“Mi Sam Peh Leadam…”
[Torah Or p. 102]
The Mamar of this week’s Parsha discusses the conversation that took place between Hashem and Moshe by the burning bush, upon Moshe being appointed to redeem the Jewish people from Egypt. The verse describes how Moshe was hesitant to take such a mighty task upon himself and he tried consistently to argue his way out of the position. One of the arguments used by Moshe was that as he had a speech impairment, how could he be expected to deliver the demands of G-d to King Pharaoh? He would stumble over his words and come out appearing like a fool. Hashem replied to Moshe, Mi Sam Peh La’adam? “Who gives man a mouth to speak?” In other words, He, the Creator of speech and its organs, could arrange for Moshe to be able to speak clearly and fluently, so Moshe had no need to worry about his speech difficulties. This correspondence between Hashem and Moshe seems puzzling in light of the fact that Moshe was not speaking to a friend or colleague but to Hashem, G-d and Creator of man and earth. Did Moshe truly doubt whether G-d could fix his speech impairment? What novelty was contained in the reply of Hashem that Moshe did not already know? These queries lead the Alter Rebbe to a journey of discovery regarding the root of Moshe’s soul, his spiritual mission in this world, and the order of the universe in which we are found. What made Moshe the most humble of all men, and why did he specifically merit redeeming the Jewish people? The Alter Rebbe delves into the differences between the worlds of Tohu and Tikkun, and the worlds that existed prior to ours.
Explorations of the Mamar:
1. Why did Moshe have difficulty of speech?
2. Is our universe the first realm of existence, or did there exist a previous universe prior to ours?
3. Will our universe remain forever? Will there be any future universes with a Torah and Jewish people?
4. Why was Moshe specifically chosen to be the redeemer of the Jewish people?
“I am not a man of words as I have difficulty of speech,” countered Moshe to Hashem in an attempt to persuade Him to delegate the mission of being the savior of the Jewish people from Egypt to another man. As mentioned above, Hashem replied to Moshe, Mi Sam Peh La’adam? “Who gives man a mouth to speak?” This meant that G-d, as the Creator, could easily arrange for Moshe to be able to speak clearly, without any speech impediments. As this conversation was taking place between Hashem and Moshe, it raises the question of whether Moshe doubted whether Hashem could fix his speech impediment, and also what message Hashem is giving here. To understand clearly the meaning of Hashem’s words, the concept of the existence of the universes prior to our creation must first be introduced.
The previous world and its inhabitants:
It states in Sefer Hatemuna that this current world is the second “Shemitta” cycle of existence in the line of seven “Shemittos” [seven worlds] that Hashem planned to create. Prior to our world, there existed a previous world [with a physical earth, people, animals, and vegetation], which corresponded to the first Shemitta cycle. This first world derived from the attribute of Chesed, while our world derives from the attribute of Gevurah and fear. It is for this reason that in our world there is much suffering and evil, and we experienced the destruction of the First and Second Temples. This is in contrast to the first world, which derived from the attribute of Chesed and hence its inhabitants lived a life of pleasure and luxury in all matters. The Divine service of the inhabitants of this first world was different than our own, and their Torah was also of a different style. This is the opinion of the Sefer Hatemuna. The later Kabbalists, following in this approach, stated that our world is not everlasting, as Hashem must still create another five worlds corresponding to the last five of the seven Shemittos. Hence, after the seven thousand years allocated for our world, the second Shemittah, Hashem will [cause our world to vanish and] create the next world, and so on and so forth for a total of seven worlds that correspond to the seven Middos. For this reason, the Torah begins with the letter Beis for the word Bereishis, to teach us that this world is the second world in the line of creations.
The approach of the Arizal-We are the one and only world:
The Arizal argues on the above understanding of events. He does not agree with the statement of the Mekubalim that there will be another five worlds after this world [rather, he rules that this world will exist forever]. Although even the Arizal accepts the concept that this world is the second Shemitta, and therefore the Torah begins with the letter Beis, nevertheless he explains the meaning behind this concept differently than the above. The Arizal explains that a physical world with people, animals, and vegetation, Heaven and earth, never existed prior to this world, and this world is the first time that physical creations came into existence. However, prior to our physical world there existed a spiritual world, devoid of any physical connotations, and it is this world that is referred to as the first Shemitta. The name of this first world is Tohu and it contained seven primordial kings that died, which represent its seven attributes or Sefiros. This world, however, is part of the second Shemitta, which is the world of Tikkun that came into being after the world of Tohu.
The soul of Chanoch and Moshe-a soul of Tohu:
In general, all the souls that descended into our physical world derive from the world of Tikkun. There are, however, two souls that derived from the first Shemitta, the first world, the world of Tohu, and have descended into this world, the world of Tikkun, the world of the 2nd Shemitta. These are the souls of Chanoch and Moshe. Regarding Chanoch, it states, “Which had walked with G-d”, implying that Chanoch had been with G-d once before, prior to this existence, in the first Shemitta. Regarding Moshe, it states Min Hamayim Meshisuhu, “From the waters he has been gathered”. This means that Moshe had been drawn from the world of water, Chesed, which was the previous world of Tohu, the first Shemitta.
The souls of Tohu refine the world:
The purpose of the descent of the souls of Tohu into this world was to rectify the worlds. These souls are very great and are much higher than the souls of this world, which come from the second Shemitta. These souls contain a much greater level of Bittul than the other souls. It is for this reason that of Moshe it is stated, Venachnu Mah and, “and Moshe was very humble”. Chanoch was also a very high soul from Tohu, and he descended in order to help refine the world. Chanoch lived prior to the times of the Flood, when the world was in an extreme state of depravity, as the verse states, “The end of all flesh has come before me”. For this reason, Chanoch descended below to prevent the world from returning to complete oblivion. Chanoch was successful in allowing the world to remain and be purified through the Flood, with Noach and his family surviving. If not for Chanoch, the world would have been completely destroyed, and even Noach and his children would not have remained. In the same spirit, Moshe descended into this world to redeem the Jewish people and have the Torah given through him.
The difference between Tohu and Tikkun:
The main difference between Tohu and Tikkun is that the world of Tohu contained very high, sublime Divine lights with only small vessels to retain them. Tikkun, however, contains a balanced quantity of Divine lights with substantially large vessels to withhold the light. Thus, while the world of Tohu contained superior Divine lights, the world of Tikkun contains superior vessels. These vessels are rooted in a very high level of G-dliness and surpass the advantage of even the sublime lights of Tohu. This is similar to the power of intellect found in the brain in relation to the ability of movement found in the feet. When weighing the two soul powers against each other, the power of the mind is certainly of greater importance and prestige than the power of movement in the legs. Nevertheless, it is specifically the legs that can carry the mind to wherever it chooses. Therefore, the legs contain certain advantages even over the mind.
This difference is similar to the difference between the relationship between Torah and Mitzvos. While Torah is certainly higher than Mitzvos, being that it involves the mind and intellect as opposed to mere action, nevertheless the effect of Mitzvos reaches higher than Torah. This is vividly seen from the law that states that one must nullify his Torah learning to perform a Mitzvah that cannot be performed by others. This is because Mitzvos contain an advantage even over Torah. It is for this reason that even a simpleton who performs a Mitzvah without any Divine intent, but simply due to this being G-d’s will, can find more favor in Hashem’s eyes than the great Kabbalistic intentions and unification performed by a Tzaddik. All of this is due to the advantage contained within the vessels of Tikkun over the lights of Tohu.
Moshe’s humility and refusal to accept leadership:
When Moshe descended to the world of Tikkun and recognized the advantages contained within its vessels, he was humbled by the souls that came from Tikkun, realizing that they contained powers that even he did not contain. He therefore asked Hashem to send the redeemer through one of these souls, as they contain an advantage over him. This is the inner meaning behind Moshe’s complaint of being speech-impaired, as Moshe was stating that since he came from Tohu, his vessels of speech and expression were unable to reveal his high light, as his vessels were smaller than his powers. However, in Tikkun the vessels are broad and are capable of holding the Divine lights and thus it is more befitting to choose a redeemer from one who contains a soul from Tikkun.
Hashem can cause the vessels of Tikkun to hold the lights of Tohu:
Hashem replied to Moshe that in truth he had nothing to fear from his disadvantage of being from Tohu, as, “Who is the one that has granted a mouth to man”? Just like the function of a mouth is to reveal intellect through speech, so too, on a spiritual level, a mouth has the ability to draw down a Divine light that is higher than Tikkun and is called Or Makkif. This is readily experienced upon saying a blessing prior to a Mitzvah, which causes one to draw down an Or Makkif to the Mitzvah he will perform. So Hashem told Moshe that just as He gave man, which is from Tikkun, the ability to draw down an Or Makkif, so too He can give Moshe the advantages of both Tohu and Tikkun, allowing Moshe to retain his high sublime state from the lights of Tohu and receive the broad vessels of Tikkun. This is in essence the promise that Hashem conveyed to Moshe, that Moshe would also receive the advantage contained within the vessels of Tikkun and hence have the moral right and ability to redeem the Jewish nation.
The blessing on the head Tefillin:
Based on the above explanation of the meaning of a blessing, one can explain the age-old dispute between the Ashkenazim and Sefaradim as to whether one recites a separate blessing upon wearing the head Tefillin. The Sefaradim rule that a blessing is not recited, while the Ashkenazim rule that a blessing is recited. The reason for this is because the Sefaradim hold that the Divine light of the head Tefillin is too high to be drawn down below and hence a blessing, which reveals the light, cannot be pronounced over it. However, the Ashkenazim hold that the light can be drawn down, and hence they recite a blessing.
Lessons of the Mamar
· Despite all of Moshe Rabbeinu’s special traits and matters of greatness, he was still able to feel humbled by the acts of others and held others in such great esteem that he felt unworthy of being chosen as the redeemer. Every Jew contains advantages and good deeds, and one is to feel humbled before each Jew and not, G-d forbid, hold oneself as better or more worthy than another. This is the meaning of the dictum of our Sages, “Be humble before every man”.
 Hakdama to Temuna 3 p. 27, written by Rebbe Nechunya Ben Hakana and Rebbe Yishmael Kohen Gadol.
 As evident from the Arizal’s negation of this opinion.
 See Shulchan Aruch 25/5 that the Rif, Rambam, Rashba, Rashi, and Michaber rule a blessing is not recited, while the Rosh, Rama and Minhag Ashkenaz rule a blessing is recited.