Sotah, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine

 

Introduction

The previous two mishnayoth taught that people are punished in a manner that fits their crime.  Our mishnah gives a message of hope by teaching that people are also rewarded in a manner that fits their good deeds.  This idea reminds me of what we were constantly told as children: if you want a friend you have to be a friend.  The examples of good deeds in this mishnah are those of kindness, waiting for people in their time need and especially taking care of the dead, which is considered the highest act of kindness in Judaism.

We should also note that whereas a person received punishments commensurate to his sin, the rewards are greater than the good deed performed.

 

Mishnah Nine  

The same is true for good.

1)                     Miriam waited one hour for Moses, as it is said, “And his sister stood afar off”, (Exodus 2:4), therefore Israel was delayed for her seven days in the wilderness, as it is said, “And the people did not journey until Miriam was brought in again” (Numbers 12:15).  

2)                     Joseph had the merit of burying his father and there was none among his brothers greater than he, as it is said, “And Joseph went up to bury his father…and there both chariots and horsemen went up with him” (Exodus 50:7,9).  

a)                                           Whom do we have who is greater than Joseph since none other than Moses occupied himself [with his burial]?

b)                                          Moses had the merit [to bury] the bones of Joseph and there was none in Israel greater than he, as it is said, “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him” (Exodus 13:19).   Whom do have greater than Moses since none other than the Omnipresent was occupied [with his burial], as it is said, “And He buried him in the valley” (Deuteronomy 34:6)?  

c)                                           Not only concerning Moses did they say this, but concerning all the righteous, as it is said, “And your righteousness shall go before your, the presence of God shall gather you [in death]” (Isaiah 58:8). 

 

Explanation

Section one: Miriam watched baby Moses while he was in the basket in the Nile, and in return, when she was struck by leprosy, the entire people of Israel waited for her for seven full days.

Section two: This entire section is concerned with burial.  Joseph buried his father and as a reward, Moses took Joseph’s bones out of Egypt so that they could be buried in the promised land.  As a reward for ensuring that Joseph’s bones received a proper burial, God Himself took care of burying Moses. The mishnah ends by stating that this is not only a history lesson but a message for the future as well.  God takes care of the burial of the righteous.  I can’t help but think about the many Jews (and righteous Gentiles, for the mishnah does not limit this to Jews) who in the past century have not receive proper burials.  The idea that God takes care of those whom humans can’t take care of, is certainly one of great comfort.  

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