Rav Meir Simchah’s Brilliant Insight

V’im lo sagi’ah yado dei seh (5:7)

The Mekor Boruch, Rav Nochum Boruch Ginsburg, recounts that he once entered the home of the Ohr Sameach and found him beaming with clearly visible pleasure. Rav Meir Simchah explained to his guest that he had just developed an original insight into the subject he was studying, for which he received quite an unexpected approbation.

The Gemara in Chulin (22a) rules that a bird which is brought as a korban olah may only be offered during the day, as is the law regarding an animal which is brought as a korban chatas. The Gemara questions the need to teach this explicitly, as this law should be derivable from a more general principle quoted there which teaches that all sacrifices must be brought during the day. The Gemara answers that without this explicit ruling, we might have mistakenly concluded that the general rule applies to the bird brought as a korban chatas but not to the one offered as a korban olah, rendering it necessary to directly state otherwise.

In his responsa, the Rashba (1:276) questions the logic of the Gemara’s answer in suggesting that we might have differentiated between the laws governing the two birds, as in regard to this law they are completely identical. The Rashba therefore concludes that this text was mistakenly inserted into the Gemara and should be deleted.

To resolve the Rashba’s difficulty, Rav Meir Simchah realized that a number of commentators (Ibn Ezra, Moshav Z’keinim, and Tur) question why the Torah requires a poor person to offer two birds in lieu of the one animal he would have brought if he had sufficient means. They explain that because the bird lacks the inner organs of the animal, an additional bird is brought as a korban olah to replace the missing innards.

Based on this explanation, Rav Meir Simchah suggested that the line in the Gemara which the Rashba believed to be erroneous can now be easily understood. Because the entire premise of bringing a bird as a korban olah is to compensate for the lacking innards of the animal that would have otherwise been brought, it makes perfect sense to assume that the korban olah may be brought at night just as the innards may be offered at night. Had the Gemara not explicitly ruled otherwise, one might have concluded that the general rule requiring that the sacrifice be offered during the day applies only to the korban chatas.

After his intense effort to develop this insight, Rav Meir Simcha briefly dozed off. In his dream, he saw the great Rabbis of previous generations sitting in the Heavenly Court and discussing the lack of contemporary individuals capable of generating true and original Torah novellae. At this point, the Rashba himself stood up and announced, “In the city of Dvinsk there lives a Rav who has understood and delved into the truth of the Torah even more than I was able to do!”

Q: Rashi writes (1:1) that when Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Mishkan, He spoke in His customarily powerful voice. As Rashi writes that only Moshe was capable of hearing it, what was the purpose of speaking in such a strong voice?

Q: The Baal HaTurim explains (1:1) that the letter alef in the word Vayikra is written smaller than usual due to Moshe’s humility. He preferred to use the expression Vayikar, which connotes coincidental contact. When Hashem instructed Moshe to write Vayikra, he wrote a small letter alef. As the word Vayikra is used in conjunction with Hashem speaking to Moshe several times previously (e.g. Shemos 3:4), why did he only write a small alef here?

A: The Darkei Mussar explains that although Hashem spoke in His naturally strong voice, it couldn’t be heard — even by Moshe — outside of the Mishkan. This was done to teach that Hashem is constantly ready and willing to communicate with us, but we must be on the proper spiritual level to be able to hear Him. Harav Moshe Feinstein answers that Hashem did so to teach us that although we actually learned these mitzvos from Moshe, it is considered as if we heard them directly from Hashem, since He spoke them in a manner which was addressed to each of us, just that we were unable to actually hear it. A mitzvah that was given directly by Hashem is more stringent than one which was learned indirectly through Moshe, and this is one of the reasons that all Jewish souls were present for the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

A: The Gemara in Nedarim (38a) teaches that Hashem only gives prophecy to a person who is wise, strong, rich and humble. Although the need for wisdom and modesty is understandable, why must a prophet be strong and rich? Harav Chaim Volozhiner explains that if a person doesn’t possess these traits, his humility may simply be a reflection of the fact that he has little about which to be arrogant, in which case it is not genuine. Only when he is also rich and strong and still remains humble can we know for sure that his modesty is authentic. In light of this explanation, Harav Shmuel Dovid Walkin answers that the aforementioned Gemara teaches that Moshe became wealthy from the fragments that remained after he carved the second set of Tablets. Had the word Vayikra been written with a small alef prior to the giving of the Torah, there would have been no proof that his modesty was real. Only at this point, when he had become wealthy and still remained unassuming, did his desire to minimize his greatness reveal his true humility.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.