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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vayikra. Moshe Rabbeinu's Name, Echoes, and Ghosts

Moshe Rabbeinu, as you know, had, besides "Moshe," ten other names that were given him by his family and Klal Yisrael. His parents certainly did not name him 'Moshe' and they most probably called him Tovia, as implied in the pasuk that describes his birth. The ten names are
1. Yered
2. Avigdor
3. Chever
4. Avi Socho
5. Yekusiel
6. Avi Zanuach
7. Tuvia
8. Shmaya ben Nesanel

9. Ben Avitar
10. Levi.
(Vaykira Rabba 1:3, and at great length in Yalkut Shimoni Vayikra 1, remez 428; and 2 remez 166, Most of these names are mentioned in I Divrei Hayamim 4:18, and Shmaya ben Nesanel there in 24:6.)

Now, in Tanach, the name used is not necessarily the name by which the person was known, but instead, a name is used as an adjective, or to teach us something fundamental about the person. Indeed, the Yalkut cited above explains the intent and meaning of each of the other ten names. But there has to be a significant reason for preferring one name over his birth-name. Why does the Torah choose this name over all others?

R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz’s sefer at the beginning of Vayikra brings that Hashem used the name 'Moshe' instead of the other nine names because this was the name given him by Bisya, the daughter of Pharaoh. She had bravely and sympathetically endangered herself to save Moshe, and a person’s mesiras nefesh leaves a mark, a Roshem on the object of their self-sacrifice. A holy act permeates and changes the soul of the beneficiary of that mesiras nefesh. Thus, Bisya’s deed contributed to Moshe’s character of selfless dedication to others, and the name she gave him, which alludes her act of drawing him from the water, was the most appropriate way to refer to him.(Reb Chaim doesn't go this far, but the symmetry is too tantalizing to ignore: Perhaps it was Bisya's brave and selfless act of drawing Moshe from the water that enabled Moshe to draw Klal Yisrael out of the water of the Yam Suf when they were threatened by the army of Egypt eighty years later-- imagine that! Pharaoh's daughter not only contravened her father's order by saving Moshe, but it was specifically her act that gave Moshe Rabbeinu, that implanted in him, the ability to destroy her father at the Yam!)

See also his expansion of this concept in Drasha Number 3 of his sefer, where he says that even an inanimate object can be imbued with a person’s work, as we find that Elisha sent told Geichazi to take Elisha's walking staff and to use it to resurrect a dead child. Because Elisha had walked all over Eretz Yisroel to strengthen people in avodas Hashem, just as Elisha had used it in his life work of bringing life to the spiritually dead, so too the stick had the koach of being mechayeh meisim.

On the other hand, this latent power is fragile and can be easily ruined; or, you can say that it is easy to supress this harmonic. Geichazi’s leitzonus as he was carrying the mish'enes caused it to lose its koach, because he put leitzonus into the stick, and leitzonus and kedusha cannot coexist.

On May 9, 2006, I took Ovi Mori (Shlitah) HK'M to see Dr. David Koenigsberg, a cardiologist, at his office at Swedish Covenant Hospital. Dr. Koenigsberg rents space in that office, and after the visit, he introduced me to the doctors from whom he rents, Arminio and Narcisa Sarucci. From Romania, they are highly educated, (Arminio is listed as speaking French, Italian and Romanian) practitioners of internal medicine. Dr. Koenigsberg had earlier been surprised to learn that they had purchased R Aharon Soloveitchik’s house after he was niftar. Arminio and Narcisa told me an interesting story. A friend of theirs was moving, and they offered that he stay with them until things settled down. One morning, he came down for coffee, and told them that he had a remarkable dream. He dreamt that as he was lying in bed, the room filled with Rabbis with long beards who sat there and talked to each other. The friend had no idea that R Aharon was the previous occupant of the house.

I asked the Suruccis if they did an exorcism, but they said no, they liked it.The truth is, it shouldn’t be a surprise that R Aharon left a roshem on the house. A kodosh v’tohor whose every energy was spent in harbotzas Torah and avodas Hashem had to leave some roshem. What surprised me was that the current occupants had done nothing that eliminated that spiritual imprint, as Geichazi had done with the matteh of Elisho. The roshem may be powerful, but it is fragile, and it seems that they are people with good middos.

They then told me that Dr. Surucci's first cousin had married the daughter of the late Rabbi Alexander Safran, (pronounced Shafran, Grand Rabbi of Romania and later Grand Rabbi of Geneva, the son of the famous Rabbi Zeev Bezalel Safran from the city of Bacau. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna and was known as one of the most charismatic orators of his time. He was exiled from Romania in 1947 by the communist government.) I wonder if there is some connection to the Jewish people in that family, through consanguinity, lenity, or charity.

Some people reading this will feel that this concept is foreign to Jewish belief. Since when do we venerate or fetishize inanimate objects? Can an 'object' have inherent kedusha? I, too, found it surprising. In fact, Reb Meir Simcha emphatically says exactly this in his discussion of the Sheviras Haluchos, that Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to make the point to Klal Yisrael that 'objects' only reflect the kedusha status of Klal Yisrael, but have no inherent kedusha. But I say two things in response: first, if Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz felt it was valid and true, I’m comfortable with it as well. I would not say this about every Gadol; some focus on branches of Torah that give me the heebie jeebies. Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz was just your regular kadosh vetahor, a gadol in mussar, torah, and ma'asim tovim. Second, there is a big difference between venerating an object, which is wrong, and recognizing that it retains the influence of a mitzvah that was done with it. We are simply saying that the object retains the holiness and significance of the ma'aseh mitzvoh, not that the object is intrinsically holy because of its nature.

In any case, I later realized that what he was saying is really implicit in the rishonim. In parshas Ki Sisa, Shemos 25:23, on the words V’osiso Shulchon, the Ramban says a fascinating thing. He says that ever since the creation of the world, Hashem doesn’t do yeish mei’ayin, and there has to be a root for brochoh to be chal on and to grow into abundance. He brings the story of Elisho in Melochim II 4:2 about the osuch hashemen and by Eliahu in Melochim I 17:16 with the kad hakemach. These are his important words: Vechein hashulchon b’lechem haponim, bo tochul habrochoh, umimenu yovo hasova l’chol Yisroel, ul’kach omru (Yoma 39b) "kol kohein shemagi’o k’pul ocheil v’sovei’ah: in other words, since the Shulchon was the means of bringing satiety to the world, the lechem on the shulchon was the epitome of sova, and "any kohen who ate a piece of the lechem haponim, even a crumb, was sated."

The Chinuch says this is true for many other things as well. See Mitzvas Asei 97, where he brings the Gemora in Sukkah about nisuch hamayim and the omer and other things. His important statement is the anything that is used in the service of the Ribono Shel Olom becomes a conduit for brochoh, it attains and embodies the spiritual quality of the mitzvah that was done with it. (Chazal have an expression "moshol hediot", a metaphor that is phrased in mundane terms. Here's a real moshol hediot: the rishonim say that a mamzer is not only the result of an illicit act, but that he personifies and embodies the illicit act: he is a "shtik ni'uf. Well, the opposite is true in the case of holy acts.)

And, here's a blockbuster.  In the Gaon's Even Shleimah 5:4 in the footnotes you will see from Reb Chaim Volozhiner and the Gaon what we have said and even more. 


It seems to me that R’ Chaim’s concept is relevant to our lives. Most of us are frum because of the great sacrifices our parents made to remain Jews and to see to it that we were brought up properly as Jews. This is not only history, it is opportunity and responsibility. We are the 'cheftzah shel mitzvah.' Not only have we have been bequeathed some ability or trait directly from our forebears’ sacrifice, we embody it. We have it in ourselves. When we realize what others went through so that we can be frummeh yidden, we can access this koach that was put into us and use it for avodas Hashem. This can be used to grow, and to not use it repudiates and discards the blood and sweat and tears spilled by those who gave us these abilities. Being the child of an ‘illui’ or a 'gvir' doesn't really change who you are, but being the child of parents who were mosseir nefesh does. This status of Hekdesh can be the foundation of a life of Torah, a Bayis Ne'eman, and, like the Be'er Miriam, a font of strength from which one can draw kedusha his entire life.







This picture of Michelangelo's Moses is here for absolutely no defensible reason. I was just thinking that he must have had a really hard time putting on his Shel Rosh.  UPDATE:  I just realized that on the contrary, it  would have been easy to center it.  Right between the horns.

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