Rav Avigdor Miller on The Best Can Also Err

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Q:
I hear people saying that the גדולי ישראל have רוח הקודש. Can you explain that to us?

A:
Well, it’s not the same רוח הקודש that’s said about מגילת אסתר for example. There’s absolutely no comparison! אסתר ברוח הקודש נאמרה – The Megillas Esther was said with רוח הקודש means that it was inspired, it was a form of נבואה, of prophecy. And that form of רוח הקודש no longer existed after the beginning of the second בית המקדש.

The term רוח הקודש as applied to our great men, means that הקדוש ברוך הוא gives them an inspiration. He gives them סייעתא דשמיא. He gives them help from Heaven so that they should be able to arrive at conclusions much more rapidly and much more correctly than ordinary people.

But it does not mean that they cannot make mistakes. Absolutely not! They can make mistakes with this form of רוח הקודש. The Rambam says that when הקדוש ברוך הוא gave His spirit to the שופטים, like שמשון, it says ותחל רוח ד׳ לפעמו בקרבו “The spirit of Hashem began to beat in him.” That doesn’t mean the spirit of prophecy. It means a spirit of סייעתא דשמיא. It means that Hashem helped him. The Rambam says that דניאל had that as well. And yet, the Gemara says that דניאל made a mistake. And it’s written in the Gemara the mistake that דניאל made. So you can have סייעתא דשמיא and still make a mistake.

The truth is that Moshe Rabeinu also made a mistake. He made more than one mistake. And it’s openly mentioned in the Gemara, הודה ולא בוש – He was big enough to admit his mistake. He said, “I was wrong.” Now that’s something! Isn’t that a tremendous statement to make? The Gemara could have concealed that. The Gemara didn’t have to mention that. The Gemara could have said that Moshe Rabeinu was infallible. But instead the Gemara says that he erred. So what’s the story? The truth is this: When Hashem spoke to Moshe, that’s תורת ה׳. No mistakes in the תורת ה׳. But when Moshe spoke on his own – and Moshe no doubt had plenty of רוח הקודש of his own, more than Rashi had – then he could make mistakes.

Moshe was הודה ולא בוש. He admitted his error. Because our Torah is a Torah of אמת, of truth. It’s not a Torah of propaganda חס ושלום. And that’s why it says about our greatest leader הודה ולא בוש. Those are glorious words. These words are the honor of our nation. Moshe Rabeinu made a mistake. We want a Torah of אמת, truth. That’s the greatness of the Jewish people.

TAPE # 114