By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And the Man Moshe Was Very Humble
Our Sages teach that one of the primary requirements for the acquisition of Torah is humility. This they learn, in part, from the verse “from the desert was a gift given (Bamidbar 21, 18).” This our sages interpret to mean that one who considers himself like a “desert”, i.e through the self-abnegation of humility, shall be granted the “gift” of the Torah. Therefore, it is no wonder that Shavuot, the Holiday of the Giving of the Torah, always occurs at the beginning of our reading the book of Bamidbar, which deals with Israel’s journey through the desert towards the Holy Land, and especially in conjunction with parshat Behaalotcha which discusses the humility of Moshe Rabeinu. At the end of this parsha, Yehoshua poses to Moshe Rabeinu the option of imprisoning those who prophesized that Moshe Rabeinu will pass away before Israel enters the Land of Israel (in the simple reading of the verses it just says that they prophesized but not the subject of prophecy). To this Moshe Rabeinu humbly answers “are you zealous for me? [On the contrary, Hashem should grant] that all the People of Hashem be prophets, that surely Hashem should place His spirit upon them.” Yet again at the end of this parsha Moshe Rabeinu does not take offense on the slander spoken about him, but rather prays for the welfare of Miriam his sister who spoke against him. Here the Torah explicitly says “and the man Moshe was very humble, more than all men upon earth.” As we just explained the fact that Moshe Rabeinu was the paradigm of humility also explains why Moshe Rabeinu is our greatest master of Torah, who, as our Sages teach, received the entire Torah even everything that the future generations will “discover” in Torah study.
These teachings also explain the first Mishna of Pirkei Avot: “Moshe received Torah from Sinai.” As we mentioned in regard to the barren “humble” desert, the same applies to Mount Sinai, called the Mountain of Horeb, “Horeb” meaning barren. A well-known midrash describes the choosing of Mount Sinai as the location that the Torah would be given. After various mountains “describe” their grandeur, Mount Sinai remains silent in its simple and “humble” state, not “expecting” that the lofty Torah should be granted upon it in its lowly level. Therefore, this Mishna in Avot can mean “Moshe received the Torah from, i.e through, the attribute of Sinai, i.e the attribute of humility.
The important treatise on the value of the Holy Land, the sefer “Shaar Hahatzer,” explains that that Hebron has the same numerical value as “Sinai” spelled out, i.e samech yod nun yod = 266. This numerical value shows the power of Torah inherent in Hebron as in Sinai. Here too, we should note that our Sages say that “Hebron is the rubble [lesser in physical quality] of the Land of Israel [and therefore it was chosen as burial ground].” This teaching shows yet again, that just like the simplicity and “humility” of Sinai, it is also the “humility,” simplicity, and self-abnegation as “rubble” of Hebron which is a primary cause of Hebron’s centrality in Torah leadership.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #320
“Once there was a draught in the Land of Israel, and there was no rain at all even after the month of Tevet arrived. Even after prayers and fasts they were not answered from Heaven. Then, the Arab “Peha” leader called the Jews to pray for rain. To this, the Jews answered that if the Peha grant them to enter Maarat Hamachpela they have no doubt that they will be answered and the rain will come. The Peha asked the “Kadi,” the Muslim leader Damascus for the key to the internal gates of the Maarat Hamachpela building. The Kadi intended to ask the Turkish Sultan in stanbul for official permission to deliver the keys, but he realized that by the time he would receive permission the winter would end, so he sent the keys immediately. Then, the Jews chose ten God-fearing sages and Kabbalists to enter the Maara. The sages went to Hebron and descended five stairs into the Maara. There they recited the first book of Tehilim with great intent. They descended another five stairs and recited the second book of Tehilim. Then they descended another five stairs and recited the third book of Tehilim. Immediately, clouds gathered and rain began to fall. Seeing this, the sages changed the prayers to prayers for redemption. However, just then a tremendous wind emerged from the Cave and pushed the sages out. Then they understood that the time had not come for redemption and they should not “push” it. The sages returned to Jerusalem and found blessing in all their actions.
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