There is a movie made by an acclaimed Japanese director, Kurosawa, called "Rashamon." During the sixties and seventies, university undergraduates solemnized this film to cult proportions.
The point of the film was that truth is relative, depending on the perceiver's perspective. For the uninitiated, it is worth repeating the deceptively simple story of this apparently beautiful Japanese work of art.
A young Samurai officer was traveling on foot, with his newly acquired bride riding on a donkey. As they pass through a lucerne forest glen, they encounter a bandit. From this point on, the story becomes as unclear as it is uncomplicated. Evidence is given in court in relation to the death of the husband by the wife. Her testimony is that a boorish, impudent but fascinatingly attractive, bandit engaged her dear, new husband in combat, overcame him, tied him to a tree and raped her. In a subsequent scuffle the bandit killed the husband.
Evidence is then given by the bandit. He sees himself as a suave and experienced man of the world who, having come across the young couple, was lured and tempted by an extremely artful woman, obviously bored by her weak, decadently aristocratic husband. Subsequently, forced to defend himself by what, to him, was an unprovoked attack by the husband, the bandit had no choice but to kill him with his unquestioned superior skills and strengths.
As the wind blows eerily through the open air court forum, evidence is then given by the dead man (through a medium.) The husband tells the story of a fine Samurai officer, conscious of his honor and protector of his new innocent bride, being set upon by a primitive near animal who bewitches and seduces his lovely wife. This was only possible because he, the gentleman officer was tied to a tree, powerless to defend his wife's chastity. Upon release, honor compelled him to duel with the bandit. The bandit, being a low life, cheated and so was able to kill the soldier, an otherwise impossible task.
Who is telling the truth? What is the truth? The story is not over. There was a witness! A woodcutter had seen everything and would be able to seal one of the stories as true. The woodcutter's evidence however, is that they were all wrong. His picture was of weak, selfish, indulged people clumsily committing evil, bungling from one disaster to the next.
Kurosawa's apparently beautiful art is a reflection of Society's belief; truth is relative. Good depends on where you stand. Everyone has a personal view and that view is enshrined as truth for them.
Parshas Shemos contains proof of the dangerous falsity of this proposition and begins the account of Moshe Rabbeinu with his birth.
Moshe Rabbeinu was born on the 7th of Adar and he also died on the 7th of Adar, a phenomenon not uncommon with great tzaddikim.
When later in our history, Haman threw the lots to determine the most auspicious date for mass Jewish murder, he was delighted that the resulting date was the 7th of Adar. Knowing that Moshe Rabbeinu died on the 7th of Adar, he imagined this to be an auspicious day. What he did not know, was that it was also the day of this birth. Rashi makes the apparently incredible statement that the reason Haman was incorrect, was that Moshe's birth atoned for his death(?) We understand that the later in time can atone for the earlier, but how can the earlier in time atone for that which comes later?
There is a posuk in Torah suggesting that the day of the passing of a tzaddik is better than that of his birth. When a man is born, his potential is limitless and his actions unknown. When a tzaddik dies, his good deeds have been quantified and any potential for bad no longer exists, having been converted to good.
In addition, upon the death of a tzaddik there is a completion and perfection of his spiritual achievement, which continues to be available to be drawn down by those who were connected to him. Yet the general rule that the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth does not apply to Moshe Rabbeinu; indeed he stands the towering exception to this rule.
We learn that Moshe Rabbeinu was born with emanating light. Anyone who has ever stood before the Rebbe will be familiar with how this is possible. A glow not translated onto photographs emanated from the Rebbe's face. This glow is described on Moshe's face after he received the Tablets. When Moshe was born, we are told that the house was filled with light, which we are further told came from the presence of HaShem.
Although the birth of every Jew brings a neshamah into the world, and that neshamah is a part of G-d Himself, the G-dliness is not revealed. There is a potential for it to be revealed depending on how he travels through life. Yet, when Moshe Rabbeinu was born, the light was revealed and radiating. What was this light of HaShem's presence which was so obvious? The Rebbe explains, it was truth. Moshe was to receive the Torah of truth, Eternal truth. We learn that this truth is not relative, not dependent on perspective.
The Rebbe quotes from the Talmud that there are two kinds of rivers, false rivers and real rivers. Those which emanate from a genuine spring continue to flow indefinitely. Those that are merely the accumulation of water fed from melting snow, rainfall and tributaries can, and do, dry up. Torah, likened to water, is analogous to the real river which can never dry up. Torah is real truth and as such is objective, constant and everlasting. As Moshe Rabbeinu was fit to obtain the Torah, he himself was that level of truth.
As an aside it is fascinating to know that everything that Moshe Rabbeinu achieved and made, lasts forever. The Mishkan and its contents, the chest containing the tablets and the other items mentioned in association with Moshe, all lie buried, hidden and intact. Had Moshe Rabbeinu entered Eretz Yisrael and built the First Temple, it would have similarly lasted forever.
This principle of the eternality of the truth of Moshe leads to the extraordinary saying that Moshe Rabbeinu did not die. What does this mean? In the Torah itself we have an account of his death! Yet, at the same time, Torah says he did not die.
The answer to this paradox is a chilling reality for all of us. Moshe Rabbeinu was the first and the conduit for our being able to elevate the physical into the spiritual and to bring G-dliness into physicality. Being that this incredible phenomenon in mankind is true, it is therefore eternally true, and specifically true for every Jew in every generation. The power Moshe Rabbeinu was given to achieve this is in every Jew. To this extent Moshe did not die. That we have this awesome power drives the whole purpose of our existence as a nation. The whole purpose of the descent of the neshamah into the body is to refine the body and elevate the environment. By doing so, Am Yisrael brings spirituality into physicality. The power of Moshe Rabbeinu is in each of us. This power in his case was evident by Divine gift at birth. Being by Divine gift, the power is true and eternal for every Jew.
Haman celebrated wrongly, not understanding this. He could not understand that Moshe Rabbeinu's birth was far more significant than his death in that, with his birth came the power to infuse the physical with the spiritual, a power which glowed with light. This light is present in potential in each and every Jew and actualized in a tzaddik, evidenced by his hadras ponim.
This week offers every Jew the opportunity to be aware of the existence of real truth. Our task is not dependent on time or political systems or fashions in thinking. These are all false rivers and as irrelevant to real truth as the perspective is Rashamon's characters, who view truth as a function of their own needs.
Our task is to illuminate the crevices of creation with the light of G-dliness; to bring into physicality, spirituality. This is done by learning Torah and performing mitzvos, so introducing real truth into a world of apparition and falsity.
- (Back to text) Kiddushim 38a. See also Sefer HaSichos 5752, Vol. 1, p. 23, 49ff.
- (Back to text) Megillah 13b.
- (Back to text) Koheles 7:1.
- (Back to text) For the following explanation see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVI, p. 1ff.
- (Back to text) Sotah 12a.
- (Back to text) Shemos 34:6.
- (Back to text) Parah 8:9. Explained in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 427, fn. 27.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 346.
- (Back to text) Sotah 13b.