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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shemos 4:10. Moshe's Speech Impediment and Tefilla

At my son's last Sheva Brachos, an old acquaintance of the family who happened to be in town spoke.  This was Rav Shmuel Feivelsohn from Israel, the founder and head of Yeshiva Nachlas Naftoli in Tzfas.  When he was a child during WW II, his parents ran to a town right next to the border with Iran, because at that time Iran was a kingdom and the monarch was allowing Jews to go through Iran to Israel.  Instead of crossing over the Eretz Yisrael, unfortunately, his father died of Typhus and his mother of cancer, and he was taken in by his aunt and uncle, Reb Avrohom (son of Harav Naftoli) Trop and his wife.  Apparently, Reb Chaim Stein was there as well, and he wanted to go back back to Samarkand, where they met up with my parents and the other Bnei Torah.  When my parents got married, his aunt cooked for the wedding in Samarkand and his uncle and aunt were my mother's unterfihrers at their wedding.  (Reb Chaim Stein and his rebbitzen, Frida, were my father's unterfihrers.  That was the deal- whoever got married first would be the unterfirer for the other, and the Steins got married first.)  Rabbi Feivelsohn, who was a young man of around fifteen at the time, danced at my parents' wedding, so having him speak at my youngest son's last sheva brachos was a very moving experience, both for him and for us.  He said two things, and I will write the first.  The second was of a more personal nature in its focus on my father zatza'l.

The Ramban in Shemos 4:10 talks about Moshe's being a chvad peh, having a speech impediment.  The question is, why make such a big issue of Moshe Rabbeinu's defect?  Why didn't Hashem simply cure cure it and finished?  The Ramban has two approaches to this matter.
1.  The Ramban's own pshat.
ועל דרך הפשט יאמר כי אני כבד פה גם מתמול גם משלשום, כי מנעורי הייתי כבד פה, אף כי עתה כי אני זקן. וגם מאז דברך היום אל עבדך, כי לא הסירות כבדות פי בצוותך אותי ללכת אל פרעה לדבר בשמך, ואם כן איך אלך לפניו. 
והנה משה מרוב חפצו שלא ילך לא התפלל לפניו יתברך שיסיר כבדות פיו. אבל טען אחרי שלא הסירות כבדות פי מעת שדברת לי ללכת, אל תצווני שאלך, כי לא יתכן לאדון הכל לשלוח שליח ערל שפתים למלך עמים. והקב"ה כיון שלא התפלל בכך לא רצה לרפאותו, אבל אמר לו אנכי אהיה עם פיך והורתיך אשר תדבר, שיהיו דברי אשר אשים בפיך במלות נכונות שתוכל לבטא בהן יפה:
 Moshe Rabbeinu could very easily have davenned that Hashem should cure him of his problem.  The reason he didn't daven was because being cured would make him perfectly fit for the job of confronting Pharaoh and leading Klal Yisrael, and he didn't want the job.  So he didn't daven, and he said, Ribono shel Olam, I am still an aral sefasayim, and it's inappropriate that You, the Great King, should send a cripple to speak on Your behalf.  Hashem's reaction was that since Moshe didn't daven to be cured, he would not be cured, and Hashem would give Moshe words that he could manage even with his handicap so that he could do his job.

2.   The Medrash.
ובאלה שמות רבה (ג כ) אמרו: אמר לו אם אתה אינך איש דברים אל תחוש, הלא אני בראתי כל פיות שבעולם ואני עשיתי אלם מי שחפצתי וחרש ועור ופקח לראייה ופקח לשמיעה, ואם חפצתי שתהיה איש דברים, היית, אלא לעשות כך אני חפץ. ובעת שתדבר יהיו דבריך נכונים שאני אהיה עם פיך. הדא הוא דכתיב (בפסוק ב): ועתה לך ואנכי אהיה עם פיך. 

ולפי זה נראה בעיני שלא רצה להסיר ממנו כובד הפה בעבור שהיה בו ממעשה הנס שספרו רבותינו בשמו"ר א כו שאירע לו עם פרעה. 

(Based on the Medrash.)  Hashem told Moshe that those people that are handicapped and those that are naturally talented are all as they are because of the specific will of Hashem.  You, Moshe, have this impediment davka because I want you to have it, and I will make it happen that you will speak perfectly despite your handicap.  Why, then, didn't Hashem cure him and make his work easier?  The Ramban suggests that according to the Medrash, pshat is that Hashem didn't want to remove the handicap because it bespoke the miracle during Moshe's infancy when his life was saved by putting a hot coal to his lips.  Even though it was a disfiguring handicap, even though his scarred and immobile lips and tongue gave him constant pain, Hashem didn't want to remove it because they were the result of a miracle that was intended to save Moshe's life.

3.  The Ramban then goes back to his own pshat, different than the Medrash.
והנכון בעיני שאמר ה' למשה מי שם פה לאדם או מי ישום אלם הלא אנכי ה' עושה כל, ובידי לרפאות אותך, ועתה כיון שלא תרצה ברפואתך ולא התפללת לפני על זה, לך אל אשר אני מצווה לך, ואנכי אהיה עם פיך ואצליח שליחותי. גם אפשר שיהיה רמז מויחר אף ה' במשה";שלא רצה לרפאותו ושלחו על כורחו:

 Here the Ramban goes back and states his preference for his own pshat, which I numbered 1.  Hashem said, I can cure you. But since you aren't praying to be cured, I'm not going to.  So go without being cured, and I will make sure that you are successful.  Hashem was angry that Moshe intentionally refrained from davening in order to keep his 4-F.  But it didn't make a difference, because Hashem sent him as he was.

Rabbi Feivelsohn said that it was Reb Chatzkel Levinstein that pointed this Ramban out to him.  It's amazing; Reb Chatzkel said.  According to the Ramban, it was important that Moshe be cured, and Hashem wanted Moshe cured, but since Moshe didn't daven to be cured, Hashem did not cure him.  Amazing!  People think that tefilla is to change Hashem's mind, to convince Him of something, to advocate a point.  Here the Ramban is saying that there are things that a man might have coming to him, there are things that are important that he receive, but if the person will not daven for them, then no matter how important it is that he get them, he won't get them.  That's the way Hashem created the world for his servants.  You might be zocheh to great bracha, but if you don't daven, you're leaving all your brachos on the table.  Everyone wishes the Chasan and Kallah bracha and hatzlacha and the building of a bayis ne'eman, and all the brachos will be mekuyam, but you can never forget that you must be mispallel that your brachos should come into your hands, because without your tefilla nothing will happen.

Rabbi Faivelsohn used the Ramban's wording of the Medrash Rabba to make his main point.  Having suffered and seen others suffering through the privations of Soviet Asia, losing his parents, starving, being half frozen and desperately alone, he now looks back on the wedding he attended as a child, and with the same eyes he sees that couple's youngest grandchild getting married, and all the suffering that he and the chassan's experienced was like the wound on Moshe Rabbeinu's mouth- it was extremely painful, and the pain remains to this day, but now he sees it as all as a mazkeres haneis, as part of the Ribono shel Olam's plan and will, from the world turned upside down in the privations of far-off Samarkand, across seventy years and thousands of miles and unimaginable changes, all the way to the simcha of the Sheva Brachos.


Anonymous said...

reb avrohom trop was the son of reb naftali not his brother.

E said...

Corrected. Thank you.