This week’s Kiddush was sponsored in honor of the Preidah for R’ Yackov Shwartzbaum. The Rav explained that it’s a סעודת מרעים, where friends get together. The Sefer HaChaim, written by Reb Chaim MVridburg (Brother of the Maharal) in the section titled ספר פרנסה וכלכלה, he writes that a סעודת מרעים, a seudah where people get together in friendship shouldn’t be a small thing in one’s eyes. Because it’s not for nothing that Chazal said that people shouldn’t break for Tefilah when they are involved in such a seudah because such a seudah is a big deal and is somewhat an expression of Tefilah, that which people nourish the אהבה between themselves. This is really a הכנה for Yom Kippur which we say after the Seder HaAvodah יום שימת אהבה ורעות יום עזיבת קינאה ותכרית. Therefore, a סעודת מרעים is really a preparation for Yom Kippur. However, the above phrase is seemingly out of order because one should need to abandon קינאה ותחרות and only then could there be אהבה ורעות. But we see that it’s not so as the Chinuch writes האדם נפעל לפי פעולתיו ואחרי הפעולות נמשכות על הלבבות, that a person first needs to take care of the עשה טוב and helping a person and through that a person will be able to overcome the קינאה ותחרות. That’s why we say this phrase specifically in the order it’s in.
The Parshah begins with Moshe telling the Jews the following:
ויאמר אלהם בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי היום לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא וה' אמר אלי לא תעבר את הירדן הזה (לא, ב)
Moshe says three things in this Pasuk. The first is that he is 120 years old. Then he says I can no longer go and lastly he says and Hashem told me not to pass over the Yarden. What is the explanation for all these three things?
Rashi takes care of the last two statements by explaining that one of them is an explanation of the other. When Moshe says וה' אמר אלי לא תעבר את הירדן הזה, it’s an explanations to לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא. The reason why he is no longer able to go is not because he became weak, rather because Hashem has no given him permission to go in.
But other commentaries learn that the last two were really two separate statements and that besides for the fact that he was physically to weak לצאת ולבאת, Hashem also did not allow him to enter. Therefore, even if he was physically able to, Hashem still wouldn’t let him
The Sforno explains all three statements. On the words בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי he explains that Moshe was telling them not to be sad about his death because it’s the time בטבע that a person dies. This implies that 120 is the natural maximum time for a person to live. Then on the words לא אוכל עוד לצאת ולבוא, Moshe is saying even had I continue to live, I would not be able to continue as your leader. Finally, on the words וה' אמר אלי לא תעבר, Moshe was saying even had I been able to go on, Hashem told me I can’t enter the land and therefore it’s better for you (the Jews) for me to die in order that you should be able to enter the land. It’s clear for the Sforno that the three statements in the Pasuk are all independent. But why was it necessary for Moshe to say that he was 120 years old today? It became a thing to say to people עד מאה ועשרים שנה. Therefore, on a person’s 120th birthday, you say to him “have a good day.” Where did such a thing come from for people to say “until 120”? Based on how the Sforno explains the words בן מאה ועשרים שנה אנכי, it could be that we learn out this idea from here to wish people until 120.
But it would that it might have another source from the end of פרשת בראשית, where there are the following mysterious Psukim:
ויהי כי החל האדם לרב על פני האדמה ובנות ילדו להם.
ויראו בני האלהים את בנות האדם כי טבת הנה ויקחו להם נשים מכל אשר בחרו.
ויאמר יקוק לא ידון רוחי באדם לעלם בשגם הוא בשר והיו ימיו מאה ועשרים שנה.
הנפלים היו בארץ בימים ההם וגם אחרי כן אשר יבאו בני האלהים אל בנות האדם וילדו להם המה הגברים אשר מעולם אנשי השם.
There are non-rabbinic sources that suggest that Hashem put a cap on human life that a person cannot live past 120 years. However, it is difficult to understand this because there are individuals later on in the Torah such as Avraham and Sarah who lived past 120 years. (Nosson Zellinger pointed out that the Ramban on that Pasuk והיו ימיו מאה ועשרים שנה does seem to learn it like these non-rabbinic sources that Hashem is saying that people won’t live past 120 years.) Rashi explains the Pasuk that the Mabul was going to come in 120 years. But according to this explanation that it’s referring to putting a cap on human life, how can we understand such a thing if we see others exceed 120 years?
The people being talked about in these Psukim were half human half angelic. They were larger than life people. Therefore, Hashem didn’t want people to get confused and think that they were deities and therefore it was on them that Hashem put a cap on human life. We see that larger than life people who it can be mistakenly said about them that they are a god need to be capped in order to avoid confusion. But your average person who is nothing special could live a long life because nobody is going to get confused and think he is a god. Therefore, Moshe was telling the people that he was 120 years old today in order to avoid confusion for those who may have thought Moshe who was איש אלוקים and half human and half godly. Such a person specifically needs to be capped in order so people don’t think he is a deity. The Gemara in Chulin on דף קלט says that in the Pasuk בשגם הוא בשר והיו ימיו מאה ועשרים שנה, the word בשגם is numerical value of משה expressing this idea that even Moshe is flesh and blood and will only live until 120 years old.
Up until this point, it could’ve been that the Jews couldn’t relate to Moshe because of all the spectacular things he did for them and the extraordinary heights that he reached. Therefore, on the last day of his life, he showed them that he was just flesh and blood, no different than anyone else, and it was just Hashem acting through him.
Therefore, when people wish each other “until 120”, it’s a blessing that the person should become so great that he shouldn’t be able to live past 120 years.
The Meshech Chochma in Parshas Ki Savo on the Pasuk ולא נתן ה' לכם לב לדעת וכו' עד היום הזה, that day being the day Moshe died expresses this idea. That up until his death, people thought that Moshe was godly in the sense that he was the one making all the miracles and miraculous events happen. But it was only on the day of his death that the people saw that he was כחומר ביד היצר no different than anyone else and therefore realized it was all the doings of Hashem.
Similarly, in Parshas Vaeschanan on the Pasuk ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם וכו' פן תשחיתון וכו' וה' התאנף בי על דרכיכם, he discusses one of the reasons why Moshe had to die in the desert. He writes that Moshe performed miraculous things such as drawing water from a rock, gave bread from the heavens, defeated מלכי אמורי, and split the sea. However, as long as there were people in the generation who knew Moshe from a young age and challenged his leadership by saying כולם קדושים ומדוע תתשנשאו, there wasn’t a concern that anyone would confuse Moshe with being a god. However, when it came time to enter the land and everyone from the previous generation was dead, the current generation from a young age only knew of Moshe as the superhuman individual who performed unnatural miracles and there was potential confusion. The people were only able to relate to Moshe as a god. Therefore, it was at this point a concern and therefore Moshe has to die at this time in order for the current generation to realize that Moshe was nothing more than flesh and blood as there selves and it was really Hashem operating through him.
In the end of the Parshah, Moshe says the follow:
כי אנכי ידעתי את מריך ואת ערפך הקשה הן בעודני חי עמכם היום ממרים היתם עם יקוק ואף כי אחרי מותי, כי ידעתי אחרי מותי כי השחת תשחתון וסרתם מן הדרך אשר צויתי אתכם וקראת אתכם הרעה באחרית הימים כי תעשו את הרע בעיני יקוק להכעיסו במעשה ידיכם. (לא, כז כט)
In these Psukim, it seems like Moshe Rabbeinu is summing up his tenure as a total failure. He says that it was bad, it is bad, and that it’s going to get even worse. Therefore it sounds very pessimistic and angry. But why is he saying this now and why does he sound so angry?
Really the message that Moshe is trying to convey is that although it was terrible, I never gave up and I continued. Therefore, optimism is a tremendous thing, but it needs to be balanced with realism. A person has to hope for the best and expect the worst. Because if not, then a person will be crushed when he experiences setbacks. Moshe is expressing to the Jews that there have been many setbacks and times that they could have given up, but nevertheless they got until there and they are only going to continue and go further. Entering Eretz Yisrael is going to be a tremendous achievement but afterwards there will be setbacks. But, they must never give up because this is something that will take generations and generations until we perfect the model. It’s not something that happens overnight.
This is an important reading to be read in the ימי התשובה because people expect immediate and complete change in their lives and if they don’t experience that, they give up. However, if they would understand that it requires multiple tries and with every time they should make some improvement and that they shouldn’t be crushed when things go sour. Nothing gets lost and each effort adds up to something and in the end we will reach the עולם התיקון and be in a different place. Knowing and expecting the setbacks is very important not only for Moshe Rabbeinu but for every individual leading his own life, he must recognize the stubbornness within himself, as we are an עם קשי עורף. But if he doesn’t give up, then he will go very far for like how far Moshe Rabbeinu got the Jewish People. Throughout all the generations, Jews have suffered tremendous persecution and degradation. With a slight switch, people’s lives could’ve been much better, but they nonetheless remain steadfast in there belief. During these days, we say סליחות. The סליחות, which were written about a thousand years ago during the crusades. They are written with such pain and embarrassment that came with being a Jew. Yet, we continued on. In the midbar, anything that went wrong, they were out. But if one looks now, the Jews have been through so much and we are still clinging to the דבר ה'. Therefore, one could see that it’s improving. It’s a tremendous chizuk that we shouldn’t give up when things are tuff.
The Medrash in this Parshah says that before Moshe died, Yehoshua received a prophecy from Hashem and Moshe asked him was Hashem said. To which Yehoshua responded “and did I ever ask you what Hashem said to you?” At that moment, Moshe let out a cry and the Medrash ends of that Moshe was מקנא Yehoshua. However, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 105b says the following:
בכל אדם מתקנא חוץ מבנו ותלמידו וכו' איבעית אימא ויסמך את ידיו עליו ויצוהו.
The source for the idea that a Rebbe is never jealous of is Talmid comes from the fact that when Hashem told Moshe to put his hand on Yehoshua, the Pasuk says ויסמך את ידיו, that he used both his hands. There seems to be a contradiction between the Medrash and the Gemara in Sanhedrin?
The reason why a father is never jealous of his son is that a son could have only gotten to where he is because of his father. The same could be said about a Rebbe and a Talmid that they Talmid could not have gotten to this point if not for his Rebbe. However, that only holds true in regarding חכמה, which is the area that the Rebbe is responsible and to take credit for his Talmud’s success. But in other areas, such as Nevuah, such success is not due to the Rebbe. Therefore, when it comes to the Chochma that Yehoshua achieved, Moshe was not jealous and that’s what the Gemara in Sanhedrin is saying. But in the Medrash, the jealousy is regarding Nevuah which the Rebbe is not to take credit for in which case jealousy between a Rebbe and Talmid has its place.