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Parshas Shemos - Vol. 4,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Havah nis’chakmah lo (1:10)
In the early days of the state of Israel, one of the most painful episodes for religious Jewry was known as “Yaldei Teheran,” when it was revealed that the virulently anti-religious government was forcefully separating a large number of immigrant children from their religious traditions. The Brisker Rav was one of those who led the protests. At one point it was suggested that because the efforts were taking a severe toll on his health and his screams didn’t appear to be improving the situation, perhaps he should leave this battle to others while he recovered his precious health.
The Brisker Rov answered that the Gemora in Sotah (11a) records that three of Pharaoh’s advisors were consulted regarding his concerns about the Jewish population. Bilaam suggested the wicked plan and was ultimately punished by being killed, Iyov remained silent and was punished with tremendous afflictions, and Yisro fled because he disagreed with the plan and was rewarded with descendants who were righteous Torah scholars and judges. Why was Iyov punished so harshly when he did nothing to endorse the plan and any protests he made wouldn’t have helped, as evidenced by the fact that Yisro was also unsuccessful in battling the plan and was forced to flee?
The Brisker Rov explained that human nature is such that a person who feels intense pain will scream out instinctively even though he knows that his cries won’t help relieve his anguish in the slightest. The fact that Iyov was able to remain present at the deliberations over the horrible suffering to be meted out to the Jewish slaves and remained silent revealed that he didn’t feel a drop of pain over their fate and didn’t join in sharing their suffering, and for that he was punished harshly. The Brisker Rov concluded that while his screams might not be improving the difficult situation, he had no choice but to continue crying out due to the intense pain he felt at the unjust treatment of his religious brethren.
Vatomer achoso el bas Paroh ha’eilech v’karasi lach isha meinekes min ha’Ivriyos v’seinik lach es hayaled (2:7)
The Shulchan Aruch rules (Yoreh Deah 81:7) that a baby is allowed to nurse from a non-Jewish woman because the milk is considered kosher, but cautions against doing so whenever a Jewish nursemaid is available. The Vilna Gaon explains that this law is derived from the behavior of Moshe, who refused to nurse from an Egyptian woman with his mouth that was destined to speak directly to Hashem.
Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky finds this comparison incredulous. How can we derive practical laws for today’s children from the actions of Moshe when the explicit reason given for his conduct –he would eventually speak with the Divine Presence – isn’t applicable to them? Rav Yaakov answers that this law teaches us a beautiful lesson regarding the proper approach to educating and raising our children.
The Sages didn’t view our children as average youth with no connection to the lofty levels of Moshe, who lived more than 3000 years ago. Every child today has a chance to grow up and reach the level of a prophet who will merit speaking directly to Hashem. Therefore, from the moment of birth, we mustn’t see in them the present – a typical baby who cries, nurses, and needs diaper changes – but rather their potential and their future, and we must educate and raise them in purity and holiness accordingly.
Vayavo’u haro’im vay’garshum vayakam Moshe vayoshi’an (2:17)
The Be’er Yosef points out the tremendous hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence) involved in the match between Moshe and his wife Tzipporah. While he was still a baby growing up in the house of Pharaoh, the Medrash relates (Shemos Rabbah 1:26) that Moshe removed the crown from Pharaoh’s head and placed it on his own. Pharaoh’s advisers all argued that he should be killed, as his actions seemed to forebode a future of usurping Pharaoh’s power.
A sole advisor, however, suggested that Moshe wasn’t old enough to know what he was doing. He recommended testing the young child by placing before him two plates, one full of gold coins and the other with burning coals, to see how developed his mind was. Moshe began to reach for the coins until an angel saved him by directing his hand toward the coals, thereby proving the hypothesis that he wasn’t to be held responsible for his actions at his young age. That advisor was none other than Yisro, whose actions saved the life of his future son-in-law.
Years later, Yisro’s daughters were watering their flock from the well when another group of shepherds came along and drove them away. The Medrash relates (Shemos Rabbah 1:32) that they actually attempted to kill Yisro’s daughters by throwing them into the well. Moshe didn’t only draw water from the well for their sheep, but he also pulled them from the well to save their lives, unknowingly rescuing his future wife! This Medrash opens our eyes to another interesting similarity between Moshe and his wife: both of their lives were saved by being drawn out of the water. A few years later, on the return trip to Egypt, an angel sought to kill Moshe for not circumcising his son (Rashi 4:24-26). This time, it was Tzipporah who returned the favor and saved Moshe’s life by circumcising their son.
Vaya’an Moshe vayomer v’hen lo ya’aminu lee
v’lo yishm’u b’koli (4:1)
There was a time when the only elite yeshiva in Europe was the renowned Volozhin yeshiva, and the Rabbis of virtually every major Jewish community were counted among its alumnae. The married students learning there knew that after a number of years, as their families grew, the time would come when they would need to seek out a community in need of a Rav. There was once a meeting of the yeshiva’s married students to discuss whether or not, in addition to their Talmudic and legal studies, they should also engage in the study of oratorical skills which would assist them in their future positions.
Rav Zalman Sorotzkin introduced his opinion by asking why Moshe, in his attempt to decline the appointment as the redeemer of the Jews, began by expressing his concern that they wouldn’t believe that Hashem appeared to him. If he later claimed that his speech impediment rendered him unfit for the job regardless of whether they believed him, why didn’t he begin with that concern? Rav Sorotzkin explained that if the Jewish people had proper belief in Hashem, Moshe’s speaking difficulties wouldn’t deter them. It was only because of a concern that they would be lacking in faith that his speech became an issue.
Returning to the subject at hand, Rav Sorotzkin pointed out that in previous generations the average Jew had an unwavering belief in Hashem and an implicit trust in the decisions of the Rav. Under these conditions, it was unnecessary for Rabbonim to excel in their oratorical skills. As long as they knew the laws and rendered honest decisions, the people would accept their verdicts. However, Rav Sorotzkin concluded, we are now witnessing an unprecedented drop-off in the level of trust and faith exhibited by the average Jew. Moshe teaches us that in such a case difficulty in public speaking will indeed be considered a deficiency, and we’d better dedicate time and energy to honing our speaking skills.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (1:1) that even though Hashem had already counted the Jews who descended to Egypt by name during their lifetimes, He did so again after they died to make known how much Hashem loves the Jewish people, who are compared to stars that He also brings in and out by name and number. In what way are the Jews specifically similar to stars? (Baal Shem Tov)
2) The Baal HaTurim writes (1:1) that the first verse in the parsha hints to the weekly mitzvah of reviewing the Torah portion, as the letters in the word “Shemos” can be expanded to read “shnayim Mikra v’echad Targum” – reading the weekly portion twice and the Aramaic translation once. Why did the Sages require a person to read the words of the parsha twice, and the Aramaic translation once? (Mateh Moshe 464, Pri Megadim Mishbetzos Zahav 285:2)
3) When Pharaoh’s daughter opened Moshe’s basket, she noticed that he was crying. Rashi writes (2:6) that although he was only three months old, his voice was that of a youth. In what way was the voice of Moshe, a 3-month-old infant, similar to that of an adolescent? (Imrei Daas)
4) When Hashem revealed Himself to Moshe at the burning bush (3:5), was it with the unsurpassed level of prophecy that Moshe ultimately attained, or did he not reach this level until the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai? (Ramban 3:5, Rambam Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 1:3, Imrei Deah)
5) Hashem commanded Moshe to remove his shoes, explaining that the ground upon which he was standing was Holy (3:5). What is the concept behind removing one’s shoes when standing in a Holy place? (Be’er Yosef)
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