Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha

B’haalot’cha

June 11, 2011/9 Sivan 5771
Numbers 11:24-30
Modern Author: Shalom AuslanderProphet’s Dlemma

KOSHI: WHAT does Moses response: “Would that all the Lord’s people were Prophets” mean for Israel?

V.25          Then the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him; He drew upon the spirit that was on him and put it on the 70 elders.  And when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied but did not continue.

MILGROM “Vayit’nab’u—they spoke in ecstasy” The function of their ecstasy is not to render them prophets—their ecstatic state is never again repeated—but to provide divine validation of their selection as leaders.

RASHI… They did not prophesy except on that day alone—so it is explained in SIFRA.  Yet ONKELOS translates it: “and did not cease,” which means that prophecy never ceased from them.    

HERTZ “They prophesied”  A feeling of spiritual ecstasy and exultation possessed them, causing them to break out in praises of God, declaring His will and His goodness.  By prophesy is here meant not the prediction f the future, but the power of instructing and admonishing the people with an authority that was recognized as having its source in God.

RAMBAM…To some it is given to behold the lightning flashes in rapid succession.  They seem to be in perpetual light; their night as clear as day.  This was the degree of prophetic illumination obtained by Moses, the greatest of all Prophets.  Others perceive the prophetic flash at long intervals; this is the degree of most of the Prophets.  By still others a flash of lightning is only perceived once during the whole night.  This is the case of those whom we are told, “they prophesied, but did so no more.”

V.28-29    And Joshua, son of Nun…spoke up and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!”  But Moses said to him: “Are you wrought up on my account?  Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His spirit upon them!”

RASHI “Put an end to them…” That is, put upon them the needs of this community and they’ll be obliterated by themselves…Alternatively, the word “k’la-eym” means “put them in prison.”  Joshua wanted them punished because they were prophesying that Moses would die, and Joshua would lead the people into the Land.

MASKIL L’DAVID…Although the fact that Moses would not lead the people was revealed to Eldad and Meidad in prophetic visions, they had not been commanded to publicize this information.  Had they been commanded, they would have had no alternative but to speak out.  But because they spoke on their own, their proclamation was tantamount to treason.

HERTZ… This one response proves the incomparable greatness of Moses’ character.  He loves his people more than himself…Far from being displeased with Eldad and Meidad, he yearned for all Israel, elders or not, without the camp or within, to receive the Divine Spirit.

PLAUT…We do not know why Eldad and Meidad separated themselves, but evidently Moses’ chief aide, Joshua, considered them a source of dangerous competition to his master.  Significantly Moses took the opposite view and welcomed their novel status…For Moses is secure in his own relationship with God and convinced that only as more and more people experience the blessing of the Divine Presence can the dream of a holy people be realized.

ALTER… Moses, just having surrendered a portion of the spirit invested in him to the 70 elders, now hyperbolically expresses the sense that holding on to a monopoly of power is not at all what impels him as a leader.  Although he knows there is scarcely any prospect that the entire people will become prophets, he nevertheless points to an ideal of what we might call radical spiritual egalitarianism.  Access to the realm of the Spirit is granted by God alone—in principal—to anyone God chooses.

HESCHEL… The ecstatic is moved by a will to experience ecstasies…The prophet, on the other hand, is not moved by a will to experience prophecy,  What he achieves comes against his will.  He does not pant for illumination.  He does not call for it; he is called upon.  God comes upon the prophet before the prophet seeks the coming of God…Ecstasy is motivated by man’s concern for God…Prophecy is motivated by God’s concern for man, by God’s will that the prophet illumine his people.

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