June 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Feel the Te‘feel’ah

In introducing the topic of korbanot, the parsha begins with Hashem calling out to Moshe telling him to come into the Ohel Moed. The midrash (Vayikra Rabbah, 1:15) comments that we learn from Moshe that an animal carcass is better than a Torah scholar who lacks “da’at.” (The Etz Yosef explains that having da’at means being a mussar-oriented person and having derech eretz.] How do we see that from this episode? Says the midrash, because even though Moshe was the “father” of wisdom and the “father of prophecy,” the one who took the Jews out of Mitzrayim, and through him occured miracles in Mitzrayim and by the sea, the one who went up to heaven and brought the Torah down, etc.—yet, he didn’t enter until Hashem first told him to enter.

R’ Henoch Leibowitz asks, maybe Moshe didn’t enter the Ohel Moed because he simply didn’t know to enter; how was he supposed to know? Why then, is he attributed with the praise of having “daat”!? R’ Leibowitz points out that we see from here that really Moshe knew Hashem wanted him to enter, and therefore he is praised for still not entering until actually being told to do so directly. This is another measure of derech eretz the midrash is highlighting.

Based on this we learn that not only is it evident from this midrash that if Moshe would have entered prematurely he would’ve been reprimanded for not having da’at, but this would be true even though Moshe knew Hashem wanted him to enter!

The question is, what’s the big deal? If Moshe knew Hashem wanted him to enter, why is there another measure of derech eretz to wait until being called in, so much so to the point that even an animal carcass is better than a Torah scholar who violates such a standard!?

The Gemara writes that it is forbidden to be merciful toward one who lacks “da’at” (Sanhedrin 92). This statement seems counterintuitive. If someone has no da’at, shouldn’t we all the more so have even more mercy on him!? This person seemingly needs more help! So why is it even forbidden to help such a person? The Maharsha says someone who lacks “daat” is someone who thinks it’s his own efforts that will bring him what he needs, and not Hashem. Since a person’s basic makeup is one that contains da’at, this person diverged from his essence as a person and is no longer in the category of someone toward whom we are to be merciful.

Based on this Maharsha, R’ Shimshon Chaim Nachmani (Zera Shimshon, Vayikra) explains the strong critique on a Torah scholar who lacks da’at. A Torah scholar on the one hand is well aware of Hashem. How can it be that he lacks da’at—the basic understanding that he needs Hashem for his needs? It seems like a contradiction! It must be that this Torah scholar really knows these fundamental of emunah, hashgacha, etc., yet he nevertheless thinks that because he contains so many merits and so much Torah and wisdom that Hashem will provide for him all that he needs without him having to pray and ask Hashem for them. And as a result he lacks da’at—the understanding that it’s only Hashem Who can bring him what he needs. Hence, says the Midrash, we learn from Moshe that despite his many accomplishments and merits under his sleeve, he nevertheless didn’t rely on them to think that he is worthy of entering the Ohel Moed without first being granted explicit permission by Hashem.

According to R’ Nachmani, perhaps we can explain our original question. Although Moshe knew Hashem wanted him to come into the Ohel Moed, maybe this ethic of waiting until directly being told to enter is not just an external feature of derech eretz with no rhyme or reason behind it. But rather, Moshe’s quality—of not allowing feelings of worthiness and entitlement to cause him to enter without being directly called in—naturally produces this external measure of derech eretz—to actually wait until directly being told to come. One who doesn’t feel he is deserving of something because of what he has accomplished remains humble and does not believe he can do things on his own without Hashem’s help. A Torah scholar may have many merits and accomplishments, but once a sense of worthiness and entitlement arises to the point where he thinks he’s good on his own—perhaps because he is specifically a Torah scholar it makes it that much more looked down upon, to the point that even an animal carcass is better than him.

Why is this concept specifically taught to us right before introducing the topic of korbanot? In truth, although korbanot no longer are practical today, tefillah is implemented in its stead. Tefilla is part and parcel of our everyday lives. It’s the time to pause and reflect on the majesty of Hashem, that he provides everything for us, that he is the one to turn to for all matters and to rely only on Him, to thank Him, etc. It’s a cornerstone of our relationship with Hashem, and is one of the pillars of the world (Pirkei Avot 1:2). Much of tefillah is requesting our needs, but one of the struggles in tefillah is really feeling that the fulfillment of what we need is totally dependent on Hashem, and therefore, once feelings of entitlement are present, it can be a challenge to feel the necessity to beseech Hashem. Hence, perhaps the idea of overcoming feelings of entitlement and worthiness—and not relying on our accomplishments or merits, nor on our abilities or expectations, but rather relying on Hashem and believing that only He can bring us what we need—is emphasized immediately before the topic of korbanot.


Binyamin Benji can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles