “from him” rather “from us,” it comes out the Raavad isn’t being so strong with the Rambam.

Life’s mission

ותקרא שמו משה ותאמר כי מן המים משיתהו (ב, י)

Although Moshe Rabbeinu was drawn from the water, he wasn’t called משוי which would mean that he was drawn from the water. Rather his name is משה which means “to draw”, because being that he experienced being drawn from water that should become his life’s mission. Any experience a person has, he should use that experience to help other. The message is here is that since Moshe was a משוי-drawn out, to be a משה-to draw others out, should become his life’s mission because one should do on to others what was done to you.

Jewish midwives

ויאמר מלך מצרים למילדת העברית (א,טו)

This that the Pasuk says מילדות העברית, is it describing them as “Jewish midwives” or midwives for Jews as opposed to for the non-Jews. The Rav suggested that it has to be that it means they were “Jewish midwives” and not just midwives for the Jews because otherwise, how would they be able to say to Pharaoh כי לא כנשים המצרית העברית כי חיות הנה בטרם תבוא אלהן המילדת וילדו. It’s only because they were midwives for both that they were aware of that difference.

On the words ותחיין את הילדים, Rashi says מספקות להם מים ומזון. But if this was the case, how were they answering Pharaoh when he questioned their waysמדוע עשיתן הדבר הזה ותחיין את הילדים. It’s one excuse that they couldn’t kill the babies on the אבן but why were they supplying food and water for the babies?

When they answered Pharaoh כי לא כנשים המצרית העברית כי חיות הנה בטרם תבוא אלהן המילדת וילדו, they were really answering him on why they supplied מים ומזון. Because by the time they got to the birth the baby was born already (being that Jewish mothers are כי חיות הנה unlike to non-Jewish mothers) if they were to not supply food and water, it would be ניכר what they were doing; trying to kill babies. (The Ramban 1:11 writes that such a decree to kill the babies would never have been accepted and therefore it was instructed to be done על האבנים, which was דרך חכמה שלא ירגישו ישראל כי באיבה יעשו בהם)Therefore in order to make it not noticeable that they were following instructions from Pharaoh to kill all the babies, they specifically needed to bring food and water.

ויקם מלך חדש

ויקם מלך חדש על מצרים אשר לא ידע את יוסף (א,ח)

Rashi bring the Machlokes Rav and Shmuel in Sotah, חד אמר חדש ממש וחד אמר שנתחדשו גזרותיו. But on the last words of the Pasuk אשר לא ידע את יוסף, Rashi says עשה עצמו כאילו לא ידע. It would seem that explanation only fits with the opinion that מלך חדש is שנתדשו גזרותיו and therefore he did know who Yosef was and it was only עשה עצמו כאילו לא ידע. But if he was actually a מלך חדש, then it wouldn’t make sense to say עשה עצמו כאילו לא ידע because he didn’t really know him.

This Machlokes between Rav and Shmuel appears in Eiruvin 53a as well. However, after bringing the Machlokes between them, the Gemara asks that according to the one who holds שנתחדשו גזירותיו, how it makes sense to say אשר לא ידע את יוסף because he did know Yosef. To which the Gemara answers מאי אשר לא ידע את יוסף - דהוה דמי כמאן דלא ידע ליה ליוסף כלל. So according to the way this Gemara brings it, this follow up explanation of Rashi on אשר לא ידע את יוסף is only going according to the explanation that חדש is שנתחדשו גזירותיו. However in Sotah 11a, it brings the Machlokes between Rav and Shmuel and then it brings the explanation on אשר לא ידע that עשה עצמו כאלו לא ידע in a general way. Therefore, the implication of the way the Gemara brings it is that this explanation is going according to both opinions in which case it is problematic.

Some texts of Rashi actually have it with a “vuv” that it says ואשר לא ידעו וכו' and therefore it’s clear in Rashi that his follow up explanation to אשר לא ידע is going on the second explanation which is שנתחדשו גזרותיו. This nusach of Rashi with the “vuv” would make sense according to the Gemara in Eruvin. However, according to the Gemara in Sotah, it would work better without the “vuv” to indicate that it’s not strictly going with the opinion of שנתחדשו גזירותיו but even according to the opinion that it was מלך חדש.

In order to explain how according to the way Sotah brings it that אשר לא ידע - עשה עצמו כאלו לא ידע is going even according to the explanation that he was מלך חדש, it could be because although he was a מלך חדש, he didn’t become a king when he was a baby and therefore he must’ve heard about the great leader who was Yosef and nonetheless he acted in a way כאילו לא ידעו. The Toras Chaim in Eiruvin says that a practical Halachik application of this Machlokes between Rav and Shmuel is if somebody sells a “new” house and he discovers that it was just painted fresh so the question is it considered a מקח טעות or not. So according to the opinion that מלך חדש is שנתחדשו גזרותיו, such a house can also be considered a בית חדש and therefore not considered a מקח טעות. There is a משנה למלך הל' מלכים (ז,ח) that has a similar question regarding who is considered חוזרים מעורכי המלחמה, if a renovated house qualifies as a בית חדש but he doesn’t connect this Machlockes between Rav and Shmuel.

Yahrzeit of the Baal HaTanya

This past week כד טבת, was the Yahrzeit of the Baal HaTanya. It’s interesting to note that Rav Shechter in the sefer Divfrei HaRav page 109 quotes Rav Soloveitchik from Boston saying the following about the Baal HaTanya: מזמן חורבן הבית לא היה כמוהו משכיל נפלא בעניני אמונה מלבד הרמב"ם.

It is told that the Baal HaTanya was by his Rebbe, the Magid M’Mezritch for Elul and the Magid needed a Baal Tokeah for Rosh Hashanah so the Baal HaTanya volunteered for the position. The entire Elul they learned together all the כונות האר"י on Tekias Shofer. On Erev Rosh Hashanah after they had learned through all these lofty things, the Baal HaTanya said to his Rebbe, it’s nice that I know all these כונות but I don’t know how to blow the Shofar. So the Magid asked him why he didn’t tell him in the first place. So the Baal HaTanya answered him that he learned from Moshe Rabbeinu who did the same thing. By the סנה, Moshe has a back and forth with Hashem learning the שמות. Moshe says to Hashem ואמרו לי מה שמו מה אמר אלהם to which Hashem answered him אהיה אשר אהיה. At the way end after the entire back and forth and Moshe learned everything, Moshe concludes ויאמר בי אדני שלח נא ביד תשלח, that he is not the right person to be the שליח.

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