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Parshas Shemos - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayomer Melech Mitzrayim lam’yaldos ha’Ivriyos asher shem ha’achas Shifra v’shem ha’sheinis Puah (1:15)
As part of his vicious plan to enslave and oppress the Jewish people, Pharaoh commanded the Jewish midwives – Yocheved and Miriam – to kill all male babies at birth. However, the Torah doesn’t refer to the midwives by name as Yocheved and Miriam, but rather as Shifra and Puah. Rashi explains that these names reflect the fact that they beautified the Jewish babies and made calming noises to soothe them.
Rav Shmuel Rozovsky points out that Yocheved and Miriam were both on incredibly high spiritual levels. The Gemora in Megillah (14a) counts Miriam as one of the seven female prophets. If so, why does the Torah refer to them by apparently mundane names based on their actions in taking care of the Jewish babies, which almost seems to degrade their lofty spiritual accomplishments?
Rav Shmuel answers that the Torah is coming to teach us precisely this fundamental lesson. For all of the spiritual greatness of Yocheved and Miriam, their most significant accomplishment was excelling as Jewish women. While the additional levels that they reached were indeed impressive and praiseworthy, the fulfillment of their basic, fundamental roles as Jewish mothers in properly raising the next generation of Jewish children is even greater. The Torah therefore specifically singled out and emphasized their success at fulfilling their unique and special roles as Jewish women.
Vateireid bas Paroh lirchotz al hay’or … va’teireh es ha’teivah b’soch ha’suf vatishlach es amasah vatikacheha (2:5)
Pharaoh’s daughter encountered Moshe’s basket when she went to bathe herself in the river. Rashi in Sotah (12b) writes that her intention wasn’t for physical but for spiritual cleanliness, as she was on her way to the river to convert to Judaism by immersing herself in it. Where is this hinted to in the verse, which seems to state simply that she was going to wash herself in the Nile?
Rav Berel Soloveitchik answers this question based on a story that occurred when his father, the Brisker Rov, was traveling on a boat from Europe to Eretz Yisroel. The Brisker Rov and his family were quite careful about the food they consumed, eating only fruits and raw foods and refusing to rely on the assurances of the captain that care was being taken to prepare special meals in the ship’s kitchen in accordance with the laws of kashrus.
Noticing the Brisker Rov’s hesitance and taking it personally because he prided himself on accommodating his passengers and making them feel comfortable, the captain offered to provide brand-new utensils to prepare special food according to the Rov’s specifications. The Rov was willing to acquiesce but expressed concern to his son about the laws of bishul akum, which forbid the consumption of many foods which are cooked by a non-Jew.
Upon hearing this, the captain sent a message telling the Brisker Rov that he had nothing to worry about, as the captain was himself a Jew and would personally light the oven’s fire. At that point the Rov was comforted, explaining to his son that he had been perplexed by the captain’s behavior until now. The Gemora in Yevamos (79a) teaches that there are three unique characteristics of the Jewish people: they are merciful, bashful, and performers of acts of kindness.
Until now, the Brisker Rov had been at a loss to explain how the captain, who he presumed to be a non-Jew, was being so kind to them. Now that he heard the captain was Jewish everything made sense. Similarly, Rav Berel suggested, Chazal were confounded by the compassion of an Egyptian princess in rescuing Moshe from the river. They concluded that the only possible explanation could be that she was on her way to convert and become a Jew.
Ki ch’vad peh uch’vad lashon anochi (4:10)
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein was once asked by a heavily speech-impaired person about the permissibility of a new medical treatment that was suggested to him. An expert in the field had experienced remarkable success at treating such problems by completely isolating the patient for one month and not allowing him to speak or hear a single word during that time. At that point, he begins the arduous process of re-teaching the letters and their proper pronunciations from scratch. The questioner was concerned that enrolling in this treatment would require him to neglect all of his prayer obligations, including the Biblical requirements of the twice-daily recitation of Shema and Kiddush on Shabbos.
Rav Zilberstein answered that a decision of the Avnei Nezer in a similar case is also applicable in this one. The Avnei Nezer was asked if a person is obligated to be circumcised in a case where the doctor says that doing so will leave him with a permanent limp. The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 756:1) that a person is only required to spend up to one-fifth of his possessions for the performance of a positive commandment. He ruled that if the value to the man of walking without a limp is greater than one-fifth of his estate, he is exempt from the mitzvah of circumcision.
Similarly, Rav Zilberstein explained that if curing his severe speech impediment is monetarily equivalent to more than one-fifth of his possessions, he is allowed to proceed with the treatment even though doing so will force him to neglect his prayer obligations.
Vayehi baderech bamalon vayifg’sheihu Hashem vay’vakeish hamiso vatikach Tzipporah tzor vatichros es orlas b’nah vatigah l’raglav vatomer ki chasan damim atah li vayiref mimenu (4:24-26)
Let us imagine the scene. In the middle of a good night’s sleep after an exhausting day of travel through a scorching desert, Tzipporah awoke to the sight of her husband being swallowed whole by an angel seeking to kill him. Rav Nochum Zev Ziv, the son of the well-known epitome of composure the Alter of Kelm, suggested that many women encountering such a horrific image would scream and faint.
Had Tzipporah done so, her husband Moshe would have been killed, and with him would have been lost the hopes of redemption for the Jewish people. Upon her eventual arrival in the Heavenly Court, Tzipporah would be found liable for his death, the extinction of the Jewish people, and the destruction of the world which would be brought about by the inability of the Jews to escape Egypt and accept the Torah at Mount Sinai. Instead, she maintained her cool, acting with equanimity in assessing the situation and doing what needed to be done – circumcising her son – to save Moshe’s life.
After relating this thought to his wife and family from his deathbed one Friday afternoon, Rav Nochum Zev concluded by admonishing them to similarly maintain their composure after his imminent death. He warned them not to become so absorbed in their mourning and sadness as to inadvertently transgress one of the prohibited labors of Shabbos. It should strengthen and inspire us to recognize the levels of inner calm and peace which can be reached through the study of Torah and Mussar.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Why is no mention made of the names of the names of Moshe’s parents, who obviously had great merits and holiness and yet are generically referred to (2:1) as a man and woman from the tribe of Levi? (Kehillas Yitzchok, Darash Moshe)
2) Rashi writes (2:1) that when Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish male children should be killed, Amram divorced his wife Yocheved. The Gemora in Berachos (10a) relates that Yeshayahu was sent to visit Chizkiyahu and inform him that he would soon die and forfeit his portion in the World to Come for neglecting to fulfill the mitzvah to have children. Chizkiyahu explained that he had seen through Divine Inspiration that any children he would have would be wicked. Yeshayahu responded that our job is to perform the mitzvos without calculations, and to leave the results to Hashem. Why wasn’t there a similar accusation against Amram for divorcing his wife and refusing to have children for fear that they would be killed? (M’rafsin Igri)
3) When was Moshe placed into the river (2:3), and what was the significance of this date? (Rosh, Rabbeinu Bechaye)
4) Who was cured by Moshe in this week’s parsha, and from what? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel 2:5, Shemos Rabbah 1:23, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 47)
5) Rashi writes (3:18) that when Moshe was nervous about whether the Jewish people would accept him as Hashem’s agent to redeem them, Hashem reassured him by telling him that when he announced himself using the phrase ô÷ã éô÷ã – Hashem will remember you – they would trust in him because Yosef gave the Jews a tradition (Bereishis 50:25) that the redeemer would identify himself using this “secret password.” What value could a secret password possibly have if the entire population was aware of it and capable of using it? (Ramban, Taima D’Kra)
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