Friday, July 10, 2015

Pinchas, The Din of Semicha

I was talking to my son Harav Mordechai of Kollel l'Hora'ah in Marlboro, and he pointed out something very strong in Reb Moshe's Darash this week.  As usual, it's one of those "poshut!......oh, not so poshut" verter.

וסמכת את ידך עליו – לכאורה איזה צורך הוא בסמיכת ידיים? ונראה שהוא כדי שבכל ימי חייו יהיה כפוף וקשור למשה, שיראה לכוין דעתו לדעת האמת של משה מפי הגבורה, והוא כמו שלעולם מונח אסור וכפוף תחת משה. וכן כל המוסמכים עד לעולם, אף שהוא בשמא ולא בידא, אבל הוא איש מפי איש עד יהושע שנסמך בידיים, ולכן גם הם נחשבו כפופים, ורק באופן זה נחשבו מוסמכים וכשרים לסנהדרין

The way Reb Mordechai put it is, Semicha does not mean that you have what to say.  Semicha means that you can be trusted to say what your Rebbi would have said.

(Like Rebbi Eliezer in Sukkah 28a.)

"what your rebbi would have said" does not means "what your rebbi would have said under his circumstances."  It means "what your rebbi would have said under your circumstances."  Times change, and strategies have to change.  As Matsu Basho said, "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought." 

Reb Chaim Brown showed us Reb Berel Povarsky's Bahd Kodesh here on (27:20) ונתת מהודך עליו, that finds an allusion to this aspect of Yehoshua's gadlus in another Maamar Chazal.
ברש״י הביא מהספרי מהודך ולא כל הודך, נמצינו למדים, פני משה כחמה, פני יהושע כלבנה, ע״כ. והנה אמנם ההבדל והמרחק בין  חמה ללבנה הוא לאין שיעור,וכמבואר בחז״ל כאן שזה היה ההבדל גם בין משה ליהושע, אכן יש גם מעלה בלבנה, אשר אין לה מעצמה כלום, וכל אורה וכוחה היא מהחמה, ועי"ז סגולת חמה בה. וכך היה יהושע, לא מש מתוך האהל, פירושו, כל מעשיו והנהגתיו היו ממה שקבל ממשה רבו, ועל כן, אדרבא, לתפקיד מנהיג הרי זה מעלה גדולה, שגם כאשר משה רבינו נפטר לבית עולמו, נשאר משרתו יהושע, המנהיג, שכל דרכיו הם מה שקיבל מרבו, והרי זה ממשיך את הנהגותיו של רבו גם במיתתו.

Reb Berel and I have a special personal relationship, and I very much like his style of drush, and I particularly like the image that even though Moshe Rabbeinu's sun had set, Yehoshua continued reflecting that sun's light.  But the vort is a stretch.  He knows very well that the Gemara in BB 75a ends this by saying 
ונתתה מהודך עליו ולא כל הודך זקנים שבאותו הדור אמרו פני משה כפני חמה פני יהושע כפני לבנה אוי לה לאותה בושה אוי לה לאותה כלימה , 
which makes it clear that the comparison was meant only to highlight the severe diminishment of the leadership of Klal Yisrael.


I saw "MiShulchan Gavo'ah" brings something from Reb Itzaleh Volozhener in Peh Kodesh that makes Reb Berel's vort very good.  Everyone asks on that Gemara, why was it that only the Zkeinim bemoaned the fall from Moshe to Yehoshua?  Everyone should have felt the same way.  They say an answer in Reb Chaim Volozhener's name that the young people thought that the reason Yehoshua wasn't as great as Moshe was because he was young, and that he would reach Moshe Rabbeinu's level when he got older.  But the Zkeinim remembered Moshe Rabbeinu as a young man, and they knew that already then he was incomparably great.  Yehoshua could never reach Moshe Rabbeinu's madreiga.    But Reb Itzaleh says a different and excellent mehalach.  He says that the Zkeinim weren't jealous of Moshe Rabbeinu's unique role in the history of Klal Yisrael, because they knew that his was a unique neshama, when he was born, the house was filled with light, he was the kiyum of Miriam's nevuah.  He was so great that one name did not suffice for all that he comprised, he needed ten names.  That Moshe was the leader and not they was fine, because he was gifted with a singular concatenation of spiritual gifts that only happens once in the history of mankind.  But then Yehoshua was chosen to succeed him, and they asked themselves, why Yehoshua?  He is no smarter than us, he is no more gifted than us, why was he chosen?  The answer was because he was lo yomish mitoch ho'ohel, he was a masmid that never left Moshe Rabbeinu's side, and he organized the benches in the Beis Medrash, and he dedicated every moment of his life to serving and emulating and learning from Moshe Rabbeinu.  The Zkeinim knew very well that every one of them could have done the same.  A man looks back at his life and realizes that he squandered opportunities that could have brought him to the pinnacle of avdus Hashem, and that someone else seized exactly those opportunities.  Oy lo le'oso bushah........ that is a shame that doesn't ever go away.

With Reb Itzaleh's excellent pshat in the Gemara, it is not unreasonable to say that the pshat in Chama...Levana also refers to Yehoshua's single-minded focus on reflecting his rebbi's Torah.  So it's a good tzushtell to Reb Moshe's vort on Smicha.

Reb Chaim asked, in the comments, if I had any thoughts about Hashem telling Moshe to lean on Yehoshua with one hand, and then Moshe did semicha with both hands.  At my kiddush, Ron Abrams said that Moshe Rabbeinu knew from long experience what the Jewish people did to their leaders, and he knew what Yehoshua was in for.  He did Semicha on him with two hands because Yehoshua was a Korban.



  1. Same idea implicit in Yehoshua being compared to the moon that only reflects light but has no light of its own

    Based on this symbolism, any thoughts on the significance of Hashem telling Moshe to do smicha with one hand but Moshe using two?

  2. Beautiful! Now we can understand the Chazal that Hashem told Moshe that He was choosing Yehoshua over Moshe’s sons because:אתה יודע שהרבה שרתך יהושע והרבה חלק לך כבוד - it’s not Stam a Maalah; it’s the essence of a Musmach! Good Shabbos, YO