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

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Vol. 21   No. 13

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Yehuda ben Mordechai z"l
whose Yohrzeit was 14 Teves

Parshas Sh'mos

With a Strong Hand

"And G-d said to Moshe 'Now you will see what I will do to Par'oh; because with a strong hand he will send them away, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land'" (6:1).

The last two statements in the Pasuk seem to be saying the same thing, points out the Oznayim la'Torah.

To solve the problem, he explains that Moshe had just asked G-d two questions: 1. Why He sent him on what He knew was a fool's errand, knowing that Par'oh would not listen to him; and 2. Why, not only did his efforts not bear fruit, but they caused matters to go from bad to worse? His sh'lichus had seemingly caused the situation to deteriorate, creating the intolerable situation whereby Yisrael had to build bricks without the materials being provided.

What's more, he observes, the second question appears to remain unanswered.


If we examine Moshe's mission, we will find that, right from the beginning, Moshe was faced with two problems; one, to talk Par'oh into letting his Jewish slaves go, a request which seemed problematic to achieve with words, and feasible only through physical force. The other, to convince Yisrael to leave Egypt, lock, stock and barrel. That is why he complained to G-d "Who am I that I should go to Par'oh and that I should take Yisrael out of Egypt" (3:11). Without a shadow of doubt, the second problem far outweighed the first, as is evident from Moshe's additional objections there, such as "Behold Yisrael will not listen to me" and "Behold they will not believe me". On the other hand, he says nothing more about the difficulty in convincing Par'oh. Imagine trying to talk an entire nation of some two million people into leaving Egypt to go into the awesome Sinai desert - without food or water and without protection against the elements and against the wild animals that abound there. The chances of achieving this were slim.


That is why, the author concludes, G-d saw fit to make Moshe's task easier, by ensuring that not one single Jew would remain in Egypt. To do this, He did two things. He put it into Par'oh's head to increase their already heavy workload to the point where it was impossible to survive, as the Jewish foremen complained to Moshe 'Straw is not given to your servants, yet they command us to manufacture bricks, and your servants are beaten … ', before turning to Moshe and Aharon and accusing them of placing a sword into the Egyptians' hands with which to kill them. This would ensure that no Jew would want to remain in Egypt once the instructions to leave were issued. They would be only too happy to follow Moshe into the desert. And just in case a few Jews would still hesitate to leave, G-d orchestrated that, not only would Par'oh finally grant them permission to leave, but he would drive them out forcibly.

Hence the current Pasuk answers Moshe's two questions. Moshe would soon see how G-d would force Par'oh to let His people go, once he felt G-d's strong Hand. And, despite Yisrael's initial refusal to accept Moshe's first message, they would soften after Par'oh tightened the thumb-screws, and they would all finally leave when, with a strong hand, Par'oh would expel them from the land.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

What Did Par'oh Say to the Midwives?

"And the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives …" (1:15).

The next Pasuk repeats the word "And he said", and goes on to tell us what he instructed them to do.

The question therefore arises, says the Oznayim la'Torah, what did he say to them in the current Pasuk?

The author refers to the commentaries who wonder at Par'oh's Chutzpah in instructing Jewish midwives to kill Jewish babies, and as to why he thought that they would obey him.

And he explains that just as he did when trapping Yisrael into slavery (as Chazal explain in connection with the word "be'forech" ['be'feh rach' - with a smooth tongue]), so too here, did he try to lure the midwives to obey him with cunning. Citing the Medrash, he informs us that Par'oh approached the women and tried to woo them. Certain that no woman could resist such an offer from the king himself, he accosted them. And once they became his mistresses, he figured, they would be certain to do whatever he asked of them.

And that, says the Oznayim la'Torah, is what Par'oh said to the midwives in the current Pasuk.

The two women, Shifrah and Pu'ah, however, did not respond to his advances, and so his plans backfired, as we will now explain.


The Antidote

"But the midwives feared G-d, and they did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them …" (1:17).

In Parshas Vayeira, Avraham told Avimelech that he referred to Sarah as his sister, because he saw that there was no fear of G-d in the land of P'lishtim, and that he was therefore afraid that they would kill him on account of his wife. Avraham understood that adultery and murder, commonly linked, are the result of a lack of Yir'as Shamayim.

Hence, the Oznayim la'Torah concludes, Shifrah and Pu'ah, who were imbued with Yir'as Shamayim, neither succumbed to Par'oh's advances (see previous Pearl) nor did they obey his instructions to murder the hapless babies.


The Daughter of Par'oh

"And she called his name 'Moshe', because (she said) I drew him (Meshisihu) from the water" (2:10).

The fact that Bisyah called him by a Jewish name with a Jewish meaning, says the Oznayim la'Torah, proves that she converted and learned how to speak Lashon ha'Kodesh (See what the author wrote in Parshas Vayigash - Parshah Pearls, Pearl DH 'Speaking in Lashon ha'Kodesh').

(The author himself, quoting the Ha'amek Davar, states that, alternatively, 'Moshe' is an Egyptian word that means 'Son of the king'), and that when Bisyah concluded 'because I drew him from the water", she meant that this is what gave her the right to choose his name - and it is by pure coincidence that "Moshe" resembles the word "meshisihu").

The following Pasuk describes how Moshe left the royal palace to go and empathise with his brothers, to assist them in their backbreaking work and to protect them against their taskmasters, even to the point of placing his own life in danger. This can only have come about as a result of training that he received at the hand of his foster-mother Bisyah. How can Moshe otherwise have known his relationship with the slaves, and why should he have sympathized with them and sprung into action to help them? It can only have been because she volunteered the information that he was their brother, and because she planted the seeds of sympathy within him.

This is a further proof, says the Oznayim la'Torah, that Bisyah must have converted and brought up Moshe in the same spirit as real parents would have done.


Two Men Quarrelling

"And he went out on the second day and there were two Hebrew men quarrelling …" (2:13).

The Pasuk, for some reason, does not divulge the name of the man whom the taskmaster was beating (or even why he was beating him) in the previous episode, nor does it mention the names of the two disputants in the current Pasuk. Indeed, there is nothing in the Pasuk that suggests any connection between the two incidents. Yet the Medrashim cited by Rashi and by the Oznayim la'Torah, fill in the details.

The latter Medrash informs us that the man who was beaten by the Egyptian taskmaster and whose wife he had raped, was none other than Dasan.

And the two men who were quarrelling were Dasan and Aviram. Aviram, the Medrash explains, was the brother of Dasan's wife, and he was trying to convince Dasan not to divorce his sister (presumably on the grounds that it was night-time, and that she had not known that the man who had been intimate with her was Dasan's Egyptian taskmaster, and not her husband Dasan.)


The author also observes how on the second day, Dasan was quite happy in telling Moshe to mind his own business, whereas this did not seem to bother him, when, on the previous day, Moshe had killed the taskmaster and saved him (Dasan) from further punishment.


The question arises how Aviram can have been the brother of Dasan's wife (Sh'lomis bas Divri), seeing as the Pasuk in Korach specifically refers to Dasan and Aviram as "the sons of Eli'av", in which case, they were brothers.


When Opportunity Knocks

"And an angel of G-d appeared to him … he saw how the bush was burning in fire …Then Moshe said 'Let me turn aside and see … ' " (3:2/3).

The Oznayim la'Torah points out that first the Torah tells us how the burning bush caught Moshe's attention. But it is only after he reflects over what he has seen and decides to approach the bush to find out the reason for this phenomenon, that G-d calls to him and informs him of his new appointment as the redeemer of His people.


A similar sequence we find in Parshas Vayeira, where Avraham sees three angels standing at a distance watching him. And it is only after Avraham runs up to them, invites them to partake of the sumptuous meal that he is about to prepare for them and pampers them with his service that they impart the news of the son that he will father the following year.

It is fair to assume that if, despite his medical predicament, Avraham had not reacted in the way that he did, they would have moved on, and he would not have received the news of the birth of Yitzchak or the revelation of the Shechinah that accompanied their visit (for the first time in his life in a standing position).

In other words, the visit of the three angels was a test, to see whether he was worthy of the good things that they brought with them, and it was only after he proved himself worthy, that he merited them.


Here too, the vision of the burning bush was a test, to see whether Moshe was worthy to be appointed K'lal Yisrael's redeemer and leader. Seeing it alone would not have sufficed. If he had not taken the opportunity and moved towards it to find out why it did not burn, nothing would have happened (perhaps the leadership would have passed on to Aharon). That is why the Pasuk continues "When G-d saw that he turned aside to see, He called to him from the midst of the bush … ". Had he not done so, G-d would not have called him and the appointment would never have taken place.

* * *

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