Parshas Ki Sisa: The Radiance of Humility in Torah

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Ki Sisa, after the disastrous sin of the golden calf, our ever dedicated leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, davens on behalf of the nation for Divine Mercy and Forgiveness.  He then once again ascends the mountain of Sinai to receive a second set of luchos ha’ay’dus (Tablets of Testimony) inscribed with the Aseres Ha’Dibros

At the very end of the parsha, we are told: וַיְהִי, בְּרֶדֶת מֹשֶׁה מֵהַר סִינַי, וּשְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה, בְּרִדְתּוֹ מִן-הָהָר; וּמֹשֶׁה לֹא-יָדַע, כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו–בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּוֹ – And it was when Moshe descended from Mt. Sinai, and the two luchos of Testimony were in Moshe’s hand as he descended from the mountain, and Moshe did not know the skin of his face had become radiant when He had spoken to him (Shemos 34:29).

From where was his face radiant?  The Sages teach that when Moshe wrote the Torah while on Mt. Sinai, a bit of ink remained on the quill and he passed it over his head, and it was from this ink that Moshe’s rays of splendor were formed. 

The Ohr Ha’Chaim Ha’Kadosh (Shemos 34:29-30) explains this Medrash as follows: Of all the middos (character traits that man possesses) anivus, humility, is ranked above all other traits.  As the verse states: ‘עֵקֶב עֲנָוָה, יִרְאַת ה – The ‘heel’ of humility is fear of Hashem (Mishlei 22:4). 

Now we know that the Torah testifies that Moshe was the most humble man to ever live: וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה, עָנָו מְאֹד–מִכֹּל, הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה – And the man Moshe was the most humble from all men, upon the face of the earth (Bamidbar 12:3).  And when Hashem told Moshe to write these words [it surely was very difficult, so to speak, for Moshe to do so!].  So, out of his great humility, he wrote the word עָנָו missing a yud.  [He wrote עָנָו instead of עָנָיו.  Keviyachol, he left the yud of Hashem out of this verse that speaks of his exemplary character and persona.] 

And as a reward for this humility, he merited that this “extra ink” of the yud [of the yud of Shem ha’Shem!] that he left out granted him the rays of light from his face. 

We can deduce from here that to the one that tries to remove honor from himself, Hashem ensures that honor will find him.  In Moshe’s humility, he made himself lower; and from this humility, Hashem raised him to the highest heights, as evidenced by the beams of light of Torah emanating from his face. 

At the Pioneer Hotel each summer, a shiur was delivered between mincha and maariv.  One evening, when R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l was a guest there, a learned businessman was asked to deliver the shiur.  As he walked up to the podium to speak, R’ Moshe – the gadol ha’Torah – was the only one in the room who rose to his feet to honor the man who would be teaching them Torah.

From anivus in avodas Hashem, from minimizing ourselves vis-a-vis G-d and fellow man, comes tremendous honor to the one who flees from honor.

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l further explains the light beaming from Moshe’s face as follows: “As much as a gadol ba’Torah writes and presents his ideas publicly, most of his Torah remains unspoken: he is unable to pass all that he knows on to others… The Torah that Moshe was unable to pass on to others, the greatness that remained with him, is what gave Moshe’s face its radiance.  The halacha states that every letter in a Torah scroll must be completely surrounded by blank parchment, to symbolize that as much as is written in the scroll, there is far more Torah that is not given to writing.”

It was the depth, breadth, beauty, and secrets of Torah that Moshe could not pass on to the nation, that caused his face to radiate light from his inner essence, from the greatness of Torah within. 

When R’ Berel Wein first moved to Monsey, he davened at the Shul of R’ Moshe Feinstein’s son-in-law, R’ Moshe David Tendler.  One evening, R’ Tendler was out of town, and R’ Moshe was present.  In R’ Wein’s words:

There were about twelve people there.  Most of them came in off the street to say Kaddish.  Between mincha and maariv there was a short break and R’ Moshe would not allow it to be frittered away.  So he took a Chumash from a shelf and began teaching from it to the small crowd.  He read each verse and then translated it into Yiddish with such a simple quality.  He didn’t say any deep Torah thoughts, no deep analyses from the commentators; just the plain words.  ‘Vayomer – un er hot gezokt (and he said)’.  But he spoke in such a way that he wasn’t talking down to anyone.  Great people have that ability to talk to everyone: children, teenagers, adults.”

וּמֹשֶׁה לֹא-יָדַע, כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו–בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּוֹ

May we be worthy to appreciate the intense and holy light of Torah and allow it to permeate our being and essence, as we mold and carve ourselvesפְּסָל-לְךָ שְׁנֵי-לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים, Carve for yourself two stone Tablets like the first ones (Shemos 34:1) – into ovdei Hashem (servants of G-d), learning from our leaders and gedolim ba’Torah, who teach us the way.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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