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Monday, June 14, 2010

Chukas. Amram and Yocheved's Children, Whiskey, Worms, and Snakes

From the archive:

This week's post has two parts.  The first part discusses Amram and Yocheved's family.  The second part discusses the issur of Whiskey that was owned by a Jew on Pesach, and the issur of fish that contain Anisakis parasites.


Taanis 9a:  The "moving well" that provided water for the Jews in the desert was in the merit of Miriam; the clouds that protected them, in the merit of Aharon; and the Manna in the merit of Moshe. Miriam died, and the well disappeared, but it returned in the merit of the two remaining brothers.  Aron died, the clouds disappeared, but they returned in the merit of Moshe.  Moshe died, and all three disappeared, never to return to that generation.

ר' יוסי בר' יהודה אומר שלשה פרנסים טובים עמדו לישראל אלו הן משה ואהרן ומרים וג' מתנות טובות ניתנו על ידם ואלו הן באר וענן ומן באר בזכות מרים עמוד ענן בזכות אהרן מן בזכות משה מתה מרים נסתלק הבאר שנאמר (במדבר כ) ותמת שם מרים וכתיב בתריה ולא היה מים לעדה וחזרה בזכות שניהן מת אהרן נסתלקו ענני כבוד שנאמר (במדבר כא) וישמע הכנעני מלך ערד מה שמועה שמע שמע שמת אהרן ונסתלקו ענני כבוד וכסבור ניתנה לו רשות להלחם בישראל והיינו דכתיב (במדבר כ) ויראו כל העדה כי גוע אהרן אמר ר' אבהו אל תקרי ויראו אלא וייראו כדדריש ר"ל דאר"ל כי משמש בארבע לשונות אי דלמא אלא דהא חזרו שניהם בזכות משה מת משה נסתלקו כולן שנאמר (זכריה יא) ואכחיד את שלשת הרועים בירח אחד וכי בירח אחד מתו והלא מרים מתה בניסן ואהרן באב ומשה באדר אלא מלמד שנתבטלו ג' מתנות טובות שנתנו על ידן ונסתלקו כולן בירח אחד

Korach accused Moshe Rabbeinu of unilaterally allocating power and glory to himself and to his own family,  I hate to ask a question that might seem reminiscent of Korach's, but my question is actually very different.  I was wondering.  How is it that these three people, Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, two brothers and a sister, were the ones in whose zechus the three staffs of life in the Midbar existed?  Yes, of course we know that Moshe Rabbeinu was unique.  But were there no others in that generation that equaled Aharon or Miriam?  Why, when Hashem told Moshe that he would be the instrument of Yetzias Mitzrayim, and Moshe tried to decline, did Moshe suggest that Aharon be chosen?  Why was Aharon the automatic alternative to Moshe Rabbeinu?  Was there nobody more qualified, or equally qualified?  Evidently, there were not. 

Obviously, the fact that Aharon and Miriam were singled out proves that they were uniquely qualified; that they, and they alone, were worthy to be Moshe Rabbeinu's peers.  As Rashi says in Shmos 4:10, Aharon was a navi for a long time in Mitzrayim before Moshe Rabbeinu was chosen by Hashem.  Miriam also was a nevi'ah, who said that the savior of Klal Yisrael would be born to her parents.  So the question is, how did it happen that the three greatest people of the generation were siblings?      Why did this greatness strike one family three times?

This is not a statistical anomaly, that the three greatest people of the generation just so happened to be brothers and sisters. Obviously, there was something about the family that generated these great people.  What special quality was it that manifested itself in these three great scions?  And in what respect were they so different?

As proof that the question is valid, see Yoma 47a.  There was a woman, Kimchis, who had seven sons that were Kohanim Gedolim.  The Gedolim of the time asked her what was it that she had done that manifested itself in having such great children, and she answered that she was very modest even when at home.  So the fact that Chazal asked her what she had done to merit such great children proves that this is a question that is worth asking.  And, by the way, the answer was not a generic "I was very holy."  Apparently, general holiness is not a good answer.  Chazal, and Kimchis, knew that there was some specific trait that laid the foundation of her great children.

Is it because Yishai, their father, was so holy?  He is (Bava Basra 17a) among the four people who died only because of the decree of human mortality, not because of any sin.  But what of the other three on the list?   The four are Binyamin, Amram, Yishai, and Kil'av.  OK, Yishai had chosheveh sons.  What do we know about the children of Binyamin?  Nothing, other than that were ten of them:  Bela, Becher, Ashbel, Geira, Naaman, Eichi, Rosh, Mupim, Chupim, and Ard.  But do we find that they were supremely gifted?  Were they unusually accomplished?  Not that I know.  And Kil'av?  We know zero about him, other than the fact that he didn't try to kill his father or seize the malchus.  In fact, the Chasam Sofer says that the reason we know so very little about these four great people is because they preserved their perfection by not engaging in everyday life with the community, which is not what the Ribono shel Olam wants (though obviously it's not a sin.)

I don't think we're looking for a superior trait, as the Gemara says about Kimchis, that she was unusually modest.  I think we're looking for something singular, something unique to Amram and/or Yocheved. 

I saw an interesting comment in a sefer called Ein Yaakov (from Reb Yaakov Karliner, author of Mishkenos Yaakov, who, if you don't recognize his Mishkenos Yaakov happens to be the Keren Orah's brother), here.  He brings from the Daas Zkainim in Parshas Pinchas on the passuk
וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת עַמְרָם יוֹכֶבֶד בַּת-לֵוִי אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה אֹתָהּ לְלֵוִי בְּמִצְרָיִם וַתֵּלֶד לְעַמְרָם אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה וְאֵת מִרְיָם אֲחֹתָם.
that Levi's wife's name was Ossah (despite the Mapik Hei,) and that is why it says Asher yaldah ossa le'levi be'Mitzrayim.  He explains that the name Ossah showed that this woman was an Os, Os Hashem, she was seen as an amazingly great woman.  Similarly, the name of Yocheved means she was honored with Godly gifts, kah kavod.  The passuk in Pinchas stresses the names of the mother and grandmother of Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, to let us know that their singular gadlus stemmed from these great women.

But that doesn't really answer the question.  Great mother and grandmother.  And a great father too, no doubt.  But were they unique?  And in exactly what way were they so great?

Here's a pshat that directly addresses the question.  The answer given by the Mesilos Chaim, who develops something the Sforno said.  The Mesilos Chaim was written by Rav Chaim Elazary; he calls it a Mussar-oriented sefer of Drush:  here's his bio, with information from Reb Manny Saltiel here, with corrections and additions from a letter I received from Rabbi Elazary's grandson- whose son is named Chaim.
Rav Chaim Moshe Reuven Elazary was a student of the Slobodkeh Yeshiva, first in Europe and then in Chevron. He was in Chevron at the time of the massacre in 1929 (was saved by an Arab).  Rav Elazary's brothers, Rav Betzalel and Rav Yisrael, were among those murdered in the 1929 Chevron massacre.  He went to Yerushlayim with the rest of the yeshiva, got married in 1932 (the woman he married was born in the US, but went to Palestine in 1931 to look for a shidduch from the Chevron yeshiva), moved to the Bronx in 1936.  He began his rabbinic career there, and also taught at a yeshiva in Brooklyn.  He succeeded his father-in-law, Rav Ephraim Pelcovitz, as rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim in Canton, Ohio in 1938 or 39.   (His father had been in Canton since 1914, and in 1929 moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut.) In 1972, Rav Elazary settled in Petach Tikva. He left numerous published and unpublished works and articles, many of them exhibiting the influence of Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel, the Alter of Slobodka.   

I'm copying his drasha from here on, and I don't have the time or patience to fix the OCR and format errors.  Figure it out yourself. 

אלה ראשי בית אבתם וגוי  (Shemos, 6:14)

כתב הספורנו  ״בדין מנה את אלה שרים על ישראל, כי הם היו נכבדים מכל האומה, וזה, כי ראובן בכור ישראל ולא היו מצאצאיו אנשים ראוים להקרא בשם זולתי בניו הנזכר, שהיו מכלל ע׳ נפש שכבר מתו וכר, וכך היה מבני שמעון. אבל לוי שהאריך ימים על כולם גדל גם את בני בניו להבין ולהורות, וכן קהת ועמרם, באופן שיצאו מהם משה ואהרן ומרים״, הרי איפוא, שמה גרם להם לבני עמרם שיהיו נכבדים
מכל האומה, זה שהיו קרובים יותר אל אבותיהם. ושורשו של דבר הוא,שהואיל ולפי התהליך הטבעי הדורות הולכים ומתמעטים. עד שחדל בדורותיהם כבר קבעו את הכלל *אם ראשונים בני מלאכים אנו בני
אנשים ואם ראשונים בני אנשים אנו כחמורים״ וכוי (שבת קי׳׳ב, ע״ב) לפיכך כבל שמרבה האדם להכיר את הדורות הקודמים לו הריהו זוכה ממילא גם לראות מדרגות יותר נשגבות בפרישות וקדושה. וכמובן שעובדה זו מטביעה דושם על הנוכו והתנהגותו. משום כך, אי שהאריך
ימים יתר על כל השבטים ובני בניו גדלו על ברכיו, בנגוד לאהיו שלא הספיקו לגדל אלא את בניהם בלבד, זכה עמרם בן בנו להעמיד
את מנהיגי ישראל, משה, אהרן ומרים

The gist of his answer is that Levi outlived all his brothers, and raised his grandchildren, among whom was Amram.  It was this exposure to and education by this great man from an earlier generation that resulted in Amram raising his three great children, the leaders of their generation.  Our spiritual gifts, our relationship with Hashem, are rooted in our great ancestors.  Amram was raised to adulthood and educated by the last surviving son of Yaakov; he became, in a sense, the repository of the gadlus of Yaakov; and he gave over that heritage to his children.  .

Please note a very cool thing: The essence of this answer is very similar to the answer suggested by Anonymous, the first commenter:
Maybe it has to do with the fact that Amram married his aunt who was much older than he, for starters. This trait demonstrated by Amram of not using age as a factor when picking his wife merited the zechus of having such special children. Also considering that Yocheved was a daughter of Levi meant that the inherent kedusha of one of the original Shivtei Yisroel was present in his granchildren at yetzias Mitzrayim not diluted by further space between the doros. Yocheved saw the way Levi ran his household and passed it down directly to her children without dilution of time.
This shows the power of the influence of parents and grandparents on children, and the powerful effect they can have for good or bad.
Rabbi Elazary discusses Amram's close connection with the previous generations, and Anonymous mentioned the fact that Yocheved, having been born 'bein hachomos,' was not only a living memory of the generation of the twelve shvatim, she was an actual remnant of that generation- a connection even stronger than that of Amram!  The two teirutzim work together much more effectively than each one alone: after all, Yocheved was not unique, there was also Serach bas Asher; Amram was not unique, there were all the other grandchildren of Levi.  BUT!  This family was unique in that both parents, both Amram and Yocheved, were raised and educated by Levi himself.  Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, Mr. Anonymous was raised fifty years later than and fifty miles north of Rabbi Elazary's rabbanus.

To better understand this teretz, another point is important.
R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz says (Sichos Mussar, #40, pages 169-170) that when Chazal say "Ke'Shmuel bedoro kach Yiftach be'doro," the pshat is not that we have no choice because the earlier gedolim are not available. The pshat in tosfos in R”h that says “ein lecha shofeit she’hayah b’yamecha” is he is the right one for you. Then he brings from Koheles Rabbah 1:4:4 that if Aharon lived in the time of Yehoyadah and Tzadok, they would have been greater than Aharon– because for that generation Yehoyadah would have been more fitting. Then he brings the story of Choni in Taynis 23a, and asks, why didn’t Choni show them his gadlus in Torah? The answer is that his pshotim and teirutzim would not have made sense to them. (ahd kahn R' Shmuelevitz.)

The superior leaders are those who incorporate the spiritual level of the previous generation in a form and a language that is intelligible to the new generation. Yes, the Navi Shmuel himself would have been a failure as a leaderin the generation of Yiftach; but a man of Shmuel's stature, who could understand the people of Yiftach's generation, and could talk to them in their language, would have been the greatest possible leader.

Another connection to this week's parsha:  In the war against Og, the king of Bashan, it says that Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid.  Rashi explains that he was afraid that Og had a zechus, as it says "Vayavo hapalit," that the refugee from the battle came to Avraham to tell him that his nephew, Lot, had been captured.  The simple meaning of the Rashi is that Og had done a favor for Avraham, and this was a zechus.  But Chazal do say that Og's intention was to kill Avraham, or to have Avraham die in the battle he would join, so that Og could take Sarah for a wife.  Some favor!  What kind of zechus is this?  But we can say pshat a little different (based on the Gemara in Chagiga 5a about the zechus of seeing tzadikim.)  Og was the last man on earth that saw Avraham Avinu.  That alone was a fantastic zechus.  It was this zechus that frightened Moshe Rabbeinu.  Similarly, the Gemara in Bava Basra 121b says that seven people spanned all of history: Adam was seen by Mesuselach, who was seen by Shem, who was seen by Yaakov, who was seen by Amram, who was seen by Achiyah Hashiloni, who was seen by Eliahu, who is still alive.  Amram was the last man to have seen Yaakov, and that is a great zechus.

Tangentially, I say that having such great parents certainly can lead to extraordinary achievement, with a caveat.  Obviously, there are no guarantees.  Amram was not the only grandchild that Levi raised, and Moshe, Aharon and Miriam were not his only great-grandchildren; but they apparently absorbed the lessons better than the others.  It is not easy for a young tree to grow in the shade of a great oak; the ones that attempt to grow on their own and outdo the towering oak remain stunted and resentful.  The smart ones graft their root system into that of the great oak from which they descended, and not only are they not stunted by their great predecessor, they are doubly well-rooted and doubly well-nourished.

Since I mentioned the Mishkenos Yaakov:
There has been an uncontroverted declaration by the umbrella organization comprising the heads of all the respected Hashgacha organizations in the United States to this effect:  Since whiskey that was owned by a Jew on Pesach is assur, the products of any whisky companies and distributers that are Jewish and who don't sell their Chametz, are forever assur.  This includes Pappy Van Winkle since 2003. 

I am not a drinker, so I don't personally care about this tempest.  But as Pastor Niemöller said, "They came first for the Romaine lettuce, and I didn't speak up because you can check Romaine lettuce once a year, no big deal.  Then they came for the brocolli, and I didn't speak up because I can do without brocolli.  Then they came for the strawberries, and I didn't speak up because I can eat frozen strawberries.  Then they came for water, and I didn't speak up because there's always whiskey.  But then they came for the whiskey, and my throat was too dry to speak up."

So I'll have you know that while we must all respect and follow our poskim and Hashgacha organizations, there are very chashuveh poskim that hold like the Mishkenos Yaakov in YD 34, that learns in the Rivash that Zei'ah is not really assur outside the case of Yayin, and even though the Mishkenos Yaakov is machmir unless its a hefsed merubah, there are very chashuveh poskim that apply his hetter to all cases of whiskey that is Chametz she'avar alav hapesach, because the Torah requires a limud to prohibit ta'aroves on Pesach itself.

I'm not telling you who the matirim are, because the vast majority of past and current poskim hold that whiskey is prohibited if avar alav hapesach.  Also, it's important to follow our community leaders and support our Hashgacha organizations, which benefit us in so many ways.  I'm certainly not belittling the great poskim who hold that this is problematic.  But it's important to know that America was not discovered yesterday, and that earlier poskim were perfectly aware of the issue - and were mattir. 

Same thing with the anisakis business.  As Rabbi Belsky said, there is a mesora to be mattir in all cases, and the earlier poskim were well aware of the issues, and were mattir based on the invisibility of the parasites when ingested by the kosher fish.

Let's put it this way:  if you are meikil on whiskey and wild salmon without direct instruction from your poseik, you are being over an extremely serious issur; not the issur of chametz and shratzim, but instead the issur of Poretz Geder.  What do Chazal say about Poretz Geder?  -And with that, we bring this post back to this week's parsha, which talks of the plague of poisonous snakes-
Poretz Geder Yishchenu Nachash.  (Koheles 10:8, as applied in Shulchan Aruch OC 410:11.)
~~ ~~ ~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~~ ~~ ~~~~


Anonymous said...

Maybe it has to do with the fact that Amram married his aunt who was much older than he, for starters. This trait demonstrated by Amram of not using age as a factor when picking his wife merited the zechus of having such special children. Also considering that Yocheved was a daughter of Levi meant that the inherent kedusha of one of the original Shivtei Yisroel was present in his granchildren at yetzias Mitzrayim not diluted by further space between the doros. Yocheved saw the way Levi ran his household and passed it down directly to her children without dilution of time.
This shows the power of the influence of parents and grandparents on children, and the powerful effect they can have for good or bad.

Nosson Gestetner said...

@Anonymous - I doubt it - age was never factored into the equation in biblical times. And it's not something worthy of such zechus - it is a problem today, but that it due to stupidity not reality.
As such, were people today to not care about age suddenly, they would not be on Amram's level, they'd just be normal.

Second answer has a lot of truth in it it would seem.

Nosson Gestetner said...

Looking forward to the hemshech Eliezer!

Anonymous said...

How about the Brisker's the Sofer's they are all a family some families are Just good for Leadership Positions

Nosson Gestetner said...

Also not a good tirutz - established dynasties are conducive to leaders - Amram did not have a dynasty, it was just him, and then suddenly these bright young things.

Anonymous said...

Why did Moshe have to make a Copper snake? To be more exact Why Copper and why a snake?
The Maharal in Gur Aryeh answers that it was all about looking upwards that meaning prayer.When somthing like a snake bites a person the person becomes fearful of it. This way when you see the snake up there, and you have just been bitten by the very same thing your prayers will be alot more focused and hence Hashem will answer your Prayers.(very practical) He then explains why copper or נחשת: He explains the fact that נחש and נחשת are similar names has a significance since names indicate the essence of a thing, the נחשת heals the נחש because of their similarity.(not so practical).The Ramban has a whole different approach. He says when Hashem does a miracle he does a miracle within a miracle. He explains this based on the Medical Science of his day that normally when you look at the thing that made you ill you will aggravate the symptoms,and make you worse off. Here Hashem showing them even though normally looking at the snake should make you worse, here I am going to make it, make you better.Another Miracle within miracle was the story of the bitter waters where a bitter tree was thrown into the bitter water and the water was sweetened again normally adding bitter to bitter makes more bitter but here a double miracle happened.[Just a note on this point today's medical science definitely does not concur with that of the Ramban's when you add an acid to a base it neutralizes-hence bitter and bitter is explained]For the super mystically inclined;The CHIDAH in his Sefer "CHADRIE BETEN" says The reason snakes of נחשת where used is because the original snake was responsible for the early deaths of the children of נח until שת.Hence the cure was נחשת. I am still long for a Plain reason why copper anyone?

Chaim B. said...

>>>then they came for the water

Here in NY they already assered that too. We're ahead of the curve.

Chaim B. said...

What does having a "mesorah to be matir" mean? That would undercut maybe the majority of brisker style chumros, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

Why did Moshe hit the rock twice?
The Beer Mayim Chaim Answers:

If you take the word סלע and write it with all it letters spelled out (this is a Kabbalistic system) out you get.

Now ,we can understand why it says וְדִבַּרְתֶּם אֶל הַסֶּלַע לְעֵינֵיהֶם וְנָתַן מֵימָיו Because in middle of the word סלע you have the word מים. This also explains why he had to hit it twice one to knock off the letter form each side of the words to get מים.

B said...

With "a mesora to be mattir" I mean that the previous minhag of kula was not a product of ignorance. Earlier poskim made a decision to be mattir.

Anonymous said...

poretz geder an issur de'oraysah? source, please.

B said...

I was thinking about that myself. Obviously, it's not in the Torah. And while I could say that it goes into lo sasur, what I really meant was that it's really, really, serious. Like Aramis, also midivrei sofrim, but very serious.

Along the lines of the Yerushalmi in Brachos 1:2, that Chamurim divrei sofrim yoseir mishel Torah, because De'oraysas, some are little, some are big. But Derabanans, Poretz Geder etc.

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