Vort from the Rav: Bamidbar

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Bamidbar 3:1

ואֵלֶה תוֹלְדֹת אַהֲרֹן ומשֶה
These are the descendants of Aaron and Moses.

We are all acquainted with the Akeidah that Abraham performed, but we do not pay sufficient attention to an Akeidah that was carried out by Moses. Moses’ Akeidah was perhaps more awesome and terrifying than Abraham’s. After Abraham offered Isaac, the two of them returned from Mount Moriah with great happiness. Moses never experienced this satisfaction; in his case, the Ribbono shel Olam requested and received his sacrifice. The simple right to leave a last will and testament, to die in one’s own bed surrounded by his children, was denied to Moses. Moses died alone on a mountain. Before he died he did not lay his hands on Gershom or Eliezer, his sons, but rather on Joshua the son of Nun. Moses’ power was bestowed on Joshua and not on his own progeny.

More tragic still was the fact that Moses’ children do not appear in the book of Jewish genealogy. Moses twice counted the Jews, and also counted the tribe of Levi. Initially, the Torah states: These are the descendants of Aaron and Moses on the day that the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai. The Torah should have listed the generations of Moses, his own children, along with the generations of Aaron. Yet the subsequent verses ignore Moses entirely and center around Aaron alone: These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Where are Moses’ children? The Torah is silent. Where are the generations of Moses? The Torah does not tell us. Moses did not merit the normal satisfaction of flesh and blood—to be reborn through a child, to live again through the child, to feel the great joy that upon his own death his progeny will remain.

Moses had two children. Of course he loved them both, the same way that Abraham loved Isaac. The Creator asked both Abraham and Moses to give up their children, to sacrifice them on the altar. Unlike Abraham, no angel called to Moses: Do not stretch forth your hand to the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him (Gen. 22:12). The knife mercilessly tore apart the relationship between Moses, Gershom and Eliezer. In the book of Judges (18:30), Moses’ son Gershom was not designated as “ben Moshe” but “ben Menasheh” (Bava Basra 109b), because Moses’ children no longer belonged to him. For the receiver of the Torah, for the teacher of Klal Yisrael, it is prohibited to have a connection to one’s family. He is the father of Israel; every Jew has an equal share in him. It is prohibited for one individual to have a closer relationship than anyone else. Moses’ Torah scroll must be inherited equitably by all. The Torah is analogized to a desert in the sense that it is free to all for the taking (see Rashi 21:18). The receiver of the Torah in this sense is also a desert, belonging to everyone.

At the burning bush, God told Moses: Take your shoes off your feet, because the place upon which you stand is holy soil (Ex. 3:5). Take your shoes off your feet—cast off any private matters, your human, personal needs. Because the place upon which you stand is holy soil—because your place in the history of Israel is filled with sanctity and purity, it is prohibited for you to involve yourself in private family life. (Beis Yosef Shaul, Vol. 4, pp. 92-94)

From the newly released Chumash Mesoras HaRav – Sefer Bamidbar

About Arnold Lustiger

Dr. Arnold Lustiger is a research scientist and has edited multiple volumes of the Rav's Torah, including the recently published Chumash Mesoras HaRav.

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