Telltale Signs – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)
“And G-d spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take vengeance for the Children of Israel from the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered unto your people.’ And Moses spoke to the nation, saying, ‘Prepare men from among you for the army and it will be for Midian to give G-d’s vengeance in Midian.’”
The Torah is very clear – G-d tells Moses, do this one mitzvah and, after you do the mitzvah, you will be “gathered unto your people,” i.e. it will be your time to die. And Moses does the mitzvah without hesitation. However, Rashi adds one more detail. Not only did Moses act without hesitation, he performed the mitzvah with joy, despite knowing he would die after it was completed.
The Kli Yakar asks, how does Rashi know Moses was happy?
The Kli Yakar answers that Moses omitted what would happen after the mission. According to the Kli Yakar, Moses’ omission is evidence that he did his last mission with joy.
Still, the Kli Yakar is difficult to understand. How does he derive any proof from Moses’ omission? Weren’t there many good reasons to not repeat everything G-d had said? First, the people did not need to know and not everything G-d told Moses was meant to be repeated. Second, had the people known, some may have tried to delay the mission to forestall Moses’ death. Third, the news, particularly just before a battle, could have caused gloom and panic.
How are we to understand Rashi and the Kli Yakar when there appears to be no evidence at all as to how Moses felt?
And therein lies the answer. When a person acts, there is always evidence as to how he feels.
Think of the people you know the best. Think of the times they acted normally, even happy, yet you could tell something was wrong. Tiny telltale signs that other people wouldn’t necessarily notice but you could. And no matter how much they denied or concealed, you knew something wasn’t quite right.
Now, let’s review again how Moses behaved. Is there any evidence whatsoever, even the slightest hint, that Moses performed this mitzvah any different than any other mitzvah? No. And how did Moses normally perform commandments? Joyously.
This is the Kli Yakar’s lesson in explaining Rashi. The absence of proof that Moses acted differently is itself proof that Moses acted the same.
There’s another very important lesson in this. The Torah often requires us to act with joy. Celebrating Shabbos and the holidays, loving one another and not holding a grudge, serving Hashem with happiness, etc. Many of us, either not having reached that level or not feeling it at the moment, attempt the next best thing – we fake it.
The Kli Yakar is teaching us that Moses couldn’t fake happiness and neither can we. There will always be, however minute, telltale signs of our true feelings. Therefore, when the moment requires it, we must work on ourselves to be happy and not simply imitate happiness. “And Moses spoke to the nation” – with joy.