Friday, January 27, 2012

Bo 5631 First Ma'amar

The Chiddushei HaRim asks why it was necessary for God to bring specifically ten plagues upon the Egyptians.  God could have achieved His purpose with any number of plagues or with no plagues at all.  Why ten?  The Chiddushei HaRim answers that the ten plagues removed God’s concealment from the ten commands with which the world was created and changed them from עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת/ten commands to עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת/Ten Commandments.

The Sfas Emes explains this enigmatic answer.  God created the world with עֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת/ten commands.  These are stated clearly in the first chapter of Breishis.  God constructed the Creation mechanism so that when He uttered the words of creation, the words themselves gave their creations existence.  So, for example, when God said, “Let there be light,” (Breishis 1:3) those words gave existence to light.  The life force behind everything in this world is the letters in the beginning of the Torah which describe the Creation.  The letters are the means through which God extends His will to create and continue the existence of the entire creation.  This is a crucial concept.  The Creation was not a one time act.  It is continuous. 

Looking around us, though, it is not clear that the life force that gives everything existence is in the letters of these very commands.  In fact, it is not obvious that there is a spiritual life force at all.  The Godly life force in Creation is hidden.  The purpose of the plagues that God wrought upon Egypt was to clearly reveal that the physical Creation owes its continuing existence to a Godly life force.  It was to make it known that there is more to the world around us than our eyes perceive.  Each plague revealed God in one aspect of the Creation.  Each plague removed a barrier preventing us from being aware of God in that aspect of nature referred to in one Creation מַאֲמַר/command.  This is why God brought ten plagues upon the Egyptians; one plague for each of the ten commands by which God created the world.

What does the Chiddushei HaRim mean, though, when he says that each מַאֲמַר/command changed to a דִבּוּר/utterance?  The Chiddushei HaRim is using a play on words.  Although in Hebrew the root דַבָר/DBR means speech, in Aramaic it means leader.  The Zohar uses this same play on words when it explains, “וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם/You will speak about them.”  The Zohar explains this as, “You will guide your actions according to the word of God.”[1]  דִבּוּר/Leadership symbolizes the revelation of God in the world.  In the exile God’s truth is hidden.  The Zohar describes this as the aspect of דִבּוּר/leadership being in exile.[2]  At the time the Torah was given the aspect of דִבּוּר/leadership was revealed.  This is why right before the Ten Commandments we find, “וַיְדַבֵּר אֱ-לֹהִים אֵת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה .../God spoke all these words …” (Shmos 20:1)  God’s leadership was no longer in exile.  It was clear for all to see.

We find this concept regarding Moshe Rabbeinu’s speech impediment as well.  When God asked Moshe Rabbeinu to return to Egypt to speak to Pharaoh and begin the redemption process, he responds, “לֹא אִישׁ דְּבָרִים אָנֹכִי/I am not a man of words.” (Shmos 4:10)  After the Torah was given, however, the pasuk says, “אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר מִשֶׁה .../These are the words that Moshe spoke …” (Devarim 1:1)  How did Moshe change from a man with a speech impediment to one who could speak and explain the entire Torah to the nation?  The Midrash teaches us that after he merited receiving the Torah he was healed.[3]  In the exile Moshe Rabbeinu was not a man of words.  Moshe Rabbeinu understood that in the exile God’s influence was far from apparent.  But at the giving of the Torah, God’s leadership was clear for all to see.  It follows that Moshe Rabbeinu’s speech impediment, which symbolized God’s concealment, was healed. 

As we’ve said, the ten plagues removed God’s concealment from theעֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת/ten commands with which the world was created.  As we and the Egyptians became more aware of God with each plague, each aspect of nature represented by one of the ten commands was changed to an aspect of God’s דִבּוּר/leadership.  Finally, they were aware of God in all aspects of nature.  This is why the Chiddushei HaRim said that the ten commands which created the world changed to עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת/ten aspects of (God’s) leadership.

[1] Zohar 3:269a
[2] Zohar 2:25b
[3] Devarim R. 1:1


Anonymous said...

"speech impediment, which symbolized God's concealment"

more than symbolic, the impediment
can be spelled out physically:
Moshe learned Hebrew by his mother
as an infant/toddler (where, in that Levite household, God was to
some degree revealed); moving to
pharoah's palace, Moshe learned Egyptian at too late an age for
comfortable fluency ( = heavy of
speech, = alien Egyptian concepts/
constructs he was instinctively hesitant to utter; in pharoah's household, God/Leadership were concealed);

but wouldn't Moshe be speaking to the Israelites in Hebrew? why worry of stammering in that setting? because he couldn't simply revert back to his cheder
Hebrew, but needed significant private time with Hashem's lashon
hakodesh, a magnified, purified, fully revealed version of the language, before he too could fluently speak a mature, fully actualized Hebrew to the nation & to the world...

Moshe David Tokayer said...

Nice. Although he did live in Pharaoh's house as a child so he should have learned to speak Egyptian like a native.

Is this your own idea or did you see it somewhere?

Anonymous said...

at whatever age he moved into the palace, Moshe resisted even learning the corrupt tongue of the place (while using it was oral torture)

it simply came to mind

Anonymous said...

after all, the Jews kept to Hebrew in Mitzrayim; young Moshe must've felt a certain treachery in simply speaking external Egyptian, while he was repelled (or instinctively uneasy at the least) by its internal, conceptual treachery
(opposite his mother tongue, opposite his soul); the result-- psychologically impeded speech, &
a further reluctance to ADDRESS his brothers (who'd been loyal to Hebrew throughout enslavement) about THEIR redemption

probably Midianite was no less alienating for its content than Egyptian, though spoken in no close
contrast to his brothers
(internally, but not externally,

Anonymous said...

all this consistent, to a degree, with sotah 12b's account of baby Moshe's refusal to nurse from an Egyptian breast; seeing there how his mouth, that would someday talk with the Shechina, balked altogether at ingestion & use of the impure*, one wonders how Moshe could've allowed himself to learn** & to speak any Egyptian at all (kal v'chomer, if one takes our speech capacity to be more human, potentially more holy, & more tragically corrupt-ible/-ed than flesh built by milk)

*did Yocheved eat kosher any more
than Egyptian nursemaids? did she
keep taharas mishpacha? whence her (relative) purity?

**perhaps Hashem made it perpetually difficult for Moshe to learn Egyptian, & this was behind his heavy speech? pasukim 4:10,11
would be dramatically enriched had
Hashem Himself protectively rendered Moshe somewhat "deaf" (hence somewhat dumb) to the Egyptian tongue! {btw, though members of the Sanhedrin were to learn all 70 languages, that was as
specially educated, communally protected adults; Moshe was an exposed child, a vulnerable & impressionable youth, in Pharoah's palace}