Chazal tell us about the humility of Moshe: Though he was the one who orchestrated the building of the tabernacle in the desert, and it seemed logical that he should be able to enter on his own accord, he did not do so until Hashem called him and asked him to enter. Chazal express this lesson of humility by saying “Any talmid chacham who does not have “day’ah”, a carcass of a dead animal is better off than he.”
This poses a difficulty. Moshe’s waiting to be called showed his humility, not his “day’ah”. So why do Chazal use this word? Furthermore, what is the connection between a dead animal and the “day’ay”-less person?
I had a friend who owned a Jaguar and we were sitting in Manhattan in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I turned to him and asked, “How does this Jaguar help you in New York City?”
A person comes to this world designed to complete his unique purpose. Success and failure are not determined by how much money he has made, how many blot of gemorah he has learned, or how much chesed he has performed. While many of these acts are truly commendable and deserving of eternal bliss, if these acts were not the task that this person was designed to perform, then that person’s life would be considered unsuccessful. (Though he might still achieve a place in the World to Come).
There are many people in this world who have gone through schooling, and yet perform poorly in the real world. As the saying goes: “First in school, last in life.” Success as a student should be applauded only when we see it turn into the ultimate success in life.
Is this also true in the Torah world, or is it only true in the secular world?
Our Rabbis teach us that the word “torah” is related to the word “horah” meaning “telling us how to lead our lives.” Therefore, we expect that a Talmud chacham should live a life congruent with the philosophies of the Torah that he has learned. If he does not, then he has not accomplished the purpose of his learning. Our rabbis teach us the word “daas” refers to understanding, and then connecting different ideas.
The Me’or Einayim teaches us that If Moshe Rabbeinu would not have understood from all this learning that humility is necessary, he would have been lacking success. There must be a connection between one’s thoughts and one’s actions.
Coming back to the animal carcass: Very little is expected from a live animal, and so the dead animal is not so far removed from the live one. However, a great deal is expected from the Torah scholar, and if he doesn’t put his thoughts, ideals and actions together, then the gulf between what is expected of him and what he is accomplishing is great. Thus, the dead animal is closer to its own potential than this scholar!
As we embark on Chumash Vayikra, many of us shy away from the strange concepts that are introduced (e.g. tuma/tahara,karbanos/offerings, etc.) and think “What does this have to do with me?”. We must take this opportunity to use the eyes of Chazal, whom explain these ideas, and implement them into our daily lives. I would like to give everyone a brocho, that after learning Vayikra this year, we should use these tools to bring us closer to each of our ultimate purposes, as a unique being in Hashem’s world.
As for the answer from the Jaguar owner, who spent more than the average annual US salary on his car, it was “I do 10mph in a Jaguar, and you don’t.” Unfortunately, he is the example of the person who is not even better than an animal carcass. For that is not the purpose of a car, or is it?