This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
אל ֹה ֵגּ ַ ך ַה ַ ְמּ ְ לאָ
The story of Matan Torah parallels that of Rus in many ways1 . Both culminate at a wedding experience2 , though with Rus it is one achieved through yibum,3 and both necessitate giyur. In fact gierim seem to play pivotal roles throughout the history of klall yisroel. Yisro joins us at Har Sinai and helps to institute the court system. Rebbi Akiva, the offspring of converts, is seen as the foundational transmitter of the oral torah. King David, paradigm for malchus, is a descendant of the convert Rus.
MOAVI Who can or cannot join Judaism undergirds much of megillas Rus. At their meeting, Boaz4 indicates to Rus that her timing is immaculate, had she returned any earlier she would have been barred from conversion because of the pasuk ’ה הל ַק ִ ,בי ִ וּמוֹאָ ני ִעמּוֹ ָֹ לאי ֹ '5 . Luckily the ַ בא ְבּ halacha had since been formulated to allow for the conversion of female Moabites. The gemarah 6 explains that, surprisingly, the Jews themselves went through the conversion process prior to receiving the torah. What this would seem to indicate is that ‘Judaism’ was already extant, ‘Jews’ just hadn’t joined yet. All this casts the converts in a warm and positive light. However, there is a startling statement by chazal7 that “converts are difficult for Yisroel like a tza’ras lesion”. How do we understand this in context of Matan Torah in general and as applicable the concept to tza’ras specifically8 ?
A curious thing occurred to me. Much of the song Yom Shabbason describes kabbalas ha’torah and the refrain is about a bird finding her resting place. Rus and Na’ama are referred to as “two good birds” (Bava Kama 38b) and Naomi tells Rus she is a ‘ך ָ טב י שׁר ַ מנוֹ ָ ך ָ קּשׁ ַא ַ ִי ֲ ח ֲ ’... ֶא ְל ְל ֶב 2 Last mishna in Taanis based on Shir HaShirim 3:11 3 Though the term “yibum” is not used per se, and though there is seemingly no necessity for yibum in this instance, it is clear from the text that a pseudoyibum is Boaz’s intent and what ends up transpiring.The reason for this will hopefully be clarified infra. 4 CF Yerushalmi Yevamos 8:3 in contrast with the Bavli 76b which seems to indicate this was an extant halacha l’Moshe mi’Sinai that was “established” by the beis din of the navi Shmuel. 5 Devarim 23:47 see the explanation of the Ramban as he is one of the only major commentators who addresses both the lack of greeting the Jews with food and the hiring of Bila’am. There are several opinions as to when exactly Rus converted see Rashi on Rus 1:12, Zohar Chadash, Alshich, and others. 6 Yevamos 46b. CF Kli Chemdah (R’ Meir D. Plotzki), parshas Vayigash. It is worth noting that much of the source material for our discussion comes from mesechta Yevamos. Rav Tzadok HaKohen aptly delineates a klall that aggadic material is found in a particular mesechta (and even a particular perek) for a good reason. 7 Yevamos 47b 8 There are myriad explanations of this chazal. For one popular example see Maharal, Chiddushei Aggadot to Yevamos 63a where both tza’ras and converts are essentially seen as ‘addons’ to an already completed
צרעת Tza’ras occurs multiple times in connection with Har Sinai. We know that Moshe’s hand was afflicted with tza'ras as one of the signs provided by God at the burning bush. Chazal also explain the pasuk הוּא ע ָ את ֹ רא ַיּ ו9 to indicate that after worshipping the golden calf, ַר ֻפ ָ כּי ִ ,עם ָה ֶ שׁה ְַ ֶמ the nation was punished with tza'ras. I believe there is a commonality between geirim and metzoraim10 which is related to matan torah and to Klal Yisroel as a whole; and that is their ability to present a unique perspective. Unlike Sukkot where we are taken out of our homes and each individual is given an opportunity to gain a new perspective of our own, the ability to integrate a convert into Yisroel reflects our national need to assimilate someone else’s new perspective into the klall, which is infinitely more difficult. The metzorah too has this new perspective, but it is forced upon him11 . B’dad yeishev. Chutz l’machane. These two types of people have been outsiders. They enter our world and see things with a lens that ‘insiders’ are not familiar with. However, it is only with that apercu that a full appreciation of hashgachat shomayim is attained. קב ֹע י בּית ֵ על ְִ ו ,הם ֵע ֵה ַ ָה לו ְִ ו ;תם ָד ָ נּי ִה ְִ ו ,אל ֵר ָשׂ בּי ַב ָ וּ ,קב ֹע אתי ֵר ְַ י כּי ֶ לי ְנ ָמ ְ עלאַ ְ עוֹד חר ֶ ’ה חם ִ 12 . ַ פּחוּ ְס ְנ ַ ,חם ְִ ֲַ ֲ גּר ֲַ The gemarah13 details a part of the Jews’ journey in the midbar where miraculous salvation was seen specifically and only by the m’tzorim who were cast out of all three machanot and traveled outside the clouds of glory14 . The same is true of the famed “four lepers” who find the encampment of the army of Aram that had come to besiege the Jews, abandoned15 and rush to tell all of the nes. What we can see from here is that there is a need for the association of the concept of geirus
system. He then applies the rule ‘all who add [in fact] detract’. The one I personally found interesting was that it is known that we will not accept converts in the time of Moshiach, hence with each new accepted convert we are acknowledging that the era of Moshiach is not yet upon us, which is saddening. However most p’shatim I have seen are essentially treating the term tza'ras as la’v davka; any ‘bad thing’ could be substitu, tted and the drasha would remain the same. 9 Shemos 32:25, cf pesikta rabbasai 7, tanchuma metzorah (4), vayikra rabba 17, panim yafos who identifies the m’tzoraim here as the eiruv rav. See further Shemos Rabba 3:13 where the skin of the Nachas in gan eden is associated with tza'ras. 10 It is ineresting to note that the Mishna (negaim 3:1, 11:1, 12:1) expressly removes goyim from the parsha of tza'ras. 11 note the aspect of the Jews being forced at har sinai 12 Yishaya 14:1 13 brachos end of 54a 14 See the M’Harsha there for why the clouds of glory didn’t flatten those mountains. cf. Bnei Yissachar who notes that these people were the eiruv rav who were not included in the protection of the ananei hakavod see Zohar 2:191b. Note the clouds of glory came in the merit of Aron HaKohen. 15 Melachim2 Chapter 7. cf. Sota 47a Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10:2
with matan torah in order to incorporate a foreign approach into yiddishkeit. As we have said, before all the Jews converted at Har Sinai, yiddishkeit was ‘shrir v’kayam’, what need to happen was a melding of these new people, each with their unique individuality. We have further seen that at times a Jew himself is forced out in order to be able to look at things anew. I believe with this we can gain a fresh insight on the tzivuy of ’ה הל ַק ִ ,בי ִ וּמוֹאָ ני ִעמּוֹ ָֹ לאי ֹ 16 the overwhelmingly ַ בא ְבּ powerful question is simply why? What did these two nations do that is worse than, say Mitzrayim, or Edom (or even Amalek17 )? I believe the answer is found in tracing the origins of these two nations. Amon and Moav are descendents of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. The survival of whom was due to Lot’s hospitality to two visiting angels who entered Sodom18 . Lot is praised for two actions there. Firstly his hospitality and second, when an angry mob approaches looking to “sodomize” his guests, he presents his daughters as a less vile alternative. Amon and Moav seem to have forgotten their ancestry. Lot shows a modicum of concern for feeding and caring for those in need as well as a sense of sexual propriety and these two nations abrogate the middos that allowed them to exist in the first place. The do not greet the Jews who are in need of hospitality and they hire Bilaam, the sexual deviant, of all people to curse the Jews. That is why they can never convert. Klall Yisroel can and do assimilate all kinds of converts. This allows us to expand our nationhood while still being whole. Yet the one thing we cannot integrate is a nation that has no sense of self. By their actions Amon and Moav demonstrate a lack of selfintegration (at least the men), and that is not something that can be homogenized with Yisroel. Imagine marrying someone with multiple personalities, how could you possibly relate to the person as a whole?
YIBUM AND CHALITZAH But I believe this idea goes beyond the need to simply incorporate a fresh vantage. Because, in a bizarre twist, there is an inkling of chalitzah at Har Sinai as well, much in the way Rus goes through the chalitzah process with Ploni Almoni. Moshe, when approaching the burning bush is told to remove his shoes19 . The Ramchal20 (in his commentary to Devarim) links Moshe’s removal of his shoes with the ritual of chalitzah. ()המשך דברים ספר התורה על הרמח"ל פירוש ," רגלך מעל נעלך "של , בסוד , החליצה בכח עלתה ' שנוק ובהיות ." בישראל שמו "ונקרא הזיווג ויהיה תתקן ואז מצד חלוץ ,הנעל חלוץ ,הנעל חלוץ שהוא מי של , אשתו זו ביתו בסוד בית ," הנעל חלוץ "בית זה שם על נקראת
ibid. Yes, there are those who hold an Amaleiki can convert to Judaism. CF Rambam Issurei Biah 12:17 18 I believe this is related to Hashem’s question as Moshe ascends the mountain Moshe, ain Shalom b’ira’cha? Do you not greet and offer to help? This is exactly what Amon and Moav are held accountable for 19 Shemos 3:5 20 Excerpted from Rabbi Ari Kahn
.ודאי אחר This may be unconvincing until we see the ingenious explanation of Rebbi Nachman 21 on the parsha where Miriam contracts tza'ras. Miriam speaks lashon ha’ra about Moshe and becomes a m’tzorah. Aron makes an unusual plea to Moshe on her behalf. צאתוֹ ֵבּ ֵכּ ִת ָאַל ְ שׁר ֲ ,מּת ַ ,הי ֶא ְ נא שׂרוֹ ִח ַיּ ו ,אמּוֹ ִ חם ֵ Let her not, I pray, be as one who is dead, of whom the flesh is half ָב ְ צי ֲ כל ֵֵאָ ֶר ֶמ consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb22 . Here Rebbi Nachman sees Miriam’s tza'ras as a type of yibumlike punishment. A soul that dies without children has no continuity unless yibum is performed. But when yibum is accomplished that soul inhabits the body of the offspring. As such he is “one who is dead”. Furthermore that soul has lost his zivug, his other half, for he has been reborn as the child of his former wife, hence “of whom the flesh is half” and “he cometh out of his mother’s womb”. Aron’s fear was that the tza'ras would leave Miriam hopelessly disconnected, much in the way that a soul who has gone through yibum can be. This gives us a reason to reexamine that marriage aspect of Har Sinai. I believe the only way to have clarity in this is to understand the nature of two malachim Metatron and Sandalphon. For those not wishing to delve into Angelology this may be a good point to disembark.
SANDALPHON AND METATRON There are sparse23 references to the malach Sandalphon outside of kabbalistic literature. Metatron24 may suffer from just the opposite; there is so much information that it is hard to find reliable sources amongst the overwhelming fallacious material. Some things we do know are that the two often seem to be paired, either as two components of a single concept or as two layers (Sandalphon always being lower than Metatron) within one idea. The reason they are nogeah our discussion is that the Zohar25 tells us that Metatron and Sandalphon are the malachim associated with yibum and chalitzah respectively. We are further told that these malachim are the Mem and Samach26 that were suspended in the luchos27 . There are two ways to experience the shechina. To be disconnected or to become whole. These
Likutei Moharan 21:6 Bamidbar 12:12 23 chagigah 13b. For a fuller treatment of these angels see the encyclopedic Rabbi Reuven Margoliot’s Malachei Elyon. CF Megaleh Amukos 71 and 250. It is interesting to note some other references to sandal including a type of miscarriage (Niddah 24b, 25b) precious stones that would have been brought by the uncursed Nachash (Sanhedrin 59b) and the shoes that Enoch stitched. 24 For a comprehensive overview of this malach see http://rchaimqoton.blogspot.com/2006/07/metatron.html 25 Zohar Ki Tezheh 281a and Zohar Chadash Rus 72b 26 Shabbat 104 Mem for Metatron and Samach for Sandalphon 27 The Tikkunei Zohar (tikkun 6 pg 23a) also states that Sandalphon is the malach in charge of birds. See note 1 above.
are reflected in the galut/geulah duality represented by chalitzah/yibum and Sandalphon/Metatron. In the end both are needed and achieved. The first stage of being a Goel, a redeemer, is to go through chalitzah. As Ploni Almoni and Rus do, and just as Moshe does. Remove your shoe28 . Separate yourself from the comfort and protection you’ve known. Go into exile. Then, return. Perform yibum. Integrate that newness. Marriage. Reconcile what was foreign. Female Male29 . The Jewish people were sent into exile only to amass converts30 . This is brought into dramatic relief when you contrast how we experienced geulah originally: ,כה ו ָכ ְָ 31 כם בּי ַ וּ כם ֵג ַבּ ֵע ַ ,רים ִג ֵת ָ אתוֹ ֹ כלוּ ֹ And thus shall you eat [the korban ְֶ ְ כם ְקּ ְר ְ כם ֻח ֲ כם ֶד ֶל ֶלי ֶלי ֲנ ֶני ְמ ְתּא ֶמ pesach]: with your loins girded (wearing a belt), your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand. Compare this with how we are told to be oleh l’regel,32 where we are once again face to face with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. The mishna33 explains that we can’t come to the mikdash bearing our staff (Metatron34 ), money belt35 or shoes (Sandalphon). Furthermore we can’t spit36 (chalitzah) and everyone must greet each other like, of all people, Boaz!, b’shem Hashem. This is our paradigm for interfacing with the Shechina. The ultimate redeemer will gather Yisroel37 from the far flung reaches of the world38 and unite us as a people. Shivim panim but Ro’eh achas. Such a person must issue from Dovid and Peretz, products of these yibumlike relationships. On Shavuos may we be zoche to unify the disparate parts of our own life and may our avodah prompt the arrival of the Goel Tzedek. Amen.
cf Yehoshua 5:15. Note that Sandalphon is associated with the moon and nightime as is Yehoshua. See further Siddur HaShelah Sod Aravit. Rahav and Yehoshua / Imagination and Intellect in Orot: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Judaism Vol. 1 1991 29 Seen in this way Miriam in fact has a strong claim against Moshe, by separating from his wife he is proceeding in the wrong direction. However in reality Moshe had advanced well beyond and had begun this process anew. 30 Pesachim 87b. This idea may underlie much of likutei moharan 36 and likutei halachos, birchas hatorah 1 31 Shemos 12:11 32 Note that a metzorah is not even allowed to enter Yerushalayim. Cf Rambam Bias Mikdash 3:8 33 Brachos 62b 34 Megaleh Amukos ofen 100 35 I have not yet figured out how this fits into our discussion, however see the discussion in Yerushalmi Kilyahim 9:3 where R’ Yirmiyah dresses in this same manner before death to properly prepare for the resurrection 36 I believe this casts the famous story of the woman who spit in R’ Meir’s face in order to reunite husband and wife in a new light. See Bamidbar Rabba 9:20 37 Not to mention the converts. See Yishaya 56:3, 68 and Rashi there on how converts will come en masse. See especially Shemos Rabba 19:4. Discussing the pasuk in Iyov 31:32 גּר ֵ לין ִָ לאי ֹ בּחוּץ ַ (note how this parallels the story of Lot) R’ Berachiya asserst that converts will be the Kohanim serving in the beis hamikdash in yemos haMoshiach. Remarkably the proof there is from a play on the word ני ִח ֵפ ָס ְ which we had seen previously as referring to tza'ras. The undertones of the Kohanic element here, who are integral for the metzorah process, should not go unnoticed. I believe this is a direct outgrowth of our discussion of the role of the Kohen in Lag B’Omer. See note 13 above. 38 See Tehillim 60 for chalitzah laden ramazim for how the nations will be dealt with l’atid lavo
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?