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Vaera-MOSHE AND NOACH

MOSHE AND NOACH

by Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz, Rabbi of Kefar Haroeh and the Emek Hefer Regional Council

 It is difficult to judge someone’s character when there is no standard for comparison to show his greatness. For this reason, it is not easy to evaluate the character of Moshe, for “no other prophet like Moshe ever rose up in Yisroel” [Devarim 34:10]. That being the case, with whom can he be compared, in order to demonstrate his stature? Our Sages were aware of  this difficulty and they compared Moshe to Noach. Rabbi Berachia said, “Moshe was better than Noach. While Noach was at first called ‘a righteous man’ [Bereishit 6:9], he was later called ‘a man of the earth’ [9:20]. However, Moshe, who was at first called ‘an Egyptian’ [Shemot 2:19], was later known as ‘a man of G-d’ [Devarim 33:1]” [Bereishit Rabba 36]. This shows us what was unique about Moshe. Quite often, the character of a person deteriorates, and one who starts out as righteous becomes a man of the earth and descends to such a low level that “he uncovered himself in his tent” [Bereishit 9:21]. This is not true of Moshe, whose entire life follows the verse, to “rise up on the mountain of G-d” [Tehilim 24:3]. Even though he started out as an Egyptian, he progressed and became greater, until he was transformed into a man of G-d. Why did Moshe develop and become great? An answer to this is given by the Midrash, commenting on the verse, “And Moshe was a shepherd” [Shemot 3:1]. “The Almighty does not give a person a lofty position unless He checks him with a small test. Only afterwards does He give him greatness.” [Shemot Rabba 2:3].  Noach began with great expectations: “This one will console us from the labor of our hands, on the land cursed by G-d” [Bereishit 5:29]. Evidently these hopes had some basis in fact. It may be assumed that Noach performed great acts, which led the people to hope that he would be able to fix all that had been corrupted in Eden. Moshe, on the other hand, began his life humbly, looking after a single sheep in the flock, intruding for the good of one who was being struck and in order to bring peace between colleagues, and protecting unprotected shepherdesses from bullying shepherds. These incidents were in his younger years but his willingness to help those less fortunate continues throughout his life as Moshe sits, in judgment of the people, from morning to night. The people will not only hear from him earth-shaking commands but will also turn to him with their individual problems: “When they have a problem they come to me” [Shemot 18:16]. It may well be that people with something bothering them, such as family or business problems, would also find a sympathetic ear from Moshe. This leader, who paid attention to small details, is later willing to sacrifice himself for the nation. When he hears, “And now, leave me be … and I will make you into a great nation” [Shemot 32:10], he immediately replies with, “And Moshe prayed.[32:11].. Please erase me from your book, which you wrote” [32:32]. Contrast this to Noach. When G-d told him that he would be saved, he did not ask for pity for the world, and it was destroyed (this comparison is made in the Zohar, in the Torah portion of Noach). How far is “And Moshe prayed” from “And Noach, man of the earth, defiled himself” [Bereishit 9:20], even though the two words are spelled the same way in Hebrew (“vayechal”and “vayachel”). A leader who has passed the small tests can be trusted to succeed with much more important events, and the Almighty therefore raises him to a position of authority.

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