Rav Moshe Twerski zt”l On the Parsha

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moshe-twerski1By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

ארא אל אברהם אל יצחק ואל יעקב בא-ל ש-די ושמי ה’ לא נודעתי להם

By the man, the Torah says lo yadun avosecha. Rabbeinu Bachaya says that this can be referring to the Avos. The Avos were not zocheh to the madreigah of nisim gluyim u’mefursamim. The reason for this is as the pasuk says in the beginning of the parsha that the hasagah of the Avos was through the sheim of Keil Shakay, and not through the sheim Havayah.

Rashi says that ani Hashem means that Hashem is ne’eman. Hashem is the ultimate of reliability. The Avos didn’t get to see the fruition of that reliability. Paranthetically, we see from here that having emunah means to rely on Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu.

The Ramban says that the hanhagah of Keil Shakay which the Avos had does include great nisim in which nature is bent, twisted, turned, and changed; but not controverted. There was clear, open Hashgacha in the salvation of the Avos from famine and war, and in the fact that they merited great wealth and abundant brachos. The sheim Havayah, though, conveys the awareness that, really, there is no true reality other than the truth of Hashem’s being. In that context, there is no such thing as nature whose rules and regulations need to be taken into account. In the hanhagah of Havayah there do not exist any confines of nature.

This is the hanhagah that was was innovated, as it were, in the process of yetzias Mitzrayim. Now they saw that reality as they knew it was not at all set in stone. Blood became water, water became blood. The ten makos. Krias Yam Suf. Nature was not simply manipulated, it was completely suspended.

אתה תדבר את כל אשר אצוך ואהרן אחיך ידבר אל פרעה ז:ב

Rashi explains that what this pasuk means is that each time Hashem gave Moshe a message to transmit to Paroh, Moshe would relate it once, and then Aharon would repeat it in a way that Paroh would be able to understand. The Ramban, on the other hand, learns that Moshe would not say it in front of Paroh at all. Rather, he would tell it to Aharon who would then transmit the message to Paroh.

The question is, according to Rashi, what was the purpose in Moshe Rabbeinu saying each nevuah one time, if Paroh was anyway only going to understand it from Aharon?

Each time there was a makah, it was preceded by a warning. These warnings were an inherent part of the process of the Eser Makos and Yetzias Mitzrayim.

The Rambam writes (Hilchos Avodah Zarah 1:3): “Over the length of time Klal Yisrael was in Mitzrayim, they came to worship avodah zarah like the Mitzrim – with the exception of sheivet Levi who remained faithful to the instructions passed down from the Avos, and never worshipped avodah zarah – and it got to the point where the foundation that Avraham Avinu had implanted was almost completely uprooted wherein Klal Yisrael would have completely reverted to the follies of the rest of the world. However, out of His love for us and keeping His promise to Avraham Avinu, Hashem made Moshe the Rabban shel kol ha’neviim and sent him [to redeem Klal Yisrael].”

The Rambam’s usage of the term “Rabban shel kol ha’neviim” is a clear reference to the fundamental principle of emunah that he outlines in his Pirush Ha’Mishnayos (in Perek Cheilek of Sanhedrin) – that Moshe Rabbeinu’s nevuah was of a totally different category than all others. Thus, when the Rambam says that Hashem made Moshe Rabbeinu into the Rabban shel kol ha’neviim and sent him to Mitzrayim, he is making it clear that Moshe Rabbeinu’s supreme level of nevuah was even in Mitzrayim, and not only later when the Torah was given.

The truth is, that this is practically an explicit pasuk. In V’zos Ha’Bracha (34:10,11) it says, “And there did not arise in Yisrael another navi like Moshe whom Hashem knew panim el panim. For all the signs and wonders that Hashem sent him to do in Eretz Mitzrayim, to Paroh, and all his servants, and his whole land.” So, really, the Rambam was just condensing for us what the pasuk is telling us, that Moshe Rabbeinu’s totally supreme level of nevuah was with him even in Mitzrayim.

This begs the question, why did it have to be like that?

In last week’s parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu said to Hashem, “Who am I that I should go to Paroh?” Based on a particular Medrash, the Brisker Rav says a novel pshat in this pasuk. Hashem had promised Avraham Avinu that He would take Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. As we emphasize in the Haggadah, “Not through a malach, not through a saraf, and not through a messenger.” So Moshe Rabbeinu was asking, “Who am I to go to Paroh? If I act as Your messenger to take Klal Yisrael out, that would contravene Your promise that You would take them out Yourself!”

Hashem’s answer to that question is, “Ki eheyeh imach, I will be with you.” In other words, since Moshe Rabbeinu already had the supreme, unique level of panim el panim, his words were not filtered messages from Hashem. Rather, it was a completely transparent transmission of the nevuah directly from Hashem; literally word for word.

It was a madreigah that is practically impossible to fathom that a basar v’dam could reach, that Moshe Rabbeinu’s being was not at all a chatzitzah (barrier) in any way, shape, or form for the Dvar Hashem to come through. When Moshe Rabbeinu spoke the nevuah, it was not him talking as much as it was the Shechina medaberes mi’toch grono, the Divine Presence speaking through his throat, kavayachol. “Ki eheyeh imach, I will be with you.”

Moshe was not going as an independent entity functioning as a shaliach, but as a vehicle for the unadulterated expression and manifestation of Ratzon Hashem.

Paranthetically, the continuation of the pasuk now also takes on a new meaning. “And this will be the sign for you that I have sent you in your taking out the nation from Mitzrayim, you all will worship the Almighty on this mountain.” While in Mitzrayim, it was not yet demonstrated with complete, incontrovertible clarity that Moshe Rabbeinu embodied this absolutely unique level of nevuah. Only when they experienced Matan Torah at Maamad Har Sinai did Klal Yisrael come to know this point with 100% precision.

Coming back, this is pshat in Rashi. The promise was that Hashem Himself would take Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. If only Aharon would have sounded the warnings of each makah, that would have been a mechanism of shlichus (agency). That is why Moshe Rabbeinu – who was the one who served as the mouthpiece, kavayachol, of the Shechina – had to say each warning to Paroh at least once. That way, it was a full manifestation of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu Himself taking Klal Yisrael out of Mitzrayim.

A memory (from the compiler):

Talk to Hashem

Although it took place more than fourteen years ago, the conversation I had with my Rebbi, Rav Mosheh Twersky zt”l Hy”d, in the wake of 9/11 remains vivid in my mind. As I imagine many people felt at that time, a sense of emotional disorientation and feeling rudderless loomed large.

So, I approached Rav Twersky and asked: “Rebbi, what are we supposed to do?”

I assumed that a tragedy of such enormous magnitude demands some sort of concrete response. Also, I really needed something that could serve as a vehicle to allow some sense of emotional relief (the sense of, “ok, at least I am doing something…”).

My assumption was that Rav Twersky would prescribe some sort of increase of avodas Hashem. Perhaps a few extra minutes of Torah learning every day, or reciting a particular chapter of Tehillim.

His totally unexpected response, therefore, caught me completely off guard.

“Talk to Hashem.”

Three words. That’s it.

When Rav Twersky saw my befuddled look, he added, “Perhaps you don’t know what I mean…I am not talking about Shmoneh Esrei…Just talk to Him.”

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