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Shabbat Parashat Vayeishev |5769

Moshes Fear of Seeing a Divine Revelation Good or Bad?; The Perception of Hashem and His Tefillin

Ein Ayah

(based on Ein Ayah, Berachot 1:75)


Gemara: “Hashem said to Moshe: ‘You will not be able to see My face’” (Shemot 33:20). It was said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha: The following is what Hashem was saying to Moshe: “When I wanted [at the burning bush], you did not [as Moshe covered his face]; now that you want, I do not want.” This argues on Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini in the name of Rabbi Yonatan, who said: as reward for three actions, he merited three things. As reward for “Moshe covered his face,” he merited a glowing countenance…


Ein Ayah: It appears that they [Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha and Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini] are arguing about the center of human completeness. Is the center the intellect, as the Rambam says that everything relates to knowledge, or are ethics and service the center, as the Chovot Halevavot posits?

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha believes that the pinnacle of good fortune is grasping knowledge of Hashem. Therefore, it is a shortcoming to lack sufficient interest to look into the mystery of Hashem’s presence. Rav Shmuel bar Nachmeini held that the purpose of all elements of knowledge is to promote ethical behavior, which stems from complete knowledge. Therefore, if one limits his knowledge as he broadens his ethical behavior, this should be seen as praiseworthy. That is why: “as reward for ‘Moshe covered his face,’ he merited a glowing countenance.”


The Perception of Hashem and His Tefillin

(based on Ein Ayah, Berachot 1:76)


Gemara: “I will remove My hand, and you will see My back” (Shemot 33:23). This teaches us that Hashem showed Moshe a knot of tefillin.


Ein Ayah: Regarding abstract intellectual attainments, especially relating to the Divine, there are two elements of truth to investigate: 1) the true innate essence of the matter, as we do for all sense-based investigation; 2) the truth as it relates to the value of the matter in the conception of the one who perceives it.

In truth, the entire Torah is presented according to the ability of its recipients to perceive it. This is because all of the ethical good flows only from perceiving this relative truth. The abstract absolute truth goes beyond the intellectual capabilities of the one who investigates the matter and is thus unperceivable. This is what Hashem meant when he told Moshe: “For man cannot see Me and live” (ibid.:20).

This is why Chazal used the metaphor of Hashem’s tefillin. They contain matters of wisdom, the words of the Living G-d. However, they do not relate to man by themselves. Rather, it is the knot of the tefillin that enables the tefillin to impact on man. Thus, the abstract concept is referred to as tefillin or totafot. The conception that is attainable to human intellect is represented by the knot. One should go deeper into the matter and realize that the abstract conceptions certainly have a known value for their truth from their own perspective along with their truth in relation to the perceiver. The special level of Moshe Rabbeinu of blessed memory was that Hashem informed him even regarding the relation and connection that these levels of conceptions have to each other, and how they are arranged one next to the other. However, the actual abstract conception of objective Divine truth was not able to be grasped even by Moshe, as the pasuk said: “My face shall not be seen” (ibid.:23).

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld


Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker

and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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