Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa – The Leftover Ink

At the end of the Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu returns from his receiving the second luchot (tablets) after the Chet Haegel (sin of the golden calf). The Torah notes that, unbeknownst to Moshe, his face was shining with beams of spiritual light.  It was so powerful that the people were afraid to approach him, so that Moshe had to put a mask on his face. 

Our Sages offer a number of explanations as to the source of this ray of light.  In this essay, we will focus on one of those explanations.[1] 

Rav Shimon Ben Lachish explains that when Moshe was writing the original Sefer Torah which HaShem dictated, there was a little drop of ink left over. HaShem took that ink and rubbed it on Moshe's head. The beams of light that shone forth from Moshe's head were the result of that drop of ink.[2]

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh[3] asks a penetrating question.  In human endeavors there are always surplus raw materials. When ordering materials for a project, for example, bricks for a building, it is impossible to plan the exact number that the project requires, down to the last brick and inevitably there will be bricks remaining. But when HaShem is preparing to write a Sefer Torah and He prepares the ink, he knows exactly how much ink is necessary, down to the last drop, so how could it be that there was ink left over?

The Ohr HaChaim explains the source of the 'extra' ink. In Parshas Behaalosecha, Miriam questions Moshe’s actions with regard to his marital relationship.  HaShem strongly rebukes and punishes Miriam and says that Moshe is the humblest man who ever lived. In that verse, Moshe, in his great humility, did not write the full word for humble, עניו, rather he spelt it ענו without the letter ‘yud’.  It was with the left-over ink from this omission which HaShem rubbed on Moshe’s head.

It is perhaps possible to suggest an additional place where Moshe did not use all the ‘ink’ and perhaps the extra ink from that omission was also part of the ink that HaShem put on Moshe’s head. In the beginning of Sefer Vayikra, the Torah states that HaShem called Moshe. 

The letter א in the word for calling, ויקרא is unusually small.  Chazal explain that because of his great humility, Moshe made the א smaller so that it would look like the word ויקר which means, ‘happened upon’ and connotes a far less endearing form of calling.  Indeed, the word ויקר is used when HaShem appeared to Bilaam to connote that it was a happenstance form of interaction as opposed to an interaction of closeness.[4]  It would seem that there was also extra ink left over from the smaller use of the

Needless to say, it is not a coincidence that both possible sources of the extra ink are in areas connected to Moshe’s great humility. What is the connection to humility and the beams on Moshe’s face.

One possible approach is that the idea of arrogance is that a person feels that he does not need HaShem to succeed.  Hence, the person has no room for HaShem in his life, and his essence is full of self.  In response, HaShem says that that there is no room for Himself and the arrogant person (baal geiva) to ‘reside’ together.[5]

Moshe reached the level of humility where he saw himself as nothing, and since he totally emptied out his ego, he was infused with spirituality, hence the spiritual beams of light that emanated from his face. 

A second approach to explain the connection between Moshe’s humility and the beams on his face, is that the beams represented that he was on such a high level of closeness to HaShem.  One of the main ways to become close to HaShem is by resembling Him, as it says in the Torah, to go in Hashem’s ways. 

Our Sages in many places extoll the great humility of HaShem himself.  The Gemara in Megillah[6] states that whenever the Tanach talks about HaShem’s greatness, it also talks about His humility, and How He helps the most lowly, needy people.  Likewise, Moshe excelled in this character trait more than anyone else and accordingly, merited to become so close to HaShem that these holy beams emanated from his face. 

Moshe’s humility is of course, beyond our reach, but it reminds us of the importance of this character trait, and that the more a person excels in it, the closer he comes to HaShem. 

May we all merit to emulate Moshe Rabbeinu’s great humility and thereby emulate his closeness to HaShem.

Notes & Sources


[1] See Shemos Rabbah, 47:28 and Midrash Tanchuma, Shemos, 37, for an outline of all the opinions. 
[2] Needless to say, these inyanim have deep kabbalistic meanings, but it is nevertheless possible to discuss them on a simple level and derive important life lessons from the simple understanding.
[3] Shemos, 34:29, Dh: U’beMidrash.
[4] See Baal HaTurim, Vayikra, 1:1, Dh: Alef devayikra zeirah.
[5] Sotah, 5a.
[6] Megillah, 31a.
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