Saturday, December 25, 2010

Rashi's Protracted Explanation of "That" Donkey

"Moshe took his wife and sons, mounted them on that donkey, and returned toward Egypt, taking in his hand G-d's staff."
(Ex. 4, 20)

Rashi comments on the words, "that donkey", saying: "That donkey Abraham saddled up to take Isaac to be offered up as a sacrifice; The same animal upon which King Moshiach will reveal himself, as it says, 'A pauper that rides the donkey.'"

At first glance, Rashi seems to explain why scripture invokes the demonstrative adjective in "that donkey", instead of just "a donkey"; To reveal to us it wasn't just any donkey, but, in fact, a miraculous donkey with a significant history.

But if this were Rashi's intent, he could have just said, "That donkey used by Abraham", and nothing more. Yet Rashi goes on to elaborate the purpose of Abraham's mission, and then provides additional information about Moshiach's use of the animal. It therefore implies Rashi has more to tell us than just explain the word "that".

To understand Rashi's real intent, we must step back and put into context a previous scriptural episode. When Hashem appeared to Moshe in the burning bush, asking him to lead the Jews out of Egyptian exile, Moshe resisted. Only after 7 days did he finally submit to Hashem's "anger", but we still have no idea how Hashem answered Moshe - who asked, "Why can't my older brother, Aaron, a prophet, go instead of me?"; And his next question, "Why not send the same leader who will one day lead the Jews into the Messianic era?"

So why did Rashi tell us the donkey was used to take Isaac to be sacrificed? To hint to us what Hashem answered Moshe on his first question. When asked to sacrifice his son, Abraham saddled his donkey unquestioningly, first thing next morning. Well, if Abraham could fulfill a request to sacrifice his son unhesitatingly, what big sacrifice faced Moshe in comparison, even if his older brother would take offense at his younger brother's assuming a leader's role? Moshe thus had to lay aside his first suggestion.

As for couldn't King Moshiach himself bring the ultimate salvation to the Jewish nation right now, instead of him being their 1st leader, Hashem explained that the Egyptian exile served as a vital prelude without which a final exile could not happen. All exiles were actually one process - all connected with the first. That is to say, the future redemption by King Moshiach cannot be actualized without the actualized essence of Moshe. This because Moshe and Moshiach are not two distinct entities; Moshiach will inherit the powers cultivated and finessed by Moshe. Hearing this Moshe finally capitulated.

Had Rashi not elaborated, we'd never have a clue what dialogue took place to persuade Moshe to finally accept his leadership assignment.

(Who else if not one with the powers of Moshe himself could decipher the intent of Rashi's extra verbosity to explain the conversation Hashem had with Moshe regarding Moshiach. Rashi, the leader of his generation, inherited these powers and hinted to them. The Rebbe, the Moses of our generation, inherited them, understood Rashi's intent and divulged them.)

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