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Shabbat Parashat Shemini 5777

Ein Ayah: A Leaders Dilemma Amongst the People or Beyond them?

Ein Ayah, Shabbat 4:12

Gemara: Rav Nachman said to his servant Daru: “Insulate for me a cold dish and bring water that was heated by a non-Jew.” Rav Eliezer heard of this and became upset. Rav Yosef asked: why did Rav Eliezer get upset? Surely Rav Nachman has acted in accordance with great authorities – one halacha is in accordance with Rav, and the other is in accordance with Shmuel. For Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel that it is permitted to insulate cold food, and Rav said that anything that can be eaten in its raw state is not included in the prohibition of bishul akum. Rav Eliezer felt that an important person should act differently.


Ein Ayah: The actions of a great person impact the generation. They can be divided into two categories, and sometimes there is tension between these categories that is difficult to reconcile. For what is positive in one category acts in an adverse manner in the other.

The first category is in regards to practical actions. It is fitting for the nation to know the sage among them, perceive his honor and lofty soul, and aspire to be like him as much as possible. They should perceive the greatness within themselves, sensing the godliness within them that is uplifted when seeing a grand sight. This sage will give life to the Torah, for all his actions and mannerisms are carefully weighed, and it is worthy for all to follow in his ways. By following him, they will attain happiness and instill the true way of life within them.

For this reason, it is fitting for the sage to live his life in a way that is close to the level of the people, in order that the people understand that all his actions need to be and can be performed by everyone. For if the sage lives his life in the eyes of the people with great acts of piety, the masses will not be able to learn from his actions, as they will see it as beyond their level. For this reason, many of the great sages of Israel were lenient on a practical level where there was room for leniency, even though their souls yearned for a deep love that finds expression in the expansion of Torah and its mitzvot. Nevertheless they curb this desire in order that the nation will know that their actions and the way they live their lives are the complete Torah that applies to everyone.

The above is true in regard to the practical perspective. However, there is also a more emotional aspect of how the nation views their sages, with a splendor that is attributed to the Torah and its value, as well as the mitzvot and their value to the nation. It is valuable for the nation to see its sages as they intrinsically are – masters of the heart and wisdom in their broadest and clearest form, with knowledge of life in its fullest meaning. This imbues the people with a deep sense of honor for the Torah and allows them to be inspired by it. In this regard, it is clear to all that these high levels are not shared equally by all, as there is a definite difference between the simple people and the great ones.

Therefore, even if people realize that they are many levels lower than their sages, the people will still be imbued with a sense of honor and holiness, which will enable them to strengthen their bonds to Torah, with love and faith. For this goal, it is fitting and obligatory for the sage to act with great piety and measure every action according to his stature. “An important person should act differently.”

[The complicated end of the piece explains why a person’s greatness would find expression in stringency particularly in the matters of Shabbat and separation from other nations.]

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