Friday, March 09, 2007

destructive anger

Parshat Ki Tisa

The question was posed: Why did Moshe need to go up to the top of Har Sinai the second time for another full 40 days? He had just been there the first time when he learned the whole Torah, reached the spiritual highs and whatever else he accomplished up there. So when he had to go the second time why did it need to be for 40 days? It could have just been a day or two to get the new set of tablets. What was he doing there for 40 days the second time?

Neil from Modern Uberdox quotes the Sfas Emes to answer this question. The Sfas Emes explains a phenomenal answer. Briefly, he says that after the first time, Israel did a horrible sin and had gone through stages of repentance. The Torah of a baal teshuva is no tthe same as that of even a tzaddik. It is much greater. After having experienced all that happened, the first set he had already studied was no longer relevant to Bnei Yisrael. Ergo, Moshe had to go up a second time to study it all over again with a fresh approach.

I would like to suggest another answer. After Moshe came down the first time, he saw what the people had done. The passuk says he got angry and threw down and broke the tablets. We know and the mussar seforim tell us that anger is really the worst of all the bad charachter traits. Often it is based on haughtiness, though I would be hard pressed to say that about Moshe who the Torah testifies about as having been the most humble person ever.

Even if anger is not based on haughtiness, even if anger is justified, as it may have been in this case, anger is still destructive. I would like to suggest that because Moshe got angry, he "ruined" the effects of his having spent 40 days on Har Sinai learning the Torah. because of his anger, even though it was justified, he had to spend more time re-learning the Torah and refining his charachter.


Neil Harris said...

Kas is terrible. After reading your d'var Torah I remembered learning that Kas makes you forget the Torah that you've learned, which be another reason for Moshe to go up for another 40 days. Thanks.

BTW-My humble understanding of that Sfas Emes is that Moshe simply had to learn a new style of chinuch. BT or FFB...the goal of chinuch is the same!

Rafi G said...

I understood the sfas emes you quoted the same way. My thought on kaas (anger) is a different take on the idea...

Neil Harris said...

I happen to like the kas angle.

Anonymous said...

I liked what you said that the Torah of a Bal T'Shuva is greater than that of Tzaddik. That would explain why Moishe Rabennu went up for 80 days, instead of just 40 days, as he did the first time.

Y'Yaser Koach!

Rafi G said...

he went up for 80 days the second time?

a_man said...

Not so simple, I think.... The term the Torah uses is "ויחר-אף משה". It doesn't use the term "ויכעס משה". As a matter of fact Charon Af is also associated with G-D in other places.

Here's a slightly different approach:
Moshe goes up to Mt. Sinai and receives the Torah. The Torah is intended for Tzadikim as that was the level of all the Jews coming out of Egypt.

(They arrived at that level after 49 days of working on their midot [chesed she-be'chesed, tifert she-be'od, netzach she be'yesod, etc... etc...])

Nonetheless the Golden Egel episode takes place and the Jews fall from their madrega. They immediately do a complete and perfect tshuva. Moshe goes up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah again, but this time the torah is intended for ba'ali tshuva.

I think the Torah for tzadikim is much simpler than the Torah for B.T. For a tzadik has no yetzer-harah to battle with, since he has already defeated it and carved it out (as David Hamelech says "Libi Chalal Bekirbi.") Perhaps the tzadik only needs the Written Torah?!?! The second time Moshe goes up and receives the Torah as intended for B.T. he receives the Oral Torah along with it, for a B.T. still has a yetzer and he/she needs an extra measure of help to do battle with it -- that extra measure manifests as the Oral Torah and the masoret we have nowadays.

Rafi G said...

that is an interesting approach and is similar to what the sfas emes said, as Neil quoted him

a_man said...

True, the dichotomy is certainly similar and shame on ME for not fully internalizing (read: appreciating) Neil's posting before posting myself.

Having said that, there's one difference here: whereas Neil undestands Sfas Emes as a "B.T." vs "F.F.B." difference (and I haven't looked at this Sfas Emes myself to understand it for myself -- so I'll trust Neil on this), I was thinking more along the "Primordial B.T." (to coin a term) vs "Tzadik" difference, instead,

I'd say that nowadays we're all considered to be in the category of "Primordial" B.T. even the F.F.Bs (!) (except a select few who can be described as true tzadikim gmurim.)

So if continue this line of thought, nowadays the second tablets apply to us more than the first ones, regardless of whether we're B.T.s or F.F.Bs, simply because we all fall into the category of "Primordial" ba'alei tshuva.

Having said all of the above, I'd like to clarify my thoughts and somewhat rephrase what I said before about Kas vs Charon Af. (Is it okay to rant a bit?!?!)

Here's goes:
Please don't jump the gun sticking the label of "Kas" on Moshe Rabeinu. As we know that anyone who exhibits kas is likened to having performed idol whoship, heaven forbid!

Leavdil elef alfei avdalot, we're dealing here with Moshe Rabeinu.

I can't even write these two extreme opposites in a single sentence or write them on the same line... ;-)