Viewing the Future Through the Past

by Rabbi Nussbaum

June 12, 2020
Sivan 20, 5780
Candlelighting Time 8:11 PM

A crisis occurs in the nation. The people are demanding meat and the situation seems to have spiraled out of control. Moshe pleads with Hashem that he can’t contain the unrest that is taking place, a potentially explosive situation. Hashem commands him to assemble a group of seventy elders from the prominent members of the nation and they will assist him in this unusual predicament. Of course, this is the forerunner of the Sanhedrin, the national court that would render judgment on all variety of issues that would confront the people for many hundreds of years to come. But the lingering question is that although Moshe needed reinforcements to deal with the nation, however, what was the purpose of specifically organizing the Sanhedrin at this point in time?

Another interesting factor is Moshe’s seemingly ‘accusatory’ statement that how can it be possible to supply the entire nation with such a tremendous amount of food to satisfy their demands. Is it possible that Moshe truly doubted the power of Hashem to deliver the goods as needed? Furthermore, Rashi cites another source that Moshe was actually somewhat demeaning the people accusing them of demanding unnecessarily and therefore it would be virtually impossible to placate them since they only wanted to complain! Can we reconcile these apparently contradictory explanations of this unfortunate incident?

Additionally, two of the original members of the Sanhedrin who opted out were Eldad and Maidad. They were a notch above the rest of the Sanhedrin and prophesized about Moshe not leading the people into Israel and also about the futuristic war of Armageddon, Gog and Magog. What is the connection between that eventual apocalypse and the people’s demand for extra food?  

Hashem endowed the selected members of the Sanhedrin with prophetic capabilities. Was that required to solve the mutiny at hand? Also, their prophetic attribute was not really self-realized, but they were imbued with the prophetic energy that Moshe possessed which was conveyed to them as Rashi cites the analogy of other candles lit from one main candle. So, in any event, since their ‘borrowed’ prophecy was not self-attained, why was it vital? 

Perhaps we may suggest that the real point of contention between Moshe and the people was to assess the true level of the nation’s connection with Hashem. When one’s association with Hashem is geared in a more spiritual sense, then physical deficiencies are of less importance. As Rabbeinu Bachya writes, the upgrading of the soul is the erosion of the corporeal. And, of course, the opposite is true as well. Moshe correctly believed that his role as the leader of the generation was governed by the status of the nation. If they attained a level of noble prominence, then his rank would also be placed upon a pedestal of consequence commensurate with their standing. However, if they slipped, then Moshe also would not maintain his level of connection with Hashem. Hence, Moshe was not convinced that they merited such a miraculous abundance due to their lack of faith and trust in Hashem. Furthermore, if indeed they were lacking in their stature, then their demands were unjust and that would lead to other unreasonable petitions as well. This concerned Moshe and he voiced his apprehension to Hashem. 

He was advised to assemble the Sanhedrin. It is the duty and responsibility of the leaders of the generation to do their utmost to inspire and encourage the masses to upgrade their conduct and attitude to match their anticipated mode of behavior. The certitude of the heads of the people trickles down to the people and as they look to their leaders for guidance and view the assurance and certainty of their leaders, then they follow suit. Even the members of the Sanhedrin were inspired by the example set by Moshe and their confidence was bolstered by his. Eldad and Maidad viewed this tremendous display of Hashem’s guidance and aspired for that day when the elements of corruption and dishonesty will be eliminated from our midst.


Aron, the High Priest, lit the candelabra with the same passion and fervor the hundredth time like the first. He lived at such a level of perfection that he resembled an angelic type individual where his every motion was always at a supreme level of excellence.             S’FAS EMES