|The Profundities of Torah-Beshalach-The Best Choice|
|Written by HaRav Yochanan Zweig|
“Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him…” (13:19) The Talmud relates that while Bnei Yisroel were preoccupied with obtaining the wealth of the Mitzrim, Moshe was ensuring that the remains of Yosef and his brothers be transported to Eretz Yisroel for burial, thereby fulfilling the oath that Yosef had adjured Bnei Yisroel.1 The Midrash continues that Hashem proclaimed “Chacham levav yikach mitzvos” - “The wise hearted take (for themselves) the mitzvos”.2,3 The implication of the Talmud is that Moshe concerned himself with the performance of mitzvos whereas the rest of Bnei Yisroel were out satisfying their greed.
In last week’s parsha Hashem pleaded with Moshe to urge Bnei Yisroel to take the valuables of the Egyptians prior to departing Mitzrayim so that our Patriarch Avraham would not complain concerning the treatment of his nation.4 Bnei Yisroel were “borrowing” the Egyptians’ valuables to fulfill the commandment of Hashem. Why does the Talmud not view their actions as the performance of a mitzva? Why is Moshe described as “chacham” - “wise” for performing a mitzva and not “tzadik” - “righteous”?
The difference between the mitzva performed by Bnei Yisroel and the one performed by Moshe Rabbeinu is that Moshe was concerned with the performance of a communal responsibility, whereas the rest of the nation engaged in the performance of individual responsibilities. Great objectivity is required in order for a person to choose to perform a mitzva which does not directly benefit him individually, over a mitzva which does. The chacham is defined as one who learns from every man for he has the objectivity to put aside his own perspective and predisposition for those of others.5 Therefore Moshe is described as “chacham” for his behavior.
Throughout our lives we are faced with choices that pit the benefit of others against those of our own. Both options may even qualify as mitzvos, making the choice more difficult. It is easy to rationalize our actions as appropriate if they qualify as mitzvos. However, the right choice must be concluded objectively, and not based upon our own personal agendas.
1.Sotah 9b 2.Shemos Rabbah 20:19 3.Mishlei 10 4.10:2, Berachos 9b 5.Pirkei Avos
Question of the Week
When emerging from the Red Sea, Bnei Yisroel proclaimed “zeh Keli ve’anveyhu” - “this is my G-d and I will glorify Him”. The Talmud teaches that we accepted upon ourselves to beautify the mitzvos. Why at the defining moment of our relationship with Hashem did we obligate ourselves with the performance of something which appears to be peripheral to the precepts themselves?