For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.
Moshe Rabbeinu was lucid until the very end of his life. He also had reached the 39th level of intelligence, right under the 40th, highest level. He certainly could remember everything in his lifetime with this brain capacity, besides the fact that he must have done a cheshbon hanefesh, a calculation of all the wrong he might have said or done in his lifetime. Yet when Hashem told him in this week’s Torah portion of Vayelech (31:14):
|“Behold, your days are approaching [for you] to die. Call Yehoshua and stand in the Tent of Meeting, and I will inspire him. So Moshe and Yehoshua went, and stood in the Tent of Meeting.”||ידוַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֜ה אֶל־משֶׁ֗ה הֵ֣ן קָֽרְב֣וּ יָמֶ֘יךָ֘ לָמוּת֒ קְרָ֣א אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וְהִתְיַצְּב֛וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵ֖ד וַֽאֲצַוֶּ֑נּוּ וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ משֶׁה֙ וִֽיהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ וַיִּתְיַצְּב֖וּ בְּאֹ֥הֶל מוֹעֵֽד:|
The last Medrish Tanchuma in this Torah portion says that Moshe responded
before Hashem, saying, “’Master Of The World, with a word that I praised you with, for I said (Devarim 10:14):
|Behold, to Hashem, your God, belong the heavens and the heavens of the heavens, the earth, and all that is on it.||ידהֵ֚ן לַֽיהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וּשְׁמֵ֣י הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּֽהּ:|
You are striking me down?’ Hashem said back to him, ‘You are compared to a bad neighbor who sees what comes in but does not see what comes out. This is what you said about my children,
|Behold, the children of Israel did not hearken to me. How then will Pharaoh hearken to me, seeing that I am of closed lips?||יבוַיְדַבֵּ֣ר משֶׁ֔ה לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר הֵ֤ן בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֹא־שָֽׁמְע֣וּ אֵלַ֔י וְאֵיךְ֙ יִשְׁמָעֵ֣נִי פַרְעֹ֔ה וַֽאֲנִ֖י עֲרַ֥ל שְׂפָתָֽיִם:|
And you spoke out slander about My children.’” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Medrish Rabba on this portion has the same medrish almost verbatim. The Maharz”u on the medrish explains the parable (mashal) of the bad neighbor and the parallel application (nimshal) to what Moshe Rabbeinu learnt from the parable. The mashal is “One who sees his neighbor bringing a lot of stuff into his house and he thinks it belongs to his neighbor and he is jealous of him. He does not see that the stuff belongs to other people and what comes in immediately comes out. Or the neighbor has a lot of expenses (like a big family to take care of or expensive rent) and whatever profit he earns he must immediately spend, so in reality there is nothing to be jealous of. [In the nimshal Hashem says to Moshe,] ‘So to you focused your eyes on something positive and you forgot to focus on something negative that you had said before Me and you switched out one behold for another behold.’” The Maharz”u also points out that when one has good speech it creates merits, and bad speech creates punishment, which must be why that word, “behold,” was used to proclaim his death; since Moshe used it to slander the Jews 40 years before. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
There is a rule in Torah learning that the nimshal must fit perfectly with the mashal, meaning the application must be an exact fit to the parable. How does that work in this case? In the parable, the neighbor was jealous of his fellow because he didn’t see the whole picture, but, in the application, Moshe didn’t realize why Hashem was proclaiming his death with the word “behold” if he himself used it to praise Hashem, and Moshe forgot he also used it to slander the Jews. Where do we see any mentioning of jealousy by Moshe? And forgetting is very different than not understanding the full picture; so what does the nimshal (application) have to do with the mashal (parable)?
As we said earlier, we must assume Moshe remembered everything, he was not forgetful. On the contrary, the Torah went out of its way to point out a few times that he had forgotten a halacha only when he was in distress or on some level angry. It must be that Moshe Rabbeinu on a very miniscule level felt jealous of everyone who would be staying alive and be given a chance to enter The Land of Israel, and that jealous bias caused him to overlook and forget the time he had slandered the Jews while using the word “behold,” which is why Hashem used that word to proclaim his incoming death. Now we can see an exact parallel between the mashal and the nimshal.
The lesson we should take away from here is the power of a negia (a bias), which can affect even the greatest of people and even at the very end of one’s life. And even at some mini level it can still make an impact and cause even the smartest people to overlook something they should have realized.