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

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Vol. 22   No. 13

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

Parshas Sh'mos

What Moshe Thought

" Moshe returned to Hashem and said 'My Lord, why have you done bad to this people? Why did you send me?' " (5:22).

Having told Moshe twice that Par'oh would not listen to his request to let Yisrael go free, asks the Ramban, what was Moshe's complaint?


The I'bn Ezra explains that even though he knew that Par'oh would not send the people out, he thought that at least G-d would force him to lighten the burden, to set the redemption in motion - but that it should get worse !

The Ramban rejects this explanation however, inasmuch as Moshe's words (cited in the next Pasuk) "but You did not save Your people" intimate that Moshe expected the redemption to take place, not just a lightening of the burden.


The Ramban therefore explains that, although he knew Par'oh would not let the people go until he had suffered all the Makos that G-d had in store for him, Moshe thought that G-d would send the plagues in quick succession, all in the space of a few days. He believed that when Par'oh refused to respond to the sign of the snake, the plague of blood would follow on that very same day, and then of frogs, and then of lice. That is why, after three days passed and Par'oh had not rescinded his evil decree, and on the other hand, G-d had not reacted, he was surprised - and complained accordingly.

In fact, he says, in all likelihood, the decree stretched far more than three days. And he goes on to explain that after the Jewish policemen were lashed (in Pasuk 14), it took a long time before they succeeded in gaining an audience with Pa'oh to issue their complaint (See Pasuk 15/16). One considers that, at the best of times, it is not easy to gain admission to the king's palace, and certainly not when it comes to Jewish foremen who had fallen foul of the authorities!

He then cites the Medrash Rabah, which relates how, after the policemen left Par'oh's presence the first time, Moshe took his wife and children and went back to Midyan for six months (and Aharon returned to Egypt). Only then did G-d order him to return to Egypt, and only then did he meet the policemen leaving Par'oh's palace for the second time. (According to the Medrash Tanchuma, it was three months.)

The Medrash compares this to a deer, which can be seen one moment, and disappears from view the next, and the reason for the lull was in order to trick the enemy (Par'oh) and to harden his heart (Rabeinu Bachye).

Considering Moshe's initial expectations, his frustration, when half a year later, Par'oh's decree remained in place and no further action had taken place to alleviate the suffering that his beloved people were undergoing, his vexation is perfectly understandable.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Bereishis & Sh'mos

"And these are (ve'eileh) the names of the B'nei Yisrael who came to Egypt ... " (1:1)

Seifer Bereishis teaches us about the creation/formation of the world, says the Ramban, including the story of the Avos, whom he describes as 'the creators of their offspring'.

In Bereishis, the Torah tells of the events concerning the Avos that shaped the history of their descendants ('Ma'aseh Avoss Si'man le'Banim'). The first such major historical event foretold there is that of Galus Mitzrayim and the ultimate redemption (See chapter `15, Pasuk 13-16). This began with Ya'akov's descent to Egypt in Parshas Vayigash, where the Pasuk lists the names of the seventy people who accompanied Ya'akov on that fateful journey.

Seifer Sh'mos discusses the fulfillment of that prophecy. It begins with a repetition of the names of the heads of the families concerned, thereby connecting the two Sefarim, a fact that is enhanced by the 'Vav' in the opening word - "ve'Eileh".

And so Seifer Sh'mos deals with the first exile (Galus Mitzrayim) and the redemption, which was only completed with the building of the Mishkan, at the conclusion of the Seifer, when the Shechinah dwelt among them as it had dwelt with the Avos before the exile began. It was only then, the Ramban concludes, that they were truly considered redeemed.


The Priest of Midyan

" the Priest of Midyan had seven daughters" (2:16)

In keeping with the generally accepted opinion, the Ramban explains that the "Priest of Midyan" was Yisro, as the Torah attests when it writes later (4:18) "And he (Moshe) returned to Yeser his father-in-law" - and Yeser and Yisro are one and the same person, as we find often with biblical characters that the Torah adds a letter to a name (e.g. Eliyah & Eliyahu, Yirmiyah & Yirmiyahu). And when he converted, they added the name Chovav ('meaning beloved') as is common practice with regard to Geirim.

Reu'el was Yisro's father, as expressed in Parshas Pinchas (Bamidbar, 10:29). Consequently, when a little later in the current Parshah, the Pasuk tells us that "they (the daughters) came to Reu'el their father", it really means their grandfather, as people tended to refer to their grandfather as 'father' (as we find in Vayishlach 32:10).

(See also Rashi in Beha'aloscha, 10:29).

The Ib'n Ezra in Beha'aloscha however, who also cites the above explanation, initially explains the reference to Reu'el as the father of the girls. In that case, the Priest of Midyan who had seven daughters was Reu'el, and Yisro, his son, was therefore the brother of Tziporah, Moshe's wife, rather than her father. And the reason that the Pasuk here and in Parshas Yisro refers to Yisro as Moshe's father-in-law, is because people (also) tended to refer to their brother-in-law as 'father-in-law'.


In view of the above, the Medrash cited by Rashi in Beha'aloscha, that Yisro had seven names, including Chovav and Reu'el, is difficult to understand, unless we accept the fact that Yisro had the same name as his father. And indeed, it makes good sense to say that he was given that name after he relinquished his belief in the secular gods, and accepted the Omnipotence of the One G-d , bearing in mind that 'Reu'el' (roughly translated) means 'friend of G-d'.


Moshe and the Daughters of Yisro

" They came and drew water but the shepherds drove them away, and Moshe arose and saved them And he (Yisro) said 'Why did you come home early today?'" (2:16-18).


It is not clear as to what happened. In what way did Moshe save them, and how did they therefore arrive home early?

Rashi explains why the shepherds drove them away, but fails to answer the two above-mentioned questions.

The Da'as Zekeinim MT adds that the shepherds threw the girls into the water and Moshe drew them out. But that does not explain why they arrived home earlier than usual.


The Ramban therefore explains that it was customary for the shepherds to water their sheep first and only when they had finished, were Yisro's daughters allowed fill the troughs and to water their sheep. On this particular occasion, the latter decided to arrive early and to water the sheep before the shepherds. This they did, and they even managed to fill the troughs. However, before they had a chance to actually water their sheep, the shepherds chased them away and proceeded to water their own sheep using the water that Yisro's daughters had drawn.

And that was where Moshe stepped in. When he saw how the shepherds were stealing the girls' water, he stopped them by force. He then watered the girls' sheep, and even refilled the troughs allowing the sheep to drink their fill.

In this way, all the above problems are solved.


The Power of Prayer

"And G-d saw the B'nei Yisrael and G-d knew" (2:25).

The Ib'n Ezra explains that G-d saw the Egyptians open oppression of Yisrael, and He also saw what they did to them in secret.

The Ramban however, prefers Rashi's explanation - that G-d saw what the Egyptians were doing to Yisrael and He took it to heart (He no longer hid His Eyes from Yisrael's troubles, as He had until then).

And he goes on to explain that, up until that point, even though the designated period of Galus had ended, they were not worthy of redemption, as the Navi Yechezkel explains (20:6/7). Only now, when they cried out to G-d, He accepted their Tefilos with mercy (as the previous Pasuk states).


Yes, even though the time for the redemption had arrived, and in spite of the covenant that G-d had made with the Avos (also mentioned in the previous Pasuk), the catalyst that brought it about was Tefilah. From here we can learn that Tefilah can achieve results of which we may otherwise not be worthy.

* * *

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