SALT - Thursday, Yom Ha-Atzama'ut, 4 Iyar 5776, Omer 19 - May 12, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            Yesterday, we noted the different interpretations cited by Rashi in explaining the Torah’s introduction to the story of the blasphemer (the “megadef”): “The son of an Israelite woman went out” (“Va-yeitzei ben isha Yisraelit” – 24:10).  Rashi first presents a somewhat ambiguous interpretation, writing, “mei-olamo yatza” (literally, “he left from his world”).  While the simplest explanation of this remark is that the blasphemer brought about his own death by cursing the Name of God, writers and darshanim have offered other possibilities to uncover the possible deeper meaning of the phrase “mei-olamo yatza.”

            Rav Chaim Valkin (in Beit Hillel, Nissan, 5768) suggested explaining this phrase in light of Rashi’s other interpretation of the verse.  Rashi writes that the megadef committed his offense after leaving Moshe’s court, where he had lost the case brought against him by the tribe of Dan.  As his father was Egyptian, the megadef had no tribal affiliation through his father, and so he naturally pitched his tent among his mother’s tribe, the tribe of Dan.  The tribe of Dan insisted that he leave, as he did not legally belong to their tribe, and Moshe ruled in their favor.  Angry and resentful, the man blasphemed God.  Rav Valkin suggested that the phrase “mei-olamo yatza” also refers to this background to the story.  The megadef had created a life for himself among the tribe of Dan.  This was where he saw himself, and where he looked forward to building his family and his home.  Unfortunately, the Danites cruelly expelled him from their midst and manipulated the legal system to achieve this sinister goal.  The megadef was sent out of his “world,” the life that he had built for himself, and this sent him on the road to blasphemy.

            One of the lessons that emerge from this explanation is that the “world” we build for ourselves should not be bound to our material assets or other transient, unstable factors.  If we are too emotionally bound to our possessions or to a specific set of circumstances, then we will feel shattered when those possessions are lost or those circumstances change.  We need to build a “world” – our identity, our dreams and our aspirations – that can survive upheavals and drastic change.  The megadef resorted to blasphemy because he was too emotionally invested in his membership among Dan, to the point where his entire “world” depended on it.  We should try, as much as possible, to build an emotional world that is not bound to any particular set of circumstances, so that we will be able to overcome even the most difficult challenges and weather any storm with our faith, confidence and optimism fully intact.