Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 10   No. 13

This issue is sponsored with wishes
for a Refu'ah Sh'leimah to
Feiga bas Chayah Rochel
May Hashem bless her with a speedy recovery.

Parshas Sh'mos

(Adapted from the Seifer Otzar Ishei ha'T'nach)

Bisyah and Tziporah were twins, the Medrash Talpiyos quoting the Zohar informs us, whom Paroh and Yisro respectively, found in the market-place. On account of their beauty, they took them home and brought them up as daughters.


Chazal have taught that 'someone who comes to purify himself, receives Divine assistance', and that is precisely what happened to Bisyah Following a strong urge to rescue the saviour of Yisrael, she saw with Ruach ha'Kodesh that she had indeed been chosen for that task.

Each morning and evening, she would walk with her maidservants beside the River Nile, and when the opportunity arose, G-d granted her request, much to her delight (Medrash Hagadol).

On the occasion that she found Moshe among the bull-rushes, she had gone down to the River to cleanse herself from the idolatry practiced in her father's house. (G-d certainly chose the time to grant Bisyah her request with precision. We might even say that Bisyah 'came to purify herself' in more ways than one - Gemara Sotah.)

According to Targum Yonasan however, Bisyah was smitten with leprosy and boils, as was common in Egypt, and she took a stroll beside the Nile to cool down. No sooner did she pick up the box containing Moshe, that she was cured of her ailment. In the Medrash Rabah's version, the leprosy disappeared the moment she touched the box, and the Medrash adds that this phenomenon was the cause of the deep affection that she then felt towards Moshe.


Bisyah's maidservants, who were clearly of a less revolutionary nature, tried to stop her. When a royal edict is issued, they argued, and all the king's loyal subjects adhere strictly to the instructions, one would hardly expect the king's own daughter to disregard it!

The Angel Gavriel intervened however, and crushed them into the ground, leaving one alive, because it is not etiquette for a princess to walk alone (Gemara Sotah).

According to the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, Bisyah saved Moshe 'because' she claimed, 'to save one human life is like saving a whole world'.


"This one is a Hebrew child", Bisyah declared. How did she know? She knew, the Gemara explains, because she saw that he was circumcised. And when she declared "This one ... " (instead of just saying 'He is a Hebrew child'), she was prophesying (without being aware that she was) that this child was thrown into the water, but that no others would. Why not? Because the astrologers, who had foretold that the saviour of the Jews would be punished through water, now declared that the pronouncement had been fulfilled, and there was no point in drowning any more babies (Gemara Sotah).

And Bisyah prophesied once more (and again without being aware of what she was saying) when she said to Yocheved "Heilichi", by which she meant to say 'Take the baby', but which is also the acronym of 'Hei she'lichi' ('Here is yours') - Medrash Rabah.

And when she ordered her 'Feed this baby for me' (again instead of just saying 'feed him'), she was warning her (as if a warning was necessary) to return him to her in as perfect a state as she was handing him to her (Yalkut Shimoni).


Moshe had seven names, say Chazal, yet the only one the Torah ever uses is 'Moshe'. Indeed, G-d Himself calls Moshe by no other name. This was Bisyah's reward for the extreme act of Chesed that she performed in saving Moshe (the degree of self-sacrifice becomes evident when one considers what Paroh might have done to her had he discovered his own daughter's disloyalty) Medrash Rabah.

All the female firstborn died in Egypt too. The only exception being Bisyah, who had an excellent defense-counsel by the name of Moshe (Medrash Rabah).


Nine people entered Gan Eden alive, among them two women, Serach bas Asher and Bisyah bas Paroh.

A wonderful Shiduch took place, the Medrash Rabah informs us, when two rebels got married - Kalev ben Yefuneh, who was called 'Mered', because he rebelled against the plans of the Meraglim, married Bisyah, who rebelled against her father, Paroh. What makes this even more intriguing is the fact that Kalev was also married to Miriam, whom Bisyah had already met of course, when she saved her brother, many, many years earlier.

The Pasuk in Divrei Hayamim refers to Avigdor (alias Moshe) as the son of Bisyah. Now surely Moshe's mother was called Yocheved, and not Bisyah?

True, answers the Gemara in Sanhedrin, Yocheved bore him, but it was Bisyah who brought him up, and that is why the Pasuk refers to her as his mother.

Hakadosh Baruch Hu said to Bisyah 'Moshe was not your son, yet that is what you called him. You too, are not My daughter, but that is what I will call you'. So He gave her the name 'Bisyah' ('bas Kah - daughter of G-d').


Parshah Pearls

(adapted from the Seifer P'neinei Torah)

A Light Unto the Nations

"And these are the names of the B'nei Yisrael ... " (1:1).

They were counted in their lifetime, comments Rashi, and they are counted again after their death. This teaches us how precious they are before G-d, who compares them to the stars ... '.


Just like the stars illuminate the darkness of the night, so too, is it the task of Yisrael to illuminate the dark places in the world, to spread the light of G-dliness (S'fas Emes).


Out of Sight ...

"And the B'nei Yisrael increased ... and the land was filled with them" (ibid.)

When Yosef's brothers first arrived in Egypt, Ya'akov informed Paroh that they were shepherds, to avoid having to live in the main populated areas, thereby having to mix with the Egyptians. This is because, as the Torah testifies, the Egyptians (who worshipped sheep), abhorred shepherds".

Once Yosef died however, and Yisrael began to increase at a tremendous rate, they filled the land, including the major towns, thereby becoming exposed to the Egyptians. Suddenly, the Egyptians noticed how wealthy the Jews were, and the vast property that they owned. They began to ask where all their wealth came from, and so (like the sons of Lavan before them) they soon arrived at the 'obvious' conclusion ...

"Behold (if) the B'nei Yisrael are "rav ve'otzum" numerous and mighty (wealth-wise), it must be " mimenu" (from us). That being the case "Come let us deal wisely with them ... " (Binah la'Itim).


Ma'aseh Avos Si'man le'Banim. There's nothing quite as effective in whipping up the gentiles' jealousy and hatred as Jews flaunting their wealth. It works every time!


If Only He Had Known

"And a new King arose who did not know Yosef" (1:8).

If Par'oh had known Yosef (Yosef's story), he would have known that any plans to do him harm, always boomeranged, and concluded to his (Yosef's) advantage. Had Paroh only realized that, he would probably not have tried to bring grief upon Yosef's people, who were endowed with the same trait. Because in the end, it was the bitterness of the Galus, that paved the way for his own ultimate downfall as well as for the redemption of Yisrael (Imrei Eish).


Racial Discrimination

"And they (the Jewish midwives, explaining to Paroh why they had not killed the Jewish babies) said, because the Jewish women are not like the Egyptian women ... " (1:19).

According to the Halachah, the principle of 'Diyna de'malchusa diyna' (the obligation to obey the law of the land), applies only to laws that cut across the board, but not to laws that discriminate against Jews. And that is what the midwives meant, when they answered Paroh "because the Jewish women are not like the Egyptian women". They were different, because they had been discriminated against. And that was why they disobeyed Paroh's orders.

That is why the Torah continues "And Paroh commanded all his people (Jews and Egyptians alike) to 'throw all sons that are born into the river' ". Now he hoped, the Jewish midwives would have no further excuse to disobey him (Parashas Derachim).


Double Standards

"All the baby boys that are born you shall throw into the river" (1:22).

When the gentiles issue laws, they may well be laws in theory, but in practice, it is quite something else.

In theory, all minority groups have equal rights. In practice, everyone knows the unwritten law - that this does not apply to the Jews.

In theory, all male babies must be thrown into the river, even those born to Egyptian parents. This is necessary of course, for publicity purposes, to prevent the Jews from raising a hue and a cry, and gaining world sympathy for their unfair treatment.

In practice though, every official knew what 'all the baby boys' really meant, and upon which section of the community to enforce the law.

And it must surely have been with this double standard in mind, that Unklus translates "Kol ha'ben ha'yilud ha'yeo'roh tashlichuhu" as " You shall throw all sons born to the Jews into the river" (Rebbi Meir Shapiro).


Hush, Don't Cry Too Loud

"And she saw him ... and there was a boy crying" (2:6).

Surely, the Torah ought to have written "And she heard him ... ", since it is with the sense of hearing that one is generally aware of someone crying?

However, Jews are not supposed to cry aloud, just in case they are accused of trying to stir up trouble. And besides, a Jew weeping only adds to the gentiles' amusement, as they laugh in derision, and beat him even more to make him cry even louder. So we Jews learn to weep silently.

That is why it was only after Paroh's daughter came close, that she saw that he was crying.


It Depends What You Look for

"And Moshe grew up and he went out to his brothers, and he saw their burdens" (2:11).

There are Tzadikim who see Yisrael's sins and iniquities. But Moshe was different. The Torah does not say that he saw 'their sins', but ''their burdens'', because that is what Moshe looked for (Oneg Shabbos).


No doubt, that is one of the key reasons that Hashem chose Moshe to lead K'lal Yisrael in the desert. And no doubt, that is why Yisrael survived the forty years in the desert.


You Can't Have Your Cake ...

"And he saw their burdens ... and he said 'Now the thing is known' " (2: 11/12).

Moshe saw Yisrael's burdens, and he wondered what they had done to deserve to suffer in this way. One day, he saw an Egyptian beating a fellow-Jew. Maybe, he thought, it was because they could stand by and watch a fellow-Jew being beaten and not intervene that they remained in Galus for so long.

At first, he dismissed that proposition, attributing Yisrael's silence to their passive nature. Perhaps they were naturally placid, and simply disliked fighting and quarreling, a good Midah in itself (even if it was misplaced in its current context). But when next day, he saw the two Jews fighting, he came to the conclusion that they were not placid at all, and that their silence in the earlier case, must have been caused by a lack of interest in their fellow-Jew's wellbeing - reinforcing his original theory (Binah la'Itim).


The Amidah

(based mainly on the Siddur "Otzar ha'Tefillos")
(Part XXXI)

The B'rachah of Sh'ma Koleinu (cont.)

Should adding private Tefilos result in not being able to respond to Kedushah, then it is better to add them at the end of the Shemoneh-Esrei, before the second 'Yihyu le'Ratzon'. In this way, one will be able to obtain the best of both worlds, by reciting the Kedushah or 'Borchu' if necessary, and to add one's private Tefilos as well (Anaf Yosef).

Besides Davening for one's Parnasah, one is also advised to Daven each day that Torah should not move away from one's own mouth as well as from the mouths of one's children and grandchildren, and that one's offspring should remain true servants of G-d. And it is also good to Daven that one should be spared from having offspring that are pasul. Indeed, one should Daven for all one's other needs, such as a Shiduch for oneself or for one's children, that one's business ventures should proceed smoothly and that Hashem should lead one along a straight path. And it goes without saying that if one is confronted with Tzaros of whatever nature, or if one is afrraid that an imminent Simchah imay turn out to be a stumbling-block, these too require Tefilah (Anaf Yosef).

Neither does it matter that one has a speech defect or that one is not even conversant in Lashon ha'Kodesh, for if someone Davens sincerely, his Tefilah is precious in the eyes of Hashem, irrespective of language. In fact, the Chayei Adam writes that to Daven sincerely in a foreign language is preferable than to Daven in Lashon ha'Kodesh without sincerity.


Sh'ma Koleinu ...

If we ask G-d to hear (accept) our voice, it follows that there has to be a voice, a clear indication that Tefilah must be verbalized, and has to be audible (at least to oneself, if not to others).


The Eitz Yosef cites the story from the Gemara in Ta'anis, where Shmuel ha'Katan decreed a Ta'anis (a fast) and it rained early in the morning before sunrise, before they had a chance to Daven.

Shmuel ha'Katan was unhappy with the situation however, comparing it to a slave who asked his master for a piece of bread, where the master retorted 'Give him his bread, and I don't want to hear his voice again'. Indeed, Chazal have said that G-d desires the Tefilos of Tzadikim, and will even go so far as to send them problems, so that they Daven to Him. And when K'lal Yisrael stood at the Yam-Suf with the sea in front of them and the Egyptians behind them, the Pasuk in Koheles tells us, He said to them "Let Me hear your voice!"

In short, we think that we daven because we have Tzaros. The truth of the matter is that G-d gives us Tzaros in order to make us daven.

That is why we say here 'Listen to our voice Hashem our G-d' and then 'have pity and mercy on us'.

Or perhaps, he says, 'Hear our voice' is a cry to Hashem to at least respond to our cries, like a mother responds to the cries of her baby, even if we ourselves do not necessarily understand the meaning, the hints and the secrets of all our prayers.


Have Pity and Mercy on Us

The double expression of' 'pity' and 'mercy', says the Eitz Yosef, is a request for G-d to have mercy on us because we need help and to take pity on us even though our prayers may be deficient. And that will also explain the double expression used in the following phrase 'and receive our prayers with mercy and with goodwill'.

But the Iyun Tefilah explains that we ask G-d at least to accept our Tefilos with mercy, when we Daven without due Kavanah (devotion), and when our Kavanah is complete, to accept them with goodwill too.

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