Sunday, July 13, 2008

Abarbanel's Survey of Moshe's Sin, pt i

As Shadal noted, there are at least 13 different explanations of what Moshe's error was at the waters of Merivah, and possibly more. He noted that Abarbanel had a survey of 10 explanations as well as their difficulties, which Abarbanel presents before his own explanation. I thought that such a well organized survey would be a valuable addition to the other posts on the subject. The text of Abarbanel is long, so I will break it into parts. What follows is a rough translation, meaning that I will feel free to skip or add material at will.

And behold I will inform you of the positions I have seen in this drush until today, from the various commentators, and the difficulties in these positions.

1) From Midrash Aggada, which Rashi brings in his commentary -- that Hashem commanded "and speak to the rock" and did not say "and hit the rock," but they hit it and did not speak. For if they had spoken, Gof would have been sanctified before the eyes of the congregation, and would have said "if this rock which does not speak nor hear keeps the word of Hashem, all the more so us!"

And behold, the Ramban argues against this position and said that after Hashem said "take the staff," the implication is that he should hit with it. For if His desire was that they only talk, what is the purpose of the staff in his hand? And furthermore, is the miracle is no greater with speech over hitting, for both of them are equal in having no normal impact on a rock. And furthermore, how can He say upon this "you have committed trespass upon Me?"

{To interject here, several answers are of course possible to Ramban's critique. Take the staff might have that implication but need not. And there were past miracles in which Moshe took the staff and just stretched it out, but did not strike with it. And as Shadal notes, there is a difference in perception of the people, that with mere speech seems more impressive. I would add that perhaps people would thing that behind this boulder was a stream and by striking it and breaking it, the hidden stream was coming out. Such that they would attribute it to natural occurence and Moshe's knowledge of nature or the desert. Meanwhile, via mere speech, it would be clearly miraculous.

2) This is also from Chazal, that the sin was that they did not deal with the proper honor of Israel when they said to them "listen now, you rebels." And they learn from here that one who degrades the honor of the public is as if he desecrates the Divine Name. {This would maybe me the meaning of לְהַקְדִּישֵׁנִי לְעֵינֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.}

A difficulty with this position is that we see that Moshe, in Devarim, says to them more than this zilzul, degradation, for he says to them {in the lead-in to Haazinu} "you were mamrim with Hashem from the day I have known you." And if there is a sin in this, how did he repeat his transgression?

{The pasuk in question is in Devarim 9:

ז זְכֹר, אַל-תִּשְׁכַּח, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-הִקְצַפְתָּ אֶת-ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בַּמִּדְבָּר: לְמִן-הַיּוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, עַד-בֹּאֲכֶם עַד-הַמָּקוֹם הַזֶּה, מַמְרִים הֱיִיתֶם, עִם-ה. 7 Remember, forget thou not, how thou didst make the LORD thy God wroth in the wilderness; from the day that thou didst go forth out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the LORD.
and later in Devarim 31:
כז כִּי אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת-מֶרְיְךָ, וְאֶת-עָרְפְּךָ הַקָּשֶׁה; הֵן בְּעוֹדֶנִּי חַי עִמָּכֶם הַיּוֹם, מַמְרִים הֱיִתֶם עִם-ה, וְאַף, כִּי-אַחֲרֵי מוֹתִי. 27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck; behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?
However, this was not said in anger, but as part of Moshe's mussar and direction for the future, so perhaps context of harsh remarks matters.

Furthermore, Abarbanel's assumption is that shimu na hamorim and mamrim heyisem are identical. However, as I noted in an earlier post, if we look up Rashi on Yeshaya 63:10, it seems that Rashi takes mamrim heyitem to mean "you have always provoked," rather than "been rebellious." If so, Moshe is not repeating this error. And indeed, may be saying the same thing Hashem just commanded him, at least in Devarim 31, for just earlier we have this pasuk, with Rashi's comment:
20. When I bring them to the land which I have sworn to their forefathers [to give them], a land flowing with milk and honey, they will eat and be satisfied, and live on the fat [of the land]. Then, they will turn to other deities and serve them, provoking Me and violating My covenant.

provoking me Heb. וְנִאֲצוּנִי, and they will provoke me to anger. Similarly, any mention of the word נִאוּץ [in Scripture] denotes anger.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin