"The Righteous One Decrees and the
Holy One Enacts"
Kedushat Levi frequently invokes the
concept of “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gozer, ve-Tzaddik me-vatel,” “The Holy One,
Blessed is He, decrees, but the Righteous Person can nullify the decree.” He
does, however, limit the concept to cases where the decree involves
punishment; that is susceptible to being nullified by a Righteous Person.
When the decree involves blessing, that can never be nullified. That concept
came into play in particular regarding the activities of Bilaam in Parashat
Balak. When HaShem intends blessing for an individual or a nation, it can
never be nullified.
Here we may see the flip side of that rule; that is, when a Righteous Person
decrees, even on the side of punishment, and even when as circumstances turn
out, the “Tzaddik” would surely retract the decree, HaShem enacts it to some
extent. On example is when Yaakov said to Lavan (Bereshit 31:32) that anyone
who had Lavan’s idols in their possession, would not live. It turned out
that Rachel had taken them, and she did, in fact, die in childbirth on the
way to Beit Lechem (Bereshit 35:19). It also turned out that the placement
of her tomb at that place was strategic for the People of Israel. For as
they walked on that road on the way to Exile, she pleaded with HaShem to
have mercy upon them, and the result was that Yirmiyahu prophesied (Yirmiyahu
31:17), “...and the Children will return to their Land.”
At the beginning of this week's Parshah, Moshe pleads with G-d for the right
to enter Eretz Yisrael and uses the unusual word, "Vaetchanan," loosely
translated as "I pleaded," a word which appears only rarely elsewhere in the
Tanach. The word appears to be derived from, or related to the word "chen,"
meaning grace or favor. Moshe is basing his plea on the fact that he has
found favor in the eyes of G-d, as the Torah tells us, "For you have found 'chen'
in My eyes and I have made My Name known to you." (Shemot 33:17) There may
be in the use of this word also an echo of a time when Moshe abused his
relationship of "chen," and wishes here to make amends.
Moshe also refers here to the "Mighty Hand" of G-d, the power of which has
begun to be revealed to him, the most recent evidence being the miraculous
defeat of Sichon and Og. Since their lands were to be given to the Jewish
People, Moshe sees an opening for the possible revocation of the decree
against his entering the Holy Land. He begs HaShem to use that awesome power
to be "maavir al midotav," to act "out of Character," so to speak, and
rescind His decree. There seems to be in this also a hint that Moshe once
doubted the power of the "Yad Hashem," and is here engaged in an act of "Teshuvah,"
or Repentance, for his past breach of faith.
When and where did such things occur? Perhaps we can see the abuse of "chen"
in the events which took place at Kivrot HaTaavah, recorded in Parshat
Behaalotecha, when the Jewish People were complaining about the absence of
meat in their diet. Moshe "Rabbeinu," our great Teacher, who had spent forty
days and forty nights with G-d on Mt. Sinai doing nothing but study the
Torah, is extremely frustrated. Seemingly, he is no longer interested in the
job of leading the Jewish People, if all they are interested in are food and
drink, and are not so much interested in spirituality as in the satisfaction
of their materialistic needs.
And here Moshe makes a fateful error. He complains to G-d with these words,
"Ve'im cacha at ose li, horgeni na harog," "And if You continue to do this
to me, then kill me, I beg of you," "im matzati chen be'einecha," "if I have
found favor in Your Eyes." Moshe is here asking to be killed (!) by G-d, if,
as if he doesn't know, he has found favor in His Eyes.
Moshe attempts to undo here the negative force of that request by alluding,
when he pleads "E'bra na," "Let me pass over, I beg of you!" to another time
when he pleaded for Hashem's mercy using the term "na," when he prayed
successfully for the life and health of his sister, Miriam, whom Hashem had
punished with "Tzaraat," "Kel, na; Refa na lah," "L-rd, I beg of You; heal
her, I beg of You!" And another time, when Hashem wanted to do away with the
Jewish People, and create a new and holier people from Moshe, his response
had been, "V'ata im tisa chatatam; v'im aiyin, mechani na mi'sifrecha asher
katavta," "And now, if You will forgive them, fine and dandy, but if not,
erase me, I beg of You, from the Book which You have written."
At Mei Merivah, the issue of "Yad Hashem" also came up, when Moshe seemingly
questioned, unbelievably, considering what he had seen of Hashem's infinite
might, but perhaps out of the same mental and spiritual exhaustion mentioned
above, the logistical possibility of providing meat in the desert for a
nation of 600,000 men! To which G-d responded sharply, "HaYad Hashem Tiktzar?"
"Is the Hand of G-d too weak to accomplish that task?"
When Moshe asked to be killed, might not this be another instance of "Tzaddik
gozer, V'HaKadosh Baruch Hu Mekayem," "The Righteous One decrees, and the
Holy One, Blessed be He, carries out his decree?"
The rationale for this principle in a case such as this is that the Tzaddik
knows himself very well, both his strengths and his weaknesses. Moshe may
have realized subconsciously that his unique mission was to uplift his
People, indeed the entire world, to higher spiritual levels, and he had
succeeded in that mission to a degree far greater than he realized, but when
it would come to the grinding, mundane, day-in-and-day-out trials and
tribulations of dividing and settling the Land of Israel, perhaps he was not
the best man for the job.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel