Netziv_HaAmek_Davar_03

In this shiur, Rabbi Triebitz looks at a specific example of how the Netziv resolves apparent difficulties with the text by looking at the historical context of the event.

In Bamidbar (chapter 20) Moshe is punished for hitting the rock to bring forth water. However, in Shemot (chapter 17) Moshe was instructed to hit the rock to provide water. The Netziv answers that while the Children of Israel were in the desert they were subject to miraculous providence, and were not subject to natural laws. However, in preparation for entering the Land of Israel, from Parshat Chukat, in Bamidbar, God began gradually weaning them off, to live by the laws of nature. Hence, the first time Moshe hit the rock. In Bamidbar he was supposed to speak, not to the rock, but to the people, to instruct them with words of mussar and halakha, as described in the Talmud (Ta’anit) as the correct procedure when there is a lack of rain.

Thus, the Netziv views the Chumash not as a ‘flat’ text, looking simply at the words, but as a contoured text taking into account the historical realities of the time (and understood through the eyes of Chazal).

Rabbi Triebitz then explains the difference between “proza” and “shir” (which seem to me to be exactly the opposite of their parallel English words, “prose” and “poetry”).

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