Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Those Who See the Greatness in Us

Shabbos morning, Rav Weinberger asked a a couple of questions about the story of the death of the Tzadeikes, Miriam in Parshas Chukas and why that story was juxtaposed in the Torah with the laws of the Para Aduma, the Red Heifer. The Midrash says that the two ideas were juxtaposed to show that just as Korbanos, sacrifices, are mechaper, atone, so too the death of Tzadikim atones. Rav Weinberger pointed out that Aharon Hakohen also died in that Parsha. So why was it davka, specifically, the death of Miriam Hanevia that is used to teach that the death of Tzadikim is mechaper?

Regarding Miriam, he also asked why it is that she merited that the entire nation waited for her recovery when she had Tzara'as, "leprocy." They had no way of knowning how long it would take her to recovery, and yet they waited anyway. The Medrash says her reward that they waited for her mida k'neged mida, a measure-for-measure reward for the fact that she waited to see what would happen to her baby brother Moshe when he was placed in the Nile. Rav Weinberger asked why this was such a great mitzva. After all, wouldn't any one of us wait to see what would happen with another Jew, to see if he or she would be saved. How much the more so with her own brother! So why was this considered such a great mitzva that it should merit the entire nation waiting for her?

He brought a GR"A, which explains the pasuk in Shmos 2:4 that she waited from afar "לְדֵעָה, מַה-יֵּעָשֶׂה לוֹ," "to know what would be with him." The GR"A points out that the Targum translates "לְדֵעָה" as "l'hischochma," from the root word meaning "wisdom." The GR"A explains that Miriam was not waiting in order to know whether or not Moshe would be saved. She had a Nevuah, a prophecy, already that Hashem would redeem them through her brother. However, she was waiting with absolute confidence that he would be saved, in order to see through what Chochma, through what wisdom Hashem would turn things around to save him.

It was Miriam Haneviah who believed in the Jewish people and that there was hope even in the darkest times when everyone else, including the Gadol Hador, her father Amram, who had given up hope. We know that Amram and Yocheved, and through their leadership, all of the other Jewish people, sepperated from each other because they felt that there was no point in bringing any more Jewish lives into the hopelessness of Mitzrayim. Yet it was Miriam who believed perfectly in her Nevuah from Hashem that the Jewish people would be brought out of this. Even when her father said, "Heichan nevuaseich?!" "Where is your Nevuah now?!", she still believed and through her belief, she convinced her father and everyone else to have hope and continue their families.

So the fact that she waited by the river to see how Hashem would save Moshe was an expression of her absolute Emunah in the ability of Moshe to come out of the Tumah of the Nile river and be saved and eventually become the Moshian shel Yisroel, the savior of the Jewish people. She wasn't in doubt about whether or not the Jewish people were redeemable or whether or not they would be redeemed. Rather, it was her knowledge that they would be redeemed and her waiting in anticipation to see how Hashem would bring about the yeshua that made her so beloved to the Jewish people, since she had confidence in them even when they had no confidence in themselves.

When we know that someone believes in us and knows that we are great inside, and works with us just to figure out how that greatness will be revealed, it brings that goodness out of us. That is why it was specifically Miriam who was used to illustrate how Tzadikim are able to be mechaper, atone for the sins of the Jewish people.

He illustrated the concept with a couple of stories. First he told over that Rav Aharon Kotler, the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood, was so matzliach to produce so many great Rabbonim and Talmidei Chachamim from his early days in the yeshiva. He answered that he didn't look at his boys in the yeshiva merely as Joey, Mikey & Shmuley sitting in front of him. He looked at the boys during the shiur and thought "There's Reb Naftoli Tropp. And behind him is Reb Baruch Ber. And next to him is Reb Chaim Brisker..." He taught them with the certain knowledge of the Gedolim that they were to become.

He told another story from Rabbi Yisroel Besser's new book on Rav Freifeld, which he has been reading for several weeks and seems to regard very very highly. He brought down a story that a certain boy was in the 4th grade, and was still unable to read. The principal had told the parents that he would be unable to stay at the yeshiva any more and that he needed to go to a public school, where they could properly address the child's learning needs. The parents were devastated and came to Reb Shlomo for advice. Reb Shlomo called up the principal and said, "I'll make you a deal. This next year, he's mine. If after one year, he can read, then you'll let him stay in the school. And if not, then you can let him go to the other school." The principal agreed. Reb Shlomo got a bachur to work with him. He told the bachur to teach the boy one word a day. That's it. Just one word. He said to teach him the peirush and the Chazal on the pasuk outside. He was a bright boy otherwise and would be able to understand all of the explanations. They did this and after a week or two, the boy and his chevrusa came to Reb Shlomo and told him, "We finished a pasuk!" Reb Shlomo was so excited and told them that they'd be making a siyum on the pasuk! So the next day, Reb Shlomo, the bachur and this young boy, dressed in a suit for the occasion, and the boys parents went to the yeshiva (Shor Yoshuv) and they made a siyum on the pasuk with the whole yeshiva. Soon, Reb Shlomo began learning with the boy himself as well and by the end of the year, he was learning psukim, mishnayos and everything and was let back into the yeshiva.

What these stories show is how when someone has a great enough vision to know with certainty that we can get out of the darkness that we're stuck in, it lifts up the whole nation.

IY"H, may we be like Miriam Haneviah, Rav Aharon Kotler and Rav Shlomo Freifeld and see, with certainty, the greatness that's within others and that's within ourselves so that that greatness can be revealed completely!

-Dixie Yid

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A Simple Jew said...

After reading your posting, I decided to buy a copy of that book as well :)

Anonymous said...

Great post! It'd be wonderful if you could write up Rav Weinbeger's Shabbos drasha every week for us who don't live in Woodmere. Anyway he's gone for the summer now I think but when he comes back-please do it!

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Great. Can't beat Rav Weinbeger's good words about the book!


I would love to but it depends on my time and my head being able to be in it. But IY"H, when I can and feel inspired to, I for sure will. Tizku l'mitzvos.

-Dixie Yid