Parashat Mishpatim – R' Asher Smith
"And Moshe came within the cloud, and he went up to the mountain, and Moshe was on the mountain forty days and forty nights." (Shmot 24:18)
"וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה בְּתוֹךְ הֶעָנָן וַיַּעַל אֶל הָהָר וַיְהִי מֹשֶׁה בָּהָר אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה."To paraphrase the above, Moshe received, "digested" and studied the Torah from Hashem for forty days and forty nights, on the top of Har Sinai, in a cloud.
A few questions jump out.
- What's the deal with 40? Why not 39, or 45, why did this Chavruta with Hashem take exactly 40 days? And why did Moshe need so much time in order to process and study the Torah, it's not as if the Torah is a packaged and labeled product which requires a 40 day period of training, and after that, you're done, you get Smicha. It's infinite! Takes our whole life to start to even slightly understand what's goin' on, so what is Moshe exactly accomplishing in these 40 days and nights, and not a day more or a night less?
- Why does the Torah emphasize forty days AND forty nights?
- What's the deal with the cloud?
We can use the golden rule, that whenever a concept, a passuk, or a statement, appear which are not so clear, it's always a smart move to try and find if and where and in what context, did that exact term come up for the first time in the Torah, which will then often shed light on the difficulty at hand. (Try it, it works).
So we don't have to be the Gaon of Vilna to know that the first time, this exact phrase of "forty days and forty nights" comes up is in describing how long it rained in the beginning of the Mabul-the flood. "וַיְהִי הַגֶּשֶׁם עַל הָאָרֶץ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לָיְלָה"
"And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights" (Bereishit 7:12).
All we have to do is to cut and paste this description, with its "hyperlinks," to our passuk, of Moshe receiving and studying the Torah.
The world was destroyed as Hashem wanted, and the way in which his will played out, was through water, with an emphasis on rain water, (as well as deep spring water etc…).
Bottom line, the rain whose sole purpose was and is to bring life in to the world, H2O for the earth, animals, and people, was now being used for the exact opposite purpose, as a bearer of destruction and death. True, this was Hashem's plan and will, yet nonetheless the rains had to do a very "dirty" and cruel job. Now where do the rains come and fall from? The clouds. Meaning that, the physical origin of the destruction of the earth at the time, were the clouds.
So here comes Moshe, who we already know is a super sensitive guy, compassionate and caring about his fellow Jews (saving the beaten Jew in Egypt), mankind (saving Yitro's daughters at well), animals (saving runaway lamb in desert), and the inanimate (not wanting to hit the Nile or the sand which "assisted" him), goes and takes this care, concern, and sense of responsibility for all of creation, to a whole new, and incredible level.
Moshe in his concern for all of creation takes time to heal and clean up the "blemished" clouds.
You know the feeling, when you really want to take a shower, like right after you get off a long flight, and you still have to wait a few good hours till you get your luggage, catch your ride, and get home for the shower? Every single second feels like eternity.
Now that's nothing, nothing, compared to how long these clouds have been waiting for to "take a shower" and be cleaned off all the death and pain they brought the world…
Comes Moshe Rabbeinu, and delves in to the Torah, starts "pounding" Torah into the clouds, the "Torat Chayim-living Torah," and for 40 days and 40 nights gives the clouds back their life, restores them back to their former and proper health. A Torah day for a flood day, and a Torah night for a flood night, forty days and forty nights…
A complete and soothing Refua Shleima…
He aint called "איש האלוקים-the man of G-D" (Dvarim 33:1), for nothing…
This message is so so important, especially in this Parasha which deals so much with the laws of people, that at the end of the Parasha, one might be so caught up in caring and worrying about the little (and extremely important) details of how to treat another human being, a slave, a thief, the poor, witches, etc… that they'll totally forget about the rest of the world.
Comes Moshe at the very last passuk, mamesh the last verse in the Parasha, and tell us "Whoa! Slow down! Knowing how much to pay your friend if your ox gored him is very essential, but don't forget for one second the rest of creation… don't ever forget."
How many lifetimes would it take for us to reach such a level of sensitivity and concern for not only the physical wellbeing of all of the world around us, but also of its spiritual welfare???
At least we now have what to aim for, 'cause if we don't know where we're goin', there's no chance we're ever gonna get there…
I bless us all to make it at least part of the way, and to give each other a hand.
It's a long, and not so simple journey…