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Vol. 14 No. 13
Sheva Gitel bas Levi Lixenburg z.l.
'Remove Your Shoes!'
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)
Moshe & Yehoshua
The K'li Yakar cites the commentaries, who point out a number of differences between the command issued by G-d to Moshe to remove his shoes from his feet (Sh'mos 3:5) and the parallel command issued to Yehoshua (Yehoshua 4:15). 1. Whereas by the former, G-d instructed Moshe to 'remove the shoes from on his feet', by the latter, he ordered Yehoshua to remove 'the shoe from on his foot'. 2. Whereas by the former, G-d informed Moshe that the ground on which he was standing was 'holy ground', by the latter, he told Yehoshua that the ground on which he was standing was 'holy' (without adding the word 'ground').
And he presents the explanation of Rabeinu Bachye and others, who base these differences on the connection between taking off one's shoes and distancing oneself from physicality, a trait in which Moshe excelled to a greater extent than Yehoshua. The K'li Yakar goes along with that explanation, but he elaborates, and he begins by citing the Gemara in Bava Basra (75a) which states that 'Moshe's face can be compared to the sun and that of Yehoshua to the moon'. Just as the moon shines on one side, but is dark on the other, so too did Yehoshua shine from the point of view of his 'Seichel' (his spirituality), but remained dark from that of his physicality (which he retained). Moshe's face, on the other, just like the sun, shone on both sides. He reached a level of absolute purity, as regards both his spirituality and his physicality (of which he had totally divested himself and which explains why his face shone). And he attained this level after having stood on Har Sinai for forty days, during which time he subsisted on the glory of the Shechinah without partaking of anything physical.
When G-d instructed Moshe to remove his shoes therefore, he was instructing him to divest himself both of the physicality that obstructs the Seichel and the intrinsic physicality itself. And the underlying reason behind this dual command He gave as " ... because the place on which you are standing is holy ground". Defining 'ground' in this context as 'level' (Madreigah), G-d was telling Moshe that he had attained such a high level that even his physicality (the ground, from which man's body was created) was sacrosanct. That was why He saw fit to warn Moshe not to come any closer. In effect, this was a warning not to take advantage of his high level of spirituality and come close; because "Nobody can see Me and live" (Ki Sissa 33:20). Not even angels enjoy this privilege, how much more so human-beings, as long as they are still in this world. And ordering him to remove both shoes symbolized that very same concept. Perhaps, the k'li Yakar suggests, that is also why G-d called his name twice, once with regard to his physical side, and once with regard to his spiritual side.
And it is for the same reason that, when Moshe was born, the house was filled with light. It was a sign that Moshe would later shine from all sides, as we explained. Not so Yehoshua, whose Seichel shone, but not his physicality. That explains why G-d told him to remove only one shoe, and it also explains why the Pasuk does not mention 'holy ground' as it does with Moshe. And it explains too, why G-d did not instruct Yehoshua to keep his distance. Such a warning was not necessary, since his physicality already acted as a buffer between himself and G-d, preventing him from coming too close and seeing the Shechinah.
Yehoshua the Great
The Meshech Chochmah portrays Yehoshua in a somewhat different light. In his introduction to Seifer Sh'mos, after elaborating on Moshe's uniqueness among all the prophets, he goes on to discuss Yehoshua (who is also listed among the prophets). He begins by referring to the Pasuk in Yehoshua (5:2) " ... circumcise B'nei Yisrael a second time (sheinis)", which the Gemara in Yevamos (71b) explains, pertains to P'ri'ah, folding over the foreskin following the Milah. The Behag takes this (comparison of P'ri'ah to Milah) one step further, in that P'ri'ah, like Milah, even overrides Shabbos.
By adding the one word 'Sheinis', the Torah, in a sense, is placing Yehoshua on the same level as his Rebbe, Moshe. For if Moshe taught us the Mitzvah of Milah, with its power to override Shabbos, it was Yehoshua who taught us the Mitzvah of P'ri'ah, which overrides Shabbos, too. (To be cont.)
* * *
"And he (Paroh) said: 'When you deliver the Hebrew women's babies, and you see them on the birth-stools; If it is a boy, then you shall kill it, whereas if it is a girl, then let it live" (1:16).
The Medrash explains that Paroh taught the midwives how to determine the gender of the baby (even before it was born), by the way it was lying. (If it was a boy, then it would be lying face downwards [looking towards the earth from which it was created]; whereas a girl would be lying face upwards [looking towards the rib from which it was created]).
What is the problem, asks the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro? Why did the midwives need a sign? And by the same token, what did the midwives mean when they subsequently informed Paroh that they were unable to carry out his instructions, because the Jewish women were giving birth before they managed to reach them? So what if they were? Why could they not wait until the babies were born, when a. they would recognize their gender, and b. they could kill them then?
Clearly, Paroh's express instructions were to kill the babies before they were born. And it seems to me that this is inherent in the fact that Paroh mentioned the birth-stool. Had he meant the midwives to kill the babies after they were born, then all he needed to say was that if it was a boy, they should kill it, and if it was a girl, let it live, and no more. Mention of the birth-stool indicates that he wanted them to kill the babies as soon as the mother was ready to give birth (even before the baby was actually born).
The question is why? I would have thought that he had to do it this way to protect the well-being of the midwives, who would never have got away with killing the babies after they were born, and they would have been discovered and subsequently shunned by the Jewish community. But the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro (citing the Avodas ha'Gershuni) answers that there is a limit as to how far a king can go with regard to the evil that he perpetrates. Paroh ordered the midwives to perform the killings secretly (not in order to protect themselves, but) in order to protect him. He knew that if the midwives went about murdering all the newborn babies, this would ruin his reputation, and what's more, he would find himself with a rebellion on his hands. He therefore warned the midwives to discreetly kill the babies before they were born, and to then tell the mother how grieved they felt that the baby was born dead.
This is what happened during Paroh's lifetime, when Paroh was concerned about his reputation, and the midwives were therefore able to counter Paroh's plan to have all the babies killed, by claiming that they arrived too late.
Bisyah Sees the Shechinah
"And she opened it (the casket) and she saw the Shechinah" (2:6).
The Gemara in Sotah (12b) asks why, seeing as the Torah specifically mentions the object (the boy), the Torah uses the word "va'tir'eihu" (and she saw Him), and not just "va'tei're" (and she saw ... ). The reason for this, the Gemara answers, is to teach us that she actually saw the Shechinah.
Rashi explains that the word "es" (that follows "va'tir'eihu", does not merely signify that the following word ("ha'yeled") is the direct object, but it actually means 'with' - i.e. "and she saw Him with the boy".
The P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro (citing the G'ro) explains that Rashi is not coming to cite a new source for the Gemara's teaching, only now that we learn from "va'tir'eihu" that she saw the Shechinah, the word "es" adopts different connotations.
And what leads the Gemara to conclude that the superfluous "Hu" refers specifically to the Shechinah?
To explain this, the G'ro points to the Gemaros in Shabbos (104a) & in Succah (45a) which cite "Hu" as one of Hashem's Names. The Pasuk now translates smoothly as "And she opened it and she saw the Shechinah with the boy".
It Depends on
What You're Looking For
" ... and Moshe went out to his brothers and he saw their burdens" (2:11).
Some people, says the Oneg Shabbos, see only the sins of K'lal Yisrael. Not so Moshe. He went out to his brothers to see their burdens, so that he could empathize with them and assist them wherever possible - in spite of their sins.
The Place Where You Are Standing
" ... because the location on which you are standing is holy ground" (3:5).
There are people, says R. Bunim from P'shischa, who argue that if they had less problems, financial or otherwise, they would serve Hashem better. And it is on account of such people that the Mishnah says in Pirkei Avos 'Do not say that when you have time you will learn; perhaps you will not have time'. The Tana is teaching us that every person is obligated to learn, and that it is easy to find excuses why not to. The secret however, lies in learning immediately, since one has no guarantee that one will be any more ready to learn later than one is now.
And the same thing goes for serving Hashem. One can always find reasons as to why one cannot serve Hashem under one's current circumstances. But what guarantee does one have that, under different circumstances, one would serve Him any better. In any event, perhaps G-d wants one to serve Him and to learn specifically under the circumstances in which He has placed him - in a situation of poverty or of riches, of health or of illness. The secret is to serve Hashem in whatever situation one finds oneself, and not to wait for better times.
And that is how the Chafetz Chayim explains the current Pasuk " ... because the location on which you are standing, wherever it may be, is holy ground". Serve Him faithfully from there, because maybe, just maybe, Hashem is waiting for you to serve Him from that very spot, and not to search for greener pastures.
Emunah and Hashgachah
"And G-d said to Moshe 'Ehekeh asher Ehekeh ... " (3:14).
Translated literally, this means 'I will be what I will be', which the Beis Ya'akov, based on the Rambam, explains as 'I will be to them a G-d (i.e. apply My Hashgachah P'ratis) to the extent that I will be rooted in their hearts (i.e. they have faith in Me)'. In the same vein the Chovas Halevavos states that Bitachon is a means (a Segulah) to Parnasah (the stronger one's faith in Hashem, the more assured one is of receiving one's Parnasah easily).
Similarly, the Besht explained the Pasuk in Tehilim "Yehi chasd'cho Hashem oleinu ka'asher yichalnu Loch", which he translates as 'May Your loving-kindness be upon us to the extent that we long for you'.
* * *
From the Haftarah
(Adapted from the Ma'yanah shel Torah)
Coming Back from Galus
""And it will be on that day, a big Shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in the land of Ashur will come, and those who have gone astray in the land of Egypt" (Yeshayah 27:50).
The Pasuk, says the Avnei Azeil, is referring allegorically, to two kinds of Jews who lost their way in the Galus and who will return in the times of Mashi'ach.
Ashur represents the Miynim and Apikorsim, the non-believers in their various stages, people whose secular outlooks and ideas do not conform with our holy Torah, just like Sancheriv, King of Ashur, who declared in his arrogance "With the strength of my hands did I accomplish and with my wisdom, for I am the epitome of understanding!" (Yeshayah 10:13).
Whereas Egypt represents those whose lifestyle is centered around physical and material desires. Indeed, the Torah in Vayeishev (42:9) writes in connection with Egypt "the nakedness of the land".
In other words, the one refers to those Jews who strayed from the truth with their minds, the other, to those who strayed with their hearts. Both will return (figuratively, as well as literally) with the coming of Mashi'ach.
* * *
'And a new king arose over Egypt who did not 'know' Yosef and who did not adhere to his laws' (1:8 [see Pirush Yonasan]).
'Come, let us plan what to do with them, what laws to adopt to contain them, before they increase to the point that when war breaks out, they will join our enemies and destroy us down to the last man, after which they will take possession of the land' (1:10).
' ... Paroh related a dream in which the whole of Egypt was in one side of the scales and a lamb the son of a sheep in the other, and the scale tipped to the side containing the lamb. He immediately called all the magicians of Egypt, and related to them his dream. Without hesitation, Yeinis and Yembris (sons of Bil'am) gave the following interpretation: A son is about to be born in the Jewish community, through whose hands all of Egypt will be destroyed. Accordingly, Paroh, King of Egypt, ordered the Jewish midwives, one of whom was called Shifrah (alias Yocheved), and the other Pu'ah (alias Miriam, her daughter)' (1:15).
'And the midwives said to Paroh "Because the Jewish women are not like their Egyptian counterparts; rather they are more alert and wiser. Before the midwife arrives, they raise their eyes Heavenwards and pray and plead for mercy from their Father in Heaven, and He for His part, listens to their prayers, which are answered, and they gave birth in peace' (1:19).
' ... When Paroh saw that (they were proliferating at a tremendous rate), he issued a command to his people saying "Throw every Jewish boy into the river, but let every girl live" ' (1:22 [see Rashi]).
'And G-d sent a plague of scarred boils, throughout Egypt, the people's flesh became hot and Par'oh's daughter went into the river to cool down ... She spied the cradle among the rushes, and no sooner had she stretched out her arm to take it than she was cured from the boils and the scars' (2:5).
'And he (Moshe) went out on the second day and he looked and there were Dasan and Aviram, two Jewish men, squabbling, and as, before his very eyes, Dasan raised his hand to strike Aviram, he said to him "Rasha, why are you about to strike your fellow-Jew" ' (2:13).
* * *
THE FOUR DECREES
(Adapted from the Medrash Rabah)
The Medrash lists four decrees that Paroh issued against Yisrael in Egypt:
1. Firstly, he ordered the taskmasters to enforce the production of the specified number of bricks. And to achieve this end, the men were not permitted to sleep at home, because, the Medrash points out, if the men did not sleep at home it goes without saying that they would not reproduce, and Yisrael's numbers would not increase. And so the taskmasters informed the men that due to the one or two hours loss of work each morning, caused by traveling from home to the workplace, and to the resulting loss in production, they were to sleep from now on, on the ground in the vicinity of their work.
But G-d intervened. Recalling His promise to Avraham Avinu that they would increase like the stars in the Heaven, and taking note of the Egyptians' efforts to prevent them from having children, He declared 'Let us see whose words will prevail, Mine or yours'! That is why the Torah records "And the more they tormented them, the more they proliferated". How did G-d orchestrate that?
'On the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Medrash continues, citing R. Akiva, 'Yisrael were redeemed from Egypt!' And he relates how G-d would prepare little fish in the wells, so that, when the women went to draw water, they would draw half water, half fish. They would then proceed to their husband's workplace, where they would heat up two pots, one of them, containing little fish (which encourage conception and), which they would feed their husbands; the other, warm water, with which they would bathe them. Then, after anointing them with oils and giving them something to drink, they would seclude themselves with their husbands in a discreet spot where they would have relations, as the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (68:14 [the paragraph which discusses the miracles of Egypt]). What's more, Chazal extrapolate from this Pasuk that, as a reward for their actions (which ensured Yisrael's continuity), Yisrael merited the vast spoil of the Yam-Suf, following the drowning of the Egyptians. Then, after they had become pregnant, they returned home, where they remained until the time arrived to give birth. When it did, they would go out to the fields, and give birth 'beneath the apple-tree', where G-d would induce the babies to exit the womb (Shir ha'Shirim 8:5). Then, He would send an angel to clean the new-born baby, to arrange his limbs, and to do whatever was necessary for his survival and growth, before baking two cakes, one of oil and one of honey.
Meanwhile, the Egyptians, who had caught wind of what was happening, set out to kill the babies, but a miracle occurred and the babies sunk into the ground. The Egyptians, unperturbed, brought oxen and proceeded to plough over them, but to no avail. The moment they left, the babies surfaced "like the grass in the field", alive and healthy. And they promptly proceeded to return to their homes in droves. Indeed, when G-d revealed himself to the people at the Yam-Suf, these babies, who had seen the Shechinah, were the ones to announce excitedly "This is my G-d and I will exalt Him".
2. When Paroh saw that, in spite of the first decree, Yisrael continued to proliferate at a fast rate, He issued His second decree - to kill all the baby boys that were born. That is when he called the Jewish midwives, Shifrah and Pu'ah (alias Yocheved and either her daughter-in-law Elisheva bas Aminadav, or her five-year-old daughter, Miriam) and issued them with instructions to that effect. And why did he not order the Egyptian midwives to carry out this task, asks the Medrash? Assuming that the Jewish midwives would carry out his orders, he figured that it was preferable for them to be at the receiving end of Divine retribution for perpetrating such a horrendous act, than their Egyptian counterparts.
But the midwives did not obey Paroh. What did they do? Not only did they not kill the babies; they actually helped them to survive. If they saw that the family was poor, they would collect food and water from a neighbour, to ensure the survival of the baby and its mother. And if they saw that a baby was destined to be born with a deformity, or stillborn, they would pray to G-d, 'reminding' Him how they had defied Paroh, and 'demanding' a favourable response, so that nobody could point a finger at them and claim that they had succeeded, or even just tried, to carry out the king's instructions.