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(5737) "who permitted the daughter of Yitro to You (Moshe)?" (Tal. Sanh 82a)



1. In conjunction with the verse at the conclusion of our Parsha:

”And behold, a man came from among Bnei Yisroel, and brought the Midianite woman to his brethren, before the eyes of Moshe etc.”,

the Sages state that Zimri ben Salu brought the "Midianite woman" (Kozbi, the daughter of Tzur) , before Moshe Rabbeinu and claimed: “Is she forbidden or permitted? And should you say. ‘She is forbidden’, who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you? At that moment the Halacha (concerning intimacy with a heathen woman)” was concealed from Moshe until Pinchas “saw what was happening and remembered the Halacha etc.: “He who cohabits with a heathen woman is punished by zealots (Kenain pogin bo)?”

Why, really was “Bat Yitro” (Tziporah) permitted to Moshe Rabbeinu?

Rashi explains:

“Moshe married her before Matan Torah and when the Torah was given they all has the status of Bnei Noach and when they entered into the covenant of Mitzvot she was with them etc.”

This means that Moshe was allowed to marry Tziporah since at that time (before Matan Torah) they all (even the Bnei Yisroel) had the status of Bnei Noach. Therefore (at Matan Torah) Tziporah also converted together will all the Yidden, and therefore she was also subsequently permitted to Moshe.

It is not understood:

Zimri was the, “leader of a paternal house of Shimon”. What, therefore, at the onset, was his claim: “And should you say. ‘She is forbidden’, who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?” – did he not know the difference between marriage before Matan Torah and after Matan Torah?!

On the other hand:

Even if we would find a hint of reason (at least as a supposition) why the aforementioned difference is not a sufficient reason to permit “Bat Yitro” to Moshe – it is still problematic, why we do not find in the Talmud that Moshe (or someone else) rebutted the actual claim of Zimri against Moshe? (Pinchas just stated the Halacha that “He who cohabits with a heathen woman” etc. which relates to the deed of Zimri).

There are commentators that say that this itself (the aforementioned difference between before and after Matan Torah) was “concealed” from Moshe.

However in addition to that which:

1.       Rashi clearly states that the Halacha: “He who cohabits with a heathen woman etc.” that was stated at Sinai was concealed from him”. In other words just the Halacha (concerning which punishment is warranted) was “concealed from him” (but not the actual prohibition).

2.       It is very unlikely to say that such a simple difference (between before and after Matan Torah) would be concealed from Moshe,

it is also not understood how Zimri could ask such a question? How could he be certain that the difference between before and after Matan Torah would be concealed from Moshe?

2. One must also understand:

The law is that a female convert is forbidden to a kohen, and this is a Biblical prohibition. For even though the Talmud derives this from a verse in Yechezkel – this is only because “(the verse in) Yechezkel is a corollary to the biblical verses ( asmecha akerai)”, it is , nevertheless, a  Biblical prohibition from the verse: “A harlot or a profaned woman they shall not marry”, “since they come from idolaters that are steeped in abomination”.

In the Talmud there is a debate concerning Moshe Rabbeinu:

·         According to one opinion “Moshe Rabbeinu was a kohen gadol” (Since the priesthood only ceased for the descendants of Moshe”)

·         A second opinion holds that “Moshe was only appointed a priest for the seven inaugural days”

Accordingly, this is problematic for how was “Bat Yitro” permitted to him – she was a convert?

According to the view that “Moshe was only appointed a priest for the seven inaugural days”, one could answer (albeit with difficulty) that Moshe was also not a real kohen (kohen gamur). Yet the reason he was allowed to offer the sacrifices was, as Tosfot explains, because during the seven inaugural days, the Mishkan had a status of a “communal altar” (Bamah). Therefore “during the seven inaugural days Moshe performed the service in a white cloak/ chaluk lavan” – not in the priestly garments for “one may not wear priestly garments for a Bamah”. Therefore “Bat Yitro” (Tzipporah who was a female convert) was also not prohibited to him.

However, notwithstanding the wording of Talmud: “Moshe was not appointed as a kohen (lo nisakahen)”, it is apparent that (indeed) during the seven inaugural days he was (considered) a full kohen (kohen gamur).

And it still remains difficult according to the opinion that “Moshe was a kohen all his life”.

3. One could seemingly say that the two aforementioned questions (Par. 1 and 2) can be answered from each other:

With the claim “who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?” Zimri actually meant

(not the prohibition of marrying a “Aramite/ non-Jewess”, but rather)

the prohibition of a kohen marrying a convert.

And the connection between this to prohibition to that which a “Midianite” prohibited (to marry)

 (“And should you say. ‘this is forbidden’, who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?”

 is in that which the reason for the prohibition is (as aforementioned) because “she comes from idolaters from idolaters (Aramites) who are steeped in abomination”.

In other words: if this “Midianite” is prohibited because she is an “Aramite” – then why is “Bat Yitro” who comes from idolaters (Aramites) etc.” permitted to Moshe (who is a kohen)?

However according to this it remains difficult (as aforementioned par.1) from the other viewpoint:

1.       What, really, is the answer to this claim?

2.       Why did they not tell the answer to Zimri?

4. One could seemingly answer with the statement of the Sages: “Moshe did three things from his own volition and G-d agreed with him” for one of the things was “Moshe separated from his wife (min haIsha)”

Therefore the claim: “who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?”

(the prohibition of a kohen marrying a convert.)

was not applicable since Moshe had (already) separated from his wife.

And even though separating, in and of itself, is seemingly not sufficient to remove the prohibition of a kohen marrying a convert – Rashi, in his commentary on Torah, states that he divorced her.

For Rashi states

on the verse (at the end of Parshat Baha’alotecha): “Miriam and Aharon spoke about Moshe concerning the woman etc. for, he married a Cushite woman”

that “concerning the woman” means concerning her divorce. For he married a Cushite woman and now he is divorced”. This means that Rashi learns that not only did Moshe “separate from his wife” (as Rashi cites just the word ‘separate’ there) , but that he – divorced her.

Nevertheless, they did not answer Zimri when he claimed “who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?” – Because, as it is explained in the words of the Sages, no one knew. Even Miriam only first knew when “Eldad and Meidad were prophesying in the camp” And Tziporah said, 'Woe to their wives etc.”.

For since Moshe did this “from his own volition”, he did not want anyone to know since he was “exceedingly humble”. And because of this reason, he also did not want to answer Zimri that he “separated from his wife”.

But his explanation is not flawless, because

(in addition to that which Rashi leans (according to the Sifri) that Moshe separated from his wife (not “from his own decision” but rather because “I (G-d) told him to separate from his wife . . (as t states: ) and now stand here with Me”, it also is not a contradiction to humility to tell others that he fulfilled a command from G-d.)

the reason that Moshe separated from his wife was because he was a prophet

– as Rashi cites (from the Sifri) that Tziporah said, 'Woe to their wives if they become attached to prophecy, because they will separate from their wives” –

not according to the aforementioned, (that) he had to separate from his wife because of the prohibition of a kohen marrying a convert.

5. The explanation is:

It states in the Mishnah:

“(a common priest who) betrothed a widow, and was subsequently appointed high priest, may consummate the marriage”

The Talmud learns this from the verse: “he shall take to wife”. For since the betrothal (“he shall take to wife”) was permitted, he may from the onset, consummate the ‘taking’ and marry the widow.

It is therefore all the more so (kol shkein) and kal va-chomer (a fortiori), when not only the betrothal but also the marriage was in a permissable manner. Therefore even after Moshe became a ‘kohen’, “Bat Yitro” was permitted to him (even though she was a convert).

Seemingly, one could question this:

The permissible marriage of Moshe with Tziporah was before Matan Torah. And although the Yidden had a status of Bnei Noach and the boundary of “marriage (l’kicha)” that would occur after Matan Torah was not in effect - one must say that after Matan Torah, Yidden were required to renew their vows and marry their wives according to Torah.

Therefore the question returns: How was Moshe able to marry Tziporah after Matan Torah?

However, this is not a question since:

(in addition to that which the new marriage certainly took place immediately after Matan Torah, and therefore, regarding Moshe, occurred before he became a kohen (which occurred in the inaugural days after the setting up of the Mishkan),

Even if we adopt the view that Moshe was a “kohen his entire life”, his priesthood began immediately at Matan Torah and it is not a question because:

On the verse: “A man of the house of Levi went and married the daughter of Levi”, the Talmud states that “he took her back and married her a second time (ma’aseh likuchin)”. The plain meaning of this is that Amram married her with the marriage ceremony that would be in effect after Matan Torah.

(There are commentators that explain that this is implied by Rambam’s statement that “in Egypt Amram was commanded with extra Mitzvot”. For it is seemingly not understood. Where do we find that “Amram was commanded with extra Mitzvot”? However, this refers to the Mitzvah of marriage, which was already practiced in Egypt).

And since, even before Matan Torah, marriage between Yidden was in a manner of the marriage ceremony in effect after Matan Torah, they were not required to renew their vows after Matan Torah – for the prior ceremony remained in force also after Matan Torah.

Accordingly, it is understood, that Moshe’s “marriage (ki yikach)” was permitted, since it was before Matan Torah and he did not need to re-marry Tziporah after Matan Torah.

6. With this we can also explain:

1.       Zimri's claim “who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?"

2.       And why Moshe did not, at all, answer Zimri on his claim.

Zimri did not hold of this aforementioned approach/yalfusa

(of the Oral Torah – Torah sh’bal peh)

of Moshe’s “marriage (ki yikach)".

Therefore, according to his view, Moshe needed to divorce “Bat Yitro”.

However, Moshe could not answer by stating this concept of “marriage (ki yikach)” – because the law is that a Rabbi (Talmid chacham) that “decides Halacha” and is “biased/Nogeia b’davar” - is not believed, if the selfsame situation occurs, to rule, by saying “Such have I learned” – and Moshe was biased in the matter (as it states) who permitted the daughter of Yitro to you?

(We also find this by the Korach’s dispute, where in addition to fighting over Aharon’s priesthood, he also came with false claims and questions regarding Mezuzah: “Does a house filled with scrolls of the Torah require a Mezuzah?" - "Does a Talit made completely of Techeiles (blue) require Tzitzis (fringes), or not?”. Yet we do not find that Moshe answered them with a discourse from Torah sh’bal peh - He just said: “If G-d will create a (new) creation etc.”

And the reason is as mentioned above:

Moshe was “biased/Nogeia b’davar” and therefore realized that he would not be believed regarding this, in any event).

7. The lesson from the aforementioned aspect is:

It is not always necessary to seek an answer to someone’s questions. Sometimes the person’s entire purpose is to permit a “Midianite”!

If, when the intent of the question is for the sake of heaven, then one must “answer (even a) fool according to his folly”. However, when one questions the words of Torah with the purpose of permitting that which Torah forbids – then the reaction should be “Do not answer fool according to his folly”.

The way to win over an opponent of Torah is not with debate, but rather with steadfastness/tokef, which is above reason and logic (da’at).

(And the same applies to every individual himself: When the "old and foolish king/Melech zakein uk'sil" - the evil inclination – comes to confuse , one must not fall into a debate with him. But rather, one must immediately act with steadfastness and – “draw him to the study hall/beit medrash” etc. to stop him).

And this also was the conduct of Pinchas - “zealously avenging Me among them”.

He did not fall into a debate,

For, on the contrary, the law is that: “If the zealous person comes to ask permission from the court to slay him, they do not instruct him”.

but rather, he zealously exacted G-d’s vengeance (”My vengeance”) and had self-sacrifice to kill Zimri.

8. The festival of redemption ("Chag HaGeulah") of Yud-Beis, Yud-Gimmel Tammuz occurs (in most years) in the week of Parshat Balak. Therefore the aforementioned subject has a connection to the Chag HaGeulah.

The conduct of the Rebbe Rayatz, the Baal HaGeulah vHaSimcha” (the one who was liberated) was in a manner of “zealously avenging Me”. He did not consider the claims of certain people that there was no obligation to have self-sacrifice for each step and area etc. But rather the Baal HaGeulah vHaSimcha (Rebbe Rayatz) “zealously avenged Me”. For since this was G-d’s thing (”My vengeance”), he constantly had actual self-sacrifice to spread Torah and Judaism.

Self-sacrifice can take many forms. Among them are:

1.       Like in our Parsha - where it was not through the leader of the generation (Nasi HaDor),

– for the Nasi HaDor was Moshe.

(but rather) it was (through Pinchas) in a manner of Severity. (which is why it states that Pinchas is Eliyahu – for he said: “I have been zealous for the L-rd, the G-d of Hosts etc.” and he did not find a merit for Yidden.

2.       Like the Baal HaGeulah vHaSimcha who“zealously avenged Me” – the Nasi HaDor himself.

(And truthfully one could say that even with Pinchas, the wherewithal to “zealously avenge Me” came from Moshe (the Nasi HaDor). For through his saying: “Let the one who reads the correspondence serve as its executor." - this gave Pinchas the strength to zealously avenge G-d).

And this was in a manner of Kindness, as has already been related many times that the Baal HaGeulah vHaSimcha asked his father, the Rebbe Rashab that his leadership be with kindness and mercy.

The innovation of this is that even the aspect of “zealously avenge Me” can be carried out in a manner of: “He who has a generous eye will be blessed” - with kindness and mercy.

m’Sichas Yud-Gimmel Tammuz, Shabbat Parshat Matot-Maasei 5729

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