Devar Torah for Parshas Nasso 5781

Cancelling Moses

“and brought their offering before the LORD: six draught carts and twelve oxen, a cart for every two chieftains and an ox for each one. When they had brought them before the Tabernacle, the LORD said to Moses: Accept these from them for use in the service of the Tent of Meeting, and give them to the Levites according to their respective services.”(Numbers 7:3-5)

AND THEY BROUGHT THEM BEFORE THE TABERNACLE — because Moses would not accept them (the gifts) at their (the princes’) hands until he was so bidden by the mouth of the Omnipresent (cf. v. 5). (Rashi to Number 7:3)

Based on the commentary of Rashi (22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), the scene went like this:

  1. The 12 princes (one from each tribe) brought their offerings to the tabernacle to offer them to G-d.
  2. Moses said to them, “No, I don’t think you should bring these offerings.”
  3. Moses was then convinced to ask G-d if the offerings were permissible (perhaps he changed his own mind, or perhaps the princes urged him).
  4. G-d then told him “Accept these offerings!”

We see quite clearly a mistake made by Moses. He originally thought not to permit the offerings, and then G-d corrected him and said they were permitted.

Moses makes many mistakes throughout the Torah. Hitting the rock to get water rather than speaking to it is another big mistake. There were other times that he admitted that he didn’t know the law in the particular case.

In the upcoming chapters of the Torah, there are several rebellions against Moses, the biggest one being Korach and his company. Korach felt that Moses was too biased and mistake-prone to continue being the leader, and that he, Korach, was better suited. He felt it was time to “cancel” Moses.

Was Moses deserving of cancellation?

G-d put all of Moses’ mistakes in full view of the Jewish people – those living 3333 years ago and throughout eternity – by writing them into the Torah. At the end of the Torah Moses  is still called the greatest prophet that ever was – and ever will be! Surely we can see from this that G-d didn’t cancel Moses.

So too today, there are great Rabbis – those who lead the entire Jewish nation, or who lead smaller communities – who make mistakes. They might forget a gemora. They might make an incorrect ruling. They might not know an answer to a question. But that does not diminish their greatness to the point that they should be cancelled.

We are all human and therefore fallible. Don’t cancel another human because he was acting like one!

(Based on a class given by Rabbi Yaakov Montrose)

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