April 19, 2024
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Zera Shimshon on Parshas Vayelech

ויאמר mehsaH אֶל משֶׁה הִנְּךָ שֹׁכֵב עִם אֲבֹתֶיךָ וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹ’ נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הוּא בָא שָׁמָּה בְּקִרְבּוֹ וַעֲזָבַנִי וְהֵפֵר אֶת בְּרִיתִי אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אִתּוֹ: (דברים לא:טז)

“Behold, you are going to be laid to rest with your ancestors and this nation (Bnei Yisroel) will go astray and follow the foreign gods of the Land …” (Devorim 31:16)

Zera Shimshon asks how Moshe’s passing away is connected with Bnei Yisroel’s serving idols to such a degree that they are both mentioned in one pasuk? A possible explanation is that even though the people wanted to worship idols during Moshe’s lifetime, they held themselves back out of respect for and fear of Moshe. The pasuk, therefore, tells us that after Moshe passed away they will serve the gods of the land.

Zera Shimshon rejects this explanation because we find that even in Moshe’s lifetime, and even after the incident of the golden calf, Bnei Yisroel were involved with idolatry! (Rashi, Bamidbar 14:4 and Rashi, Bamidbar 13:31).

Rather, Zera Shimshon answers in light of the Gemara in Erchin (32b) that Hashem was angry at Yehoshua for not praying to eliminate the yetzer hara of avodah zara, like Ezra and Anshei Kenesses Hagedolah did at the time of the second Beis Hamikdash.

The Gemara asks, why did Hashem get angry only at Yehoshua and not at Moshe? Moshe also didn’t daven to wipe out the yetzer hara of avodah zara. The Gemara answers that Moshe didn’t live in Eretz Yisroel. Since he was missing that merit, even if he did daven for this, he would not have been successful. Therefore, since Moshe caused no harm by not davening, there was no reason for Hashem to be angry at him.

Zera Shimshon explains, according to this, the connection between Moshe’s passing away and Bnei Yisroel going astray and worshiping idols is straightforward: If Moshe would have entered Eretz Yisroel, then the merit of Eretz Yisroel coupled with Moshe’s prayer would have eradicated the yetzer hara and Bnei Yisroel would not have served idols. Since, however, Moshe Rabbeinu passed away before entering Eretz Yisroel and, therefore, he obviously didn’t daven to abolish the yetzer hara of avodah zara, Bnei Yisroel ended up serving idols.

Zera Shimshon asks another question: In the above Gemara, it is written that Hashem was angry that Yehoshua didn’t daven to eliminate the yetzer hara of avodah zara. Zera Shimshon asks, why didn’t he? Didn’t he realize how bad it was?

He answers that Yehoshua felt that it was more important to first conquer the nations who were living in Eretz Yisroel at that time. After that, he planned to daven to eliminate the yetzer hara of avodah zara. However, Yehoshua died at 110 — instead of 120 —, so he was never able to carry out his plans.

The Zera Shimshon then asks himself, if this was the reason then why was Hashem angry with Yehoshua? He didn’t cause his own death, so what did he do wrong to warrant Hashem’s anger?

Zera Shimshon answers that the Kli Yakar quotes a midrash that the reason that Yehoshua died 10 years younger than Moshe was because he did not totally give himself to fight the nations in Eretz Yisroel. He was afraid that he would die in battle, so he was a little lax in conquering them. As a punishment for him being too careful not to go to war, Hashem took 10 years away from his life — midah k’neged midah.

According to this, he was responsible for dying early and, therefore, it is considered that he did not eradicate the yetzer hara of avodah zara and so, Hashem became upset with him.

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