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Video 22 of 54
I want to revisit with you for a minute Moshe's encounter with G-d as the Jews are worshipping the Golden Calf which we talked about in our last video. I think to really get a sense of the heroism that Moshe displays here, it comes out in the text through a fascinating series of intertextual links to another story, a story that came long before in the Torah. I alluded to this briefly in our previous video when I mentioned to you that when G-d initially indicts the Jewish people, the language He uses is; Leich reid ki shicheit amcha asher he'elita me'eretz Mitzrayim - go down Moshe because your people have corrupted themselves. That language 'have corrupted themselves' is a dark and foreboding word because it brings us back to another time when G-d threatened and actually did destroy everything - namely the story of the flood.
If you look at the story of the flood the language of Shacheit - that verb, Shin, Chet, Taf, appears over and over again in G-d's plans to destroy the world. Take a look at the beginning of Parshat Noach, Bereishit Chapter 6, verse 11. Vatishacheit ha'aretz lifnei ha'Elokim vatimalei ha'aretz chamas - and the world became corrupted before G-d. There's that word Vatishacheit. Vayar Elokim et ha'aretz v'hinei nishchata - and G-d saw the world and indeed it was corrupt. Ki hishchit kol basar et darko al ha'aretz - because the people had corrupted themselves. Then in the next verse; Keitz kol basar bah lefanai - the end of all flesh has come before Me, G-d says; V'hineni mashchitom et ha'aretz - I'm going to destroy them along with the earth.
The word that's appearing over and over again, four times, Shacheit, Shacheit, Shacheit - corruption. It was that word which signified G-d's plans to destroy the entire world at the flood and G-d making use of that word here; Leich reid ki shicheit amcha - G-d down Moshe because your people have corrupted themselves, is a dark warning sign that utter destruction is being contemplated by G-d.
So we've got this word Shacheit leading us back to the Noach story, but it's not just the word Shacheit, if you look carefully at the story references to Noach abound in the whole story. The clearest one, perhaps, comes a couple verses later when G-d says; V'atah - and now Moshe; Hanicha li vichar api bahem - leave Me alone, My anger will flare against them and I will destroy the Jews and I will make you into a great nation. Well when else did G-d strike that bargain with someone; I'm going to destroy them all and I'll start again with you? There was one other time that happened in the Torah, it happened with Noach. G-d said, I'll destroy the world and start with you.
Now look carefully actually at the exact words that G-d uses to propose this to Moshe. V'atah hanicha li vichar api bahem - and now leave me alone. How do you spell Hanicha Li? Heih, Nun, Chet, Heih. Right there in the middle of the word, the word Noach. It's almost as if there's a double entendre here in these words. One way to read it, the simple way to read it, is; And now Moshe leave Me alone and I will destroy them. Another way to read it is; And now Moshe, Hanicha Li, be a Noach to Me. Noach left Me alone when I said I'm going to destroy the world, why don't you leave Me alone too?
But Moshe does not leave G-d alone, Moshe's response; Vayechal Moshe et pnei Hashem Elokov - and Moshe entreated G-d, vigorously entreated Him. That word Vayechal, Vav, Yud, Chet, Lamed, guess how many times Vav, Yud, Chet, Lamed appears in the Torah before this time when Moshe entreats G-d? This is the third time it appears in the entire Torah. You know when the first two times it appears is? With Noach. The first time it appears is; Vayachel [od 3:23] - when Noach waited when he was on the boat, waited seven days and then sent out the dove to see if the waters had already receded. The next time we have the word; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah vayitah kerem - when Noach began to build a vineyard for himself and got drunk, after the flood. Noach's use of this word indicated passivity in the face of the terrible decree of G-d, or an escape to alcohol after the terrible destruction. Moshe takes that same word and will not wait and will not be passive, but; Vayechal Moshe et pnei Hashem Elokov - Moshe entreats G-d.
By the way, one other thing, isn't it interesting that G-d told Noach to build a Teivah - to build a boat, in order to escape the flood. Do you know there's only one other time that we have a Teivah in the Torah? The only other Teivah, is when Moshe was in one, it's what his mother put him in when she put him in the bulrushes by the side of the Nile. Both of these men were saved by a little Teivah - one by a little Teivah, one by a big Teivah - from the ravages of water. And it's as if Moshe who was entreating G-d and saying, no, I will not accept this decree, is saying to G-d, hey I already came out of a Teivah, You're telling me to go back in one to avoid another destruction? I'm not interested in going back in a Teivah.
Look at the final words of this conversation between G-d and Moshe; Vayinachem Hashem al hara'ah asher diber la'asot l'amo. Moshe makes his outrageous case before G-d; Lamah yechereh apecha b'amecha - there is no defense and yet Moshe with Chutzpah says, G-d why should You be angry with Your people, look where this anger is going to get You. Uses G-d's decision to wed His destiny to the Jewish people, to box G-d in and say, You can't afford to destroy them, what are You going to tell Egypt, what are You going to tell the forefathers? G-d relents; Vayinachem Hashem al hara'ah asher diber la'asot l'amo - and G-d relented. When is the only other time in the Torah that you have the words; Vayinachem Hashem - G-d changed His mind, G-d relented, G-d regretted? The only other time you have those words are when G-d decides to destroy the world in the flood. Genesis Chapter 6, verse 6; Vayinachem Hashem - and G-d regretted; Ki asah et ha'odom ba'aretz vayitatzeiv el libo - that He had created man and became sad unto His heart and said; Emcheh et ha'odom asher barati mei'al pnei ha'adamah - I shall utterly wipe out mankind from upon the face of the whole world.
Now those words Vayinachem Hashem will be repeated one more time, it's as if destiny said that one way or another Moshe, there will be another Vayinachem Hashem here, but what will be the meaning of that Vayinachem Hashem? The first time around G-d regretted creating man and destroyed him, and now by the force of Moshe's opposition the Vayinachem Hashem changes its meaning. G-d regrets in the story of the Calf His decision to destroy and maintains the people that He has created instead.
The final capstone of course, is that when G-d destroyed the world; Vayomer Hashem emcheh et ha'odom asher barati - I shall utterly wipe out. Those words Emcheh - I shall wipe out, reappear again in the Moshe story, but how do they reappear? Where do we have that verb again? We have it when Moshe stands up to G-d and says G-d, if You want You can destroy this people, but if You do; Mecheini nah mi'sifrecha asher katavta - but You'll have to wipe me out from the Book that You've created.
The Torah seems to be dropping all these hints back to the story of Noach to tell us that if you want to understand Moshe's greatness you have to understand what happened the first time around with the flood, you have to understand what happened with Noach. The Midrash, picking up on this in Bereishit Rabbah says; Amar Rebbi Berachiya - Rav Berachiya says; Chaviv Moshe m'Noach - Moshe excelled greater than Noach; Noach m'shenikra Ish Tzadik nikra Ish Adamah - both of these men were called a man of something at the beginning of their lives and at the end of their lives. In the beginning of his life, Noach, the first time we meet him is called an Ish Tzadik - a righteous person, the last time we meet him he's called an Ish Ha'adamah - a man of the earth. Moshe the first time we meet him is called an Ish Mitzri - an Egyptian man, the last time we meet him he's called Ish Ha'Elokim - the man of G-d. Both of these men faced the same crucible in their lives, how would they respond to a decree of utter of destruction waged upon their entire communities? One man was passive and accepted what G-d said, one man was active and opposed G-d, and ironically, that man became the man of G-d.
1. Bereishit: Does Man 'Acquire' Woman?
2. Noach: Why Did God Destroy the World?
3. Lech Lecha: Covenant With God
4. Vayeira: Abraham's Struggle With Loyalty
5. Chayei Sarah: What Makes For A Successful Life?
6. Toldot: A Conversation For the Ages
7. Vayeitzei: Consequences of Jacob's Deceit
8. Vayishlach: Becoming a Person of Integrity
9. Vayeishev: Who Really Sold Joseph?
10. Miketz: Why Didn't Joseph Write Home?
11. Vayigash: The Epic Confrontation Between Judah and Joseph
12. Vayechi: Who is Joseph's Real Father?
13. Shmot: If Midrash is Real, Why Isn't It Peshat?
14. Va'era: Did God Take Away Pharaoh's Free Will?
15. Bo: Did God Really Need Ten Plagues?
16. Beshalach: What Does It Mean to Have Faith?
17. Yitro: The Marriage of God and Israel
18. Mishpatim: Female Servitude...Wait, What?
19. Terumah: Is There a Face Hiding in the Tabernacle?
20. Tetzaveh: Where Is God In a Physical World?
21. Ki Tisa: Moshe's Benevolent Chutzpah
22. Ki Tisa: Epilogue
23. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
24. Vayikra: Can Leaders Make Mistakes?
25. Tzav: What Does It Mean To Survive?
26. Shemini: Why Did God Reject Nadav and Avihu?
27. Tazria: The Bizarre Purification of the Metzora
28. Metzora: Living Within the Community
29. Kedoshim: How Can I Achieve True Love?
30. Emor: What Sabbath Is All About
31. Behar: Why Does Land Have To Rest?
32. Bechukotai: Why Would God Curse His People?
33. Bamidbar: Who Cares About Genealogy?
34. Shelach: Is Hope Irrational?
35. Korach: Can We Influence God?
36. Chukat: Was Hitting the Rock So Horrible?
37. Balak: Balaam, Prophet For Hire?
38. Pinchas: What Does It Mean To Be Zealous For God?
39. Matot: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic?
40. Masei: Why Is The End of Bamidbar So Anticlimactic? II
41. Devarim: What Does It Mean To Have Faith?
42. Va'etchanan: Seeing Layers in the Ten Commandments
43. Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?- Part 1/2
44. Eikev: What Does It Mean To Be A Good Person?- Part 2/2
45. Re'eh: The Strange Laws Of Jewish Slavery
46. Shoftim: The Line Between Murder And Apathy
47. Shoftim: Epilogue 1
48. Shoftim: Epilogue 2
49. Ki Teitzei: The Hated Wife- Part 1/2
50. Ki Teitzei: The Hated Wife- Part 2/2
51. Ki Tavo: The Soliloquy Of The Farmer- Part 1/2
52. Ki Tavo: The Soliloquy Of The Farmer- Part 2/2
53. Ha'azinu: A Unique Nation - Part 2/3
54. V'Zot Habracha: Looking Towards the Future - Part 3/3
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