Friday, January 15, 2010

Gam Zu Letovah

In Va'eira, this week's parsha, as well as in other places in the Torah, we find that Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) refers to himself as having difficulty speaking. In this portion specifically, Moshe says, "v'ani aral sefosoyim" ("I am of closed lips"). The specific issue that he continues to address is explained by commentators as being related to an event that happened when he was a very young child. After being taken into beis Paroi (the house of Pharaoh), Moshe was sitting on the lap of the king. While playing, he reached up and removed Paroi's crown and placed it on his own head. Becoming enraged and insulted, he initially wanted to have Moshe killed. However, his advisors suggested that Moshe had only done this unknowingly due to the fact that the gold was bright and attractive, and that were he given a choice between riches and burning coals (which are also bright), it would necessarily end with Moshe choosing the riches. To test the theory, the servants of Paroi brought two dishes before Moshe: one with gold and jewels, and another with hot coals. Even though Moshe was a young child, he was still intelligent and began to reach out for the jewels. However, G-d sent a malach (angel) to force Moshe's hand to grab the coals. Upon doing so, he immediately withdrew his hand and placed it into his mouth to sooth the heat. When he did this, his tongue and the inside of his mouth became severely burned, causing him to have a certain difficulty in speaking clearly. One must wonder why, with all of his ability and spiritual greatness, Moshe was never mispallel (prayed) that his speech difficulties be taken away, as it would relieve him of much difficulty and trouble, and also allow him to speak to Paroi without his brother Ahron serving as the mediator.

Several weeks ago, in Parshas Vayeitzei, the story of Leah was told. Leah, who was not Yaakov's first choice as a wife, outlived her sister Rochel, and gave more children than any of his other wives. As each one of the ancestors of the Jewish people have ruach hakodesh and were able to see what was coming, Leah assumed that since there would be four wives and twelve sons, each wife would have three sons. Therefore, whenever she became pregnant, and then gave birth to a fourth son, she said, "HaPaam, oideh es Hashem" ("This time, I will thank G-d"). The commentators give several explanations to what Leah said upon Yehudah's (Judah) birth. Famously, the mefarshim (commentators) say that Leah was the first person to thank G-d in the Torah. As there were many great people before her, it seems strange that she would be the first person to give thanks to G-d. Did Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Noach never thank G-d? The explanation given is that Leah looked back on her life, seeing that she had difficulties in her life, and realized that this merited her to become the mother of more of the shvatim (tribes), and thanked G-d for the previous bad in her life. Therefore, this time she would thank G-d for the troubles in her life, and not feel bad that she didn't have an easier life, as this gave her the merit for many more wonders.

A second explanation of her words offers a different reading of her words. As the Torah does not have any punctuation marks, the syntax is decided by tradition. One tradition states that she didn't say, "This time I will thank G-d," but asked, "'In this instance I will thank G-d?' Therefore, she named him Judah." As she felt completely indebted to Hashem, she didn't want this to be the only time she remembered His wonders, and wanted to recall the greatness of G-d and thank Him over and over. Because the name Yehudah is from the root "to thank", each time Leah would say Yehudah's name, she would be reminded of the greatness of G-d, and therefore would offer up her thanks constantly.

This is how the commentators answer the initial question about Moshe: Why didn't he pray to have his speech impediment removed? The reason was because he realized that had the malach (angel) not caused him to move his hand and grab the coals, he would have been killed by Paroi (Pharaoh). Therefore, his speech impediment was a result of the miraculous act that saved his life. Because he never wanted to forget the greatness of G-d, he didn't pray for the problem to be fixed, remembering each time he spoke that G-d had saved his life, and he would be thankful every moment.

1 comment:

  1. Yes this is truly one of the best so far. I can relate to the fact "Thanks G-d" for the past difficulties, they are put in our lives to make us stronger and appreciate the good we receive in our lives also. I have had ups and downs in my life and each step taken have helped me be a better me. Thanks for this entry and helping me look at my past and present in a different way. Love Ya and Be Safe. Peace MOM