The Elders Speak

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 18/8/2019

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The Elders Speak

The Yaaros Devash[1] is bothered why the Gemara[2] says the elders of that generation, when they contemplated the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua, said the face of Moshe is like the sun whereas the face of Yehoshua is like the moon. Why does it say the elders of that generation and not also the young people? He explained with that which it says in the Sefarim of the Rishonim that the Jewish people didn’t see the sun or moon for 40 years when they were in the desert because the cloud covered them during the day and the pillar of fire at night. So, those born in the desert never saw the sun and moon and therefore didn’t know how to distinguish between the two. Consequently, the elders are the ones who said this statement.

 

Another answer given is that the elders knew Moshe and Yehoshua their entire lives, unlike those that were younger. As a result, only they can make such a remark.  

 

The Sefer החתם סופר ותלמידיו[3] relates that when the Chassam Sofer was sick, the Rav of the city of Pressburg, R’ Daniel Prossnitz,[4] came to the Chassam Sofer and told him in the name of the Beis Din that they decided his son, R’ Shmuel Wolf (known as the Kesav Sofer), should take his place. At that time, R’ Daniel Prossnitz praised the Kesav Sofer in front of his father and the Chassam Sofer smiled. Then with all his strength that he had left, the Chassam Sofer quoted the Chazal that ‘the elders of that generation, when they contemplated the difference between Moshe and Yehoshua, said the face of Moshe is like the sun whereas the face of Yehoshua is like the moon. אוי לה לאותה בושה אוי לה לאותה כלימה; Woe, for that shame, Woe for that disgrace.’ The elders of the generation that recognized Moshe when he was at Yehoshua’s age now said that already then Moshe’s face was like the sun and the face of Yehoshua now at this age is only like the moon. On this, they said אוי לה לאותה בושה אוי לה לאותה כלימה. The Chassam Sofer continued that the people don’t remember me when I was the age that my son (the Kesav Sofer) is now. But I remember and at his age, I didn’t reach the level he is on now.
R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] 2:4

[2] Baba Basra 75a

[3] pg 34

[4] He (1759-1846) was the closest colleague and confidant of the Chassam Sofer. He recommended the Chassam Sofer for the vacant position of rabbi of Pressburg and it was largely due to his conduct of the negotiations that the Chassam Sofer was appointed. Considered a foremost authority in matters of Halacha, he served the Pressburg community for over 50 years. He also occupied himself with Kabbala and used to fast frequently. His grave is in the Rabbinic graveyard and is immediately adjacent to the Chassam Sofer. 


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