Whenever I speak to young students about the concept of friendship, I begin by asking them to describe the character traits they look for in a friend. They are quick to mention the obvious traits: nice, playful, share, fun, helping, etc. After they have told me their answers I mention two integral traits that they consistently overlook: respect and trust. Respect means that my friend respects me for who I am as an individual. Trust means that I feel comfortable and secure that my friend knows many personal things about me – which I would not necessarily share with others. I trust that he will respect my confidentiality. A friendship/relationship that lacks trust is not much of a friendship at all.
At the conclusion of parshas Beha’aloscha the Torah relates the debacle of Miriam speaking lashon hora (slander) about Moshe. Tzipporah, Moshe’s wife, mentioned to Miriam that Moshe maintained a certain distance from her. Not realizing that it was Divinely decreed, Miriam felt that it was an affront to Tzipporah. She repeated the information to Aharon who agreed with Miriam’s conclusion. They felt that they too were prophets and yet they did not separate from their spouses, so Moshe should not have done so either. (Despite the fact that Miriam and Aharon loved Moshe unconditionally, and despite the fact that Miriam only spoke out of sincere concern, it was considered lashon hara and she was stricken with tzara’as. Miriam’s “mistake” is the symbol for how vigilant one must be in regards to gossiping and slandering others.)
G-d immediately responded by chastising them for speaking against Moshe. Moshe had a higher level of prophecy than they did and therefore needed to maintain a more elevated level of separation. “Hear now my words. If there shall be prophets among you, in a vision shall I, G-d, make Myself known to him; in a dream shall I speak with him. Not so is My servant Moshe; in My entire house he is the trusted one. Mouth to mouth do I speak to him, in a clear vision and not in riddles, at the image of G-d does he gaze. Why did you not fear to speak against My servant Moshe?” (Bamidbar 12:6-8)
The Netziv explains the meaning of the words, “B’chol basee ne’eman hu – In My entire house he is the trusted one”, as follows: “He (Moshe) knows the Ineffable Name (of G-d) which was used to create heaven and earth. However, with the steadfastness of his heart, he doesn’t do anything (with the Name). The title “ne’eman – trusted one” is only applicable to one who has the ability to do, but doesn’t!”
Rav Avrohom Pam zt”l illustrated this idea by comparing it to a king who had an extremely loyal and devoted advisor. The advisor served the king dutifully and faithfully for decades and was privy to the innermost secrets involving the entire kingdom, including the keys that contained the king’s vast treasures and wealth. Yet the servant never tried to open the combination, because the king never instructed him to do so.
That is the meaning of a ne’eman; someone who completely subjugates himself to the will of his master and can be relied upon to never betray that trust.
Rav Pam continued that with this in mind we have an added insight into the customary blessing bestowed upon every bride and groom, “May you merit to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel” – “A trustworthy home in Israel.” When two individuals live together they learn about the innermost aspects of each other’s personalities. They see their true natures, including their faults, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities.
The job of each spouse is to compliment the other by building up their strengths and helping them overcome their challenges. A marriage that is “ne’eman” is one in which both spouses never betrays that trust. No matter how difficult things may become, despite all the vicissitudes they are confronted with, they will never disloyally unlock the combination that contains the intimate aspects of the other. A bayis ne’eman is a home that contains the trust that both spouses are dedicated to the preservation of the relationship through building each other!
The Gemara (Shabbos 55b) mentions that there were four individuals who never committed a sin during their lifetimes: Binyamin the son of Yaakov, Amram the father of Moshe, Yishai the father of Dovid, and Kalev the son of Dovid.
If these four individuals never sinned why are they not the Patriarchs of Israel? Why do we commence our prayers by acknowledging the “G-d of Avrohom, the G-d of Yitzchok, and the G-d of Yaakov”, and not the “G-d of Binyamin, Amram, Yishai, and Kalev”?
The Chasam Sofer explained that truthfully if we utilize a quantitative measure, those four individuals were greater. However, they all lived a relatively hermitical lifestyle. They were not thrust into positions which forced them to deal with the frustrations of leadership. The Avos, however, all lived lives that involved interpersonal relationships. In fact, much of their lives consisted of the struggle to live among extremely challenging individuals.
Ultimately our job is not to overcome sin but to transcend the pitfalls and challenges of life. In that regard our Avos are our paragons.
The “Seven Shepherds” of Klal Yisroel are our greatest leaders, not because they never sinned, but because they triumphed over the perennial struggles of life. Therefore, our prayers begin by specifically declaring the Divinity of the Avos for their example serves as our lodestars.
On Shabbos morning we state: “Moshe rejoiced with the gift of his portion (i.e. the Torah which he transmitted) because he was called a faithful servant.” All of the esoteric secrets of the universe are hidden in the Torah, including all of human history. Although we are not privy to understanding how to decipher those secrets, Moshe Rabbeinu was. Moshe was titled the faithful servant because G-d was able to place His confidence in Moshe that he would not breach the ‘trust’ of knowing G-d’s greatest secrets vis-à-vis this world. Moshe’s joy was inextricably connected with his being titled a trustworthy Servant of G-d.
In regards to our relationships as well, we must seek to be a ne’eman, never backing down in the face of a challenge and yet always being someone whom others can trust.