Posts Tagged: Rav Shimon Schwab


[based on Rav Shimon Schwab’s sefer, Ma’ayan Beis Ha’Shoeva]

In Shmos 11:8 Moshe tells Paraoh what will happen during the final plague of Makat Bechorot. After Moshe finishes, the Torah tells us that he left Paraoh with great anger:
וְיָרְדוּ כָל-עֲבָדֶיךָ אֵלֶּה אֵלַי וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לִי לֵאמֹר צֵא אַתָּה וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר בְּרַגְלֶיךָ וְאַחֲרֵי-כֵן אֵצֵא; וַיֵּצֵא מֵעִם פַּרְעֹה בָּחֳרִי אָף

Rashi elucidates that Moshe was angry because of what Paraoh had said in the previous chapter (10:29), when Paraoh told Moshe never to see him again.

Rav Schwab zt”l asks, how it could be that Moshe, the most humble man to ever live would be upset by these words of Paraoh? Furthermore, Moshe agrees that he will never see Paraoh again, and Rashi says in the next passuk (10:30) that Paraoh was correct! So why did Moshe get so angry? What was the purpose – why here, why now?

Rav Schwab explains that Moshe wasn’t getting angry because of something Paraoh did to Moshewhen Rashi says that the anger was because of Paraoh telling Moshe to never see him again, Rashi is saying that those words were an indication of something else (to be explained below)…

Moshe stormed out of Paraoh’s palace angered by one thingParaoh’s utter and public disrespect of Hashem. Unquestionably, Moshe must have been frustrated from the first moment Paraoh refused to acknowledge the overt existence of Hashem. But Moshe had a mission; Moshe had a certain shlichus from Hashem from which he never veered. Specifically, in Va’era6:13, Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon to command Paraoh to let Bnei Yisrael leave Egypt:

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וַיְצַוֵּם אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֶל פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרָיִם לְהוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
Rashi quoting Medrash Tanchuma, on the words “Paraoh melech Mitzrayim,” says that Moshe and Aharon were instructed to give kavod/respect to Paraoh. Therefore, Moshe was bound by Hashem’s word to keep his anger to himself during his mission of interacting with Paraoh. Until the moment that Moshe knew he would never again see Paraoh’s face, Moshe treated him like a king, despite watching Paraoh disrespect The King of Kings, over and over again. However, once Paraoh told Moshe he would never see him again, and Moshe knew Paraoh was correct, Moshe realized that his shlichus was over. He was no longer required to give Paraoh respect, because he had completed the mission Hashem gave him. At that point, Moshe shows Paraoh how angry he was at the constant chilul Hashem perpetrated by Paraoh. Paraoh’s words were an indication to Moshe that his mission was complete, and now Moshe could display his anger out of kavod to Hashem and for the purposes of protecting Hashem’s great Name.
We see that there is a time and a place for different emotions and actions. Hashem needed Moshe and Aharon to give respect to this king for a period of time; they had to give Paraoh a chance to recognize Hashem and they couldn’t let their emotions get the better of them. When the time came, however, to display some zealotry, Moshe showed how infuriated he was to watch Paraoh desecrate Hashem’s Name.
Additionally, we see the importance of remaining true to the mission you were appointed to accomplish, and avoiding allowing ego to cloud that mission. Furthermore, I think there is additional proof for Rav Schwab’s idea about the thoroughness of Moshe’s shlichus, found in another Rashi in Va’era (6:27):
הֵם הַמְדַבְּרִים אֶל פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם לְהוֹצִיא אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִמִּצְרָיִם הוּא מֹשֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן
On the last part of the passuk, Rashi implicitly wonders why we need to hear again that the passuk is talking about Moshe and Aharon – who else would it be talking about? Rashi explains, that Moshe and Aharon were the same people – complete in their shlichus and in their tzidkus – from beginning to end. To quote Rashi:
הוא משה ואהרן: הם בשליחותם ובצדקתם מתחלה ועד סוף
As noted, Moshe and Aharon never waivered from the first time they approached Paraoh until the last time they saw his face before Makat Bechorot. They are the model for leaders, stripped of all ego, and followers of Hashem’s word to the fullest extent possible.


[Based in part on Imrei Baruch: Breishis, maimar gimmel]

Rav Baruch Simon writes about 2 ways to interpret a seemingly odd pasuk in B’reishis 1:26
ויאמר א-לה-ים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כדמותנו
The Torah uses the plural form of na’aseh, when it would seem more appropriate to use the singular – e’eseh – since it was only Hashem creating Adam Harishon and no one else. Why the plural form?

1. Rashi of course notices this and gives the explanation that because man was created in the image of Hashem, and the angels would therefore be jealous of man, Hashem consulted with the angels to teach the trait of derech eretz and humility, to make the angels feel part of the process. The most Supreme, All-knowing Being consulted with His “court”, as Rashi puts it, to teach us that a more elevated person can still learn from his subordinate.

The lesson would seem to be that one shouldn’t be such a ba’al gaivah and think that he/she has nothing to learn from someone perceived to be less intelligent or less distinguished. Rashi goes on to say that the plural phrasing Hashem chose, left the door open for heretics to jump in and say that Hashem was not the singular force behind creation and unparalleled master of the world. Nevertheless, it was more important to teach us this midah of derech eretz and anivus. The Beis Halevi says that we see from here that it’s better to have good midot than have completely accurate options of what was said. You sacrifice the possibility of being misunderstood by a few critics, to be able to teach an exemplary midah to the masses.

2. The Yismach Moshe (R’ Moshe Teitlebaum zt”l) has a different understanding of the plural form of na’aseh, and explains the verb not just as a past “idea” Hashem shared with us and then carried out, but a continuing directive, that we humans are Hashem’s partner, k’viyachol, in the creation of what Man ought to be. Hashem created everything that comprises a human being, from biochemical inner workings to mental capacity to the spiritual neshama. However, we were each given bechira chofsheet and must USE all that Hashem created and gave to us. If we don’t, then we’re merely silos of unrealized potential. Every day we wake up and come closer to fulfilling our tafkid and realizing our potential, we are participating in creation and Hashem’s intention for “נעשה”

Hashem gave us the keys, and we must maximize our strengths to participate in נעשה אדם i.e “be a man” and make something of ourselves, together with siyata dishmaya.

As an extension of this second explanation, many meforshim note that after the creation of all the species on the 5th day, the Torah writes “And Hashem saw that it was good” – “Ki tov”.

However, when Hashem creates Man on the 6th day, we do not find this expression. There is noki tov by the creation of Adam.The lowly insect gets a ‘ki tov’; the snakes, the birds, the elephants get a ‘ki tov’, yet Man himself, formed in G-d’s Own Image (1:26), at the top of the totem pole, does not merit a ‘ki tov’ ?!?

Rav Yosef Albo explains that when an insect or a tree is created, it is possible to say ‘It is good’. Concerning every creation in the world it is possible to say ‘It is good’ because when an animal is created it has basically reached perfection. We don’t expect much more more from that animal.

Everything is ‘Good’ as created, except for Man. Regarding Man, it is not sufficient that he was created – that is just the very beginning. He is far from perfect; more is expected of Man, as he grows and reaches his potential. We cannot say ki tov yet.

The Gemara in Berachos 17a says that when the Tannaim used to depart from each other, they gave themselves a blessing: “You should see your world in your lifetime” (Olamecha tireh b’chayecha). Rabbi Frand shared an explanation he heard from Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l. He said the word ‘Olamecha’ (“your world”) comes from the root he’elem = that which is hidden; that which has not yet reached its potential.

The blessing of “Olamecha tireh b’chayecha” was that they should be able to see their own potential in their lifetime. The blessing was, that with Hashem’s partnering assistance of na’aseh, let us be able to say about you, ki tov — to see in our friends the unique potential that we each posses.


[based on Rav Shimon Schwab ztl, and a dvar written by Rabbi Moshe Taub]

Rav Schwab ztl, in Ma’ayan Beis Hashoeva, based on an idea of Rav Yisrael Salanter ztl, has a fascinating insight into the psychology of Korach.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin tells us that Korach actually started out as a very righteous man; during Cheit Ha’eigel, when Moshe said “Mi LaHashem Eilai”, Korach followed him. What then, made Korach falter to such a tragic degree?

Furthermore, there exists a textual question about the timing of Korach’s complaint – if the section about Korach’s rebellion appears in its correct chronological order (as the Ramban maintains), why did it take so long for Korach to protest? Shouldn’t he have expressed is discontent with Moshe at the appointment of the princes in the opening of Bamidbar or when Aaron was first chosen as the Kohen Gadol?

In seeking to answer these questions, Rav Schwab turns to Gemara Sukkah 52a. There, the Gemara teaches that in the era of Mashiach, Hashem will slaughter the Yetzer Hara. Before doing so, inhabitants of the world will have the opportunity, for the first time, to actually see with their eyes this force with which they have tangled throughout their lives. The righteous will see a force of such might and size that they will proclaim “who can climb such a mountain!” The wicked, by contrast, will see the Yetzer Hara as something as small as a single hair.
This seems like the exact opposite of what we would have expected…The righteous, who have managed to overcome their evil inclination should be the ones to see the Yetzer Hara as a defeated entity, or a single hair. The wicked, who could not muster the strength (or interest) to defeat this foe, should be the ones to proclaim what a huge “mountain” they could not summit!

He explains that most people who fail in their existential religious struggles do not set out to be wicked; rather they strive to ignore the evil that exists. Additionally, the Yetzer Hara is focused on the external character of such a person, intent on getting the wicked individual to perform improper actions. The desire is put in front of the person, and he/she falls into the trap with very little thought involved. In the event they realize it was wrong, then there may be some remorse, but another improper action is sure to spring up again, because this person lacks the interest/strength to oppose it. This evil, having never been contended with is seen by them as trivial; like the addict who has yet to even try to quit, who confidently proclaims their ability to stop when they so desire. It is thus understandable why the Yetzer Hara appears small and insignificant in their eyes. If you never march onto the battlefield, then you have no knowledge of the identity and no concept of the strength of your enemy; you simply sit back, and it conquers you.

On the other hand, the righteous contend with their vices and desires, acknowledging how strong they can be and fighting them nevertheless. By a righteous person, instead of targeting mere actions, the Yetzer Hara tries to dig at his/her core. It tries to sully and erode the essence of a person motivations behind his/her actions. The righteous person is behaving properly, but the Yetzer Hara tries to poison those intentions. For example, a person might be learning lots of torah or giving massive amounts of charity, but perhaps he is doing so only to garner kavod from his peers, instead of performance l’sheim shamayim. People who contend with such a force – a force so strong that it can even infiltrate righteous deeds – see the Yetzer Hara as large and looming. 

In the time of Mashiach, each person will see the Yetzer Hara the way in which it was regarded during his/her lifetime.

Korach began as a tzaddik, but a unique and dangerously self-assured one. His Torah study and spiritual growth was used subconsciously as a decoy against his own conscience. Instead of dealing with his jealousy and desire for power, he chose to ignore them, covering them up with acts of virtue. His good deeds were a habitual self-distraction that both fooled how others perceived him, and how he perceived himself.

It was only now, after the Cheit HaMeraglim, when Moshe’s approval ratings were at an all-time low, that there was a possibility of a coup d’état. Suddenly, Korach felt a stirring within; a desire that he had repressed for some time (since the beginning of Bamidbar), had now clawed its way back to the fore, having festered into a fiercer and more powerful entity.
Korach stood before a mountain that he could not climb.
(Perhaps that is one reason why his punishment was to get swallowed by the earth, almost like an inverted mountain (?).)

(I also saw an idea that may explain the choice Chazal made for the portion we read as this week’s Haftorah, taken from Shmuel I, in which Bnei Yisrael ask for a king. Despite the fact that a Jewish king is a concept which appears in the Torah, Bnei Yisrael’s asking for a one was viewed, at least partially, as a failing. Why? Perhaps because of our motivations behind the request. Asking for a king was fine, but convincing ourselves that this was for religious reasons was the error. We should have been conscious of our true motivations – which was that we wanted to be like other nations – and not have convinced ourselves it was to achieve greater religious inspiration.)

If I understood Rav Schwab correctly, I think this concept can be best summarized, that when we acknowledge and contend with our own human frailty, we actually move closer toward achieving G-dliness. 

Perhaps the first steps in growing and trying to perfect ourselves are (a) wanting to do so, and (b) being cognizant of what is innate and being honest about our true desires and shortcomings – facing our Yetzer Hara head on. When challenges are discernible, they become exponentially easier to overcome.