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No Sin For The Humble

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Unfortunately, it would not be difficult to write a list of powerful men whose careers have been toppled by the scandal of adultery. Alas, we often say, sarcastically, what more can one expect of politicians, sports stars, celebrities, etc? The connection between wealth and power to the vice of adultery is, sadly, nothing new. “Rabbi Hiyya Ben Abbas said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: Every man in whom is haughtiness of spirit will in the end stumble through an [unfaithful] married woman” (Sotah 4b).

Recognizing the connection between power and adultery may make it less surprising to learn that there was a time in the Wilderness when Moses himself was suspected of adultery.

“And Moses heard and fell on his face” (Numbers 16:4): According to the Talmud, Moses had heard that “they suspected him of [adultery with] a married woman, as it is said: ‘And they were jealous of Moses in the camp and of Aaron the holy one of the Lord’ (Psalms 106:16). And, said Rabbi Samuel ben Isaac, this indicates that everyone was jealous of his wife because of Moses.–There [again] it was done out of hatred” (Moed Katan 18b).

This resentment of Moses was incited by Korach, a Levite (and thus a cousin of Moses and Aaron) who was jealous that Aaron was to be the High Priest. The Torah, in Numbers 16, describes the rebellion that Korach organized against Moses, a rebellion that Korach spurred on by making people believe, falsely, that Moses and Aaron were taking power away from them.

The suspicions of Moses’ impropriety had absolutely no validity. If, as Rabbi Yochanan asserts, it is men of pride who are caught in such a sin, how could Moses be suspect, after all, the Torah describes him (Numbers 12:3) as “exceedingly humble, more than any other man on the face of the earth.”

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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