Things that Even Moshe Didn’t Know

This week's Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Meir Maimon, Rosh Kollel in Memphis, Tennessee.

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In the desert a group of people approached Moshe with a question: they were unable to celebrate Pesach (Passover) on time, and wanted to know if there was any way they can celebrate it on another date. At first Moshe didn’t know how to respond to this request, until G-d  taught him the concept of “Pesach Sheni” (Second Passover).

Why is it that on Pesach we have a second chance to commemorate the day? If we were unable to do so on time due to impurity or being too far away from the Temple, aren’t we exempt? Moreover, we know that “if a person has the intention to do the Mitzvah, but wasn’t able and fulfill it, it is considered as if he fulfilled it”(Kiddushin 40A). If that’s true, then why is it necessary to have an alternative date for Pesach?

Interestingly, all our holidays relate somehow to Pesach. We even mention it on Shabbat (the Sabbath) in Kiddush - “a memorial of the exodus from Egypt”. This is due to the fact that the exodus from Egypt is what  defined us as a special nation, even before the event where we accepted the Torah.

Our national definition is different from other nations. Other nations are built up of individuals who were bound together around a religious, historical or even geographical idea. On the other hand, the Israeli nation is built by the nation as a whole, and not by individuals. Only as a nation as a whole were we given the additional stature of the Torah.

This is why it was so important for each and every member of Bnei Yisrael, the Jewish people, to celebrate Pesach and fulfill its mitzvot; because that was our first stage in the process of defining our Jewish nationality.

We still must ask how did Moshe not know the halakhah of Pesach Sheni?

“We are to believe that Moshe was the chief of all other prophets before and after him”. That is what the Rambam states in his 13 Principles of Faith. Moshe went up to Mount Sinai and received the Torah from G-d himself throughout 40 days and 40 nights. We believe that “this Torah shall never be replaced”, for we believe that there is no change within G-d. If this is true, we must say that G-d purposely did not reveal this detail to Moshe, not just here but in all instances where Moshe did not know the halakha.

First, lets start by finding all the places where Moshe didn’t know the halakha and needed help from G-d:

Yosef’s coffin - Moshe didn’t know where Yosef’s coffin was, and how he can raise it, until he asked Serach the daughter of Asher and she informed him.

Intercalation of the month - it was difficult for Moshe to understand how the moon should look during its renewal, then G-d showed him the appearance of the new moon and said “this you’ll see and bless”.

The Half Shekel (Machatzit Hashekel) - G-d showed Moshe some sort of a coin of fire and said “This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting”.

The construction of the Menorah - Moshe was not able to produce the Menorah from one single piece of gold.  G-d instructed him to take the gold and throw it into the fire and the Menorah emerged, miraculously complete.

The wood chopper on the Sabbath- Moshe didn’t know which capital punishment he deserved until G-d came and told him.

The blasphemer - Moshe didn’t know what to do with the man who “blessed” G-d until G-d ordered that he shall be stoned.

Pinchas and the act of Zimri - even though Moshe taught that “he who defiles an Aramaic women, fanatics will get him”, the halakha was lost to Moshe and he  didn’t know how to respond.

The daughters of Tzlofchad - when Moshe asked to hear G-d’s word on the matter of inheritance by a daughter.

The request by the sons of Gad, Reuven and half of the tribe of Menashe to reside on the eastern bank of the Jordan River rather than reside on the western bank of the river.

Is there a connection between these incidents?

There definitely is. There is one common denominator that appears in all of these incidents, and it is Yosef. Not Yosef the man but Yosef the idea, the concept he represents - the nationality of Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel. Now we will reveal how the idea of the idea of nationhood appears in every one of the incidents:

Intercalation of the month is an expression of the nation’s power to decide on halakhic matters.

The Menorah expresses the unity of the Israeli nation as its made from “one piece”.

The Half Shekel points to unity and being responsible for every man and friend.

The wood chopper, who was Tzlofchad from the tribe of Menashe which represents Yosef, and also it was his daughters who asked to inherit land in Israel as an integral part of the nation.

The blasphemer is from the tribe of Dan, who is the son of Bilhah, who was given to Yaakov by Rachel before the birth of Yosef. Thus Dan is connected to the origins of Yosef in relation to the tribes.

In other words, there are matters in the Torah that were intentionally  not conveyed to Moshe, who represents Torah and Religion, since Moshe did not have any relevance to them. These are topics that are relevant to the nation as a nation. Similarly, we find Yehoshua, who is from Shevet Efraim, son of Yosef. He is the one who brings the Israelites into the land of Israel and  he bequeaths the land to the people. Only a descendant of Yosef can utilize the power of a nation as whole, as expressed by a military conquest.

Sadly throughout history we have had clashes between these two forces:

--the power of the nation - nationality.

 --the power of the Torah - holiness.

Famously, the schism reached a peak in the times of the kings, in the days of Shlomo and Yerovam, when the  kingdom split into two separate kingdoms.

Rav Kook zt”l, in his eulogy for Binyamin Zev Herzl z”l, wrote that Herzl was  a spark from the power of Mashiach (Messiah)  of Shevet Yosef the tribe of Joseph, Since Herzl sparked a national Zionist revolution.

Today we stand before a great challenge - how to build the upper, spiritual level that will synthesize with the national base built by the Zionist movement.

“We can surely go up for we can indeed overcome it."

Torah MiTzion (see their dynamic website) was established in 1995 with the goal of strengthening Jewish communities around the globe and infusing them with the love for Torah, the Jewish People and for the State of Israel. Over the past eighteen years Torah MiTzion has recruited, trained and dispatched more than one thousand 'shlichim' (emissaries) to Jewish communities in countries spanning five continents and impacted Jewish communities with an inspiringmodel of commitment to both Judaism and Zionism.