י״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 3, 2017)

Sanhedrin 110a-b: Accusations in the Desert

The Mishna (108a) lists a number of groups who will not merit a portion in the World-to-Come. These include, for example, the biblical spies whose testimony about the Land of Israel caused the Children of Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years. Basing himself on the passage in Sefer Bamidbar (14:35), Rabbi Akiva believes that the entire generation of those who left Egypt lost their share in the World-to-Come, but Rabbi Eliezer disagrees. Rabbi Akiva also suggests that those people who joined Koraḥ’s rebellion lost their share in the Resurrection of the Dead, based on Sefer 16:33, although again, Rabbi Eliezer disagrees.

This last discussion brings the Gemara to focus on the story of Koraḥ’s rebellion. One passage that is examined is the brief moment when Moshe lost his ability to argue with them, and simply fell on his face (Bamidbar 16:4). What accusation was made against Moshe that led to his despair?

Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani quotes Rabbi Yonatan as teaching, based on Sefer Tehillim (106:16) that Moshe was accused of adultery. In fact, Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzḥak taught that when Moshe set up a tent – Ohel Mo’ed – outside of the encampment (see 33:7), the entire nation began to suspect him of committing adultery with their wives.

The Riaf explains this simply, that when any member of the community had an issue to discuss, they would turn to Moshe who was in his tent outside of the camp. It is clear that women as well as men would turn to Moshe for direction, and this led to suspicion. The Torah, however, dispels any such claim by emphasizing that Yeshoshua, Moshe’s protégé, never left the tent (see 33:11). The Margaliyyot HaYam notes that the Ohel Mo’ed was set up outside the camp immediately after the Sin of the Golden Calf, when the women refused to hand over their gold jewelry to build the calf. This led their husbands to suspect that they listened to Moshe more than to their own husbands.

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