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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Yisro, Shemos 19:16. The Awesome Spectacle of Mattan Torah. קולות וברקים

The Torah and Chazal describe the awe inspiring experience of Mattan Torah.  The sensory overload (Rashi, Shemos 20:15, רואין את הנשמע, שאי אפשר לראות במקום אחר), Chazal say, was literally breath taking (Shabbos 88b).  After a fraught moment of utter silence (Shemos Rabba 29:9, צפור לא צווח עוף לא פרח שור לא געה אופנים לא עפו, שרפים לא אמרו קדוש קדוש, הים לא נזדעזע, הבריות לא דברו, אלא העולם שותק ומחריש ויצא הקול אנכי), Heaven touched Earth (almost: Sukkah 5a, ולא ירדה שכינה למטה והכתיב (שמות יט) וירד ה' על הר סיני למעלה מעשרה טפחים), the voice of Hashem pierced our minds and our bodies, and we heard the Aseres Hadibros.

Rashi in Parshas Ki Sisa, Shemos 34:3, says the following:

" הראשונות ע"י שהיו בתשואות וקולות וקהלות שלטה בהן עין הרע אין לך יפה מן הצניעות"
Rashi is drawn from the Tanchuma there in 31,
 הלוחות ראשונות על שנתנו בפומבי, לפיכך שלטה בהם עין הרע ונשתברו. וכאן אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא, אין לך יפה מן הצניעות, שנאמר, מיכה ו ח: "ומה ה' דורש ממך כי אם עשה משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת":

The point of the Tanchuma is that the first luchos were given in uproar and thunder and great masses of onlookers, and the Ayin Hara had power over them, and they ultimately were broken.  The second luchos were given in quiet and privacy and will last forever.  Nothing is better than Tznius.

I simply don't understand this Tanchuma.  I have nothing to propose here.  The best I can do is to try to ask a she'ailas chacham.  

1.  What does Ayin Hara have to do with the sin of the Egel?  Does the Tanchuma mean that when the Sattan showed Klal Yisrael a mirage of Moshe Rabbeinu's bier, he was motivated by a jealousy that stemmed from the marvels of Mattan Torah?  Or that the Ayin Hara caused the Eirev Rav to demand an Eigel?  Or that if not for the Ayin Hara, they couldn't have been broken even if thrown down?

2.  We do find a concept of Tznius in doing mitzvos.  The example that I always use is the Gemara in Zevachim 59b.  There is a machlokes Tana'im about how tall the Mizbe'ach in the Mishkan was.  Rebbi Yehuda says it was three amos tall, and the curtains were five, allowing you to see the Kohen, but not the avoda in his hands.  Reb Yosi says it was ten amos high.  The Gemara asks, but if it was ten amos high, everyone could see the avoda!  This is impossible!
?? אפשר כהן עומד ע"ג המזבח ועבודה בידו וכל העם רואין אותו מבחוץ  
The Gemara answers that according to Reb Yosi, the Kla'im were fifteen amos high, and the kohen had privacy when he did the avodah.  Apparently, the Gemara found it inconceivable that the Avoda would be visible from outside the Mishkan.

3.  On the other hand, we find the din of ברוב עם הדרת מלך, that it is a Hiddur, or a Kiddush Hashem, to have many onlookers when you do a mitzva.  You might be thinking, as I initially did, that Rov Am only applies when everyone present is participating in the mitzva, not merely looking.  You might be right.  But almost all the achronim and poskim, with a great deal of support from Chazal (Yoma 70a, Machatzis Hashekel 147 SK 11,) hold that the din of Rov Am applies even when one person is doing the mitzva and the others are merely looking.  As Reb Heshy Lichtman pointed out to me, if Chillul Hashem is exacerbated by witnesses to an aveira, kal vachomer Kiddush Hashem is enhanced by witnesses to a mitzva.  The raya from Yoma is very debatable.  Heshy's raya is solid.

So, how does this Tanchuma accord with the din of Rov Am?  If Rov Am is a Hiddur and a Kiddush Hashem, how can it possibly create a danger of Ayin Hara?  And if the two are not mutually exclusive, which is the preferred path?

4.  When the Tanchuma uses the words Ayin Hara, does it mean Reb Yitzchak or D'bei Reb Yishmael in Bava Metzia 42a:
א"ר יצחק אין הברכה מצוייה אלא בדבר הסמוי מן העין שנאמר (דברים כח, ח) יצו ה' אתך את הברכה באסמיך תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אין הברכה מצויה אלא בדבר שאין העין שולטת בו שנאמר יצו ה' אתך את הברכה באסמיך

A Chkira.  What is the primary cause of the damage of Ayin Hara: pride or envy?  Is Ayin Hara caused by the other person's envy, or is it a consequence of pride on the part of the victim?  Are we missing the problem of Ayin Hara by focusing on the jealousy, when we should be looking at the pride that makes a person vulnerable to jealousy?  Maybe Ayin Hara happens when a person is not only happy that he has something, but when he's happy that "I have it AND YOU DON'T."  If that is the case, maybe what the Tanchuma means is that we felt pride that everyone else knew we had a unique and personal relationship with the Ribono shel Olam, and it was that pride that set us up for the Chet Ha'Eigel?  If that's the case, then maybe the result of the תשואות וקולות וקהלות was פירסום, and the result of the פירסום was pride, and as a result of this pride, the connection of the Luchos to Klal Yisrael was attenuated.

I saw the פרדס יוסף in כי תשא brings down that when Reb Meir Shapiro opened his yeshiva, he made a big showy event, and someone asked him how what he was doing shtimmed with the Tanchuma, and he answered that he was aware of the risk, but the Klal needed to be shaken awake (אויפטרייסלונג) by such an event.  I've seen the Rav Kook was asked about this when he inaugurated his building as well, and he answered something along the lines of a distinction between publicizing a concept and publicizing an action (הקול והפרסום לצורך הכרזתם של האידיאלים הם יפים מאד, אבל מצד המעשים יותר יפה היא הצניעות, that sound is good for Besamim but bad for wine in Menachos 87, as I've written about here.).  I also saw the the Shem MiShmuel addresses what exactly Ayin Hara means in this Tanchuma, but I don't understand what he is saying.  Bottom line:  I'm still looking for a pshat that I understand.


And all I thought, I thought alone said...

Can we be so sure that ayin hara by Mattan Torah is comparable to ayin hara by mitzvos? Maybe the issues of "B'rov Am" vs the Gemara in Zevachim isn't so relevant to mattan torah. Not that I have any ideas if/how ayin haras work, but if we ignore for a moment the questions you raised and only look at the two giving of the luchos there might be a substantive difference. Perhaps the first luchos, while certainly an impressive spectacle, failed to imprint itself totally on the minds an hearts of am yisrael- they were so taken aback by the power, that they failed to appreciate the message itself. However by the second luchos, they were forced to focus more on the content of what they were receiving, and in that sense the "more tznius" luchos were kept forever.

Eliezer said...

...said who?

Between what you are saying and what I added to the post in #5, I'm starting to see some light here. You're focusing on the awe at the exhibition of power interfering with a focused concentration on the depth and the import of the Torah, and I was thinking about Klal Yisrael's pride when they thought about how the whole world must have been amazed at what we were given.

lesser unknown said...

A few rambled thoughts:

I am under the assumption that ayin hara is rooted in envy not pride (if I can I will return to this later).

In addition, I have also assumed (probably out of ignorance) that b'rov am only applies to an instance of kiddush Hashem, like persumei nissa on purim or chanuka or by tefilla. As an extreme example, b'rov am would be counter-intuitive to giving tzedaka to an ani. Furthermore, b'rov am isn't b'rov amim. The hiddur applies to a multitude of Yiddin, not goyim (also an assumption).

Putting these together, the pomp and fanfare of the events that were witnessed not just by us, but by the goyim as well did not fall under b'rov am, and sparked their envy which cast the ayin hara on us.

I am very bothered by your first question, and after giving it some thought I propose the following unfinished ideas for discussion:
1) Borrowing from your first suggestion: not that the satan was motivated by jealousy, but the jealousy of the goyim gave him the ability or permission to create the mirage, which is not something that he normally does.
2) The gemara states that K'lal Yisroel didn't really sin by the eigel (which is a gemara deserving of plenty of discussion on its own) but for people that didn't "really sin" why is the punishment so severe. I have seen that ayin hara works by creating a din in shamayim on the recipient. Perhaps it can also tilt the judgement more toward strict din...

Unless I am mistaken, (which is probable) isn't the gemara you quoted from bava metzeia refer to receiving a "supernatural" bracha, and the reason why it has to be hidden is that otherwise it would be a blatant miracle.

I have heard the question before, that based on the tanchuma the first matan torah seemed doomed to fail due to the pomp and fanfare, so why not give the torah b'tzina to begin with, especially since it is preferable. And the short version of the answer I heard, was that it was vitally necessary to impress on klal Yisroel the majesty and importance of the Torah that we were to receive and the relationship that it represents, despite the risk (or perhaps inevitable conclusion).

Anonymous said...

(to jump sideways into the mix)

the original fanfare at har sinai
offered the evil-eyed nachash an
added opportunity to entice the klal: 'God is not the only one who
can create divine commotion; [in the absence of Authority*,] make
great noise "viyisem kelohim!"'...
thus was the loud "anochi" of 20:2
replaced by the loud "anochi" of 32:18 (from fanfare of God, to fare of the fans!)

*rov am can thru self-stirred uproar glorify an egel, or thru fear of His thunder, glorify God
(thus the role of tznius-- avodah
zarah is better limited to a single person bowing & scraping in private, than practiced by millions in a public square!)

Eliezer said...

lesser unknown:
Rov Am is universal, unless counter indicated, as by tzedaka. The Gemara applies it to birkas hamazon, havdala, avoda in the Beis Hamikdash, and so forth.

As for Rov Am including Goyim, you're probably right, and almost all achronim agree with you.

I agree that it might have something to do with weakening the protection of limud hatorah or something along those lines.

As for why Hashem didn't give the first ones be'tzin'ah, it must be that there was a need for the kolos uvrakim, but that either we missed the opportunity to benefit or that it was a risk reward calculation.

Eliezer said...

To Anonymous of 9:30 pm February 8:
I don't know what you mean, but I think you should try to avoid reading Milton and Whitman.

great unknown said...

Or, the first ones were not given b'tzina precisely to show us that even torah is subject to ayin ho'ra

lesser unknown said...

The problem with shooting from the hip is that sometimes you end up shooting yourself in the foot.
Thank you for the correction

Anonymous said...

rov am by birkas hamazon? then why can six people divide into two mezumanim of three? there is seems to be an inyan of not losing the specific mitzva of zimun.

There is a shita that the nusach changes for 100, 1000, etc. but that is not the halacha.

Chaim B. said...

I don't know if you have access to a copy (I don't think it's on hebrewbooks and don't have a copy at home to scan), but R' Shlomo Fischer in Derashos Beis Yishei touches on this Chazal, end of derasha #9. He kind of pushes the ayin ha'ra issue to the side but gives a hesber of the tzeniyus aspect.

Eliezer said...

Thanks Chaim. Now I have to find an Itri guy.

Eliezer said...

Anonymous Feb 6 6:36- I see that I'm going to have to write a separate post on Rov Am. Primary issues will be whether it applies to onlookers who are not participating, and what other considerations might outweigh Rov Am, such as Zrizin or Bo yoseir mibishlucho.

Anonymous said...

there was no attempt, Eliezer (feb.
9, 1:22pm), to steal the thunders
of milton & whitman; however, am ha'egel did try--quite debasingly--to steal the thunder of God (to
surround their "god" with special effects, with clamor of their own making)