Wednesday, January 25, 2017

RAV KOOK ON Shemot Part 2: The Inner Trait of Goodness

When Moses expressed his doubts as to whether the people would believe he was indeed God’s messenger, God gave him a sign to prove his authenticity — but a sign which implied displeasure in Moses’ lack of faith in his people. What was the sign? Moses’ hand temporarily became white with tzara’at (leprosy). A miraculous sign, to be sure, but tzara’at is an affliction that defiles — a clear indication that Moses was being chastised. The Sages noted a subtle discrepancy between the Torah’s description of Moses’ hand turning leprous and its subsequent return to normalcy. The first time, Moses took out his hand “and behold! his hand was leprous like snow” (Ex. 4:6). Then Moses placed his hand inside his robes a second time, and when he had “removed it from his chest, his skin had [already] returned to normal” (Ex. 4:7). A careful reading of the text indicates that the two transformations occurred differently. The leprosy took hold after Moses removed his hand from his robe; but his hand reverted to its normal color even before he had taken out his hand, while it was still inside his robe. Why should there be a difference between the two? From here, the Sages concluded, “The Divine trait of tovah [goodness] comes more quickly than the trait of puranut [suffering or punishment]” (Shabbat 97a). What does this mean? Why should one trait be faster or better than another?

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