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Shabbat Parashat Emor 5780

Ein Ayah: Lacking in the Physical or the Spiritual

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 11:7)

Gemara: [We continue with the idea of Rabbi Akiva revealing sinning beyond what is explicit in the Torah and the criticism he received from a colleague.] Similarly, regarding what the Torah said, “Hashem was angry at them and he went” (Bamidbar 12:9), Rabbi Akiva says that this teaches that Aharon [in addition to Miriam] became afflicted by leprosy.


Ein Ayah: The comparison [to the sin of Tzelufchad] is of things that are not on the same level. How can you compare the individual matter of the identity of the one who violated Shabbat to the public matter related to Aharon, who was uniquely holy to Hashem? The matter at hand is also unique, as Moshe’s siblings, in questioning whether Moshe’s status as a prophet was qualitatively different from theirs, touches on a foundation of the Torah – that Moshe was the master of all prophets. This principle was reinforced by the story of Hashem’s reaction to Aharon and Miriam, making the details of the event especially important.

Rabbi Akiva had a consistent approach, which finds expression regarding the Torah’s hiding facts due to this special person’s (Aharon) honor. Rabbi Akiva was one who uncovered secrets and learned from every crown attached to the Torah’s letters. He always yearned to spread Hashem’s light until he ended his life calling Hashem “one.” All the details were interwoven so that there was nothing hidden from his perspective, as a small hint created great light for him. It is regarding the normal person who receives Torah knowledge that there is a clear difference between what is known and not known.

It was a major event when Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe in a way that equated him to other prophets. Hashem had to appear and thereby notify them and all generations that there is a great difference between them. The difference between Moshe and all others must be predicated both on physical and spiritual causes. The physical one must include that with all their sanctity, Miriam and Aharon were missing something in their constitution that precluded them from gazing onto the highest levels of perception and realizing the total superiority of Moshe, the source of all prophecies. This physical lacking caused a minor lack of clarity, which caused them to say: “Did Hashem speak only to Moshe? Did He not speak to us as well?”

Certainly, when both physical and spiritual factors impact on something, it is worthwhile to know which one is mainly responsible for the result. Is the physical impacting on the spiritual, or is the spiritual impacting on the physical? Since a punishment was inflicted on the body of the righteous Miriam, we know that her lacking in understanding was prompted by a deficiency in her physical constitution.

Miriam’s punishment of leprosy brought a great light to the world in that it publicized the unique greatness of Moshe. Rabbi Akiva posited that Aharon was also physically punished, but his punishment was not as much a function of a lacking on the physical side, and therefore the Torah publicized Miriam’s physical punishment and not Aharon’s. Aharon’s punishment was fleeting while Miriam’s lingered over a period of time. However, R. Akiva did clarify that there was some physical punishment for Aharon as well.

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