Friday, January 15, 2010

Va'Eira - Guest Post By Kovi Fleischmann

Be All That You Can Be

When the Torah speaks of the tasks of Moshe and Aharon the pasuk first states Aharon’s name before Moshe’s, and then in the next pasuk states Moshe’s name first and then Aharon's. Rashi explains that sometimes the Torah mentions Moshe first and sometimes mentions Aharon first to teach that the two of them are equal.

The Brisker Rav sharpens Rashi's point by noting the context in which each name was stated first. When saying that Hashem spoke to the two of them, which was Moshe’s domain (as he was the only one who spoke face to face to Hashem), Aharon’s name is stated first. When saying that they spoke to Pharaoh, Aharon’s domain (as he was the one who spoke to Pharaoh and not Moshe), Moshe’s name is mentioned first. The fact that each one gets precedent in the area which was not his strength proves that they are equal.

How could it be that Moshe and Aharon were equal? Granted, Aharon was a tremendous tzaddik and the first Kohen Gadol, but how could he be compared to the master of all nevi'im, the man who spoke to Hashem face to face and went to shamayim to receive the Torah? Surely, Moshe Rabeinu is on a level of his own!

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, explains that success is not measured by accomplishments, but rather by the person’s success in fulfilling the tasks that Hashem equipped him for in this world. Every person is given a unique ability and a specific tafkid -mission that he is set out to accomplish. Some are given tremendous abilities and expected to achieve a great deal, while others are given lesser abilities and have correspondingly smaller tasks. Every person’s responsibility, however, is identical, to use the skills he has to the fullest.

It is true that Aharon was not Moshe, but he was not supposed to be, as he was not given the gifts and tasks that Moshe was endowed with. He was, however, extremely successful in utilizing his G-d given abilities to accomplish the tasks set for him in the world, just as Moshe was. In this way, he was exactly equal to Moshe. Furthermore, any person who utilizes his abilities in this world is also as great as Aharon and Moshe.

The Gemrara (Bava Basra 10b) relates that Yosef the son of R’ Yehoshua was very ill and his soul left his body, and then returned. His father asked him, "What did you see in your glimpse of the next world?" He replied “Olam hafuch raetei…” - "I saw an upside-down world where great ones were below and low ones we above." His father responded “Olam barur raeta,”- "You saw a world of clarity, for this is the truth."

The simple level of learning this Gemara is that R' Yosef saw a world in which the kings and powerful people were at a low level. He was surprised at their lack of status in the next world so his father explained that these lofty positions have little standing in the next world. Rav Moshe is unsatisfied with this interpretation. Surely, he asks; R' Yosef knew that the power in this world is meaningless in the next world! Why then, would he describe the situation he saw as upside down?

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that R' Yosef, in fact, saw great, learned people in positions of lesser prominence than more simple Jews, and it was this that he could not understand. His father explained to him that these simple Jews were given much honor, and were deserving of this honor because they were people who used their G-d given abilities to achieve the portions that Hashem set out for them. They fulfilled their missions.

The learned sages, continued R’ Yehoshua, had certainly accomplished a great deal, but they could have accomplished even more. They left a greater percentage of their potential unfulfilled, and were subsequently given a lesser status in the next world. This is the way of Hashem’s judgment. Not everyone is set out to be the Gadol Hador, but if one figures out what his unique abilities are and use them to the fullest to complete his tafkid, he will be zocheh to a prominent place in Olam Habah.

1 comment:

rabbi neil fleischmann said...

My nephew Kovi has been sending out parsha divrei Torah this year.

Here's my reply to this one:

Dear Kovi,

I really liked your piece this week, it brings to mind ideas that support this one. There's a medrash cited by Orchot Tzadikim in Sha'ar HaRatzon that says that people will be surprised by why they - in shamayim - are not sitting close to the kisei hakavod, and eben more surprised by why others are rewarded with front row seats. Hashem Himself will explain about the person who is close, "Hu shama bekoli, ve'atem lo shamatem bekoli."

I am also reminded of a vort I shared publicly at your bris (remember?) about the question of why the years that Yaakov worked for Rochel were "like yamim achadim" in his love for her. Wouldn't you think that time felt like a billion years?

The answer I said then is that when you are doing something to fill your potential of serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu, then you put it in perspective. Yaakov was patient because he was marrying Rochel for spiritual reasons - like someone truly spiritual who is patient if it takes a while till his food arrives versus someone impatiently waiting because it's just a physical thing, not a matter that's part of a spiritual world view.

Betzalel also comes to mind - how the Ramban cites a medrash that Hashem showed Moshe a book with the name of every person ever and pointed in this book to the name of Betzalel. The idea here is that just like Betzalel had his tafkid, so too everyone that ever lived or will live has their purpose.

Similarly (I hope you don't mind and rather enjoy my free associating here) Kalev's name is not in He'ezinu, but the siman for number of pesukim at the end of the parsha is kuf lamed bet (52) - the idea is (Rav Dovid Feinstein says) that He'ezinu sums up the story of the stars of the dor habidbar. Kalev's name is not mentioned in the parsha. But the parsha hints to his name. He was a key player whose name didn't make it on the marquee, but he was still a star.

This fits with the idea that in two different pesukim it says of the stars - kulam besheim yikra and kulam besheimot yikra'u, reflecting the fact that stars shine as a group and as unique entities, each alone. So too we have potential as part of the klal and also each of us as a yachid.

This is also the meaning of why Hashem compares us to the sand as well as to the stars. While both are high in number you can point to individual stars, so stars refpresent us shining in our own potential. On the other hand the inseparable grains of sand represent klal yisrael as a unit, with each person as a cog in the machine.

Finally, dear Kovi, I'll leave you with one last one that your beautiful dvar Torah brought to my mind and heart. There are trei badchi in Ta'anit (chaf bet amud alef), two comedians, regarding whom Eliyahu says are destined to olam haba. The pshat may be that this is because they used their unique gift lesheim shamayim, in line with "kol ma'asechah yihiyu lesheim shamayim."

This all came back to me via your parsha email. Thank you. Wishing you continued hatzlachah.

Have a Good Shabbos

Uncle Neil