Questions and Suggested Answers
Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz
“And Moshe spoke unto the Lord saying: Let the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh...”(Numbers 27, 15-16) - to reflect credit on the righteous who, when they depart the world, leave their own affairs, and concern themselves with the public welfare. (Rashi)
What prompted the above comment of Rashi?
Commentators throughout the ages have perceived in Moshe’s words, a request that one of his sons should succeed him. Lest one erroneously think that Moshe, the faithful leader and shepherd would place his personal interest above the needs of the people, Rashi informs us that until the very end of his life, Moshe’s first loyalty was to the children of Israel. According to Rashi’s comment, we must read Moshe’s implied request as conditioned on his son being worthy of succeeding him.
Who may go out before them...(ibid. 17). Not like the kings of the nations who sit at home and send their armies into battle; but as I did, when I fought Sihon and Og, as it is stated (Bamidbar 21-34): “fear him not,” and as Joshua did... and regarding David (Samuel I 18,16) “for he went out and came in before them,” the first to lead them out and the first to bring them in. (Rashi)
a. What difficulty does the text present?
b. Where can you find in Rashi on another text in the Torah an allusion to this same idea of “not like the kings of the nations who sent their armies into battle?”
a. The predicates seem to be needlessly repeated: “who may go out before them and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out and who may bring them in....”
The first predicate uses the Kal (active) form of the verb and the second predicate employs the Hiphil (causative) form of the verb. Rashi saw in the two predicates two models of leadership. In the Kal form, the leader is pictured as marching at the head of the army. In the Hiphil form, the leader is leading from a distance behind the troops as would be the case of a king giving orders to his generals from his palatial residence. Rashi is informing us that God is stressing the first listing over the second model.
b. For a similar thought, see Rashi’s comment Exodus (14-6) on the words “and took his people with him.”
Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem