Archive for March 2013

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach
Shemot 33:12 - 34:26
BaMidbar 28:19-25

Parashat Summary

Moshe asks to know G-d's ways and to see G-d's face 
Moshe Goes up the Mountain to Get another Set of Tables of the Ten Commandments
Other laws, including the edict to observe the Pilgrimage Festivals, are also revealed

33:17 Vayomer HASHEM el-Moshe gam et-hadavar hazeh asher dibarta e'eseh ki-matzata chen be'einay va'eda'acha beshem
So HASHEM said to Moshe, "I will also do this thing that you have requested, since you have found favor in My eyes, and I know you by name."

"You requested that the spirit of prophecy not rest on other nations.  I will grant this, because you have found favor in My eyes.  I will also know you by name; I will grant you a great reputation."

True, we later find that Balaam experienced prophecy.  This prophecy, however, was not through the Divine Presence and Holy Inspiration (Ruach HaKodesh), rather, it was through a messenger, whereby Balaam was able to gain knowledge of the future. (Rashi)

33:18 Vayomar har'eni na et-kvodecha
And he said, "Please, show me Your Glory."

Moshe saw that this was an auspicious time, so he made this request of G-d.  He requested that G-d grant him a vision of the Divine Presence, one which he would be able to see clearly. (Ibid.; Tanchuma; Bachya; Sifetei Kohen)  Moshe also asked to be shown all that was done in the spiritual worlds, in the heavens and below the earth. (Shemot Rabbah, p. 223)

33:19 Vayomer ani a'avir kol-tuvi al-paneicha vekarati veshem HASHEM lefaneicha vechanoti et-asher achon verichamti et-asher arachem
Then He said, "I will make all My Good pass before you and reveal the Name of G-d before you.  I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy and I will be compassionate to whom I will be comapssionate."

G-d said, "Now is the time that you shall see My Glory to the extent that I will give you authority to see.  I will also teach you how to pray when you have troubles, so that people will know how to address Me.  I saw that when you prayed for the Benei Yisrael you mentioned and recalled the merit of the patriarchs  but I see that you are worried that the merit of the patriarchs may have come to an end, and then there would be no hope   Therefore, I will make all My Good pass before you and call in the Name of G-d before you.  You will hear Me pronouncing the Thirteen Attributes.  You shall thus teach the Benei Yisrael how to recite the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy in a time of trouble."

We say these in the prayer, "G-d, a King sitting on a throne of mercy... (KEl Melech yoshev al kisei rachamim) and He passed over...(Va-ya'avor)."  G-d then has compassion on those for whom He has compassion."

Some say that when Moshe asked G-d, "Show me Your Glory," he was asking that G-d show him the attributes that He uses to direct the world.  Moshe wanted to know this so that he would be able to pray to G-d in a time of need and have G-d answer his prayers.  He felt that he would otherwise not have the power to get G-d to do his will.

At that time G-d showed Moshe the treasuries of rewards for the righteous. G-d explained to him the purpose of each one.  "This is the treasury of Torah scholars, this is the treasury of those who respect scholars  who help them and provide serenity, thus enabling them to learn without having the need to go out to earn a living.  This is the treasury of those who give charity, who care for the poor and who do not keep their money in their pockets.  This is the treasury of those who raise orphans in their homes, giving them clothing and sending them to study Torah. This is the treasury of those who do acts of kindness." (Sifetei Kohen)

After showing Moshe all these treasuries, G-d showed him the greatest treasury of all.  This is the treasury belonging to those who do not wish to derive any benefit in this world from their good deeds. Whenever such people study 'Torah and  do good deeds, they feel that they are merely repaying G-d for all the good that He has done for them in this world, that they have nothing left over for the future world.  They do not demand that G-d reward them for their good deeds.  If they ask anything of G-d they request and plead for His charity.

For people with such humility, G-d keeps this great treasury.  Whatever good He gives them in this world doe snot reduce the reward that is put aside for them in paradise.  They receive everything in this world free; their entire reward remains for them in the World to Come. (Yalkut Shimoni; Tanchuma; Bachya)

33:20 Vayomer lo tuchal lir'ot et-panay ki lo-yir'ani ha'adam vachay
But He said, "You cannot see My Presence.  A man cannot see My Presence and live."


G-d was responding to Moshe's request to see His Glory.  He said, "This is something that I cannot allow.  It is impossible for a human being to see Me and remain alive.  If a person tried to see Me, he would die before he saw anything." (Sifetei Kohen.  Cf. Yeffeh Toar, p. 222)

We have translated the word va-chai to mean "and live."  Others, however, translate it, "or any living creature," so that the verse reads, "No man or any living creature can see Me."  G-d was including the angels.  G-d said, "It is impossible for any creature to see Me, even for the angels, who are eternal."

This is what we say in the Musaf prayer:
His Ministers ask one another, "Where is the Place of His Glory to praise Him?"  In response, they sing praise and say, "Blessed be G-d's Glory from His Place" (Yechezkel 3:12)
G-d's Ministers here are the angels.  Not only do they not see the Divine but they do not even know where the Place of His Glory is.  Therefore, when they wish to recite their praise, the Kedushah, they ask one another, "Where is the Place of His Glory to praise Him?"  The other angels then respond, "Blessed is G-d's Glory from His Place" (Yechezkel 3:12).  "Blessed be G-d, wherever His Place is, but we do not know His Place." (Ramban)

Even the four angels known as the holy Chayot, who surround the Throne of Glory and have the form of a man, ox, lion and eagle (Yechezkel 1:10), cannot look at the Glory of the Divine Presence. (Sifra, VaYikra; Ralbag)

G-d literally said to Moshe, "The man (ha-adam) cannot see Me and live."  He did not say "a man."  This teaches us that even the man surrounding the Throne of Glory cannot see the Divine Presence. (Sifra, loc. cit.)

One might wonder how Moshe could have made such a request as asking to see the Radiance of the Divine Presence.  After all, he was flesh and blood.  It is true that G-d spoke to him "face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (33:11).  But this does not mean that Moshe literally saw the Divine Presence.  With respect to G-d, there is no front, back, body, shape, or form.  We thus say in the song Yigdal, "He does not have the form of a body and He is not a body."

When the Torah said earlier, "G-d spoke to Moshe face to face as a man speaks to his friend," this meant that Moshe had reached a level of prophecy that no other prophet had ever reached.  All the other prophets saw through a dull glass, while Moshe had his prophecy through a shining glass (ispaklariah ha-meirah), like looking in a clear, shiny mirror.  Still, he could not see the nature of the Divine.

Moshe made this request because he thought that since he had purified his body and weakened his physial nature, having fasted for forty days, he was like a completely spiritual being.  He felt that his physical nature would not prevent him from seeing the Divine.  He thought that he had reached such a high level that he was fit for it. (Ibid., Shulchan Arba; Shemot Rabbah)


33:21 Vayomer HASHEM hineh makom iti venitzavta al-hatzur
And HASHEM said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.
22 Vehayah ba'avor kvodi vesamticha benikrat hatzur vesakoti chapi aleicha ad-ovri
So it shall be, while My Glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My Hand while I pass by.
23 Vahasiroti et-kapi vera'ita et-achorai ufanai lo yera'u
Then I will take away My Hand, and you shall see My Back; but My Face shall not be seen."

G-d said to Moshe, "I have a place with Me.  You shall stand on the rock where you will be able to see Me.  This is the place where I had always spoken to you, Mount Sinai.  There is a placed prepared for you and where you will remain to see Me.

"Then My Glory will pass by.  The Glory of My Divine Presence will pass by you and I will place you in a cleft in the rock and place My Hand over you until I pass by.  I will protect you with My Word so you will not be harmed by the angels who surround My Glory.  They have been given authority to harm anyone who wants to look at My Glory without permission." (Rashi)

G-d therefore told Moshe, "I will place My Hand over you until I pass.  Then, when I pass, you will see what I give you authority to see, you do not have permission to look at the Divine."

However, a time will come when G-d will reveal His Glory to all creatures.  All false gods will be destroyed and people will stop worshiping them.  It is thus written, "The idols will pass away" (Yeshayahu 2:18).  It is thus written, "The Glory of G-d will be revealed and all flesh together will see that G-d's Mouth has spoken" (Yeshayahu 40:5)

Some explain Moshe's request, "Show me Your Glory" (33:18) somewhat differently.  It id not mean that Moshe actually wanted to see the Divine Presence.  Msohe would not have had the audacity to make such a preposterous request.  He knew that no flesh and blood could actually see the Glory of the Divine. Even the angels could not reach this level.  

When Moshe said, "Show me Your Glory," he was asking, "Show me the reward of the righteous in the Wold to Come." We see many righteous people in this world who suffer and do not have a moment's tranquility.  Some have trouble earning a livelihood, while others are sick or have many problems.  Moshe also wanted to know why the wicked have a good life in this world.

G-d told him, "I can tell you only one thing; the second you cannot know.  You can see 'My Back" or "My End."  You can know what he reward of the righteous at the end of days will be. You will see the reward of the righteous that no eye has seen.  But 'My Front," "My Face," the way I direct the world so that the wicked prosper, this you cannot see. This is a mystery that no living creature can understand." (Shemot Rabbah, p. 220; Yeffeh Toar, ad loc.)


The Thirteen Attributes
34:6 Vaya'avor HASHEM al-panav vayikra HASHEM HASHEM Kel rachum vechanun erech apayim verav-chesed ve'emetAnd HASHEM passed before him and proclaimed, "HASHEM, HASHEM, Omnipotent, Merciful and Kind, slow to anger, with tremendous love and truth.7 Notzer chesed la'alafim nose avon vafesha vechata'ah venakeh lo yenake poked avon avot al-banim ve'al-bnei vanim al-shileshim ve'al-ribe'imHe remembers deeds of love for thousands [of generations], forgiving sin, rebellion and error.  He does not clear [those who do not repent] but keeps in mind the sins of the fathers to their children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generation."
Whenever the Benei Yisrael sin and repent they should recite these Thirteen Attributes.  They can then be sure that G-d will answer them.

We thus say in a prayer, "G-d, the King Who Sits," (KEl Melech Yoshev):

G-d, You taught us to say the Thirteen Attributes.  Remember for us today the covenant of the Thirteen Attributes, as You taught the humble one long ago.
We are saying, "Master of the Universe, You taught us an order of prayer containing the Thirteen Attributes that we should say in a time of trouble.  We ask You today to remember the covenant of the Thirteen that You taught the humble Moshe in ancient times.  You made a covenant with him to answer us if we recited these Thirteen Attributes."

This covenant is alluded to in the verse where G-d said to Moshe, "I am making a covenant with your people, that I will perform miracles that were never done before in all the world, among all the nations.." (34:10).  G-d was saying that through the Thirteen Attributes that He would teach Moshe, He would make a covenant. The covenant was that whenever these attributes were recited G-d would answer them.  We therefore ask G-d to answer our prayers through these Divine Attributes. (Rosh HaShanah, Chapter 1)

Explanation of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy:
  1. G-d (YKVK)
  2. G-d (YKVK)
  3. Omnipotent
  4. Merciful
  5. Kind
  6. slow to anger
  7. with great love
  8. and truth
  9. He remembers love for thousands
  10. forgiving sin
  11. rebellion
  12. and error
  13. He does not clear.
1, 2.  G-d, G-d (YKVK, YKVK).  As discussed in Parashat VaEra, whenever the Tetragrammaton YKVK is used, it denotes the Attribute of Mercy.  The two names YKVK, YKVK are two Attributes of Mercy.

The first teaches that G-d has mercy on a person as a parent has mercy on a child who acts properly and does not rebel.  G-d has mercy on a Jew when he behaves correctly.

This is a great act of mercy on G-d's part.  G-d has mercy even though a person may plan to sin. (Rosh; Mizrachi)  As long as the person does not actually sin he is not punished for his plan or thought.  The only exception to this is idolatry, where G-d counts a plan as a completed act. (Shenei Luchot HaBerit, loc. cit.)

The second Tetragrammaton, YKVK, is a second Attribute of Mercy.  After a person sins and G-d punishes him, if he accepts his suffering with love because it is to atone for his sins, and if he repents, G-d has mercy on him through this attribute.  G-d then saves him from the suffering that had begun to come upon him. (Shenei Luchot HaBerit)

3. Omnipotent (KEl).  The third Attribute of Mercy is G-d's Omnipotence.  The Name KEl always denotes omnipotence.  If a person does not sins, or sins and repents, G-d has mercy on him with this Attribute.  G-d performs a great miracle, even changing the laws of nature in times of trouble, to save him.

4. Merciful (Rachum).  This is the fourth Attribute. If a person sins and has not yet repented, G-d still has mercy upon him with this attribute and protects him, not allowing him to be destroyed.  It is thus written, "G-d is a merciful (rachum) G-d.  He will not abandon you and will not destroy you" (Devarim 4:31).  Through the Attribute of "Merciful" G-d protects us and will not destroy us even though we may deserve it because we have not yet repented for our sins.

The attribute of "Merciful" is not as strong as that of KEl or "Omnipotent."  The attribute of "Omnipotent" is very great.  G-d uses it for a person when He does miracles that change the laws of nature.  G-d has mercy on a person with His Attribute of "Merciful" and does not allow him to be destroyed.  But if the person is in trouble, G-d does not use that attribute to do miracles that oppose the laws of nature, since the person had not yet repented.

5. Kind (Chanun).  This is the fifth Attribute of Mercy.  The word chanun (kind) denotes a free gift.  This pertains to the righteous, who do not wish to have any enjoyment of this world through their good deeds, because this would reduce their principal in the World to Come.  The righteous consider themselves like nothing, as Yaakov said, "I am too small for all the mercies and all the truth that You have done for me" (Bereishit 32:11).  To such people G-d does good as a free gift.  This comes about through the Attribute of "Kind."  The goodness that He gives them does not reduce their reward in the World to Come because it is given as a free gift.

6. Slow to Anger (erech apayim). This is the sixth Attribute.  It implies that G-d delays His anger against the wicked and oes not punish them immediately.  He gives them time to repent. (Rashi; Mizrachi.  Cf. Abarbanel)

The word apayim denotes anger.  However, some interpret the word apayim as meaning "much," as it is written, "One great (apayim) measure" (1Shmuel 1:5).

This is an Attribute of "waiting a very long time."  G-d has tremendous patience with the wicked and gives them much time to repent.  This Attribute is therefore called apayim, indicating that G-d's patience is extremely great. (Shenei Luchot HaBereit, p. 29)

Some say that the word apayim means face.  This indicates that G-d is "at length" with His Face. G-d turns His Kind Face at length toward the righteous to give them a reward and His Angry Face toward the wicked to punish them. (Ibid.; Rashi; Tosafot Eruvin, Chapter 2)

The word apayim is plural, because it relates to both the righteous and the wicked.  

G-d works "at length" with both the righteous and the wicked.  For the righteous, G-d delays their reward for their good deeds and gives it to them only in the World to Come.  He gives them suffering in order to cleanse them of the few sins they have so that they will be worthy of the World to Come. (Eruvin, loc. cit.)

Similary, G-d delays the punishment for the wicked into the World to Come.  This is also good.  G-d does this to give them time to repent.  If they awaken from their spiritual slumber and repent, this is to their benefit.  However, if they do not repent, they are punished all the more for their wickedness. (Tosafot, loc. cit.; Bava Kama, Chapter 5; [HaKotev in] Ein Yaakov ibid.)

7.  Tremendous love (rav chesed). This is the seventh Attribute of Mercy.  This attribute is directed at the people who do not have much merit.  G-d acts toward them with love and has mercy on them. (Rashi)

The great mercy that G-d shows them is that He tilts the balance on the side of love and mercy.  If G-d sees that a person's good deeds and his bad deeds are exactly balanced, He performs this tremendous act of love.  He tilts the scale toward the side of merit so that it will be heavier than the person's sins.  The person is then considered to have more merits than liabilities and he is worthy of the World to Come. (Rosh HaShanah, Chapter 1.  Cf. Yad, Teshuvah3; Tosafot Yom HaKippurim, p. 32)

Some say that the mercy that G-d does with His act of love is that He removes sins, one by one.  The first and second sins that a person has done are not counted; they are made to pass away before G-d.  We thus say in the prayer KEL Melech Yoshev:
He forgives the sins of His people, pushing them away first by first.
The concept of "first by first" denotes two sins, the first and the second.  G-d pushes them aside and does not take them into account.  The second sin in also called "the first."  Since the first sin has been pushed aside the second is now the first.

However, when we say that G-d removes the sins one by one, this does not mean that they vanish completely at that time, rather, G-d puts them aside.  When a person dies, if it turns out that he did other sins besides these two and his sins and good deeds are equally divided, these two sins are put back on the scale. If they cause the side of liability to outweigh that of merit, the person is punished for them all.   But, if after these two sins are removed, the peron's merits are greater than his sins, he is forgiven for all them and it is as if these two sins never existed. (Tosafot Yom HaKippurim, loc. cit., according to the RIF)

8. And truth (ve-emet).  This is the eighth Attribute of Mercy.  G-d makes His Word come true.  If He promises a person something He can be trusted; He does not change His Mind. (Shenei Luchot HaBerit loc. cit.)  G-d is also faithful, giving a good reward to those who do His Will. (Rashi)

9. He remembers love for thousands (notzer chesed la-alafim).  This is the ninth Attribute of Mercy.  If a person does an act of love through a good deed, G-d puts aside this love for two thousand generations.  All this person's descendants benefit from this act of love. (Rashi)

10. Forgiving sin (noseh avon).  This is the tenth Attribute of Mercy.  If a person sins deliberately, knowing that something is wrong but doing it, nevertheless, because of desire, he can still repent.  Through this attribute, G-d accepts his repentance and forgives his sin even though it was done on purpose.

The Hebrew word avon always denotes a sin that a person does deliberately, knowing full well that it is wrong but does it out of desire.

The Hebrew world pesha refers to a sin that is done as an act of rebellion, for spite.  If is a sin that a person does without any desire but to spite G-d.

The word chet is a sin that is done inadvertently, when one does not know that it is a sin. (Yoma, Chapter 3; Rashi)

11. Rebellion (va-fesha).  This is the eleventh Attribute of Mercy.  Although a person may sin to spite G-d, if he repents, G-d will forgive him through this attribute.

12. And error (ve-chata'ah). This is the twelfth Attribute of Mercy.  If a person sins inadvertently, G-d forgives him when he repents.

One may raise an objection here.  Rebellion is the worst sin, because it is done out of spite.  Simple, purposeful sin (avon) is not as bad because a person acts out of desire.  The smallest sin of all is chet which is done inadvertently.  Why does the Torah say that G-d "forgives sin, rebellion and error" in that order?  If G-d forgives sin and rebellion, which are done purposely and spitefully, He would certainly forgive error, which is inadvertent sin.  The Torah should have said that G-d "forgives error, sin and rebellion." (Yoma, loc. cit; Bachya)

This is why, in the confession that is part of the worship service, we say "I have erred, I have sinned, I have rebelled (chata-ti, avi-ti, pasha-ti).  We say it in this order and not the reverse. One should mention the least severe sin first and then the more severe. (Orach Chaim 621)

However, Moshe prayed to G-d, "Master of the Universe, when the Benei Yisrael sin and repent, the sins and acts of rebellion that they do on purpose should be counted before You as if they were inadvertent sins."  G-d therefore said, "He forgives sin, rebellion and error."  This means that G-d counts the sin and rebellion as if they were only errors that a person did inadvertently.

13. And cleanses (ve-nakeh).  This is the thirteenth Attribute of Mercy.  G-d punishes a person little by little for his sins and does not overlook anything.

This literally says, "G-d cleanses, does not cleans."  G-d cleanses those who repent but does not cleanse those who do not repent. (Rashi)

Actually, G-d's covenant regarding these Thirteen Attributes was that if the Benei Yisrael committed many sins they would not be punished for all of them severely.  Nevertheless, they would be punished to some degree. They would not escape punishment completely. (Tzedah LaDerech)

Some say that the word "and cleanses" refers to sins that a person does in a hidden place.  It is thus written "he cleanses me from hidden sins" (Tehillim 19:13).  If a person repents, G-d also forgives him for the sins that he did in a stealthy manner. (Bachya)

Some say that this covenant does not mean that we fulfill our obligation merely by reciting these attributes.  Rather, we must emulate G-d in these Thirteen Attributes.  Just as G-d is merciful, so must we be merciful.  Just as G-d is compassionate, so must we be compassionate.  We must have mercy and compassion on one another and on the poor, and we must do deeds of kindness.  Then, just as we do acts of love for others, G-d will do acts of love for us.  Just as we are true, G-d will forgive us when we sin against Him.  When we ourselves keep all the attributes, we will not return from prayer empty-handed.  As soon as we recite the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy G-d will listen to our prayers.

However, perhaps we may recite the Thirteen Attributes but do not keep them; therefore we are not answered. (Tzeror HaMor; Reishit Chochmah, p. 253; Alshech, Shelach; Tzaphnat Paaneach, HaAzinu; Berit Avraham; Abudarham; Maraot HaTzovaot, p. 60; Esh Dat, Nasso)


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MeAm Loez; Bachya, Rashi, Ramban


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