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Table Talk Series II: Shelach Print E-mail

ShabbatTzitzit: As far as the Torah is concerned, I can go through my entire life without wearing Tzitzit, as long as I do not wear a four-cornered garment. The Torah also teaches that Tzitzit serve as a reminder of all the other Mitzvot. How can a Mitzvah, which I am not obligated to keep under all conditions serve as a reminder for the Mitzvot I must observe? Is its power as a reminder because we go out of our way to obligate ourselves in the Mitzvah?

Humility:

Moshe added a letter to Hosea’s name in order to protect him from the conspiracy of the spies. Targum Yonatan explains that Joshua was vulnerable because of his humility. In the Talmud (Gittin 56a) we also learn of the dangers of humility: After Bar Kamtza was publicly ejected from a party, “Said Bar Kamtza, ‘Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against then, to the Government.’ He went and said to the Emperor, ‘The Jews are rebelling against you.’ He said, ‘How can I tell?’ He said to him: ‘Send them an offering and see whether they will offer it [on the altar].’ So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he made a blemish on its upper lip, or as some say on the white of its eye, in a place where we [Jews] count it a blemish but they do not. The Rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the Government. Said R. Zechariah b. Abkulas to them: ‘People will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar.’ They then proposed to kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go and inform against them, but R. Zechariah b. Abkulas said to them, ‘Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death?’
R. Yochanan thereupon remarked: Through the humility of R. Zechariah b. Abkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt and we ourselves exiled from our land.

Why did Rabbi Yochanan speak of R. Zechariah’s arguments as humility? Are there times when humility is dangerous? Was Moshe not the most humble of people?
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