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Zera Shimshon on Beha’alosecha

וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל ה’ לֵאמֹר קל נָא רְפָא נָא לה  

“And Moshe cried to Hashem saying, ‘Hashem, please (nah) heal her.’” (Bamidbar 13:12)

Rashi explains: “Hashem, please heal her”—This pasuk teaches us (derech eretz) proper conduct, that if one asks a friend for a favor, he should precede (his request) with two or three words of supplication, and only then should he make his request. “Saying”—What is the meaning of the word, “saying?” Moshe said to Hashem: “Tell me if You are going to cure her or not.”

Rashi was bothered with two difficulties in this pasuk: Firstly, what is the purpose of the word “laimor—saying,” in the first phrase of the pasuk, “Vayitzak Moshe al Hashem laimor—and Moshe cried out to Hashem saying?” Seemingly, it would have been enough if it was written, “Vayitzak Moshe laHashem—and Moshe cried out to Hashem, ‘Hashem please heal her.’” Rashi’s answer is that Moshe asked Hashem to inform him if Hashem had answered his prayer or not.

Rashi’s second problem is with the second half of the pasuk: What is the word, “nah—please,” adding? Rashi answered that it is to teach us derech eretz. A person should always introduce a request with a few nice words.

Zera Shimshon asks on this Rashi: Why did Rashi first explain the second part of the pasuk? It is more sensible to explain the pasuk in the order that it is written.

Zera Shimshon gives two answers: The first answer is that Rashi didn’t write it, but Rashi was bothered by a third kasha (question). The word, “nah,” which we translated simply as, “please,” really implies please fulfill my request right away. According to this, what does it mean that Moshe asked Hashem if he fulfilled his request to heal Miriam or not? Moshe could see for himself if Hashem answered his prayer or not; if Miriam was immediately healed, Hashem answered his prayers and if not, Hashem didn’t answer his prayer. There was no reason for Moshe to ask Hashem to inform him if Hashem was going to answer his prayers or not!

Rashi, therefore, first explained that “nah” doesn’t mean “immediately,” but it is used here simply as an expression of derech eretz. After that is established, Rashi can now explain that the word, “saying” means that Moshe asked Hashem to inform him if his prayers were answered or not.

The second explanation begins with another question: The halacha is that one should not raise his voice when he davens to Hashem. This being so, what does it mean, “Vayitzak Moshe laHashem—and Moshe cried out to Hashem, that a person is meant to daven quietly? The answer is that it is also written in Shulchan Aruch that it is not a blanket prohibition,but if it is permitted to daven aloud if his intention is to teach his family members the proper way to daven. Therefore, in this incident, it was permitted for Moshe to raise his voice because he wanted to teach Bnei Yisroel derech eretz, that a person should always preface a request with a few nice words.

He didn’t teach them this halacha until this incident, because Moshe was concerned that the people wouldn’t realize that it is only permitted to daven out loud for educational purposes and they would mistakenly learn from Moshe that it is always permitted to daven out loud.

However, now that Moshe was davening to heal his sister, Miriam, there was also another reason for Moshe to daven out loud, to remove any suspicion that he is only davening to Hashem for Miriam, since she is his sister. When they heard that it was a very short text and Moshe didn’t even mention her name, no one suspected him of favoritism and that Moshe would have davened for any member of klal Yisroel if they would be in the same situation.

However, even though there were two reasons why Moshe davened out loud, to teach derech eretz and to cleanse himself from any suspicion of favoritism, Moshe still wasn’t sure if he did the right thing and that people will still learn from him that it is always permitted to daven out loud without exception. Therefore, after it is written, “Vayitzak Moshe laHashem—and Moshe cried out to Hashem,” it is written, “laimor—saying,” meaning that Moshe wanted Hashem to tell him that He answered his prayers and this would be a sign that he did the right thing. If Hashem would reply in the negative, then, even if Hashem healed Miriam, Moshe would know that he erred by davening out loud.

Therefore—concludes Zera Shimshon—since Moshe’s davening out loud the word, “nah—please,” was the reason that he asked Hashem to tell him if he was right or wrong; Rashi first explained what “nah” means and then what “laimor—saying,” means even though that “laimor” is written before “nah.”

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