Yisro_5773: Finding your own way may not be the best way

Taste of Parasha

The Medrash says: Yisro made a deal with Moshe Rabbeinu, “You may marry my daughter Tzipporah on condition that you allow your first born son to serve Idols!”  The Medrash also says: Moshe Rabbeinu saw a prophetic vision in which G-d was quoting the words of the great Tanna, Rabbi Eliezer, with regard to the laws of Para Adumah.  Upon hearing this Moshe Rabbeinu says, “I wish Rabbi Eliezer is one of my descendants.  To which G-d responded, “He most definitely is a true descendant of your great son Eliezer.”   The questions abound!  These Midrashim require much explanation.  How could Moshe agree to such terms concerning his Bechor?  What connection is there between Moshe’s second son, Eliezer, and Rabbi Eliezer?  How are these Midrashim connected? In order to understand these Medrashim we will have to delve into the words of Rabbi Eliezer, and their ramifications, in the Talmud.

 Taste of Talmud

The Talmud in tractate Bechoros (19b) asserts that if a three year old cow gives birth to a calf it can be assumed to be a Bechor (first born). This carries with it numerous laws and restrictions.  Tosafos to Avoda Zara (24b) asks: This statement does not fit with the fact that now-a-days cows do give birth prior to this age. Tosafos answers that this is one of the ways in which the natural order of things have changed from the way they once were; Nishtanu Habriyos. In the first Mishna in Tractate Para, Rabbi Eliezer says, the red cow used to make the ashes of the “Para Adumah” can be two years old.  If we follow this train of thought, then this would mean that according to Rabbi Eliezer a Para Adumah may be used even before it reaches the age when it could be a mother cow.  Rabbi Shimon Schwab Zt”l, points out a major ramification which would result from Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion.  The only attempt at a logical justification for the Para Adumah proffered by the Medrash is that it is the mother cow that is coming to clean up the mess of the golden calf.  In other words, by using a mother cow to perform acts of purity we repent and atone for the sin done with a calf.  If, however, the cow which is used does not have to be of calf-bearing age, then we are left with a law which is completely and utterly incomprehensible.   The ability for Jews to keep it is now relegated to the realm of Emunah Peshutah, pure and simple faith.  In other words, we do it because our Sages told us this is the will of G-d.

Taste of Parasha 2

Moshe Rabbeinu carried this Mesorah of Emunah Peshuta and was planning on using it as the focal point of his education plan for his children.  Believe in G-d, trust in G-d, just as your illustrious ancestors have done before you.  Yisro, on the other hand, was a man who came without any previous background or any reason to believe the G-d of the Jews.  His path of life had led him to try out all of the various idolatries that existed in the known world.  He contemplated, he investigated, he meditated, and he questioned.  After going through the scientific process he concluded that there is one G-d and it is the G-d of the Jews.  All else is futile and worthless.  Yisro wanted his first grandson to have the opportunity to achieve clarity of conviction through this same path of trial and error.  Moshe Rabbeinu was ready, although reluctantly, to agree to this process because he knew that ultimately this path also leads its traveler to the proper conclusion.  Moshe Rabbeinu’s preferred method; however, was the path necessitated by the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.  Only with Emunah Peshuta are you able to burn a red cow and sprinkle it on ritually impure people thereby making them pure while making the one performing the procedure impure! This is the path of Emunah Peshutah.  This is the path which does not leave room for temporary lapses in Avodas Hashem. This is the path which is symbolized by the name Eliezer which stands for: Elokei Avi B’Ezri, the G-d of my Father is, was, and always will be there to help me.

This week’s issue is dedicated as a merit for: Esther Golda bas Devorah Shulamis,

In honor of her Birthday

Have A Great Shabbos!!

About tasteofyeshiva

RABBI YAIR FRIEDMAN teaches at The Torah School of Greater Washington, and Yeshiva L' Baalei Batim. He is the owner and director of Camp Gevaldig LLC.
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