‫פרשת מטות תשס”ח‬

‫שיחות רב עוזר‬

‫ב”ה‬

Insights into Torah and Halacha from Rav Ozer Glickman ‫שליט”א‬ ‫ר”מ בישיבת רבנו יצחק אלחנן‬

For me, ‫ חומש הפקודים‬is a long meditation on leadership. in every ‫ פרשה‬in this ‫ ,חומש‬we are called to examine some aspect of leadership in the person or persons of those who would execise it. We encounter the ‫ ,ראשי המטות ,כהנים ,לויים ,נשיאים‬and ‫ .שבעים הזקנים‬Even the negative episodes of ‫ ספר במדבר‬touch on the subject of leadership: the ‫ ,מרגלים‬the challenge by ‫ קרח‬and his confederates, and even the attempt at the perversion of prophecy in the persons of ‫ בלק‬and ‫ .בלעם‬There is the singular act of leadership by ‫ פנחס‬and the signalling of the end of ‫’משה‬s leadership on ‫.הר העברים‬ In this sense then ‫ ספר במדבר‬represents the transition from God’s direct leadership to the indirect leadership He will exercise through His agents. ‫ יציאת מצרים‬and the event that caps it, ‫ ,מתן התורה‬are the extraordinary direct intervention of the Divine in human history: ‫אני ולא מלאך, אני ולא שליח‬ In the desert, the people must learn to accept human leadership inspirred by the Divine. For the past several weeks, we have wandered through the ‫ פרשיות‬of ‫ ספר במדבר‬struggling with the notion of leadership in the mundane world in which we must live. There is an encounter with leadership at the beginning of this week’s ‫ משה .פרשה‬teaches the leaders of ‫ בני ישראל‬the laws of ‫ נדרים‬before they are expounded to the people at large. ‫ רש”י‬notes the purpose of this precedence: ‫חלק כבוד לנשיאים ללמדם תחילה ואחר כך לכל בית ישראל‬ This explanation is itself problematic. Every ‫ מצוה‬was in fact taught in this fashion. In a ‫ ברייתא‬in ‫ ,)נד:( עירובין‬the ‫ גמרא‬lays out the procedure whereby the Torah was taught to the people of Israel. ‫ משה‬ begins with only ‫ אהרן‬in the tent. A succession of additional participants join the session: first ‫ אלעזר‬and ‫ ,איתמר‬then the ‫ ,זקנים‬and only after them ‫ .המון העם‬The ‫ רמב”ם‬famously describes this ‫ סדר לימוד‬at the very beginning of his ‫ סדר זרעים‬in his ‫ .פירוש המשנה‬For the ‫ ,רמב”ם‬this ‫ ברייתא‬presents the first foundational principle in the study of the ‫ .תורה שבעל פה‬The ‫ מצוות‬of the Torah are taught and expounded by concentric circles of rabbinic authority that emanate from ‫ הקב”ה‬and proceed outwards from ‫ משה רבנו‬to the ‫ ,כהנים‬ to the ‫ זקנים‬to the masses. Each circle is farther removed from the initial revelation of the ‫ תורה שבע”פ‬from God Himself and therefore learns its Torah from teachers increasingly removed from the center. Thus the pattern is set for the rest of time. We therefore need to reframe our question: Why does the Torah emphasize the precedence given to teaching the ‫ ראשי המטות‬specifically in this ‫ מצוה‬of ‫ ?נדרים‬Since they were always taught before the masses so that they themselves could participate in their education, why mention this ‫ סדר הלימוד‬here in the laws of ‫?נדרים‬ ‫ רש”י‬suggests that the special role played by the rabbinic leadership in the nullification of oaths warrants a special mention of the ‫ ראשי המטות‬here more than in other places. This preserves the notion of ‫ כבוד‬with which ‫ רש”י‬opened his comment. We might also observe that there is a potentially negative aspect in play as well. Every good leader is aware of human limitations. No single person, no matter how charismatic, brilliant, or courageous, can control life, for it is subject to the stochastic forces of nature and human emotion. Nothing is certain but our own demise. Human beings repeatedly disappoint and yet we continue to believe. The principle tool human beings use to garner leadership is the promise. Our leaders promise us prosperity and peace when neither is in the reach of any single mortal being. Who more than those who aspire to leadership need to be reminded that words are sacred and that promises must be respected? Such is the burden of leadership.
These sichos are published by students and admirers of Rav Ozer Glickman shlit”a. We may be reached at ravglickmanshiur@gmail.com.

:’‫וידבר משה אל ראשי המטות לבני ישראל לאמור זה הדבר אשר צוה ה‬ The Burden of Leadership

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