Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

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The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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May Hashem, God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them who shall take them out and who shall bring them in; and let the assembly of Hashem not be like sheep that have no shepherd (Bamidbar 27:16,17).

In this week’s parsha we learn how Moshe requested of Hashem that He appoint a new leader for the Jewish people to take his place. Moshe addressed Hashem with the title “God of the spirits of all flesh.” What is the significance of this unusual title?

It is important to note that Hashem has many names. In our prayers we sometimes address Hashem as “our Father.” At other times we address Him as “our King.” Throughout the Torah we find that Hashem is addressed with many different titles. Indeed, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are nothing other than thirteen different titles of Hashem. The commentators explain that the name of Hashem changes with the context and circumstances of any given situation. When we beseech Hashem for mercy we address Hashem with a title of mercy. This conveys our awareness that Hashem is the Merciful One. When Judgment is called for, we address Hashem with a title of Judgment. This conveys our awareness that Hashem is the True Judge. The same is true for all other attributes. The fact that Moshe here addressed Hashem with the title “God of the spirits of all flesh,” indicates that a unique set of circumstances existed.

We may suggest that the title “God of the spirits of all flesh.” is the title of Hashem in His capacity as the ultimate shadchan i.e., matchmaker. Indeed, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 68, 4) relates that Hashem devotes a significant portion of His day for arranging shiduchim.

In response to Moshe’s request, Hashem said “take to yourself Yehoshua son of Nun a man in whom there is spirit and lean your hand upon him” (Bamidbar 27:18).  Rashi comments that the phrase “whom there is spirit” is to be interpreted as meaning a man that may go “against” the spirit of each individual. In other words, a man who has exceptional interpersonal skills. We may assume that because this is the interpretation of the words “whom there is spirit” in Hashem’s response, it is likewise the interpretation of Moshe title of Hashem “God of the spirits.” Moshe wished to convey that he recognized that Hashem truly understands how to relate to every individual.  

It is noteworthy that this same expression is used in connection to the relationship of husband and wife. The posuk says, “Hashem, God said it is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper against him” (Bereishis 2:18). In this posuk the Torah describes a wife as one who is “against” her husband. This is simply interpreted as meaning that a wife understands her husband and can relate to him accordingly.

In connection to the relationship of husband and wife the posuk also says, “Therefore man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” (Bereishis 2:24) Rashi explains that the phrase “one flesh” is to be interpreted as referring to the child of the husband and wife. In the flesh of the child the husband and wife become one. Homiletically this may be interpreted as meaning that the climax of a successful marriage if the birth of children who unify the virtues of both parents. The Torah describes this climax with the phrase “one flesh.”

When Moshe addressed Hashem, his title included the phrase “of all flesh.” The commentators struggle to understand the meaning of this.

Homiletically we may interpret, “God of the spirits of all flesh” as a title for Hashem in his capacity of the ultimate shadchan. This phrase may be interpreted as meaning, Hashem is the only One who truly knows which two people can successfully relate to each other and achieve the goal of “and they shall become one flesh.”

Moshe recognized that there were many people who were qualified to lead the Jewish people. Many people had the necessary credentials. However Jewish leadership is more then just credentials it involves skill in interpersonal relationships. Not every leader is appropriate for every generation. Different types of leaders are needed in different generations. Moshe thus invoked the title of Hashem as the ultimate shadchan in his prayer for a new Jewish leader. Jewish leadership is also “bashert.”


© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5763/2003