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Parshas Emor - Does God Love Everyone?

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וַיֵּצֵא֙ בֶּן־אִשָּׁ֣ה יִשְׂרְאֵלִ֔ית וְהוּא֙ בֶּן־אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּנָּצוּ֙ בַּמַּֽחֲנֶ֔ה בֶּ֚ן הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֔ית וְאִ֖ישׁ הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִֽי: וַיִּקֹּ֠ב בֶּן־הָֽאִשָּׁ֨ה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֤ית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם֙ וַיְקַלֵּ֔ל וַיָּבִ֥יאוּ אֹת֖וֹ אֶל־משֶׁ֑ה וְשֵׁ֥ם אִמּ֛וֹ שְׁלֹמִ֥ית בַּת־דִּבְרִ֖י לְמַטֵּה־דָֽן: וַיַּנִּיחֻ֖הוּ בַּמִּשְׁמָ֑ר לִפְר֥שׁ לָהֶ֖ם עַל־פִּ֥י יְהֹוָֽה: וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: הוֹצֵ֣א אֶת־הַֽמְקַלֵּ֗ל אֶל־מִחוּץ֙ לַמַּֽחֲנֶ֔ה וְסָמְכ֧וּ כָל־הַשֹּֽׁמְעִ֛ים אֶת־יְדֵיהֶ֖ם עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וְרָֽגְמ֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־הָֽעֵדָֽה:

Now, the son of an Israelite woman and he was the son of an Egyptian man went out among the children of Israel, and they quarreled in the camp this son of the Israelite woman, and an Israelite man. And the son of the Israelite woman pronounced the [Divine] Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. They placed him in the guardhouse, [until his sentence would] be specified to them by the word of the Lord. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard [his blasphemy] shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him. (Vayikra 24:10-14)

At the end of our Parsha we find the story of the Mekalel (blasphemer). The story is difficult on many levels so let us first attempt to clarify all of our questions in a methodical fashion.

1. The story begins by telling us the lineage of the Mekalel. He is the product of a mixed marriage. His father is an Egyptian and his mother is Jewish. Why is his lineage critical to the story? In fact, why is his identity an issue at all? We are never told the identity of the Mekosheh Eitzim. Why is the Mekalel any different?

2. The Torah tells us that the Mekalel "went out" among the children of Israel. Where exactly did he go from?

3. A quarrel breaks out between the Mekalel and a Jewish man. What are they arguing about?

4. The Torah tells us that the he quarreled with a Jewish man but the identity of the Jewish man is not revealed to us. Who is the Mekalel's mysterious opponent?

5. The Mekalel curses using the name of God. Who is he cursing? Is he cursing God or the man he is arguing with? Furthermore, what exactly is the nature of cursing?

6. Unsure of what to do, they took the Mekalel to Moshe Rabbeinu. At this point we would have expected the Torah to tell us the punishment that the Mekalel receives but instead the Torah gives us more background information about the lineage of the Mekalel. His mother is Shelomit. His grandmother is Dibri. They came from Shevet Dan. Again we must ask ourselves, why is his lineage critical to the story? Why does the Torah tell us who his mother and his grandmother are? If we are now getting into the specific member's of the Mekalel's family, who is his Egyptian father? Most notably, if his lineage is critical then why did the Torah not tell us his family of origin at the very outset when it first told us that he had a Jewish mother and an Egyptian father? Why do we only find this out now after the Mekalel is brought to Moshe Rabbeinu?

7. Not knowing what to do with the Mekalel, he is placed in jail until God communicates his fate. Why is this an important detail of the story? The Torah could have simply have skipped this part of the story and told us that God told Moshe the punishment which would have been followed by his execution. And why didn't Moshe Rabbeinu know the halacha? Why does he need to consult with God?

8. Now that God communicates to Moshe the punishment of the Mekalel we would have expected the story to be over. The Torah should immediately relate to us the execution of the Mekalel. Instead the Torah does something that it never does any other place in the entire Torah. The narrative is interrupted to tell us the laws of damages (ayin tachas ayin, shein tachas shein). Why does the Torah interupt the flow of the story to tell us these seemingly random halachos? This is especially puzzling in light of the fact that these laws have already been conveyed in Parshas Mishpatim! At the conclusion of these laws the Torah repeats, "And Moshe told Bnei Yisrael to remove the Mekalel from the camp and to stone him." Clearly, the laws of damages are meant to be a part of the story but what role do they play?

9. On a more meta level we must ask ourselves about the general placement of this story in Chumash. This story seems to have nothing to do with the preceding discussion of the Lechem HaPanim. In fact, the story doesn't seem to belong in Vayikra at all!!! We would have expected to find this story in Bamidbar with every other story that took place to Klal Yisrael while they were traveling in the Midbar. For example, the story of the Mekoshesh Eitzim took place on the first Shabbos after Klal Yisrael left Mitzrayim. In theory then its placement should have been in Sefer Shemos but it was placed in Bamidbar because that's when the Torah relates the stories of what happened in the Midbar. Why is the story of the Mekalel the exception?

The Inside Story

In order to answer these questions we must first examine the oral tradition that accompanies the story of the Mekalel as it will give us important details that will help us clarify some of the issues.

There is several linguistic parallels between the story of the Mekalel and the story of Moshe Rabbeinu killing the Egyptian in Parshas Shemos.

וַיְהִ֣י | בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֗ם וַיִּגְדַּ֤ל משֶׁה֙ וַיֵּצֵ֣א אֶל־אֶחָ֔יו וַיַּ֖רְא בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיַּרְא֙ אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י מַכֶּ֥ה אִֽישׁ־עִבְרִ֖י מֵֽאֶחָֽיו: וַיִּ֤פֶן כֹּה֙ וָכֹ֔ה וַיַּ֖רְא כִּ֣י אֵ֣ין אִ֑ישׁ וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֔י וַיִּטְמְנֵ֖הוּ בַּחֽוֹל: וַיֵּצֵא֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשֵּׁנִ֔י וְהִנֵּ֛ה שְׁנֵֽי־אֲנָשִׁ֥ים עִבְרִ֖ים נִצִּ֑ים וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ לָֽרָשָׁ֔ע לָ֥מָּה תַכֶּ֖ה רֵעֶֽךָ: וַיֹּ֠אמֶר מִ֣י שָֽׂמְךָ֞ לְאִ֨ישׁ שַׂ֤ר וְשֹׁפֵט֙ עָלֵ֔ינוּ הַֽלְהָרְגֵ֨נִי֙ אַתָּ֣ה אֹמֵ֔ר כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָרַ֖גְתָּ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֑י וַיִּירָ֤א משֶׁה֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר אָכֵ֖ן נוֹדַ֥ע הַדָּבָֽר: וַיִּשְׁמַ֤ע פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה וַיְבַקֵּ֖שׁ לַֽהֲרֹ֣ג אֶת־משֶׁ֑ה וַיִּבְרַ֤ח משֶׁה֙ מִפְּנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֔ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־מִדְיָ֖ן וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב עַל־הַבְּאֵֽר:

Now it came to pass in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers. He turned this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man; so he struck the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out on the second day, and behold, two Hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one, "Why are you going to strike your friend?" And he retorted, "Who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?" Moses became frightened and said, "Indeed, the matter has become known!" Pharaoh heard of this incident, and he sought to slay Moses; so Moses fled from before Pharaoh. He stayed in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. (Shemos 2:11-15)

  • Both stories involve a וַיֵּצֵ֣א. Just as Moshe Rabbeinu "went out" (first to his brothers and then again on the second day), the Mekalel "went out" (the Mekalel initially went out and then later was taken out again to be killed).

  • In both stories there is a reference to an אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י, an Egyptian man.

  • In both stories we encounter a quarrel. In Shemos there is a quarrel (נִצִּ֑ים) between two Jewish men and in Vayikra there is a quarrel (וַיִּנָּצוּ֙) between the man whose mother was Jewish and the man whose parents were both Jewish.

  • In both stories the Torah references a man being struck. In Shemos Moshe Rabbeinu strikes the Egyptian (וַיַּךְ֙ אֶת־הַמִּצְרִ֔י) and in Vayikra the Torah interrupts the narrative to tell us the halacha of what happens when one man strikes another man (וְאִ֕ישׁ כִּ֥י יַכֶּ֖ה כָּל־נֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֑ם מ֖וֹת יוּמָֽת).

The Medrash (quoted by Rashi), seemingly taking note of the similar linguistics, connects these two stories and fills in some of the important details.

ויצא בן אשה ישראלית: מהיכן יצא, רבי לוי אומר מעולמו יצא. רבי ברכיה אומר מפרשה שלמעלה יצא. לגלג ואמר ביום השבת יערכנו, דרך המלך לאכול פת חמה בכל יום, או שמא פת צוננת של תשעה ימים, בתמיה. ומתניתא אמרה מבית דינו של משה יצא מחוייב. בא ליטע אהלו בתוך מחנה דן, אמרו לו מה טיבך לכאן, אמר להם מבני דן אני. אמרו לו (במדבר ב) איש על דגלו באותות לבית אבותם כתיב. נכנס לבית דינו של משה ויצא מחוייב, עמד וגדף:

the son of an Israelite woman…went out: From where did he go out? Rabbi Levi says: “He went out of his world” [i.e., he forfeited his share in the World to Come. See Be’er Basadeh , Maskil L’David]. Rabbi Berechiah says: “He went out of the above passage.” He mocked and said, “[Scripture says,] ‘Each… Sabbath day, he shall set it up.’ But surely it is the practice of kings to eat warm [fresh] bread every day! Perhaps cold bread, nine days old?” [he said] in astonishment. [In fact, the bread remained miraculously warm and fresh until it was removed the following week (Chag. 26b).] The Baraitha states: He “went out” of Moses’ tribunal [with a] guilty [verdict. How so?] He had come to pitch his tent within the encampment of the tribe of Dan. So [this tribe] said to him, “What right do you have to be here?” Said he, “I am of the descendants of Dan,” [claiming lineage through his mother, who was from the tribe of Dan (see verse 11)]. They said to him, “[But Scripture states (Num. 2:2): ‘The children of Israel shall encamp] each man by his grouping according to the insignias of his father’s household,’” [thereby refuting his maternal claim]. He entered Moses’ tribunal [where his case was tried], and came out guilty. Then, he arose and blasphemed. — [Vayikra Rabbah 32:3]

בן איש מצרי: הוא המצרי שהרגו משה:

the son of an Egyptian man: the Egyptian whom Moses had slain, [uttering the Divine Name (see Rashi on Exod. 2:14). When the man heard this, he arose and began blaspheming against the Divine Name.]- [Sifthei Chachamim ; Vayikra Rabbah 32:4]

בתוך בני ישראל:מלמד שנתגייר:

among the children of Israel:[This] teaches [us] that he converted. [Although he was halachically a Jew, since he was born to a Jewish mother, “he converted” here means that he immersed and was circumcised at Mount Sinai “among the children of Israel,” i.e., together with all the children of Israel.]- [Ramban; Torath Kohanim 24:235]

ויקב: כתרגומו ופריש, שנקב שם המיוחד וגדף, והוא שם המפורש ששמע מסיני:

blasphemously pronounced: Heb. וַיִּקֹּב. As the Targum [Onkelos] renders: וּפָרֵישׁ, “and he pronounced”-he pronounced the ineffable Divine Name and cursed. This [Name that must not be pronounced] was the explicit [four-letter] Divine Name that this man had heard from [the revelation at Mount] Sinai. — [Torath Kohanim 24:235]

ושם אמו שלמית בת דברי: שבחן של ישראל שפרסמה הכתוב לזו, לומר, שהיא לבדה היתה זונה:

His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri: [Why is her name mentioned? This teaches us] the praise of Israel, for Scripture publicizes this one, effectively telling us that she alone [among all the women of Israel] was [involved in an] illicit [relation (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5), albeit unwitting on her part. (See Rashi onExod. 2:11.) Nevertheless, no other Israelite woman had even unwitting illicit relations]. — [Mizrachi]

שלמית: דהות פטפטה שלם עלך, שלם עלך, שלם עליכון, מפטפטת בדברים שואלת בשלום הכל:

Shelomith: Heb. שְׁלוֹמִית. [Her name denotes that] she was a chatterbox, [always going about saying] “Peace (שָׁלוֹם) be with you! Peace be with you! Peace be with you [men]!” (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5). [She would] chatter about with words, greeting everyone.

בת דברי: דברנית היתה מדברת עם כל אדם, לפיכך קלקלה:

the daughter of Dibri: [This denotes that] she was very talkative, talking (מְדַבֶּרֶת) with every person. That is why she fell into sin.

Let us review the story now in its full detail. The Mekalel is the son of an Egyptian taskmaster. And not just any Egyptian taskmaster but the very one that Moshe Rabbeinu killed by uttering the ineffable name of God! How did an Egyptian man come to have relations with a Jewish woman? In general the Jewish women were exceptionally modest, taking care not to be noticed by their Egyptian masters. The one exception to this rule was Shelomit bas Dibri whose name gives us an insight into her sin. Shelomit indicates that she would say Shalom even to the Egyptians and bas Dibri tells us that she was overly talkative (outgoing). As a result of her lack of modesty the Egyptian taskmaster took note of Shelomit and devised a plan to have relations with her. The Egyptian woke the husband up very early in the morning and told him that he was late for his work. The husband departed and the Egyptian went to Shlomis. Upon arriving at work the husband realized that is was too early to begin his work and so he returned to his house. He discovered his wife together with the Egyptian (Shelomit thought it was her husband). The child of this union is the Mekalel in our Parsha.

But the Egyptian now finds himself in a bind. Pharaoh had decreed that no Egyptian should defile himself by having relations with a Jewish woman. According to Egyptian law, lineage was determined by the mother’s nationality. Why should the Egyptians increase the numbers of Jews? The Egyptian taskmaster feared that the husband would get word to Pharaoh that he had relations with a Jewess and began striking the husband in an attempt to kill him. And exactly at this moment, Moshe Rabbeinu leaves the Egyptian palace, sees what is happening and kills the Egyptian with ineffable name of God.

Who was Shelomit's husband? The Medrash (Shemos Rabbah 1:28) explains that it was none other than Dasan. "When Moshe saw this, he knew by means of Divine Inspiration what had happened in the house and what the Egyptian was about to do in the field; so he said: 'This man certainly deserves his death, as it is written (Vayikra 24): 'And anyone who strikes another person [with mortal blows] shall be put to death'. Moreover, since he cohabited with the wife of Dasan he deserves slaying, as it is said (Vayikra 20:10): "Both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death'. Hence does it say: "And he looked this way and that way' (Shemos 2:12); namely, he saw what [the Egyptian] did to [Dasan] in the house and what he intended to do to him in the field."

In other words, Moshe Rabbeinu saw what the Egyptian had done to Dasan's wife Shelomit and he understood his intention to kill Dasan. The Egyptian's actions were punishable by death and Moshe Rabbeinu meted out the punishment. The next day Moshe Rabbeinu again leaves the Egyptian Palace and once again finds Dasan in a fight but this time it was with Dasan's brother in law Aviram (Shemos Rabbah 1:29). On the previous day, Dasan’s wife, Shelomit, feared retribution from her husband and so she fled to her brother, Aviram, for protection. Dasan was striking his brother-in- law for protecting Shelomit. Again Moshe enters the fray to break up the squabble but Dasan responds by threatening to turn Moshe over to the authorities. In response, Moshe Rabbeinu is forced to flee to Midyan.

Shelomit ultimately gives birth to a child. The child's status is questionable. Is he an Egyptian or a Jew?

וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְהִנֵּ֗ה לֹא־מֵ֛ת מִמִּקְנֵ֥ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־אֶחָ֑ד וַיִּכְבַּד֙ לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם:

And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not even one of the livestock of Israel died, but Pharaoh's heart became hardened, and he did not let the people out. (Shemos 9:7)

What exactly do the words עַד־אֶחָ֑ד mean? Here we have translated them as not one. Meaning, during the plague of pestilence not even one of the livestock of the Jews died.

The Malbim translates it differently.

והנה לא מת ממקנה ישראל עד אחד. במ"ש לקמן (יד כח) לא נשאר בהם עד אחד פי' חז"ל שפרעה נשאר, ר"ל שפי' עד ולא עד בכלל שאחד נשאר, וכן במ"ש שופטים (ד טז) לא נשאר עד אחד נשאר סיסרא, ומשמע שגם פה מת אחד, וי"ל שהיה בהמת בן האשה הישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי, שבדיני ישראל היה כמצרי, כמש"ש במקומו, ופרעה חשב שהוא מישראל וכיון שבהמתו מתה לא נתקיים דבר משה ועי"כ ויכבד לב פרעה:

Of all of the Jews, only one person had their livestock perish. This was the son of Shelomit bas Dibri and the Egyptian taskmaster. Pharoah considered him to be a Jew and therefore the words of Moshe had not come to fruition. He hardened his heart and would not let the Jews go. In truth the prophecy of Moshe had come to fruition. While Pharaoh may have considered him to be an Egyptian, in pre Matan Torah halacha he was not in fact Jewish (see Ramban (Vayikra 24:10) who mentions an opinion that pre Matan Torah someones status was determined by patrilineal descent. If this is the case it would be clear why he had to undergo a conversion at Matan Torah.)

The story comes full circle when the son of this illicit union attempts to find his place within Klal Yisrael. With nowhere else to turn, he attempts to encamp with Shevet Dan, the tribe from which his mother descends. But a Jewish man (by birth) stands in his way. The man argues that the passuk says "The children of Israel shall encamp such that each man be near the flag of the insignia of their father's houses." (Bamidbar 2:2) Only someone whose father hails from Shevet Dan can encamp with them. The fact that Shelomit bas Dibri descended from Dan is of no consequence.

Who is this mysterious Jewish man who enters into a quarrel with the son of Shelomit bas Dibri? The Zohar (Vayikra 106a) tells us that the Jewish man is actually a quasi relative of the son of Shelomit bas Dibri. Dasan divorced Shelomit and took another wife. Dasan's second marriage produced a child and it is Dasan's son who stands opposed to the son of Shelomit bas Dibri. Dasan's son hated Shelomit bas Dibri (for the shame of what she represented to his father) and though he was a member of Shevet Reuven (and ostensibly had no dog in this fight) he stood up to argue that he should have no right to set up camp with Shevet Dan.

And so the son of the Egyptian (the son of Shelomit) and the Jew (the son of Dasan) go to Moshe Rabbeinu to resolve their dispute. Moshe Rabbeinu paskens that the son of Shelomit may not encamp with Shevet Dan at which point he "went out" of Moshe Rabbeinu's court and blasphemes, becoming known to us as the Meklalel.

Before we move on and explain the inner nature of blaspheming let us pause for a moment to examine which of our questions above have now been resolved and which remain unaswered.

1. It is clear to us why the Torah includes the lineage of the Mekalel. Without understanding his mixed heritage it would be impossible to appreciate the position of the Mekalel and his attempt to encamp with Shevet Dan.

2. The וַיֵּצֵא֙ of the Mekalel alludes to him going out of Moshe Rabbeinu's court. It also links the story of Moshe Rabbeinu going out of the house of Pharaoh to kill the Mekalel's father.

3 & 4. The quarrel between the Jewish man and the son of the Egyptian exists on two dimensions. On the surface it is about the right for the son of Shelomit to encamp with her Shevet. Beneath the surface it is a family struggle. The son of Shelomit looks to legitimize his mother's position in Klal Yisrael. Dasan's son seeks to do the exact opposite.

6 & 7. (we are going to return to answer question #5 which deals with the nature of his blaspheming) Moshe Rabbeinu is now faced with judging the Mekalel. At this point the Torah pauses to tell us that the Mekalel is the son of Shelomit and the grandson of Dibri. Earlier when Moshe was faced with the question of the son of Shelomit camping with Shevet Dan it was a simple psak. Now that he has become a Mekalel, the question is much more complex. After all, it was the behavior of this man's mother which led to her getting pregnant, which led to the Egyptian attempting to kill Dasan, which led to Moshe using the ineffable name of Hashem to kill the Egyptian (the Mekalel's father).Moshe Rabbeinu is a part of this story! Moshe felt that he had to recuse himself from rendering judgment. With this in mind we can understand that the Mekalel's sitting in jail is not a detail but an integral part of the story. Moshe Rabbeinu needs to consult with Hashem because this is not a halacha he is capable of paskening.

While we have made significant headway, a number of issues still remain.

What exactly does it mean to be a Mekalel? Who was he being Mekalel? Why does the Torah repeat the laws of damages as part of the narrative? What is the connection between this story and the Lechem HaPanim? (Rashi does quote the Medrash that the Mekalel mocked the Lechem HaPanim but in truth this just raises another question, why of all of the halachos to scoff at does the Mekalel choose the Lechem HaPanim?) Why isn't this story in Sefer Bamidbar with all of the other stories that took place in the desert while the Jews wandered for forty years?

What's In A Name?

וַיִּקֹּ֠ב בֶּן־הָֽאִשָּׁ֨ה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֤ית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם֙ וַיְקַלֵּ֔ל וַיָּבִ֥יאוּ אֹת֖וֹ אֶל־משֶׁ֑ה וְשֵׁ֥ם אִמּ֛וֹ שְׁלֹמִ֥ית בַּת־דִּבְרִ֖י לְמַטֵּה־דָֽן:

And the son of the Israelite woman pronounced the [Divine] Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. (Vayikra 24:11)

The Zohar (ibid) understand the word וַיִּקֹּ֠ב (loosely translated as blaspheme) to be related to the word and he bored. For example, the passuk in Melachim (2, 12:10) says:

וַיִּקַּ֞ח יְהוֹיָדָ֚ע הַכֹּהֵן֙ אֲר֣וֹן אֶחָ֔ד וַיִּקֹּ֥ב חֹ֖ר בְּדַלְתּ֑וֹ וַיִּתֵּ֣ן אֹתוֹ֩ אֵ֨צֶל הַמִּזְבֵּ֜חַ מִיָּמִ֗ין(כתיב בִיָּמִ֗ין)בְּבֽוֹא־אִישׁ֙ בֵּ֣ית יְהֹוָ֔ה וְנָֽתְנוּ־שָׁ֚מָּה הַכֹּֽהֲנִים֙ שֹׁמְרֵ֣י הַסַּ֔ף אֶת־כָּל־הַכֶּ֖סֶף הַמּוּבָ֥א בֵית־יְהֹוָֽה:

And Jehoiada the priest took one chest and bored a hole in its door; and he placed it near the altar on the right, where a person enters the house of the Lord: and the priests, the guards of the threshold, would put all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, into there.

With this definition the passuk would read: And the son of the Israelite woman bored a hole in the name of God.

What does this mean?

The Arizal explains that the story of the Mekalel and the son of Dasan is deeply connected to the story of Kayin and Hevel. While we are all familiar with the surface level of the story in which Kayin was jealous of Hevel's korban, there is a mystical explanation for Kayin's jealousy of. Kayin and Hevel were both born with twin sisters who they were meant to marry. In this way they would populate the world. While Kayin was born with one twin sister, Hevel was born with two twin sisters. Out of jealousy, Kayin killed Hevel. Moshe Rabbeinu is a reincarnation of Sheis (Adam's third son) who is a reincarnation of Hevel. The "mem" of Moshe's name stands for "Moshe," the "shin" stands for Sheis, and the "heh" for Hevel. (see Zohar, Mishpatim, Shemos 1:1, Arizal Sha'ar Hagilgulim, Hakdama 36, Bereishis Rabbah 22:7).

(The theme of Moshe as Hevel is seen repeatedly throughout his life. For example:

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה אֲנִ֛י חֹֽתֶנְךָ֥ יִתְר֖וֹ בָּ֣א אֵלֶ֑יךָ וְאִ֨שְׁתְּךָ֔ וּשְׁנֵ֥י בָנֶ֖יהָ עִמָּֽהּ:

And he said to Moses, "I, Jethro, your father in law, am coming to you, and [so is] your wife and her two sons with her." (Shemos 18:6)

The wording of the passuk seems somewhat strange. Yisro could have merely said, chosencha ba eilecha, your father in law is coming to you. Why does he say the additional "I' and "Yisro"? The Arizal explains that the words אֲנִ֛י חֹֽתֶנְךָ֥ יִתְר֖וֹ are the roshei teivos of אחי, my brother. Thus Yisro was letting Moshe know that he was coming as the giglul of Kayin to greet Moshe, the gilgul of Hevel. To atone for killing Hevel and taking him away from his twin sister, Yisro (Kayin) is returning to him (Moshe/Hevel) Tzipporah, who was the reincarnation of that sister.)

When Kayin killed Hevel all of the evil of Kayin went into the Egyptian taskmaster. Shelomit bas Dibri was the Nitzotz of the second twin of Hevel. With this in mind we can understand why the Egyptian found himself longing specifically for this Jewish woman, whereas no other Egyptian had relations with any Jewish women. Why would the Egyptian go against the explicit decree of Pharaoh? And so we clearly see that the story of Shelmit bas Dibri is a repeat of the story of Kayin and Hevel. Just as Kayin killed Hevel to get to his wife (the second twin) so too does the Egyptian taskmaster (Kayin) steal Shelomit and attempt to kill Dasan. This time Moshe (Hevel) steps in and saves Dasan's life by using the ineffable name of God to kill the Egyptian (Kayin). But Shelomit was already impregnated with the seed of the Egyptian and the evil of Kayin was transferred to his unborn child. This is why the Torah never tells us the child's name but refers to him as the בֶּן־אִשָּׁ֣ה יִשְׂרְאֵלִ֔ית and בֶּן־אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י. He is a product of the evil of his father and his Jewish mother.

As the product of both the Egyptian taskmaster (Kayin) and Shelomit (Hevel's second twin sister and wife), the Mekalel has the ability to rectify the sin of Kayin and the immodesty of his mother. In order to understand how this can occur a brief introduction is in order.

Introduction Part One:

While most of us think of the name of Hashem as Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey, in Kabbalah there is a hidden name of God which is Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey. Though this name is never explicitly spelled out in the Torah it is found in a hidden form in the very first passuk of the Torah.

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ:

In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth. (Bereishis 1:1)

The words אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ are the Roshei Teivos of Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey.

This name of God is identified with Daas (specifically the right side of Daas) because like Daas it has the capacity to unite (see Bereishis 4:1 for an example of Daas as a uniting force). For example, in the above passuk, the name Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey, unites shomayim and aretz which will make God's presence transparent in this world. It is important to note that Daas is also the source for the sefiros of Chesed (Hevel) and Gevura (Kayin). Chesed relates to the first two letters of Aleph-Hey and Gevurah relates to the last two letters of Vav-Hey.

Introduction Part Two:

When God created the world he first created a vacuum within which our finite world could come into existence. The actual building of the finite world took place in four stages. These four stages (beginning with the highest stage) are known as Atzilus, Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyah. Each stage of creation corresponds to a different letter of the Divine name (in this case Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey). In each of these "worlds" the light of God is further hidden until it is possible to deny God's existence completely (in our world of Asiyah). While Divine Energy passes through each of these world's in order to maintain existence, there is a veil between each of the worlds which filters the light and protects the lower world's from the light emanating from the world above it. Each of the world's are made up of the ten sefiros and the veil between each of the worlds is Malchus, the lowest of the Sefiros. Thus, the Malchus of Atzilus acts as a veil between Atzilus and Beriah, the Malchus of Beriah acts as a veil between Beriah and Yetzirah and the Maclchus of Yetzirah acts as a veil between Yetzirah and Asiyah. The letter that is identified with the veil of Malchus is the letter Dalet.

With these introductions in mind we are now ready to gain a much deeper explanation of the Mekalels curse. As the spiritual progeny of both Kayin and Hevel, the Mekalel wanted to rectify the sin of Kayin and the immodesty of his mother Shelomit. How would he do so? The Mekalel contained the power of the hidden name of God, Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey. This is seen in the passuk:

וַיִּקֹּ֠ב בֶּן־הָֽאִשָּׁ֨ה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֤ית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם֙ וַיְקַלֵּ֔ל...

The Roshei Teivos of the words הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֤ית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם֙ וַיְקַלֵּ֔ל are Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey. The Mekalel wanted to manipulate the name of God (the Aleph-Hey-Vav-Hey) in order to puncture the veil that exists between the world of Asiyah and the world's above. In this way he would unite worlds that are not ordinarily united and the divine beneficence of Beriah would flow down to Yetzirah and ultimately into the world of Asiyah.

How does this work? In the world of Asiyah the power of evil is greater than the power of holiness. In Yetzirah, the powers of evil and holiness are on equal footing. In the world of Beriah the power of holiness is greater than the power of evil. By breaking through the barriers (Malchus) that exist between the various world's the Mekalel sought to draw down from the Kedusha of Beriah into our world of Asiyah. In other words, in the world of asiyah we are meant to serve God with our actions. The Mekalel seeks to open up a portal where God effects a salvation even without the actions of man. In this way the sin of Kayin would be rectified and the modesty of Shelomit would be purified. Finally, the son of the Egyptian (the evil of Kayin), would have a place in Klal Yisrael! We can now understand why only after Moshe paskens that the son of Shelomit and the Egyptian taskmaster cannot camp with Shevet Dan does he actually blaspheme. He does with no other recourse. It is his last chance to be a part of Klal Yisrael. This is as the Gemara in Yevamos (23a) states:

אמר רבינא ש"מ בן בתך הבא מן העובד כוכבים קרוי בנך לימא קסבר רבינא עובד כוכבי' ועבד הבא על בת ישראל הולד כשר נהי דממזר לא הוי כשר נמי לא הוי ישראל פסול מיקרי

Ravina said: Conclude from here that the son of your daughter by a gentile father is nevertheless called your son, i.e., grandson. The Gemara asks: Shall we say that Ravina holds that if a gentile or slave engaged in intercourse with a Jewish woman, the offspring is of unflawed lineage? The Gemara answers: There is no conclusive proof from here, because granted, she is not a mamzer, but nevertheless she is still not of unflawed lineage; rather, she is called a Jew who is unfit to marry into the priesthood.

The Mekalel clearly saw himself in this light. A member of Klal Yisrael but tainted in his essence. He longed to be a part of Klal Yisrael to the degree that he would be beyond any flaw.

We can now understand why the Arizal identifies Malchus with the letter Dalet. Dalet means door. As we said above the word וַיִּקֹּ֠ב, blaspheme, also means to bore a hole. The proof that was brought for this alternative definition was from the passuk in Melachim (ibid) וַיִּקֹּ֥ב חֹ֖ר בְּדַלְתּ֑וֹ, and he bored a hole in the door. When the Mekalel bored a hole in the Dalet he was boring a hole in the "door" that existed between the various world in order to draw down divine beneficence into the world of Asiyah. Furthermore, we can explain what the Medrash (quoted in Rashi above) meant when it says that the Mekalel "went out" and this means that “He went out of his world.” On a simple level this means that the Mekalal went out of his portion in Olam Haba. On a deeper level we can explain that he literally left the world of Asiyah in order to unite it with the world's above.

What was the mistake of the Mekalel? His intentions certainly seem noble! Did Moshe Rabbeinu not do the same exact thing when killing his Egyptian father? Just as Moshe Rabbeinu used the hidden name of Hashem to remove the scourge of the evil of Kayin by shining the light of the upper worlds on the world of Asiyah below so too the Mekalel sought to do the same exact thing. Where is the difference between the two cases?

In Chassidus we are taught that everything has an inner core of goodness. Even evil has an inner core of goodness though it is surrounded the Kellipah of evil. In order to access this inner goodness the first thing we must do is crush the outer Kellipah of evil. Only when the outer shell is crushed and the inner goodness has been separated can we attempt to sweeten the bitter shell. Only after the shell has been destroyed can we see the reality that it always held an inner spark of goodness. Attempting to sweeten that which is bitter before the Kellipah has been shattered is impossible. As long as the Kellipah remains intact in its outer structure it cannot be sweetened. Moshe Rabbeinu understood that the Egyptian taskmaster was ready to be sweetened. The separation of good and evil had already occurred when he cohabited with Shelomit and therefore using the hidden divine name of God was now appropriate. In the case of the son of the Egyptian, the outer shell remained intact. Moshe Rabbeinu's psak was that as the representative of the evil of Kayin he had to remain separate from the Machane of Dan. In this way evil and good would be separated and ultimately a divine sweetening would be a possibility. The Mekalel jumped the gun and attempted to use the name of God to sweeten a Kellipah that was not yet prepared for such a spiritual move.

The punishment for the Mekalel is an interesting one. All of those who heard the Mekalel blaspheme place their hands on his head while all the congregation stones him (וְרָֽגְמ֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־הָֽעֵדָֽה). The Arizal explains that the "congregation" here refers to the Talmidei Chachamim and the Sanhedrin who receive the additional light of Shabbos even during the week. On Shabbos we merit to have a clearer consciousness of Hashem. Talmidei Chachamim are capable of sustaining this consciousness even during the mundane week. Thus Chazal (Zohar III:29a; see Shabbos 119a) compare Talmidei Chachamim to Shabbos. This explains why the Gemara in Eiruvin 65a compares someone who can hold their liquor to member of the Sanhedrin:

אמר רבי חייא כל המתיישב ביינו יש בו דעת שבעים זקנים יין ניתן בשבעים אותיות וסוד ניתן בשבעים אותיות נכנס יין יצא סוד

Rabbi Ḥiyya said: Anyone who remains settled of mind after drinking wine, and does not become intoxicated, has an element of the mind-set of seventy Elders. The allusion is: Wine [yayin spelled yod, yod, nun] was given in seventy letters, as the numerological value of the letters comprising the word is seventy, as yod equals ten and nun equals fifty. Similarly, the word secret [sod spelled samekh, vav, dalet] was given in seventy letters, as samekh equals sixty, vav equals six, and dalet equals four. Typically, when wine entered the body, a secret emerged. Whoever does not reveal secrets when he drinks is clearly blessed with a firm mind, like that of seventy Elders.

Just as the members of the Sanhedrin can retain their Daas (union) of Shabbos even in the "drunken" consciousness of the week, so too someone who can hold their alcohol has the Daas of the Sanhedrin.

The Mekalel sought to inappropriately turn the week into Shabbos by uniting the upper and lower worlds. Appropriately, it is the keepers of Shabbos, the Talmidei Chachamim and the Sanhedrin, who are tasked with meting out the Mekalels punishment on behalf of God.

With this in mind we can now explain why the Mekalel scoffed at the Lechem HaPanim. Each week the Kohanim prepared twelve loaves of bread to be placed on the Shulchan in the Mishkan. The bread was baked on Friday, placed on the Shulchan in the Mishkan, and eaten, on a regular week, nine days later. (Menachos 100b) The Mekalel scoffed and asked if it is the practice of a king to eat stale, cold, nine day-old bread. Why should the king not eat warm, fresh bread, he argued. In fact, miraculously, the Lechem HaPanim stayed fresh for the whole week. (Menachot 96b) While there is a juxtaposition between the halachos of the Lechem HaPanim and the story of the Mekalel, clearly there is an inherent connection between these two concepts.

The Gemara in Chagigah (26b) tells us that message of the Lechem HaPanim is that it shows us that we are always beloved by God.

מלמד שמגביהין אותו ומראין בו לעולי רגלים לחם הפנים ואומרים להם ראו חיבתכם לפני המקום סילוקו כסידורו דא"ר יהושע בן לוי נס גדול נעשה בלחם הפנים כסידורו כך סילוקו שנאמר (שמואל א כא, ז) לשום לחם חום ביום הלקחו

Teaches that they would lift the table with the show bread on it to display the show bread to the pilgrims standing in the Temple courtyard, as it was prohibited for Israelites to enter the Sanctuary, where the table stood, and they would say to them: Behold your affection before God, Who performs a perpetual miracle with the bread, for when it is removed from the table on Shabbat it is just as fresh as when it was arranged on the previous Shabbat. As Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: A great miracle was performed with the show bread: As its condition during its arrangement, so was its condition during its removal, as it is stated: “To place hot bread on the day when it was taken away” (I Samuel 21:7), indicating that it was as hot on the day of its removal as it was on the day when it was placed.

What is the significance of the eating of the Lechem HaPanim? Just as we said that Daas is an expression of union similarly eating is an expression of union. Thus we find that just as Daas is a euphemism for sexual relations so too eating is a euphemism for sexual relations. For example, the passuk in Bereishis (39:6) tells us:

וַיַּֽעֲזֹ֣ב כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ֘ בְּיַד־יוֹסֵף֒ וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֤ע אִתּוֹ֙ מְא֔וּמָה כִּ֥י אִם־הַלֶּ֖חֶם אֲשֶׁר־ה֣וּא אוֹכֵ֑ל וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה:

So he left all that he had in Joseph's hand, and he knew nothing about what was with him except the bread that he ate; and Joseph had handsome features and a beautiful complexion.

Rashi explains that the "bread he ate" is a reference to the wife of Potiphar.

Similarly we find that when Yisro heard that Moshe saved his daughters he said to them:

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֶל־בְּנֹתָ֖יו וְאַיּ֑וֹ לָ֤מָּה זֶּה֙ עֲזַבְתֶּ֣ן אֶת־הָאִ֔ישׁ קִרְאֶ֥ן ל֖וֹ וְיֹ֥אכַל לָֽחֶם:

"Why did you leave the man [there]? Call him [here], and let him eat bread." (Shemos 2:20)

Rashi explains that Yisro was saying to his daughters, invite Moshe to eat bread and perhaps Moshe will marry one of you. Indeed this is exactly what happens in the very next passuk: "He gave his daughter Zipporah to Moshe."

Finally, the passuk in Shir HaShirim (5:1) says:

בָּ֣אתִי לְגַנִּי֘ אֲחֹתִ֣י כַלָּה֒ אָרִ֤יתִי מוֹרִי֙ עִם־בְּשָׂמִ֔י אָכַ֤לְתִּי יַעְרִי֙ עִם־דִּבְשִׁ֔י שָׁתִ֥יתִי יֵינִ֖י עִם־חֲלָבִ֑י אִכְל֣וּ רֵעִ֔ים שְׁת֥וּ וְשִׁכְר֖וּ דּוֹדִֽים:

"I have come to my garden, my sister, [my] bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my sugar cane with my sugar, I have drunk my wine with my milk. Eat, beloved friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, beloved ones."

Shir HaShirim is a love poem between Hashem and Klal Yisrael. Eat my beloved ones is a refers to God's desire for the union between Him and Klal Yisrael.

It is therefore clear that the Lechem HaPanim refers to God's eternal love for Klal Yisrael and the eating of the Lechem HaPanim is the symbolism of the union that is created in that love.

According to the Zohar,the Shulchan, upon which the Lechem HaPaim was placed, is the channel for bringing prosperity into the world (to all the other tables). The Gemara in Baba Basra (25a) tells us, “If a person wants to become rich, he should point his feet to the north when he prays.” The Shulchan was on the north side of the Beis HaMikdash. The Gemara in Yoma (72b) tells us that the Shulchan was surrounded by a crown which represents the wealth of the kingdom of Dovid HaMelech. The Lechem HaPanim represents God's eternal love and this is expressed in his gift of abundance and prosperity to us. Appropriately it is the Kohanim, those who are tasked with channeling divine beneficence into our world, who eat (create a union with) the Lechem HaPanim and bring this love and prosperity into the world.

Returning to the Mekalel we can now understand his objection to the Lechem HaPanim. The always fresh Lechem HaPanim symbolized the ever present divine love and gift of prosperity. The Mekalel does not want divine beneficence to be limited. It should occur during the week as it does on Shabbos. If it miraculously remains fresh then it ought to be for everyone. The Mekalel was told that he does not have a place in Klal Yisrael. He cannot feel the warmth of the Lechem HaPanim and so he denies its existence.

We have now successfully explained the inner nature of the Mekalel. We have also explained his scoffing at the Lechem HaPanim. All that is left to explain is why the laws of damages are repeated here as part of the narrative and why this story takes place in Sefer Vayikra and not Sefer Bamidar.

Sefer Vayikra focuses on the unique role of the Kohanim. They are set apart from the rest of Klal Yisrael with special status and halachos. The fundamental argument of the Mekalel is that the divine beneficence from above should flow down to everyone below. There should be no barriers. In this fashion, his mother and Kayin would be completely rectified, no different than anyone else. In such a world it would make no difference if the Mekalel was born to an Egyptian father. The notion of a tainted lineage should not exist. He should have an equal place in Hashem's camp. And while the Mekalel made a terrible mistake in attempting to sweeten that which was not yet appropriate to sweeten, the message of the interluding halachos is unmistakable. In God's law we are all equal. All created life is precious to God. If you kill כָּל־נֶ֣פֶשׁ אָדָ֑ם, any human being, you are put to death. Even if you kill an animal you must make appropriate restitution.

In the words of the HaEimek Davar:

ואיש כי יכה כל נפש אדם. הזהיר בדומה לו כמש״כ דאיש כי יכה כל נפש אדם. בין גדול מישראל בין עבד כנעני אשר נפש ישראלי שבו מעט מכ״מ ההורגו יומת. והיינו הסמיכות לענין הקודם שאין חלוק ברושם חיות היוצא מהזכרת השם בין מאדם גדול בין ממי שהוא דאם בא זה ואיבדו ה״ז יומת:

Whether you kill a Gadol B'Yisrael or an Caanaite slave the punishment is exactly the same. Every life is precious to God. The Mekalel's mistake was in believing that there was no place for him in Klal Yisrael. He may not have been allowed to camp with Shevet Dan, but God's love is equal for all. Thus, the section of the laws of damages concludes:

מִשְׁפַּ֤ט אֶחָד֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָכֶ֔ם כַּגֵּ֥ר כָּֽאֶזְרָ֖ח יִֽהְיֶ֑ה כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:

One law shall be exacted for you, convert and resident alike, for I am the Lord, your God. (Vayikra 24:22)

The Mekalel who had undergone a geirus (see Rashi above who said: בתוך בני ישראל: מלמד שנתגייר) has the same halachos as everyone else. Had he understood this fundamental idea he would never have blasphemed.

Only after Klal Yisrael hears the repetition of these halachos are they ready to stone the Mekalel. Had Hashem not repeated these halachos they may not have understood what the Mekalel did wrong. For it was not merely cursing God that was the problem but the Mekalel's worldview that God was unjust. How could some be more loved than others? In response, Hashem repeats the halachos that affirm God's love for all people.

It is now clear why this story belongs in Sefer Vayikra and not in Bamidbar. With the unique role that the Kohanim play throughout Vaikra, one could easily make the same mistake as the Mekalel. Why do the Kohanim have an elevated role? Why should anyone in Klal Yisrael feel that they are not as beloved by God as the Kohanim are. The story of the Mekalel comes to teach us that there is no need to break down the barriers of our unique roles. God's love for each and every one of us is reflected in the story of the Mekalel.


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