Completing Moses’ task

On the verse in this week’s parashah, “You have begun to show your servant…” the Zohar asks,

What beginning is the verse referring to? It is certainly referring to Moses as being the first to be whole and complete. Though Jacob too was whole to a certain extent, Moses was crowned by greater wholeness, with thousands and tens-of-thousands of Jews, with the Torah, with the Tabernacle, with the priests, the Levites, with twelve tribes, with their princes and with the seventy elders of the Sanhedrin. Moses was also of bodily wholeness; he stood with Aharon to his right and with Nachshon to his left. Thus, Moses is the beginning. Should you ask, who then will wholeness be perfected by? The perfection of wholeness will be with the Mashiach, for then the world will be whole, with a wholeness that has never been seen. At that time there will be wholeness above and below and all the worlds will join in one unity.

Three stages of completeness

By analyzing the Zohar here, we can identify three stages in the progression of wholeness: from Jacob through Moses to Mashiach. Jacob was perfect, but his perfection, described by the phrase, “Jacob’s beauty was similar to the beauty of Adam [who was created by God Himself],” was relatively unrealized potential. Although all Jacob’s sons were righteous, they composed only the fundamental core of the Jewish people, who had yet to be generated.

In contrast, Moses represents the realization of perfection. Not only is Moses perfect as an individual, but the Jewish people had also developed into a perfectly structured nation. This perfection of the Jewish people would have reached its culmination had Moses entered the land of Israel with them and the Temple that he would have built would have been indestructible. However, sinning under these circumstances would have placed the Jewish people’s physical existence in jeopardy. Instead of destroying the Temple’s wooden beams and stone pillars, God’s wrath would have focused on the people themselves, God forbid. Thus, the time was not yet ripe for the redemption to manifest in Moses’ generation; ultimate perfection will only be achieved in the third stage, the era of Mashiach.

Perfection after amputation

The difference between Moses’ era and the future era of Mashiach is that under Moses’ leadership the Jewish people had to undergo various “amputations”: worshippers of Ba’al Peor were annihilated by God; Korach and his congregation were swallowed up by the earth; the spies died in the wilderness and there were many more incidents that were dealt with harshly by God, in keeping with Moses’ pure soul who was intolerant of any diversion from God’s path.

This idea is expressed in the Zohar, which describes how Moses stands between Aharon on his right and Nachshon on his left. Aharon on his right relates to the loving embrace that he offers all Jews, whereas Nachshon, from the tribe of Judah, is ready to jump forward without taking any opposition into account. Nonetheless, he also does so lovingly by volunteering on behalf of his people, as his father’s name (עמינדב) suggests, but his love is cloaked in might.

Mashiach accepts all Jews

In contrast, under the leadership of Mashiach, even Jews who are farthest away from God’s service will be brought back into the fold by gathering them in and rediscovering the point in their hearts with which they still cling to God. These modern worshippers of Pe’or; the spies and the congregation of present-day Korach will all be a part of Mashiach’s redemption. As we see in this week’s haftarah of consolation, “Like a shepherd [who] tends his flock, with his arm he gathers lambs, and in his bosom he carries [them], the nursing ones he leads.”[1]

From Harav Ginsburgh’s class, 11th Av 5772



[1] Isaiah 40:11.

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