The Honor System

Sivan 18, 5782
June 17, 2022
Candlelighting Time 8:12 PM

            As Maimonides states, Moshe was the greatest prophet of all time. He was prepared at any moment to receive a prophetic ‘transmission’ from Hashem. He no longer dwelled with his wife in order to elevate himself above the normalcy of a husband-wife relationship to transcend the physicality of this world. His sister Miriam spoke to Aron and told Moshe directly that based upon their perception, his conduct was excessive and therefore he should not continue in this manner. As the Torah tells us, Moshe was an extremely humble man and therefore he did not respond to their criticism. However, “Hashem heard” and not only reprimanded Miriam for her censure, but additionally she was punished with the spiritual disease of leprosy reserved for those who speak ill of others. Since Moshe did not display any indignation for their disapproval of his conduct, why was Miriam indeed punished so severely?

            Sforno cites the Talmudic dictum that Hashem defends the honor of Torah scholars. Therefore, although Moshe did not deflect the critique lodged against him, Hashem did and in an extraordinarily strong fashion. We need to add that the Chofetz Chaim in explaining this incident cites from the Sages that Miriam’s intent was not to actually criticize her beloved brother, rather she assumed that he was somewhat overzealous in his approach to life as a prophet and she was suggesting he reassess his position. Nonetheless, there was an affront to his honor and as a result there was a consequence.

            Ramchal in his seminal sefer Derech Eitz Chaim discusses the essence of Torah. He compares it to an ember that is not yet ablaze. When we fan that cinder, then the fire in its full glory shoots out and is aflame. And when that fiery glare radiates from the hot coal, it emits colors from across the spectrum. So too, Torah when we exert ourselves and apply our energy, the flames of Torah radiate forth and illuminate our souls with its brilliance and illumination.

            The great Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Aron Kotler, explains this passage of the Ramchal with tremendous clarity and inspiration. Torah is not just knowledge comparable to any science or discipline. Rather, it is the emanation of Hashem Himself that exists in its own dimension. Our Sages teach us that Torah preceded the creation of the world, and, in fact, it was the ‘guidebook’ which Hashem ‘utilized’ to construct the world as we know it. Indeed, the realm of Torah supersedes the very physicality of the world and is truly only a spiritual entity that not only rivals the heights of spirituality of our universe but actually exceeds and surpasses its sublimity in an exalted and lofty distinction that truly transcends our abstract capabilities.

            This was the sphere of existence that defines the stature of Moshe. His connection to Hashem and the Torah was on such an esoteric level that even Miriam and Aron who were also prophets did not fully grasp his eminence and intensity of spirituality. Their criticism, although stated with love and concern, was ill-placed and therefore the honor of Torah necessitated a response. It is our responsibility to perceive to the best of our ability those dignified summits and regard the Torah and those who immerse themselves in its infinitely multifaceted words of prudence with unparalleled reverence and gravity.       


Aron performed the mitzvah of kindling the Menorah every time as though it was the first time. His devotion to serve Hashem was of such enthusiasm that he maintained his focus without vacillating.