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Menachos, 29


OPINIONS: Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael teaches that Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty with three things -- constructing the Menorah, establishing the new month, and recognizing the forbidden species of Sheratzim -- until Hashem showed these three things to him with His finger, as it were.

What exactly was Moshe's difficulty with constructing the Menorah?

(a) RASHI explains that when the Gemara says that Moshe Rabeinu "had difficulty" with these three things, it means that he did not know how the Menorah was supposed to look.

(b) The TZELACH asks that according to Rashi's explanation, the Gemara should not say that Moshe Rabeinu "had difficulty" with these three things, but rather it should say that Moshe Rabeinu "did not know" these three things. Saying that he "had difficulty" with them implies that he understood the basic requirements of each Halachah, but he was merely bothered with a specific question which Hashem answered for him.

Therefore, the Tzelach explains that it was not the design of the Menorah that Moshe Rabeinu did not know. Rather, Moshe Rabeinu was bothered by a question -- how can a mere mortal construct such a Menorah? It seemed to Moshe to be an impossible feat to build a Menorah out of a single block of gold.

The Tzelach, however, does not explain how Hashem's response resolved Moshe's dilemma. The Gemara earlier says that Hashem showed Moshe a Menorah of fire, which does not explain how Hashem answered Moshe's question of how it could be possible to construct such a Menorah out of a single block of gold.

However, it is not Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael who says that Hashem showed Moshe a Menorah of fire. Rather, the Gemara earlier is quoting Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah in a Beraisa. Rebbi Yosi in the Beraisa does not agree with Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael, because he mentions that Hashem showed Moshe not only a Menorah of fire, but that Hashem also showed Moshe an Aron and a Shulchan of fire. According to Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael, Moshe Rabeinu had difficulty only with the Menorah, but not with any of the other vessels of the Mishkan. (This is evident from the two different sources quoted. Rebbi Yosi b'Rebbi Yehudah's source is the verse, "u'Re'eh va'Aseh b'Savnisam Asher Atah Mar'eh ba'Har" (Shemos 25:40), which refers to the Menorah as well as to the Aron and Shulchan, while Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael's source is the verse, "v'Zeh Ma'aseh ha'Menorah" (Bamidbar 8:4), which refers only to the Menorah.

It seems that Tana d'Vei Rebbi Yishmael is saying that Moshe did not understand how to construct the Menorah, and Hashem showed him how to make it. This is also implied by the preceding Gemara, which describes how Gavriel clothed himself in worker's clothing and showed Moshe the way to construct the Menorah. If Moshe's difficulty was merely how the Menorah was supposed to look, then it would not have been necessary for Gavriel to don worker's clothing.

There is another difficulty with the Gemara, though. The Gemara implies that Moshe's difficulty regarding how the Menorah was supposed to look (according to Rashi), or how the Menorah was to be constructed (according to the Tzelach), was resolved by Hashem showing Moshe with His finger. However, we find that the Midrash (cited by Rashi to Shemos 25:31) says that Moshe was unable to construct the Menorah, and Hashem told him to throw the block of gold into the fire, and the Menorah would be formed by itself (as the verse says, "Te'aseh ha'Menorah"). This Midrash clearly seems to be arguing with our Gemara, which implies that Moshe constructed the Menorah himself after Hashem showed him how.

The MIZRACHI (to Shemos ibid.) reconciles the contradiction by citing another Midrash. The Midrash says that after Hashem showed Moshe a Menorah of fire, Moshe still had difficulty understanding how to construct it, and, therefore, Hashem told him to through the gold into the fire and it would be formed by itself. Accordingly, both accounts are true -- first Moshe was shown how to make the Menorah, and then Moshe threw the gold into the fire when he still had difficulty.

This answer, however, does not fit into the words of the Gemara, which says that Moshe had difficulty "until Hashem showed him with His finger," implying that Moshe's difficulty was resolved once Hashem showed him how to make the Menorah.

Perhaps we can reconcile the apparent contradiction between the Midrash and our Gemara based on the Midrash cited by RAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY shlit'a (in the Milu'im to his commentary on the Beraisa d'Meleches ha'Mishkan). He cites a Midrash that states that Hashem told Moshe, "You pound with the hammer, and the Menorah will form by itself." If the Menorah formed by itself, then why did Moshe need to pound with a hammer?

The answer is that Moshe (or Betzalel, according to another Midrash) was supposed to perform the actions of constructing the Menorah. For this purpose it was necessary to show him how the Menorah was to be made. His actions, though, were not enough to produce the Menorah. Divine assistance was necessary. Hence, the actual work was performed by Moshe, but the Menorah took form by itself. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)


QUESTION: The Gemara relates that when Moshe Rabeinu asked Hashem why He was giving the Torah through Moshe, and not through Rebbi Akiva who was destined to reach higher levels of understanding than even Moshe reached, Hashem answered him, "Be quiet. Such is my intention" -- "Shtok! Kach Alsah b'Machshavah l'Fanai." When Hashem showed Moshe the tragic end that Rebbi Akiva met, Moshe asked how could this be Rebbi Akiva's reward for all of his learning. Again, Hashem answered him, "Be quiet. Such is my intention."

What is the meaning behind Hashem's answer, "Kach Alsah b'Machshavah l'Fanai," and why did He give this response specifically to these two questions of Moshe?

ANSWER: The MAHARAL explains that although Moshe Rabeinu was the greatest of all Nevi'im and was certainly on a higher level that Rebbi Akiva, nevertheless the purpose that each one served in the world was very different. Moshe Rabeinu's purpose in the world was to bring Torah to Olam ha'Zeh, to sanctify and purify the material world. He purified his own body to such an extent that he was able to comprehend the word of Hashem "b'Aspaklarya ha'Me'irah" with a clarity akin to a clear lens that allows bright light to shine through. This is why it was Moshe's task to bring the Torah to this world, making it accessible to mortal man. Nevertheless, since his purpose was this-worldly, as it were, there were certain levels of understanding that he could not reach. These levels are hinted to by the crowns *above* the letters in the Sefer Torah. Only someone who is not part of this world, but who is of the world "above," can comprehend those parts of the Torah. Rebbi Akiva was such a person. Even though he physically lived in this world, his purpose was to be closer to the spiritual world; his essence not to be part of this world. Accordingly, he was able to understand things that a person whose essence is of this world cannot comprehend. This, again, is not because Rebbi Akiva was on a higher level than Moshe Rabeinu; we see that Rebbi Akiva was not able to purify himself to the great degree that Moshe Rabeinu did. Rather, his essence and purpose was different. The crowns *above* the letters hint to the great levels of understanding that can be understood only by one whose essence is not of this world at all.

Why, though, was Moshe Rabeinu created differently than Rebbi Akiva? The answer to this type of question is something that we cannot understand. We cannot know the secrets of creation. Hence, "be quiet, for Kach Alsah b'Machshavah l'Fanai."

Similarly, Moshe's question about Rebbi Akiva's tragic death reflected Moshe's essence. Since Moshe Rabeinu was part of this world, the world was not against him. His corporal body was never tortured or subject to great suffering. Rebbi Akiva, in contrast, was not part of this world, so to speak, and thus his essence stood in stark opposition to the nations of the world, whose sole aim is fulfillment in Olam ha'Zeh. Consequently, his corporal body was tortured in this world.

The question arises, why did Hashem create Rebbi Akiva in this way? Again, the answer is that we cannot understand the secrets of creation -- "Kach Alsah b'Machshavah l'Fanai." (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)

QUESTION: The Gemara explains that the gap in the left leg of the letter "Heh" represents the opportunity that Hashem provides for a sinner to do Teshuvah and come back into His world. The Gemara asks that the sinner should be able to return to the world through the open part of the bottom of the "Heh," and it should not be necessary to have an additional opening. The Gemara answers that one is unable to enter the same way he exited, and thus he needs help in doing Teshuvah. He must "climb up," as it were, and enter the additional opening at the side of the "Heh." When he begins to climb and he shows that he wants to repent, then he receives Divine assistance.

The Gemara does not explain why one cannot return through the same opening through which he exited, and why one needs help in doing Teshuvah.


(a) RASHI explains that the Yetzer ha'Ra prevents a sinner from re-entering the world. He needs Divine assistance, which he gets only by showing that he genuinely wants to repent.

(b) The MAHARSHA explains the Gemara based on the words of the RAMBAM (in Shemonah Perakim). The Rambam says that a person who has a bad Midah and wants to correct it cannot merely change his Midah by choosing to act differently. He must change his Midah by doing things that are the exact opposite of the bad Midah. For example, if a person has a trait of miserliness, he cannot change this Midah unless he gives to the needy *more* than he is required to give. After he acts in this way for a while, his Midah will become balanced, and he can begin giving the normal amount to the needy.

Based on this, the Gemara here means as follows. Committing a specific Aveirah is a matter of a person's free choice. If he gives in to temptation and does an Aveirah, he can do Teshuvah by regretting what he did and abandoning the Aveirah, resolving not to do it again. However, having a bad Midah is much more severe. To change a bad Midah, it is not enough merely to act in the proper way. Rather, one must "climb up on the side" by conducting himself with the opposite extreme. Only then can he correct his bad Midah and eventually return to the middle path.

It seems that in order to correct a bad Midah, one needs special assistance, since he must act in an extreme way that is contrary to his nature.

This is what the letter "Heh" signifies. One who falls out of the world, through sinning with a bad Midah, must work hard and climb up in order to do Teshuvah and come back in. He cannot go back through the same way that he fell, for he must conduct himself with the opposite extreme. For this he needs Divine assistance. (Mordechai Zvi Dicker)

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